Even When Talking About Art Made by Women, Men Do Not Value Art Made by Women

Hi Darling Ones,

When I saw that my favorite podcast, 60 Songs that Explain the 90s, which happens to be the only one I listen to, was discussing Liz Phair’s “Fuck and Run” in the latest episode I was elated.

When I saw the guest was author Sam Lipsyte I deflated a bit. Not because I dislike Lipsyte, I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few of his books, but I was a little worried about how two men would discuss this ground-breaking, generation-defining work of art by a woman.

As we have discussed many times before, men do not value art made by women. This episode is a prime example of how even when discussing art made by a woman, men can actively not value art made by women.

Sounds tricky and impossible, and yet. . . it is not.

It starts out so well with host Rob Harvilla talking about the police station scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and the way it illustrates how boys can get away with everything and girls can get away with nothing. Plus, he talks some about Material Issue.

RIGHT? Liz Phair + Ferris Bueller + Material Issue, this episode was me in podcast form.

This did not end well, though. Instead of learning new insights or seeing a new perspective on this 30-year-old song, this episode left me angry and frustrated.

I’m of two minds when it comes to men discussing seminal art by women.

Part of me, believes yes, yes men should talk to each other about art made by women (and nonbinary people).

The other part of me is all, “can’t they find one goddamn woman to talk about this?”

I wish they had found one goddamn woman to talk about this record.

The problem here, which is a problem with a lot of men discussing most anything, is they cannot see outside their own narrow, male perspective to even think someone who is not a man might see things a little differently. And that the difference in perspective is important and valid.

For example, at one point Harvilla is talking about the song “Canary” and how it has taken hindsight to appreciate it.

He says, “The resignation in her voice there, the exasperation. If I played this one on air at my college radio station as a 19-year-old yutz, I don’t know if I would have grasped all the nuances there, but who did, really?”

Who did, really? WHO DID, REALLY?

Well, to begin with me, a 21-year-old yutz when this song came out, and all the other young female yutzs I knew. Maybe, an entire generation of young women got the nuances there because Liz Phair was singing about situations we could relate to on a visceral level. Phair was singing our lives back to us (that line stolen from Neko Case’s “Guided By Wire”).

The sort of male-gaze-iness of the discourse only got worse once Lipsyte joined the discussion.

What is so frustrating is they came so close to getting it. Harvilla mentions all the “Guyvilles” that pop up around “Exile in Guyville.”

They even mentioned how sexist the reaction to Phair’s later work was and how misogyny may have played a role in how she was viewed. However, they continually conflated (male) rock critic reaction with fan reaction. It never occurred to them, or if it did they never said it, that there is an entire world of reception outside what the Dude Rock Establishment thinks.

And the worst part, and what underlines my point about men not valuing art made by women, is only one other female artist is mentioned in the entire episode. Phair is described as getting close to having a Courtney Love growl.

They did, however, mention: The Rolling Stones (obviously), Material Issue, Dave Berman, Urge Overkill, Nirvana, David Bowie, Jesus Lizard, and Fugazi.

They did not mention: Riot Grrrl, Alanis Morissette, or Lilith Fair, which might be asking a lot considering it’s a podcast about music in the 90s.

In my ideal world they’d have discussed Phair in league with the Stones and Morissette. They would have compared her to Bowie and Madonna.

It shouldn’t ever be all one or the other. This is how we get pink ghettos, bullshit “women in music” lists, and gender-nonconforming people being wholly ignored.

While you might be thinking, Oh, Jodi’s just going on about this nonsense again, it’s not nonsense. Pop culture is culture. As long as we continue to let men control the narrative without calling them out on their myopic bullshit, women (and nonbinary folks) will continue to be erased.

Never getting off this soapbox,
Jodi

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2 Comments

  1. Amy Abts 24.Jan.23 at 9:11 am

    Thank you for never getting off this soapbox.

    Reply
  2. theluckynun 24.Jan.23 at 1:14 pm

    Fully agree! I think I’ll skip that episode. The last person I want to hear spout another boring opinion about Liz Phair is a yet another guy and his buddies. Honestly, the only guys I’ve heard in the last few years even acknowledge that their opinion about non-cis men artists is lacking and actively look for non-cis men to lead the discussion are the Sound Opinions guys.

    Reply

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