Saturday, June 02, 2007

On Censorship and Big, Bold, Beautiful Women

You may or may not have noticed that some of the comments from a previous blog entry have been taken down. I want to clarify that this is not censorship on my part. The comments were removed at the request of the person who posted them, and the subsequent replies did not make sense once the original comment was taken down. The discussion had become very lengthy and personal and was moved off line.

I appreciate that my readers are comfortable discussing their opinions and ideas in an open forum on my blog. I find the exchange of ideas stimulating and challenging. I don't always have to agree with the opinions expressed. In fact, I rather enjoy a well-stated argument that challenges my beliefs because it forces me to re-evaluate my thinking. Reevaluating our beliefs is something that we all need to do on a regular basis.

On a different note, someone on Myspace wrote to ask my opinion of the latest cover of NME, where Beth Ditto of The Gossip appears in the nude.

Beth is one of the sexiest women I know. I know that some people find rail-thin females attractive and that's fine but it doesn't do it for me. Women who are curvaceous are much more attractive to me. Aside from that, women who are curvaceous, intelligent, talented and self-confident have every right to flaunt their sexuality if they want to. I guess the short answer to the question is that I don't have a problem with any individual appearing naked on the cover of a magazine but I am thrilled to see Beth on this particular cover. She IS the Queen of Cool.

Another super sexy, super talented and confident woman is Candye Kane.

In the early 80's, Candye also posed nude for a magazine, but it wasn't a music magazine. Her photos were considered pornography and were the object of controversy. I'm one of those people who enjoys pornography, strong, talented women, and the female form. Anyway, the point is that both women were sending the same message, which is that they are unabashedly sexual with every part of their beings, from their big, beautiful voices to their big, beautiful bodies.

It's no coincidence that both Candye and Beth are continuing the tradition of the great women blues singers like Bessie Smith. Bessie was just as free and forward with her own sexuality and she was not afraid to express it in her music.

Women like Bessie, Candye and Beth are women's women. They inspire us to let go of the hang-ups of trying to achieve some phony, externally imposed ideal of physical perfection. They accept themselves and invite us to accept ourselves. They are bold sexual predators, much more exciting and dangerous than the countless little sex kittens that litter TV and radio.


Jenny Lens said...

Alice, we are so blessed to gather at your blog. You are such an eloquent writer. It's wonderful that people can post their honest thoughts.

Important to note you don't censor people, but respond to their wishes if their words could be misinterpreted or they have second thoughts.

I was just reading about another big, bold, courageous woman, Rosie on the View. I don't have time to listen to music (I have to listen to my own thoughts. I juggle a ton of tasks at once). I don't do much TV. But I knew by reading online news, something was going down. I never understood why Rosie was upset or why people were constantly talking about her on TV news.

I watch and read the news compulsively. I am a news junkie. I remember when the news was easy to understand.

It wasn't clear what was going on w/Rosie. It seemed like a tempest in the teapot. What the heck could one woman say that justified so much time on her?

Rosie dared speak out against politicians and companies who run this country into the ground while stealing from us. She wanted Americans to wake up to this new reality.

Rosie told us we are being denied the truth about our lives and issues that affect us. That's why I never got a handle about this verbal war because: TV/radio news never tell us the truth.

The majority of Americans still get their news from the TV (or hate radio, which overlap). Lies or never discussing decent wages, health, the war, oil prices and issues related to women.

Nora Ephron, on, wrote poems about missing Rosie. The comments section made it very clear the "cut/paste" mentality of images, plus of course, sound bytes, all greatly distorted her messages.

Misquoting is a serious danger to bloggers or those of us who are interviewed for punk projects. People can readily copy/paste, edit what we write or say, to our detriment. Just today I yet again brought up the fact the a certain author who specializes in punk history put words into my mouth in his book. He did that for most of us in his book

I was horrified to read those "quotes" years ago. I won't stop talking about it because people need to know this "authority" has issues with many of us regarding accuracy. It's the only way I can prevent it from happening again and hurting other people: the fans who believe what he writes and those of us he misquotes.

The misquotes are either distortions of anything many of us would ever say. Or they perpetuate stories, dates, events that others remember quite differently. I have photos and I get infuriated when people change info I provide about MY photos. I don’t know everything.

When I do know who is on my roll of film, I don’t want someone telling me a different lineup! I don’t care if they were around in those days. I don’t care who they think they are or their reputation. I believe my negatives. Wouldn’t you?

I hold no personal animosity. He doesn’t mean to hurt us. He’s in deep denial that somehow quotes were distorted. By him. Of us. But I won’t shut up about it. Like Rosie, I have a duty to spread the truth.

