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Posts Tagged ‘the commons’

by Julia

So the final short assignment for one of my classes asked me to answer the question, “Are you a feminist? Why or why not?” What follows is my rant, which will also answer some of the questions I’ve been getting about my previous post regarding feminism and capitalism.


I have to say, I was giddy when I saw the question for this assignment. “Easy!” I thought, of course I am a feminist. I have feminist pins on my bag, feminist books on my shelf, feminist  bumper stickers on my laptop, and a facebook page absolutely dripping with feminist quotations and affiliations. But it is this very immediate association that I had – the things that “made me feminist” – that is also making me question my identification with the word, “feminist.” Certainly, I believe in the tenets of feminism – I intend to devote my life to gender equality under the law. I believe in access to abortion for women who need one. I believe in access to parental leave so that women can work and not be burdened unequally with raising a child. I believe in health care reform so that women are not discriminated against for their preexisting conditions or gendered medical conditions by insurance companies. I believe that girls and boys have equal opportunities for accession to whatever career they choose and that biology does not determine one’s intellectual potential.

I believe all of these things, but I simply cannot fully “own” the term feminist in our current culture. As I wrote in my gendered institutions paper, feminism has been co-opted by capitalism to represent a certain type of woman: thin, hyper-sexualized, heterosexual, white, and affluent. Femininity is constructed by capitalism to be an unattainable goal, yet the modern conception of feminism is something that is already attained – by employed women and their self-purchased products of fun.

Feminism to me represents much more than one’s own identification. Feminism is the creation of a community of women with the power to overcome patriarchal controls on their lives. Feminism should never be unattainable for anyone. Feminism is not individual – it is at its core built from commonalities. If to be a feminist is to strive towards this goal in one’s daily actions, then yes, I am a feminist. But I will not identify as a feminist if all that means is someone who buys a vibrator and isolates herself from the rest of her comrades who are striving to eliminate barriers and realize a common struggle.

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by Julia

Elizabeth and I have a lot of things in common, and our mutual affinity for lyrical analysis is chief among them. The vast majority of music is written about romance and relationships, and we certainly appreciate love-related lyrics. But  lately, I’ve been drawn to music that speaks to the greater issues in society.

This evening, I went to Busboys & Poets in DC with some fellow members of the UMD Women’s Collective to attend a lecture on CIA drone attacks in Pakistan. Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern were the speakers, and my expectations for a stimulating discussion (and some conspiracy theories) were more than met. What I wasn’t expecting was the musical introduction from David Rovics. Rovics has been called “the musical version of Democracy Now!” and Sheehan introduced him by saying that we would “laugh, cry, and be moved towards direct action” by his lyrics and delivery. We all were.

His folky song style reminded me of The Mountain Goats‘s John Darnielle, but his lyrics could only be compared to the empassioned speeches and political theory I study in (and out of) school. And Rovics’s subject matter is comprehensive: he performed about seven poems and songs and covered: Katrina/New Orleans, activist stereotypes, kid power, the commons, Gaza, Somali pirates, The Eureka Rebellion, Lebanon, and government corruption. A sampling of some song titles:

“who would jesus bomb?” “halliburton boardroom massacre” “after the revolution” “whoever wins in november” “pirates of somalia”

His song about New Orleans and the incredibly racist betrayal of human beings at the hands of an inept government moved me to tears. The next minute, Rovics’s performance of I’m a Better Anarchist Than You had all of us laughing hysterically and exchanging knowing looks. His somber poem, Lebanon 2006, was received by the audience with nods and serious reflection.

I think I was so moved by Rovics because of his combination of musical talent, brilliant lyrics, and praxis. Rovics’s songs are all available for free download on his site (“music is the commons“). He regularly plays house parties and participates in direct action. He says what many are afraid to admit: politicians are all the same. He has a kid’s CD!!! (I recommend “Bullies”) And his lyrics are neatly archived — something Elizabeth and I greatly appreciate.

I came away from the lecture tonight with a profound reminder of what we’re working towards: the universal realization that each human being – regardless of national origin – is equal, that each human life is equal. (7 CIA agents were killed in Afghanistan in late December by a suicide bomber who was enraged by “tyrant America’s [murder] of civilians.” The US solution to the deaths of several Americans is to launch more attacks on “terrorists,” resulting in civilian deaths far outnumbering the 7 lives lost.)

I also left with a new favorite musician.

Here are some lyrics (and download links):

I’m a Better Anarchist Than You [download]

i don’t drive a car
’cause they run on gas
but if i did
it’d run on biomass
i ride a bike
or sometimes a skateboard
so fuck off all you drivers
and your yuppie hordes
sitting all day
in the traffic queues
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t eat meat
i just live on moldy chives
or the donuts that i found
in last week’s dumpster dives
look at you people in that restaurant
i think you are so sad
when you coulda been eating bagels
like the ones that i just had
i think it is a shame
all the bourgeois things you do
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t wear leather
and i like my clothes in black
and i made a really cool hammock
from a moldy coffee sack
i like to hop on freight trains
i think that is so cool
it’s so much funner doing this
than being stuck in school
i can’t believe you’re wearing
those brand new shiny shoes
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t have sex
and there will be no sequel
because heterosexual relationships
are inherently unequal
i’ll just keep moshing
to rancid and the clash
until there are no differences
in gender, race or class
all you brainwashed breeders
you just haven’t got a clue
i’m a better anarchist than you

i am not a pacifist
i like throwing bricks
and when the cops have caught me
and i’ve taken a few licks
i always feel lucky
if i get a bloody nose
’cause i feel so militant
and everybody knows
by the time
the riot is all through
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t believe in leaders
i think consensus is the key
i don’t believe is stupid notions
like representative democracy
whether or not it works
i know it is the case
that only direct action
can save the human race
so when i see you in your voting booths
then i know it’s true
i’m a better anarchist than you

New Orleans [download]

Everybody knew that it could happen
The likelihood was clear
The future was coming
And now it’s here
They had to fix the levees
Because otherwise they’d break
On one side was the city
Above it was the lake
It was in the daily papers
In bold letters was the writ
What would happen
When the Big One hit
But every year they cut the funding
Just a little more
So they could give it to the Army
To fight their oil war

In National Geographic
And the Times-Picayune
They forecast the apocalypse
Said it was coming soon
Preparations must be made, they said
Now is the time
It was years ago they shouted
Inaction was a crime
They said the dikes must be improved
And the wetlands must be saved
But Washington decided
Instead they should be paved
Because malls were more important
Than peoples’ lives
So put some gold dust in your eyes
And hope no storm arrives

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

Years and years of warning
No evacuation plan
It was just if the waters rose
Just get out if you can
There were no buses
No one chartered any trains
There was no plan to rescue
All of those who would remain
All the people with no money
All the people with no wheels
All of those who didn’t hotwire
One that they could steal
Thousands and thousands of people
Abandoned by the state
Abandoned by their country
Just left to meet their fate

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And the people died
And then they died some more
They drowned inside their attics
An army of the poor
An army of the destitute
Who couldn’t get away
And the world will remember
These sad and awful days
When people shouted from their houses
Dying on their roofs
When people came to find them
They were turned back by the troops
They died there with no water
They died there in the heat
They were shot down by the soldiers
For trying to find some food to eat

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And now the city is in ruins
A massive toxic sea
Scattered through the nation
Half a million refugees
Here we are
In the richest country on the earth
Where the color of your skin
Determines what your life is worth
Where oil is the king
Where global warming is ignored
Where the very end of life
Is the place we’re heading toward
Where it’s more than just a metaphor
The flooding of the dike
And if we don’t stop this madness
The whole planet will be like

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

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