Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm Not a Feminist, But It's Okay if I Am to You

Originally Posted on Feministing Community

I am a big fan of the British singer-songwriter Holly Golightly. The other day, while scouring YouTube for interview clips, I came across a brief question and answer session originally aired on German television. In heavily accented English, the interviewer concludes the segment by asking something that, to this audience, will seem all too familiar.

Interviewer: As a woman [performer], do you [take] a Feminist stance?

Golightly: That's quite interesting. I don't think of myself as being a militant feminist in any sense of the word. I think what I've done is the best that I could do, according to my ability, irrespective of sex. The [songs] that have always interested me--women played a very big part in [them] and had a lot to do with production and writing, but [they] were not credited. This was something that was quite difficult for women to do, to really extend into, because it was a man's world. The music industry, per se, was a man's world, and still is, largely.

I think when you talk about Feminism, the fact that I just get up and do it---if people would like to say that I'm a Feminist by virtue of the fact that I do it and have done it independently, then that's good. If it's influenced someone, then that's good.


I believe the interviewer was attempting to allude to her lyrics and stage presence in asking the question, both of which are frequently tough, uncompromising, no-nonsense, and yes, even badass. Regarding Feminist identity, Golightly takes an odd position, making sure first to note that she isn't seen as a "militant" feminist, another example of the stereotype we have tried so hard to change. And yet, she is also not uncomfortable being labeled as a feminist by those who might find her lyrics and music inspiring. I will say that I personally think Golightly is a feminist, even if she herself would rather I form that conclusion for myself.

We've certainly sought to embrace other female musicians who are squeamish about being feminist, but certainly display Feminist stances through their art in any case. One wonders if "feminist by any other name" is the best we can do sometimes. Or, to look at it another way, I think about the number of unsubstantiated historical figures that are embraced as queer in LGBT circles. Many of these people lived such heavily closeted lives that uncovering indisputable proof of their true sexual orientation might always be a topic for debate. Discerning a queer identity, much like discerning a feminist identity, often feels somewhat like interpreting a poem. One can make educated guesses, but only the author knows the complete truth.

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