The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band
November 14, 2007 10:32 AM   Subscribe

The Chicago Women's Liberation (embedded video) Rock Band

Naomi Weisstein, whose essay "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female" is a pioneering work of second-wave feminism, helped form the band in 1970 (while also doing stand-up comedy).
posted by sleepy pete (17 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Huh. Interesting. I had no idea.
posted by dersins at 10:40 AM on November 14, 2007

(The posters from the graphics collective are great. I love this one.)
posted by dersins at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2007

Like dersins, I had no idea. Cool post Sleepy_Pete.

Looking at that likable poster dersins linked, Women are not chicks, I was reminded that just last night I was trying to find a fun, contemporary correlation to the word guys. Gals went out of vogue with broads and guys is still modern. Chicks is denigrating. Males, females, men, women, boys, girls, guys...

Like he's a nice guy and she's a nice...

Being stumped for a casual, non-denigrating word for female made me think how there is still such cultural misogyny in the West, both covert and overt.

The word for cow in North Hindi, is gai, pronounced like the word guy. And when I saw cows in India I used to say, "Hey you guys (gais)." Dumb, but still funny to me in the West, when I say hello to men, saying "Hey you gais." (My secret sexism).

The women who Mick thought was under his thumb, sings back: Now 61, Marianne Faithfull - Why d'ya do it (live and sung brilliantly this year), lyrics. Originally on her Broken English album, one of my all time favorites. That has to be the angriest song I've ever heard. It still shocks me awesomely.

The impression I get is that if society just pretends that racism and sexism don't exist, everybody will be happy and it will go away. And in the meantime it goes on all the time. It isn't in fashion to be angry about such things but to be aloof, nonchalant and humorous, as if one didn't mind the hate and denigration. Just be nice and find a comfortable way to be objectified and thought to be inferior.

Routine righteous indignation or outragefilter has only since 9/11, been accepted about war in Iraq. Anger isn't trendy these days, except for certain things but not for sexism.

So I'm wondering how females of the recent generations will find a healthy comfort level in their relations with men?

There do seem to be healthier relationships of all kinds these days, when they do exist, which is really heartening.
posted by nickyskye at 12:12 PM on November 14, 2007

Great post. I miss those early feminist days:
We were explicitly, self-consciously political about our performances, while avoiding leaden sloganeering. We were an image of feminist solidarity, resistance, and power, and audiences loved us. Everywhere we went, we would be mobbed at the end of a performance, with the audience hugging the band and other members of the audience.
Sure, it's easy to mock (and the actual music is, uh, amateurish), but what excitement, what faith in the future! Optimism can be even better than snark, kiddies. Too bad it doesn't last.

Thanks for the Marianne Faithfull plug, nickyskye—she's one of my favorites too, and "Why d'ya do it" is a true classic. "Whyd ya do it, she said, whyd you spit on my snatch?" That's what I call lyrics!
posted by languagehat at 12:27 PM on November 14, 2007

Gee, I wish there were an edit function and I could fix my typos and bad grammar. *sigh

faith in the future

I think it had nothing to do with faith but a desire to incorporate rock with feminist politics for fun and socio-political awakening.

Sure, it's easy to mock

Was there any mocking? It was comedic performance art, imo, rather than any traditional rock music. As described by the founder of the band:

The Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band pioneered in challenging everything about male rock and roll. Using comedy, satire, and a diversity of song styles, it overturned the grim macho of a standard rock performance. Audiences danced and shouted and sang along with it, and when the performance was over, still shouting, the audience stormed the stage, hugging the band members and their instruments and sometimes even the amplifiers.

But the Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band went further than just confronting pig rock. Every time it played, the band summoned up the ecstasy of a utopian vision of a world without hierarchy and domination. Audience and performer, gay and straight, two-year-olds and eighty-two-year-olds, black teenage girls and Latino transvestites: for a moment in history as brief as a shiver, we were, all of us, transformed and astonished.- Naomi Weisstein, former Rock Band member

Optimism can be even better than snark, kiddies. Too bad it doesn't last.

"kiddies"? The glass may be being optimistically half full or pessimistically half empty. Not sure what you meant by "doesn't last". What doesn't last?
posted by nickyskye at 1:22 PM on November 14, 2007

The glass may be optimistically half full or pessimistically half empty. *sheesh, gotta proofread, damn
posted by nickyskye at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2007

nickyskye, although I'm not sure and really don't want to speak for languagehat (out of fear of reprisal), but I read it as others being too wrapped up in their own veneer of cool to actually want to hug a band after a performance. Personally, I've had to stop myself a few times after shows, so I can understand.