I know first-hand how people can distort what we say or write. And now it's taken down Rosie. But I don't think she's out for the count. I hope not, after reading what this big, bold woman shared with people, at great personal pain.

As a woman who constantly beats herself up because of weight issues, it's so timely to read about the women you showcased.

I discovered, after my divorce, I became a tiger with men. I was out to play and enjoy myself. I was born in the year of the tiger. You know my ferocious energy.

I am constantly stunned that men 20 years younger are seriously turned on by me. I look at them, say, you know my age? They smile and fondle me. I think: WTF? This works for me!

Many men feel the same as you: skinny [I add young] sex kittens are either not appealing. Also not a good steady diet. Lots want variety. Many prefer a woman with physical substance. Punk earthiness.

But I have no time for men . . . sacrifices . . . what we do for love. Of art. But it’s so encouraging to know the game between men and I may be on pause, but it’s not over!

Rosemarie told me a couple of years ago about Candye. I saw her perform at a benefit at the Echo in Oct, 2005.

Thank you for providing a safe haven to express ourselves.

Thank you for your reassuring, inspirational words, stories, thoughts, always backed up by reality and photos. Photos . . .

deborahschow said...


You brought up some excellent points about women and sexuality and the portraial of women in music. Its something I have pondered and been in different minds about forever.

Too often it seems it is not a woman's sexuality as an artist, but what the (mostly male) audience fantasies of want they want her sexuality to be that is marketed, or otherwise put upfront.

The NME photo is not photographed in an erotic matter to me, it’s more confrontational. Which is fine, but I don't get the feeling the photographer saw her as an erotic or even an interesting figure. The lighting is stark, not sensual, her layers and curves are not depicted as beautiful, just there. The photo does not seem taken with any real affection or regard, respect for Beth.

As a musician, singer, songwriter, I found that my appearance was way more important to the marketing aspect, at least to "industry" and outsiders than if I was male. My musical contributions seemed too often minimized, to the point what I wore seemed more important than what I wrote or expressed.

I like make-up, getting all girl-y dressed up and all that goes with it. It seemed all too often I was either being pressured to dress down, be a "folkie" or get undressed, with few options in between, usually the ladder.

I really had to fight to not get pressurized into an image of a "sexy blonde" -with retouching- that was not Screech Owls. Its not that I am not or was not sexual, did not want to look sexy, but wanted to do so on my own terms, not as someone else might imagine, and way off and often amusing imaginations some did have. I worked 24/7 on music until hospitalized for exaustion. When in the hospital the nurses said they thought I was aneroxic and were surprised that I ate. Just the week before a television cameraMan said I should lose a few pounds..go figure.

Too often women musicians are persuaded into a sexuality that is not their design, but a marketing ploy. When that happens it is inevitable that she be judged one dimensionally, as sexual and will go further into a marketing abyss to recapture that audience that was never her design. I’ve seen women undress or act sexy during a gig to appeal/capture a dwindling audience, who came to see her not hear her. It can go all different ways and men, (not all) can be more intimidated by strong, sexy women and want to belittle them and that comes through from an audience too. Sexuality is never straight forward, onstage or off.

As a photographer I've photographed men and women, and looking back at the photos recently, the photos of men, (I happen to be hetro) are more sensual, more sexy perhaps, when I found them attractive in that way, than females I photographed. It was not something I ever planned, but shows in many of the photos.

The photos of women I've taken tend to be more peer group oriented, friendly, captures something else, but I never really photographed women sensually, though never planned it that way. Just another way to perceive a person, musician. Though I like the photos I have taken of the Bangs, (later to be Bangles), Backstage Pass, Excene and others, they reflect a different portrait than a hetro male photographer may capture.

As always you brought up some great points to ponder Alice, hope I haven’t rabbited on too long here.

Jenny Lens said...

I highly recommend reading Roxy Epoxy's intelligent and personal insights about women in rock in Razorcake. She discusses being the only woman in a rock band, issues of weight, sexuality, appearance, etc.

The Epoxies are from Portland, very progressive politically, with an unusual sound and live show. I actually wrote my first and only fan letter to a band when I heard their song on the first "Rock Against Bush" CD three years ago.

Roxy is in her early 30's I believe. Our emails were wonderful due to her intelligence, education, strong personality and character.

It shocked me to read what she wrote. Women are certainly taking a beating for being women in rock who don't look/behave onstage like Britney. Yet Britney has messed up her life worse than anyone I know.

Can't win for losing. Saddens me. But there's always hope when it's being discussed.

Read it in Razorcake!

Jenny Lens said...

