Saturday, February 23, 2008

Women In L.A. Punk - Part XXV - Connie Clarksville

Some of the women who lived in the Canterbury Apartments in Hollywood back in the late 1970's identified themselves as (or through association, became known as) either Pyranas or Poodles. My roommate Shannon and I both belonged to the Pyranas, a group of young women who tended to be a bit more sexually aggressive and confrontational than the norm. Whatever the Pyranas had in tough, man-eating mystique, the Poodles had in style. The Poodles included Connie Clarksville in their ranks and I believe that Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go's must have been operating as a double-agent between the Pyranas and Poodles.

The Masque Presents Black Randy and the Metrosquad with Arthur J and the Goldcups at the Whisky. Sheila Edwards, Trudie, Trixie, Connie, Spaz Attack, Alice Bag, Nickey Beat, Exene sitting on KK’s (Screamers) lap. Whisky, March 5, 1978.
Courtesy of Jenny Lens.

I remember Connie Clarksville as one of the first punks to marry the hard-edged punk look with fifties' pin-up glamour. Her rockabilly hairdos and fashion easily set her apart from the crowd. She had a place on the first floor of the Canterbury where, on any given day, she might just as easily be hosting a raucous party as cropping a punk 'do or styling a DA. Compared to the rest of us, Connie seemed to have her shit together. She served food and wine at her parties while the rest of us were sharing half pints of rum and Dr Pepper and a bag of chips. As a fellow Blackette with Black Randy & The Metro Squad, Connie showed us all that she was a multi- talented Glamazon. She danced and sang along with me, Trudie Arguelles, Exene Cervenka, Sheila Edwards and Belinda Carlisle.

Looking at her current pictures, it's hard to say whether she isn't even cooler now than she was in the late 70's. She's still ahead of the curve, still stylish and still looks like she can kick your ass if you don't mind your manners! Click on the thumbnail to read her interview.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop

The “Women On Top” music video that my family and I created for the Hillary Clinton campaign has been getting an increased amount of views on YouTube this week, thanks to one of the bloggers on Daily Kos who liked it. I’m pleased that it is getting people to talk about the historical struggle for women’s rights and to do some research on women like Victoria Woodhull and Wilma Mankiller. The whole purpose of the video was to show Hillary’s bid for the White House in historical context and it seems that purpose was achieved. It’s especially exciting to see the involvement of so many young people in the political process, and I suspect that has much to do with the charisma and appeal of Senator Obama. For that, we can all be grateful.

I find myself much more attuned to this year’s campaign than in previous years. Though I’ve been politically active since I was old enough to vote, I’ve been following the cable news coverage of the campaigns more closely over the past month and I’ve seen a curious trend emerge. Why is it that the major media outlets who have been the virtual lapdogs of the Bush administration and neo-conservative oligarchy for the past 7 years are suddenly throwing their unabashed support to Barack Obama? I’d like to pose this as an open question to anyone reading this, but before I do, I need to provide you with my own historical context.

Back when I was part of the punk scene in the late seventies, I was about as politically na├»ve as they come. I had grown up believing in the notion of an impartial press. I was convinced that the newspapers and television news shows were unbiased and only presented facts and that it was up to the observer to interpret those facts in order to arrive at informed decisions. It was only as I became involved in activist events and causes that I realized that it wasn’t necessary to lie in order for the press to distort the truth or influence public opinion. They could do it by either focusing on or withholding their attention from an event or subject. I personally witnessed several of these instances of disinformation. I recall one especially large march and rally I attended with thousands of people in the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, protesting US intervention in Central America. We expected we’d be on the evening news and in the L.A. Times but the evening news came and went as did the next day’s paper, without even a mention of the massive rally. It was like the event never happened and those of us who participated were invisible. And that’s when I realized that the job of the mainstream media is not to inform the masses, but rather to help form and manipulate the opinions of the masses. Check out this link to Adbuster's Media Carta if you want to learn more: Media Carta.

As I’ve grown older, I am much more likely to question what the news media is selling on any given day. I already know who it benefits and it’s not the public interest. It’s the same with many crimes; follow the money and you’ll see who’s running the show and whose interests are being served. The appearance of impartiality wears a very flimsy frock these days. It seems that the taste makers are not just content to tell us what to buy, how to look and what to eat, they also have mastered a way to synthesize our values, add some slick packaging and sell them right back to us. Often, these values are sold to us through celebrities who are either held up as the embodiment of our values or as the antithesis of them. The celebrity making media machine cranks out pop stars to sell us everything from clothing to national policy. And that brings me back to my initial question: why is Obama their new darling? Has the media suddenly become liberal? Do they favor him because they want to change the status quo? Would a change in the status quo benefit the media or the owners of the newspapers and TV stations in the United States? Would it benefit their sponsors? Or is there some other reason?

I encourage you to write in, anonymously or otherwise, and I look forward to reading your thoughts on this subject.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Give 'Em Hell, Hillary!

Following the posting of my “Women On Top” campaign video for Hillary Clinton, my husband (who reads the internet and various blogs much more than I) remarked to me that he was shocked at some of the vitriolic and outright sexist comments directed towards Hillary Clinton. “Since when is it acceptable to call a woman a ‘cunt’ just because you disagree with her politics?” he asked. “Doesn’t the fact that the mainstream media can pretty much call Hillary a ‘bitch’ on prime time television belie the notion that we are a post-feminist society?” I guess I’m used to it, because none of this misogyny surprises me, but what really gets to me is that it goes unchecked.

