The problem with this is that you’re assuming aggression to be masculine. You’re thinking within the same paradigm. While I’m admittedly less familiar with Joanna Newsom than PJ Harvey or Courtney Love, I think the point here is not that Newsom is misunderstood because she’s less “loud,” more convoluted, and thus more feminine, but that she’s less loud, more convoluted, and thus more intellectual.
The reason why people fail to pay attention to Joanna Newsom may be due in part to your stereotypically American anti-intellectual sensibility versus sexism. My caveat is, of course, that I’m not writing off sexism ENTIRELY; I’m simply drawing attention to other potentially mitigating factors and also pointing out that associating aggression with masculinity and quietude with femininity in your meta-critique is just as problematic as the critique is, in the first place.
I’ve said time and time again on this blog that aggression or anger or rage and other emotions Newsom explores aren’t inherently masculine or feminine. But you cannot deny socialization and its effects on the expression music (i.e. my discussion of male versus female energy). There is no use denying that Joanna’s music is ostensibly very “feminine” (for example, she plays the harp, probably the most highly gendered instrument in existence; but, of course, she constantly breaks that perception with her awesomeness). And maybe she has been socialized, as some of the other female artists mentioned in the article, to to express her anger and more “masculine” emotions in less confrontational ways. And that’s what I was hoping to get at with my commentary. Why didn’t the author mention any of that? So, I don’t think I am following and thus reinforcing the paradigm. I am questioning it (maybe not as explicitly here as I have rather frequently on Blessing All the Birds) and also drawing attention to the fact that feminine socialized behaviors are undermined and scorned in our society, but male ones are praised and imposed on everyone. That is my problem with the author. She ignores socialization patterns and then rebukes women who not rise above them or who chose to work within them and perhaps subtly destroy them and prove nothing should be working within the gender-binary in the first place! It’s also important to consider that Newsom is obsessed with how people perceive femininity, how femininity might be oppressive, but also how when people try to police femininity, they are denying women some of the only pleasure they are permitted (see all of Have One on Me).
But your point about intellectualism is spot-on. And we also have to consider how an intellectual woman scares people just as much as an angry woman.
I don’t even understand how it’s in question that Joanna Newsom is dismissed on the grounds of her femininity. She is widely perceived a a kind of fairytale creature with long hair and carefully chosen wardrobe that does not challenge conventions of attractiveness. She does not scream or growl, and her voice is quite unlike the other women mentioned here, very high-pitched in a way that is reminiscent of both young children and old women. For all this, she gets dismissed as a novelty act, which is a damn shame given how intense her lyrics actually are.
Monkey and Bear is a fine example of her brilliance; Newsom takes advantage of her storyteller persona to create a depiction of emotional abuse and manipulation that is painfully familiar for any woman who’s experienced it, and yet I suspect many people are thrown off by the fact that the lyrics concern talking animals who have escaped a circus. It is likely that she’d be taken more seriously if she screamed her injuries directly at the audience. Her approach is far more subtle, and offers the listener the choice of ignoring the social commentary altogether. I don’t think this is a cop-out; rather, by doing so, it echoes the reality that it is remarkably easy to dismiss abuse happening around you, and the abuse that is happening to you. It is a double story that reflects the double stories women rely on to survive.
Go Long is the first song of Newsom’s that I fell in love with, and the one that converted me into a fan. I was still reeling from the dissolution of an incredibly unhealthy relationship, it was all too easy to recognize the extraordinary sadness and anger evoked by destructive masculinity when it is performed by a man you care about. This is an excruciatingly female song, written from a perspective I think very few, if any, men can truly understand. Newsom clearly does not spend much time worrying if her music is accessible to men, and that no doubt contributes to how easily she is dismissed.
Finally, Newsom is the victim of unremarkable misogyny. Sometimes it is a worshipful misogyny, i.e., those fans who are so invested in her image as some sort of minor goddess they refuse to consider the fact that Baby Birch is about an abortion that the narrator affirms was ultimately the correct choice, despite her obvious regret that it had to happen at all. She has spoken several times about how she hates to be judged solely on the imagery she uses, rather the the content and artistry of her work, and that is no doubt because her work is about women’s minds, and women’s perspectives, with no bones thrown for listeners who want her to be more clear, more explicit, less “mysterious”. The irony of it all is that Joanna Newsom rarely conceals her meaning or intent. It is up to the listener to shed misogynistic thought patterns, internalized or otherwise, and empathize with the rawness of the emotions and ideas that are not unique to Newsom, but that have rarely been so coherently conveyed. It requires the listener to trust that a woman has something to say in between all those big words and pretty images, and that it really may not be very nice or comforting at all.
Internalized sexism stems from the messages and stereotypes we hear about women and girls all the time: Women are catty, they’re bitches, they’re frivolous, they’re flighty, they have to be passive, they have to gentle, they are overly emotional, etc. Eventually, because these messages are so ingrained in our culture, some women begin to believe that they are undoubtedly true.
