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PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:36 pm 
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Mr. Badmouth wrote:
I am quite sure she has known that all along. She just had no wish to align herself with any particular ideology and I don't see why that would suddenly change now.


You are quite right, Mr B. As we all know it's a hazardous business to identify Polly's opinions about anything. What you have in her work is a set of general attitudes: a refusal to accept stereotypical gender identities, a concern for the pain of individual people, a growing interest, perhaps, in how structures of power affect what happens. Now, put those things together and you have feminism: what you don't have is the label, but that may not be all that important. If people are using her work to set their minds free in certain respects, all to the good.

As to what's happened to you specifically: feminism is about the liberation of men as well as women, I'm told. As for the original question, about the label itself, the only possible answer is surely No, nobody knows.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 10:02 pm 
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AineteEkaterini wrote:
Mr. Badmouth wrote:
I am quite sure she has known that all along. She just had no wish to align herself with any particular ideology and I don't see why that would suddenly change now.


You are quite right, Mr B. As we all know it's a hazardous business to identify Polly's opinions about anything. What you have in her work is a set of general attitudes: a refusal to accept stereotypical gender identities, a concern for the pain of individual people, a growing interest, perhaps, in how structures of power affect what happens. Now, put those things together and you have feminism: what you don't have is the label, but that may not be all that important. If people are using her work to set their minds free in certain respects, all to the good.

As to what's happened to you specifically: feminism is about the liberation of men as well as women, I'm told. As for the original question, about the label itself, the only possible answer is surely No, nobody knows.


Thanks, AineteEkaterini. Had you come along earlier, you might have spared me the effort of too much typing and trying to explain what I meant.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 8:47 pm 
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head's_bullet wrote:
I mean, she has this big band, surrounded only by men, that bothers me a bit, she should know better things are harder for women in music like everywhere else


I'm sure this has been remarked on somewhere on the forum before, after all this time, and PJ is too intelligent and self-questioning for her not to be aware of it either. But I was thinking about it afresh today and - aside from psychological questions about why she might prefer to be surrounded by chaps - she clearly feels the need to have a protective barrier of friends who she trusts not to go running to the music press about this or that, and when someone is admitted to that circle it tends to be because they already know someone in it. As bands are largely formed from groups of friends, there's a built-in bias in terms of sex.

But it's not just her. Thinking of the other women singers I like - Siouxsie, Diamanda, Kate Bush - when they have musicians around them, they're all male; and when they collaborate with other artists, they're all male as well. Diamanda has expressed her feminism in ways that are not just vehement, but positively violent: and yet she's never collaborated with a woman. Perhaps there is a wider and deeper question as to why charismatic women performers tend only to work with men, but I've no idea why that might be.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:08 pm 
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^Just to add to the bundle, Tori Amos, who, in her own words, "was born a feminist", also works exclusively with male musicians and technicians.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:26 pm 
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It occurred to me that the current tour must be exceedingly expensive to put on what with 9 (male) musicians, sound, lighting etc. She's definitely doing her part to provide gainful employment for a lot of folks. :green:

The only female musicians I can recall her working with are Margaret Fiedler (guitarist during Stories tour) and Carla Azar (drums on AWAMWB recording).

I think there just aren't a lot of professional female rock musicians around.

Oh, I forgot to mention the small string section (which included some female violin players) during some of the TBYML studio shows. Of course there are lot of professional female classical musicians.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:26 pm 
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In fact, of course, Polly did work with Marianne Faithfull, and there are women on her technical team (ct4spinner recently posted an article here about the sound equipment which mentioned that the monitor engineer is female) so perhaps she may actually be doing better than the others we've mentioned ... although I doubt the composition of the technical team is anything to do with her!


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 04, 2016 11:37 pm 
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I forgot about PJ producing Tiffany Anders' album in 2001.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2016 8:28 pm 
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I would hope she's okay with the label now because no matter what she thinks she has been a feminist icon.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06, 2016 4:49 pm 
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^ Yeah, exactly, even if she shuns the label she's become a feminist icon at least preformatively. http://pitchfork.com/features/lists-and ... gs/?page=2 (scroll to the bottom of the page)


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 4:41 am 
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I really appreciated the thoughtful posts of AineteEkaterini and Mr. Badmouth here.