I totally agree with Deborah's take on Beth's photo. I am so glad she brought it up. We all know about glamour photography studios you can find at local malls! Lighting, makeup (because the camera washes out features), and finding angles that make our flesh appealing, luscious like ripe flesh, were strangely absent from Beth’s cover shot.

I agree that the photographer, art director, stylist, make-up artist, etc -- all the people involved in a cover shot -- were MIA. Even if only one photographer were in the room with Beth, fire that person! Take away their camera!

I think it was Mia Tyler, known for being a "plus-size" model, and half-sister of Liv and of course Steven's daughter, or was it Stella Tennant, who has gotten so skinny she lost her beautiful face and individual look, discussed the abuse she suffered from these very people at shoots.

How dare hired guns put down a model because she's not skinny? Their verbal abuse, and shirking from their professional jobs, are worse sins than being fleshy and voluptuous. How dare they treat a top model like that?

I think it was Stella, because that's what inspired her to lose so much weight. She looks like every other model now.

The other issue that doesn't get discussed is the reality that more women look like I do. I'm about the national average height and weight, but can't find clothes! How is it that clothing designers still don't design flattering clothes for women with curves? Those with money? Add women over 40 or who are working, and want a professional, but fun look. Which means skirts that flatter our thighs and bellies! Not low riding, not short, not tight, etc. And not those horrid color and large flowers or designs once size 14 kicks in. WTF?

So we are talking about designers, advertisers, mag editors, store buyers, etc who are missing HUGE money making ops by ignoring us. Why else do I live in t-shirts and jeans? Cos I like looking like a slob? Oy.

The number one motivation for me to constantly attempt to lose weight is to find clothes to wear when I go out into the world. I tried to find t-shirts flattering for my size and age at Magic, the big fashion trade show in Vegas. I want to produce my own line of tees with my photos. But first I need to find tees that I can wear comfortably, and that flatter me. I spoke with the man who runs Royal Apparel, and I could have been talking to American Apparel.

The man told me he rather design for “women who work out.” Well, people make a choice: should I work out every day for several hours, prep food from scratch for hours like I used to in order to lose weight or work on my pix? Which is more important in the big picture?

A woman who works in a major rock tee company is slim but wears men’s tees because her breasts are too large for women's tees. Is that ironic or not? Our society praises big-breasted women, but they can't find a tee designed for their body! She kept nodding as I told her overweight boss that I would never license my photos to them until they designed tees I can wear!! I told him exactly how they should fit the body. His in-house designer, a petite woman, got really excited and said I was right on the money. The women wanted him to do it. That was almost three years ago.

Why can big, large men find tees that fit and we can't? He's dying to license my Joey and Kamen Rider. Not til they do a line of REAL women's tees. And people wonder why I won’t license for merch.

A lot of “big” women work out. I walk up to 8 miles several times a week. I’ve lost not one pound. Oh I hate it when people still blame us for being fat. Some of us are careful about what we eat and we exercise. It ain’t so easy folks!

How can I be a successful photographer and look so grubby? I used to make all my clothes, but I haven't had time since college!

Women with fleshy substance were honored when we lived in caves. The very first goddess, the Venus of Willendorf ( looks bigger than Candye Kane and Beth! 24,000 and 22,000 BCE.

There are health issues, so I’m not saying size doesn’t matter. But up to a certain size, it doesn’t matter the way our society says it does. That's the tragedy. What a waste of our time and energy. What a shame us vibrant women are marginalized every day, in some way. Even when we embrace ourselves, we deserve the right to flattering clothes.

Why do you think I took so many punk fashion shots? Cos unlike Alice, Plez, Trudie, Hellin, Mary Rat, Trixie, Shannon, Allison Punk Bunny, Sheila, Lorna, Joan Jett, the Go-Go’s (darling Margo, not Kathy), Exene, Farrah, Delphina, etc (I profusely apologize to all the women I shot and didn’t list), I couldn’t wear what they wore.

It still makes me cry just typing this. Cos I couldn’t get away with what they got away with. I couldn’t even find clothes to fit. Why else did I wear baggy dresses the whole time I shot? 30 years later, andmy wardrobe hasn't changed much.

So the issue of being big, bold and beautiful is more than an attitude. Time for a revolution! ;-)

deborahschow said...

Thanks again Alice,

I rabbit on more in my blog..

about the subject, but its pretty well covered already in these pages..

oh yeah, and another there always is..there was pressure on punkettes to be petite..I remember when I boyfriend warned that if I ate an Okie dog, or was it a Canters cake, that I would "bloat like Belinda" and he was her pal so punk was far from immune..

Jenny Lens said...

The spirit of Bessie Smith lives on!