There are different forms of internalized sexism, such as passive acceptance of these messages, a mixture of acceptance and rejection of them, or retaliation of these messages. The experiences of each woman who carries internalized misogyny are different, yet they all stem from some form of acceptance of the constant bombardment of mixed messages and stereotypes about being a girl/woman.
One consequence of mass internalized sexism is girl-on-girl hate, something I’m sure most of us are familiar with. Instead of rallying together and talking about how the stereotypes are harmful or how they’re misguided or downright wrong, many women who harbor internalized sexism believe that it’s every other woman but them who perpetuate the stereotypes and fall prey to sexist messages. These women, therefore, are more likely to take what they perceive to be the “male” side of things and devalue the opinions and feelings of women around them in order to separate themselves from all of the negative aspects of womanhood and femininity. And that’s when internalized misogyny becomes a tool that let’s women do sexism’s job for it. Who needs a patriarchy when you can have women devaluing each other and refusing to support each other?
I grew up with a notorious penchant for what I now know was internalized misogyny. Since I was five-years-old, I thought that being a girl meant being weak, mean, and stupid. I don’t know where it came from, but it somehow entered into my mind.
The form of internalized misogyny I held basically went like this: Being a girl meant being weak, mean, and stupid. So to be the opposite of those things, I had to disassociate myself from other girls as much as possible. This idea seemed easy to me since I’ve always been a tomboy. I played Hotwheels instead of Barbies, I played video games and engaged in a mostly-male gaming culture from a very young age, I was usually the only girl in my neighborhood and hung out with all the boys. However, from the middle of elementary school to the middle of high school, I pushed myself to be as much of a boy as I could be. In order to feel like I could be free from being a girl - which as we’ve established, I thought meant being weak, mean, and stupid - tried to be an “equal” to the boys and ignored girls and their opinions entirely.
Looking back, the most upsetting aspect about it was that I thought that by being a “boy” as much as possible I was actually being a “better girl” because I was fighting against the stereotypes of girls that had always bothered me. But really, my self-worth still depended on what boys thought of me, and not what I thought about myself. I judged other girls for being feminine when they were really just being themselves, and they weren’t harming anyone or anything but my distorted ego. All I was really doing was externalizing the hatred I had towards myself and my gender by “proving” how I wasn’t like my gender at all and shaming other girls.
In sophomore year of high school, I began to realize what I was doing and that I was not some kind of trailblazer for my gender at all: Internalized sexism made me a tool of my own oppression by devaluing my female peers and women in general, just as it does to other women everywhere. After that realization, I declared myself a feminist almost overnight, and strove to undo the damage I had done to myself and my peers.
Overcoming internalized sexism is not easy and certainly hasn’t been easy for me; it’s a complicated process of challenging and critiquing without attacking other women, questioning sexist stereotypes before trying to remove myself from them, placing more value on my relationships with other women, unlearning that is femininity bad. It’s all hard to unlearn, but it’s necessary in order to rise above the messages.
Some people’s experience with internalized misogyny are similar and some are different. However, the staple of internalized misogyny remains the same: No matter what you do, when you start to believe the sexist messages and stereotypes that are thrown at you, you do sexism’s work for itself.
While I’ve never seen diet soda or soup for dudes, “For Men” products make me want to barf.
I actually take issue in this article over semantics. I feel like there is a huge co-opting of the world “phobia” going on in online activist communities lately, and not only is it ableist to an extent, but it tries to make a microcosmic issue out of a larger one, which is misogyny. Like, everything in this article does not apply to self identified femmes or the like, it’s just general fucking misogyny. So let’s call it exactly what it is when we see it, okay?
What tofuboots said ^
I agree that certain queer circles encourage us to recast misogyny as “femmephobia” in some self-centered, unhelpful ways. That is partly the result of a failure to really address how wide of a net misogyny casts and simplistic SJW definitions (useful for telling men to fuck off with whining about “misandry” but obscuring internal issues) leading us to not recognize that patriarchal behavior is patriarchal behavior regardless of the gender of who is doing it. It just happens in a different context when the person doing it is a woman or has some kind of history with les/bi/queer women’s communities. Like, a lot of times I’ve encountered what could be called “femmephobia” from someone and I didn’t like it, but it was fucking obvious that it was a coping behavior for that (female, queer, visibly gender non-conforming) person. And situations like that call for a different strategy, dare I say involving a lot more compassion and patience than like, a man saying he doesn’t like when chicks wear too much makeup or whatever stupid shit (which is just plain misogyny).
But Greek roots like -phobia and -philia are deeply embedded in our language and are not the cultural property of people with conditions named with them (such as myself). The use of -phobia to talk about oppression is hardly a recent product of the online activist community; only the nonsensical manufactured controversy around it is. It’s a diversion and I can’t believe there are still people in Tumblrland taking it seriously.
lol a blog called no seriously what about the menz
they sure seem like they know what they’re talking about!