Jan. 23rd, 2013

[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Black and White
Sarah McLachlan

As much as I KNOW that attempting to replicate the post I wrote yesterday is virtually impossible, I’m having a hard time letting go.  Getting started (again) is even more difficult

I guess, what it (“it” meaning this experience, this song and, even feminism itself) all comes down to, is expectations.   All this pressure; a lot of which is self-inflicted.  High standards are all well and good, but not when they become a seemingly insurmountable roadblock.

expectations (in five parts)

number one

Initially, I was not even interested in listening to Surfacing.  On one of our many trips to Future Shop, my dad picked up a copy of Sarah McLachlan's latest album and held it up in front of me, saying that he would get it for me, insisting that I would like it.  I clutched a copy of the Sneaker Pimps’ Becoming X and gave Surfacing a passing glance.  How good could this album be, when even the cover art didn’t draw me in?  When we got home, I eagerly tore the cellophane off of Becoming X and cast Surfacing aside.

number two

Fast forward a few weeks, months, years later and I’ve listened to Surfacing so many times I am afraid that I will wear it out.  My walls are covered with Sarah McLachlan posters and my school agenda is plastered with pictures.  I tape every TV interview and clip articles from magazines.  I am a card carrying fan club member.  I have a Sarah McLachlanesque haircut.  I take piano lessons.  I am a devoted worshipper.  People at school think they have me figured out, that because I like a certain type of music (and, let’s be honest, a certain female singer-songwriter) then I must be gay or, at the very least, different.  I hate to think that I let what they thought influence my behaviour, become defensive, feel that I needed to justify myself (though I mean, really, what teenager doesn’t feel that way?), but it did.

number three

I went to Lilith Fair the summer of 2008 with my dad (1. It’s funny that this is his second appearance in my “feminism” post; and 2. Bless him, we went again (twice!) the following summer).  It was an exciting experience for me—not just because I got to see Sarah McLachlan perform, but because it was unlike anything my teenage-self had witnessed before.  It wasn’t just the fact that there were so many women gathered in one place—I had been to things like large Guiding rallies before—but rather the fact that women’s issues were being so prominently highlighted; that a sense of mobilization could be felt.  I am not saying that Lilith Fair was some pivotal cornerstone of the women’s movement, but that it played a large part in my own personal formation as a feminist.

number four

Despite the fact that I do not connect to her music as much as I used to, I have to acknowledge the fact that Sarah McLachlan has a place in my musical makeup and, in turn, this community.  “Black and White” was always a favourite of mine.  I felt the lyrics (or, parts of them anyway)—the sense of struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted while, at the same time, wanting desperately to make everybody happy.  This is something I struggle with, still.  But, I think it is something that I will continue to overcome as I (hopefully) become self-assured and, maybe not so paradoxically, more rooted in something outside myself.   

number five

I have to give Sarah McLachlan credit because she was the catalyst.  I sought out Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing after McLachlan mentioned it in an interview.  This led me to Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel that so profoundly unnerved me, it gave me nightmares.  It made me angry (in a let’s-fight-the-oppression-kind-of-way).  It helped me identify with something that was bigger than me.  I didn’t have to stay quiet.  Despite the reactions I might get, I could speak up—I could look to all of the women who had done so before me.  I think a large part of what it means to be a feminist is that you question, that you strive—in spite of the expectations placed on you by others and, maybe more importantly, in spite of the ones you place on yourself.

[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com

Hymn to Her
The Pretenders
Greatest Hits

: A woman's relationship with feminism is, almost always, the most complicated, confusing, conflicted relationship she'll experience in her lifetime. She'll deny it, because to be a feminist is to be a bra-burning militant who calls for semantic changes like "herstory." She'll embrace it, because -- in the lucky places -- she can vote and is no longer considered the sole property of a penis, parental or marital. She'll fight for it, when she can, because she's not equal yet -- there are still people who think women belong in their 'place' and deserve far less money for the same job. She'll define by it, when it's appropriate, but she'll have to remember that there are people who think calling yourself a 'feminist' means a whole host of things it does not mean.

Or maybe that's just me.

But feminism and I have had a rocky history (herstory?). There was a period when, fully misunderstanding the term, I adamantly went against it: "I am not a feminist! I believe in equality, yeah, sure, but I am not one of those women who shove it in your face all the time." Feminists, of course, don't shove anything in anyone's face -- except what deserves to be shoved there (violently, as seems to be all some males understand).  As far as I am now concerned ---- feminists, male and female, proudly believe that women are as deserving of respect, fair treatment and recompense, and rights as are men. That's it. Anything else is connotations.

I have known, revisited, and loved this song since buying this album, when I was 13 or so. Then, as with every song, I tried desperately to fit it into a pre-decided box. Every song that I liked had to --- HAD TO! -- become a theme song for my ship du jour. I associated beautiful music with my beautiful media, and I would force and crush and mash songs that had nothing to do with male-female romance into something I could slap on a ship mixtape. It didn't seem like effort, at the time, but in retrospect it was hard literary work (and in the long run it probably helped me graduate my B.A., haha).

I try not to put things in boxes anymore.
Not songs.
Not definitions of ideologies.
Not people.

Upon removing myself from a pretty solid box of self-concepts in April, I have come to many old songs with new ears. 
"Hymn to Her" is on a playlist from January 2010, which I was revisiting a few weeks ago at Cafe 92. On my walk back to work, this song shuffled up for the first time in a year, and I immediately got excited -- as you do, when you heard the first few notes of a long-time favourite song. But it wasn't only because of that, this time -- my new ears were perking. Because, you see, "Hymn to Her" no longer needs to be sung by a man to be meaningful to me.
But as I listened with my new ears, it wasn't at all what I was expecting.

I stopped walking, struck -- tears springing to my eyes and my throat closing -- because I was listening, for the first time, to this song -- and for the first time, I was hearing an anthem for being a woman. A woman singing not to a woman in particular -- but to Woman.
Not being a feminist. Not being the female part of a relationship, or any host of particulars a woman can become or as which she can be archetyped.
Being a woman.
It was the first time I'd heard our entire gender pulled together in one song.
Separate from men, separate from differences petty or substantial, separate from our nationality or our experiences or our decisions. We are all in this together, and we fight this fight for equality every day of our lives. And we keep fighting.
Genuinely (and for the first time in the 14 years of listening to it), I've never heard a song of which I felt more A PART.
This song is FOR me as it is FOR every woman in the history of the world.

Feminism is messy, raw, volatile, upsetting, painful.That feminism is a concept needing a name is horrifying, scary, overwhelming.
But feminism is beautiful, powerful, strong, full of warmth and solidarity and a long, long history of strong, powerful, beautiful women who fought, as loudly as they could, even when they could only mouth the words. We, all women, from the club rats to the intellectual activists, all join in the lineage of being a woman and all that entails. Being "the maid and the mother and the crone that's grown old,"being a daughter, a nurturer, a widow, a wife, a maid, a hag, a witch, a temptress, a queen, a subversive, a muse, a heroine. We are all fighting the same fight. In our way.
But that's the crux, isn't it -- in our way. "Hymn to Her" -- we're all tied to each other. We are all women, and we are all in this together: but we have to fight our battles our way. We have to try to stop putting our ideas, ourselves, our anthems, in boxes -- and listen to what is actually happening. Feel what is actually happening.

So: I remain pretty convinced that a relationship with feminism is the most complicated relationship a woman will ever have. 
Because a woman's relationship with feminism is, really, a woman's relationship with herself.

And she will always carry on
Something is lost
But something is found
They will keep on speaking her name
Some things change
Some stay the same


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