"Let the big black lady stop the show":

I finally listened to this song from the Martin Short "Fame Becomes Me" Broadway show. I have a not-so secret love: Broadway musicals. I was into them prior to punk. I listen to show tunes more than I listen to punk.

"Best of Broadway" on Sirius via my Dish, around 4:15, June 4, 2007.

I tried to find the lyrics, but only found the following:

"A gospel-flavored roof-raiser called “Stop the Show,” in which Capathia Jenkins socks across one particular line of choice Wittman wit: “something that Stephen Sondheim doesn’t know: Let the big black lady stop the show.”

Sondheim is my all-time fave Broadway composer/lyricist. The song pokes fun at "the gay Jews" who create/produce Broadway musicals.

"Spamalot" includes a show stopping song about how the Knights of Spam/Camelot can't succeed on Broadway because "they don't have any Jews" and "everyone knows you absolutely must have Jews" behind the scenes to succeed in the Broadway musical genre. Ain't that the truth!!!

Most everyone involved in this show is Jewish, starting w/Martin Short and the songwriters.

And it helps to have more big black women too! The spirit of Bessie Smith lives on!

And for you Broadway fans, today is the first rehearsal day of Mel Brooks (Jewish) musical adaptation of his "Young Frankenstein."

"The Producers" was such juicy material for movie turned into a musical. Let's hope lightning strikes twice!

And as much as Alice loves "Wicked," the whole CD will be be on Sirius in 20 minutes!!!, I am less than impressed. If I had had the money to see it live, I'm sure I'd have a different take. The music is great, but the lyrics pale in comparison to Sondheim and Cole Porter. I am such a harsh critic!

And I wish I had the money to buy the technology to transfer from my Dish receiver to CD.

Whether you are big or green, defying gravity is possible!

PS "A fairy tale romance, Hollywood style, Taye Diggs and Idina Menzel [Who won the Tony for Elphaba] met on stage [I think "Rent"]. Cast as characters who loathed one another, they nonetheless fell in love. The on-stage loathing only fueled a growing off-stage love.

While success and public life have led them through many ups and downs - including hate mail which targeted and threatened them for "selling out and betraying their races" - they have nonetheless settled into to the hearts and minds of many Americans who believe them to be one of Hollywood's best couples.">>

We are talking about big or green or black women. A green, I mean, a white Jewish woman and a black man. Can you imagine this kind of hate?

Hate between Jews and Blacks? Is it still the 1950's?? What century is this??

"She was named after her great grandmother Ida, Hebrew for "gentle."

This makes me cry. Gotta stop typing. I am shaking. Doesn’t help I’m listening to Tony-winner Patti LuPone sing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” when they find out she’s dying of cancer at 33.

[source, although I've read about it elsewhere online.]

godoggo said...

I was weaned on Bessie. My favorite song is You've Got To Give Me Some. And, yes, she truly was a woman's woman, wink wink, nudge nudge.

godoggo said...

…and at the risk of seeming horrible pretentious, I’m reminded of a quote from Tristes Tropiques by Claude Levi-Strauss, which I managed to find using Amazon Book Search:

“As I watched the contortions of the jeune premier, whose scanty costume showed to advandage his curls, his double chin and his ample proportions. I remembered a sentence I had read a few days before on the literary page of a local paper, and which I transcribe textually because of the characteristic Anglo-Indian flavour: ‘…and the young girls who sigh as they gaze into the vast blueness of the sky, or what are they thinking? Of fat, prosperous suitors…’ The reference to fat suitors had surprised me, but as I watched the stage where the self-satisfied hero was causing the folds of his stomach to undulate, and remembered the starving beggars I would see as I left the theatre, I gained a better understanding of the poetic value of repletion for a society living in such close and painful familiarity with famine. The English, incidentally, realized that the surest way to give the impression of being supermen was to convince the natives that they need a much greater quantity of food than is required by ordinary man.”

Anonymous said...

"Bold sexual predators"? "Exciting and dangerous"?

Hey Jenny, does this describe you?

Alicia said...

Was my writing unclear? You're using my words, but calling out Jenny. If you have something you want to say spit it out.

Jenny Lens said...

LOL! WTF? Me a "bold sexual predator"? I only wish. I have never been a predator in any sense of the word. That is too funny! As Alice says, spit it out!

I am always blown away by the fact the men who come after me are never the men I chase. I don't chase men anymore. I dance and sing and do my own thing. And if that turns on men, as it so often does, they have to come after me. So that eliminates me as a predator!

I am much bolder sexually these days cos I don't care what anyone thinks of me. I just had the most marvelous time after the "punk's not dead" premiere in SF May 4. I was stoned not only on free vodka, but some X (and I don't mean the band).

