Published Sep 15, 2014In the past year or two, many of us have become more aware of the music industry's inherent sexism thanks to thought-provoking essays from Grimes and Chvrches vocalist Lauren Mayberry, and now Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves has shared her own thoughts in a new spoken word piece.
Graves made the speech this past weekend at Hudson, NY's Basilica Soundscape festival. It was apparently such a huge hit among attendees that The Talkhouse republished the essay in full.
In the piece, Graves uses a sighting of Andrew W.K. as the jumping-off point for a discussion about women's role in music — both among fans and within the industry itself — and the differing expectations of authenticity for men and women.
While she effusively praises W.K., she notes that he is celebrated for his manufactured musical persona. Women on the other hand — particularly Lana Del Rey but also Lorde, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus — are treated with suspicion. Ultimately, the piece isn't only about gender, but also about the challenges of maintaining a public identity in "an unfeeling world that loves nothing more than breaking sensitive, talented people."
It's impassioned, well-written and illuminating, so give it a read in full below.
I am at the baggage carousel of Katowice International Airport in Poland, contemplating the unshaven neck of Andrew W.K.'s hype man as he watches peoples' slowly looping belongings. He looks like guys I've known who work in kitchens, or maybe a car mechanic cleaned up for a funeral. The night before, we were in London in a warehouse meant to serve as a green room for 20 bands, with food and drinks set out on long, labeled tables. My bandmates examined with scientific precision the table set for Andrew W.K. and his crew, noting with awe everything that was different between his table and ours. Unsurprisingly, I was off in a corner trying to get drunk as fast as possible, so I can't remember anything specific they ate or stole.
They were really excited, though — the boys, unlike me, were obsessed with the myths. He sings about getting wasted but he's sober! He's married to a bodybuilder, he had a TV show and the producers thought it would be zany to have him live in a sorority house for a weekend; the sisters found him to be odd but generally alright. They were shocked when they found out I didn't know anything about him. "You'll just have to see for yourself," they said, "it's really hard to explain."
Andrew W.K.'s first album came out when I was 14; there he was on the cover, blood from his forehead and nose covering his face and running into his mouth. There were boys I knew back then who loved that album — only boys — and two of them I remember very well, a rude, round nerd and a mama's boy who, according to popular myth — started by me — was a premature ejaculator. They were best friends and they lived in my neighborhood, and they liked picking on me enough to keep me around. They were the only "indie-rock" boys in our small rural high school, obsessed with Death Cab and the Get Up Kids, trying to be a little more like Seth Cohen every day. The squat nerd with the bald spots and his shitty little sister was an ardent supporter of Andrew W.K., obsessed really, but maintained that he only liked it ironically. Some of the other boys I knew were more sincere in their love, but boys — all of them.
Unfortunately, I've met more of those boys since then. They're the pretentious boys who, when they meet a girl who likes metal, only find it fair to insist she recite the Slayer discography in reverse chronological order. If she likes comic books, she has to know every character's origin stories as well as subsequent changes and how they correspond to different decades and illustrators. The same boys who, a year later, when I was 15 years old, still on dial-up and not yet part of the world, scoffed when they found out I had never heard of a website called Pitchfork. They were 18 and I was just young and stupid, I clearly wasn't a real music fan. The ridicule and questioning were constant.