I hadn't heard of this band either until this morning. I thought it was pretty amazing. I think the political satire is close to The Fugs first couple of albums, and, musically, I think they're at least 30 times (maybe 40) more adventurous than those albums, but it's not polished by any means.

The other thing I found amazing are the groups that I've seen or heard that easily relate to Weisstein and CWLRB (mind you, I came of age in the late 80s/early 90s, so that slants it): listening to Barbara Manning use scissors and sewing as a metaphor for her life, watching Kathleen Hannah when she was in Bikini Kill tell the gutter punks yelling at her to take off her top that they should wash more and they might get laid (then playing a tape of a girl's memory of being raped), and, recently, watching The Trucks play with a bunch of women in the front dancing and singing along to the line "Why the f*ck won't you go down on me" and it looked exactly like the video of CWLRB in the second link above except, you know, in front of me and in color.

Anyway, I'm glad I found out about this band.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:57 PM on November 14, 2007

Oh man, one more of my favorites was playing with Zeek Sheck (and you should check out the video in melissa may's comment to get an idea of her), but the same show she did her cover of "Hotel California," she called a guy from the audience to be her mic stand. Not only that, she made him take off his shirt and said, in her squeaky voice, "I like chubby guys to hold my mic. You're beautiful and pudgy." The guys wasn't really overweight, but the dichotomy of this very small woman making him take his shirt off and hold her phallic symbol while commenting on his weight was priceless.
posted by sleepy pete at 3:15 PM on November 14, 2007

glad I found out about this band

Me too :) Thanks again sleepy_pete.
posted by nickyskye at 3:36 PM on November 14, 2007

Hee, so great! Gotta pass this on to my wife when I get home tonight. She'll love it, too.

Thanks, sleepy pete.
posted by cog_nate at 4:34 PM on November 14, 2007

Another early feminist-rock outfit was Fanny who were pretty damned good. They did a nice cover of 'Ain't That Peculiar.' In heavy metal, the feninist vanguard was represented by Girlschool, shown here getting down with Lemmy & the Boys and here with a guest appearance from Motorhead's Philthy in an interesting costume.
posted by jonmc at 4:56 PM on November 14, 2007

nickyskye, you seem to have misread my comment. I didn't mean there was any mocking in the post or link but that it's easy to mock the starry-eyed liberationist rhetoric of those days (as you must be aware, spending time as you do on MetaFilter, where starry-eyed rhetoric of any stripe is routinely mocked). And if you don't think the feminists of those days had faith in the future, you must have hung around a different bunch than I did.

"kiddies"? The glass may be being optimistically half full or pessimistically half empty. Not sure what you meant by "doesn't last". What doesn't last?

Yeah, "kiddies." Almost everybody around here except quonsar is younger than I am. And optimism doesn't last, not if you live long enough, keep your eyes open, and have any sense.
posted by languagehat at 5:30 PM on November 14, 2007

jonmc: Fanny "feminist-rock"? Huh? From your own link: "But the members of Fanny did not necessarily consider themselves to be feminists, at least not in the early days; they were musicians first and women second." Name me a feminist Fanny tune. I'm not knocking Fanny—I loved some of their music—but come on, the word "feminist" means something other than "all-female band."
posted by languagehat at 5:33 PM on November 14, 2007

l-hat: all the articles I've ever read about them refer to them as a feminist band, maybe not in the same sense as this bunch, but then again I wasn't around then.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on November 14, 2007

cog_nate: say hello for me.

jonmc: I picked up this Fanny album years ago at a thrift store because I noticed that one of the members was named Patti Quatro. Sure enough, it was my-boyhood-Happy-Days-watching-crush Leather Tuscadero's sister. And "The Godmothers of Chick Rock" is kind of a strange tag for a feminist-rock band. Thanks for adding them, though.

And sorry, languagehat, I meant getting so starry-eyed over someone's politics/performance that you want to hug them. As it is, I kinda look like a creep who wants to hug people after they play. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
posted by sleepy pete at 6:47 PM on November 14, 2007

You can hug me any time, sleepy pete ;-)
Interesting post and I wasn't aware of this band before so thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 11:49 PM on November 14, 2007

Yeah, "kiddies." Almost everybody around here except quonsar is younger than I am.

Just for the record, I don't enjoy being referred to as kiddie by anyone, as I wouldn't use an ageist term in speaking to an elder, like geezer. And saying I'm older than somebody doesn't mean it makes what I say right.

And optimism doesn't last, not if you live long enough, keep your eyes open, and have any sense.

That may be your belief system, it isn't mine. Disagree with you on all three points, based on age, perception and "sense".

When it comes to optimism being reality based in the history of feminism, things have radically improved for women over the years, where feminism has become an active decision.
posted by nickyskye at 9:03 AM on November 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

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