A handsome young man seduced me. He just appeared out of nowhere. What did I do to attract his attention? I have no idea.

We steamed up his car. But I refused to ask his name nor contact info. I am waaaay too busy with my punk photo archive. Memories, light the corner of my mind.

But if anyone is interested, drop me a note. LOL! Oh the topics of dear Alice's site.

Men, the one vice I've given up (temporarilty) unless I'm really in the mood. Or unless they can seduce me, but that's not so easy.

I'm all about my art, my photography. I can't get involved in someone's else's life. Give me the zipless fuck! Ha ha, omg. How did we get onto this subject?

Accusing me of being a predator. That'll be the day!

Anonymous said...

Okay, Jenny,maybe you're no longer a sexual predator - maybe middle age has mellowed you - but you're still exciting and dangreous. The zipless fuck indeed!

Anonymous said...

I swear they foto shopped Beth Ditto in that picture, i swear she has a bigger belly than that. BIG IS BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

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Anonymous said...

I have never responded to a blog but this is the time & the place. I was always a bit thicker growing up - not really a big girl but not skinny - & ended up "ballooning," as many ass-faces have pointed out.
I was a punk rock teen with a foot tall mohawk & bitchin' clothes that I altered myself. I would buy an old pair of plaid, wool golf pants, buy some measured zippers, bondage rings, & other details at a local leather shop & make beautiful things. Although I could make anything I desired to wear or decorate my body, I still felt a huge push to be skinny. The girls that were "desirable" in the scene & had a reputation for such were often some unreachable size 1 or 2 & about 6 inches taller than my 5 foot frame. I literally starved myself to get to a size 6. STARVED!
At 20 I began to fill out and I have been steady at a size 16 for 3 years. I still do feel the pressure to lose weight though my lifestyle has changed a great deal. I have a partner who sought out a BBW & LOVES my body more than I can even stand sometimes, I got to be a size 14 cheerleader in college (with tattoos. HOT!), I am accepted by my fabulous friends but I still feel constant pressure from my family that is soooooo bloody concerned about my "health," my sister who underwent a gastric bypass & has gone from 360 pounds to 220 in the last year, media, and my own overwhelming desire to be what I find attractive. Although I can appreciate the sentiment, I have always found the very tall & very thin attractive. I can never be tall (obv) & will probably never be skinny. It hurts. Gross, right?!
My boyfriend can get wood when my shirt rides up & a little belly shows but I cannot even find one place on my body that I think is beautiful. Not one.
The media ruined this for me long ago. I grew up with Warrant videos for "Cherry Pie," and this eventually evolved to naughty Alicia Silverstone & Liv Tyler doing naughty things in "Crazy" by Aerosmith, to having to be in a scene with less female representation than I would prefer and gaunt was in, to adulthood where Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, & even Brittany Spears have been called "thick," Ex-fucking-cuse me?! Really?! And even Kate Dillon, a plus sized model, is only a size 10, 12 & she is almost 6 feet tall so where does not leave a chick like me? I cannot wear Forever 21 or Gap or any of that shit, I also cannot wear Lane Bryant because I am not one of the amazons. I am 5 feet tall & a size 16...I don't need spandex wasted pants and oversized beefy tees. I still have a waste & taste, thank you fashion industry.
This trend has to give at some point. I think of classic paintings & how we still think of these woman as beauties but why does the media make fools of these curvy women when they are in the flesh? Why is the model even called "plus sized?" Why isn't she just a model. That's it. Why does the big girl always have to be just that - the big girl? Why is being fat suddenly part of our character & personality but being skinny is not treated as such. It's like when white people will say "there was this BLACK GUY & these two ladies" not just "there was this guy & two ladies." Same diff. People will say the "fat chick" or "big girl" &c. in the same fashion, as though this information is so damned integral to the story or description.
To be real, I could go on about this for another 100 pages & I would just get more & more angry. Just know that I have a lot more in me, I am just saving you from the dullness of a rant. Peace.

Anonymous said...

i happen to think it is awesome to see a beautiful curvaceous smart and talented woman to pose nude on a magazine some guys may like the stick thin woman and hey so be it but me myself i like a woman with curves and for a to be confident about herself and like her body cause big woman r just as beautiful and just as sexy as ppl who like those thin woman there is just more to love when it comes to big woman and there is nothing wrong with that i always been attracted to mia tyler and beth ditto and ditto being a beautiful sxy plus size model and tyler being a a big beautiful sxy singer and both appreciate there bodys like they do that is HOT! to me keep doing what you doing ladys congrats