When I wrote “Women On Top” a few years ago, I had in mind that I was trying to reach younger females who hadn’t grown up during the struggle for equal rights, as I did. I realized that there was a whole generation of women who took it for granted that they had the right to vote, the right to control over their own bodies (Roe v. Wade, 1973 – I was born in 1958), the right to work outside of the home and earn as much a male…well, we’re still fighting that one, aren’t we? The point I’m trying to make is that yes, we’ve come a long way, but there is still much further to go. And this year, we’ve seen what happens when a strong, intelligent and brave female dares to challenge the male dominated political hierarchy. In Pakistan, they just assassinate you outright. In the USA, we assassinate your character in the media.

Don’t get me wrong - I expect character assassination from the right; it’s one of their standard operating procedures. So when a McCain supporter refers to Hillary as “the bitch” or Rush Limbaugh calls her the “original Femi-Nazi,” I understand it. Republicans like to play hardball and they have never pretended to be the party of equal rights for women. But when bloggers on the so-called liberal site Daily Kos refer to Hillary Clinton as “Billary” or Obama supporters write in comments on YouTube stating that Hillary Clinton is a “whore” or a “cunt,” or when MSNBC anchor David Shuster states that the Clinton campaign “seems to be pimping out Chelsea” because she has chosen to support her mother’s candidacy by making public appearances (no one dared accuse W of pimping out his daughters when they did the same thing in 2004), I have to speak up. People (many of them claiming to be liberals and progressives) are taking a lot of liberty throwing around words like “cunt,” “bitch,” “whore” and speaking of pimping out one’s daughters, without anyone crying foul. Would we overlook racist, derogatory terms if they were becoming part of the political discussion? I don’t think so, but for some reason, we’ve decided it’s ok to use misogynistic words to describe women and particularly Hillary Clinton. I see this as part of a bigger problem we seem to have with how we define feminism and what images of femininity we are comfortable with.

One of the complaints about Hillary is that she is “too comfortable” in the male dominated arena of national politics (try to frame that as a disadvantage in a male context – bear in mind that Ms. Clinton has been a U.S. Senator for less than 8 years whereas the Republican frontrunner, John McCain has been a national representative for over 25 years – and if you don’t think McCain will play his experience for all its worth against Obama’s lack thereof, you have a hard lesson coming.) I found this commentary by Susan J. Douglas, professor of Communications at the University of Michigan, particularly telling: “Hillary, by contrast, seems to want to be more like a man in her demeanor and politics, makes few concessions to the social demands of femininity, and yet seems to be only a partial feminist. She seems above us, exempting herself from compromises women have to make every day, while, at the same time, leaving some of the basic tenets of feminism in the dust. We are sold out on both counts. In other words, she seems like patriarchy in sheep’s clothing.” By that logic, pioneering female aviator Amelia Earhart would have kept her feet firmly on the ground and early suffragette and abolitionist Lucy Stone would have just shut up and sat down. No truly great women have ever stopped to worry about “making concessions to the social demands of femininity,” let alone the “basic tenets of feminism” which, in my opinion can be boiled down to the maxim that women are the equals of men. By my standards, Hillary Clinton has never betrayed her femininity or feminism.

The Republicans and the Fox News clones have done such a great hatchet job since the whole Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal broke that many people now regard the entire Clinton administration as a dark age for our country, when nothing could be further from the truth. Younger voters may not remember that Bill Clinton turned the largest federal debt in history into the largest budget surplus in history during his two terms in office and presided over the longest peace-time period of economic expansion in American history. When he left office, he had the highest voter approval rating for an outgoing President since FDR: 65%. This, despite being impeached by a Republican controlled House of Representatives. So when someone tells you, “eight years of one Clinton was enough,” remember that those were eight relatively great years for this country.

It’s important for me to note that I have no animosity towards Barack Obama, who seems to be a very decent and earnest individual. It’s just that I much prefer Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons, chief of which is that Hillary is a fighter and has been battle tested. She’s hated by the Republicans for a reason - she is not afraid to take them on and fight them in hand to hand combat. If anyone still believes that the neo-conservative stranglehold on this country can be wished away by pretty speeches and a lot of people holding “HOPE” signs, I say it’s time to think again. I for one am absolutely fed up with the Republican party and what they have done to our country, our economy and our rights over the past eight years and I am not in the mood to “unite” with most of them. I am fairly certain that the feeling is mutual, so I don’t buy the unification slogan. I want a President who can kick some ass in D.C. and get things done, the Democratic way. I want Dirty Harriett – no, make that Dirty Hillary!

Give ‘em hell, Hillary!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hillary Clinton Music Video - Women On Top

In the spirit of home made crafting, my family just created this music video for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I used a demo recording of my old band, Stay At Home Bomb performing a song called "Women On Top," which seemed just perfect for the purpose. I should add the disclaimer that this is my song and it represents my choice for '08. I'm not speaking for anyone else in the band.

There is no limit to what you can do yourself with the right tools and the desire to learn. Hope you enjoy it!

Women On Top - Stay At Home Bomb

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