I think in general and in here, part of the issue is in how one defines feminism. The term has gathered so much baggage over the decades for a whole host of reasons, good and bad, fairly and unfairly.

What I think all decent people can and should agree upon is that women are equals and as such, deserve the same right to self-determination as men. If that's feminism, then as a man, call me a feminist.

I'm now fascinated with recent posts discussing Polly's, along with some other prominent female artists, i.e., "Siouxsie, Diamanda, Kate Bush", etc., reliance to near exclusivity in working with men.

Not sure what it all means or if there is a significance, but it would be a fascinating question to explore further.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2016 9:25 pm 
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Whereas referring to PJH as 'Polly' seems only natural, and 'Siouxsie' is acceptable as it's a stage name, 'Diamanda' is probably a bit too familiar, and I should have used the more polite 'Ms Galás'. That's someone I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of!


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2016 1:02 pm 
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I’ve been doing more thinking about this (always risky). I’ve got two additional contributions, the first about PJ’s use of humour, the second about the ‘feminism now’ question. It's a bit of an essay, but bear with me.

When Polly started out, she was an angry young woman, and part of that anger was focused on male-female relations. It wasn’t examined through any ideological lens, but through that of stories, emotions and experiences, and she never offered any solution. That meant she was aware, even at that early stage in her development as a songwriter, of the contradictions and ambiguities within any individual human response to sexual relationships. One way of processing these contradictions is through humour (it’s not the only way Polly’s humour functions, but it’s the one that’s relevant to this subject), and so there’s a humorous tone in some of her early stuff, especially, about the way men and women relate to each other. I don’t mean songs that are clearly ‘just’ jokes, such as ‘Claudine’, but more complicated works.

In ‘Sheela-na-gig’, for instance, the speaker both scorns, and desires the approval of, the man who spurns her so aggressively. His response to her entreaties and hers to his rejection are both melodramatic and over-the-top. Her threat to ‘take my hips to a man who cares’ is sneered at by the contradictory, cross-cutting voice claiming they've ‘heard it before!’ (and you can’t tell whether that voice is the man, another woman, or an internal debate within the protagonist). So what you’ve got there is a song which is both serious and humorous at the same time, and it's far from alone. Mind you, it’s a pretty bleak, uncomfortable sort of humour which is why it’s easy to miss. For my part I think this is impressively sophisticated for a woman who was barely into her twenties when she wrote it, if that.

Secondly, I said before in response to Thazi’s original question that ‘nobody knows’ Polly’s attitude to feminism now. Actually having reflected a little more I think the situation is a little more uncomfortable than that. When she took over the Today programme in 2014 she demanded, and got, carte blanche from the BBC to do exactly what she wanted. Unlike her choices about who she performs with, which are constrained in the ways I talked about earlier, in this case she had absolute freedom to choose anyone she wanted to lend airtime to. And, apart from the show’s presenters and one woman who appears in the business news section that Polly had nothing to do with, the only female voice in the whole three hours is hers. Now, there were good reasons for her to select all the men who spoke on the programme, I’m not denying that. But it’s clear that what she didn’t do was to go through her list of possible contributors and think to herself, ‘you know, I really ought to include a woman in this’, when there were plenty of radical female lawyers, journalists and commentators she could have chosen. It’s very obviously not something she thinks about; or, if she does think about it, she consciously rejects it.

Then again, in the last two albums, which are intentionally politically radical and challenging, women appear as individuals to whom things have happened or as representatives of other categories (the Native American woman in ‘Medicinals’, for instance), not in relation to their sex in any way. This is in contrast to Polly’s obvious concern for children and what happens to them as a group. I think we have to conclude, in so far as we can conclude anything about PJ and her work, that sexual politics as such is if anything even less of a concern for her now than it was 25 years ago.

Unless the next album turns out to be exactly about that, and proves me completely wrong!


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