Becoming a feminist/Alice Glass is problematic

I like to say that I became a feminist at a Crystal Castles show, in the way that we tend to ascribe more meaning to an event in retrospect than we do at the time.

I remember it clearly because I had been so excited about this show, and because I paid more for that ticket than for any other show I had been to before. Alice Glass strode onto the stage in chunky black boots, swigging from a bottle of Jack Daniels. Thick eyeliner, severe haircut. She made the thumb gesture of “lend me your lighter,” grabbed one from somebody in the audience, and lit a cigarette. At this time (and still, to my knowledge) Alice Glass looked to be about 13 years old.

Several times during the show, Glass threw herself headlong into the audience, held aloft by hundreds of sweaty and groping teenage boy hands. When she landed back on the stage for the last time, I remember seeing that she was bleeding from a cut on her face, her tights and her shirt were torn, and her makeup was all fucked up. I saw (or thought I saw), for a split second, the look of disgust and terror on her face, quickly replaced by her usual tough-as-nails demeanor. I thought “I don’t feel good about this” at the exact moment that the friend I was there with, a dude, said “she’s so hot.”

It’s not my intention to shame people who look younger than their age, it’s not my intention to shame female pop stars, and it’s not my intention to shame Alice Glass. But it was more than just that she looks so young. You know the whole sexual objectification vs. sexual empowerment test? Like, if the person being viewed as sexy has all the power in the scenario, then they’re being empowered. If the viewer has all the power, then the viewee is being objectified. What I’m saying here is that, despite her toughness and her apparent enjoyment of the attention she was getting, Glass was definitely not the one with the power at that concert.

Make of this what you will, but my takeaway was this: power doesn’t always move in the most obvious directions. The person on the stage is not always the person in charge. And even the toughest, smartest women in the world can’t crowdsurf without the fear of being groped.

My feminism has always had a lot to do with music. Perhaps it’s because the music world still features some of the most visible and most unapologetic misogyny. Perhaps it’s because, despite this, I still love music and the nichey world of music journalism.

Or maybe it’s because the easiest way to ignore the catcalls and the haters is to put your headphones on and turn the volume way up.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Becoming a feminist/Alice Glass is problematic

  1. *DEVIL’S ADVOCATE ALERT*

    “…despite her toughness and her apparent enjoyment of the attention she was getting, Glass was definitely not the one with the power at that concert.” – What’s the point of a power dynamic assessment that invalidates the individual experience? That is, if the performer were enjoying it, as you speculate, what good does it do to say ‘well she’s wrong and not only that, she’s wrong for the female collective’. You would think individual experience is one of the tenets on an empowerment checklist. And I would use this same criteria in order for the situation to be problematic: Shouldn’t it be up to Glass?

    Best,

    RP

    • Individual experience is totally important and totally on the empowerment checklist, you’re right! Don’t need to be devil’s advocate for that one. And by no means do I want to be the kind of feminist who says “she thought she was in control but she just doesn’t know how oppressed she is” — that kind of thinking is so savior complex-ish and unhelpful.

      That being said, thinking you’re the one with the power doesn’t necessarily make it so. In fact, thinking you’re the one with the power can lead to you being even more taken advantage of, if you’re not wary.

      Power dynamics — especially when it comes to performance and instances where somebody is putting on a facade or an alternate identity — are complex and, well, dynamic. They shift. Power sometimes moves from viewer to viewee, and we can’t always pin down why or at what moment. But I think after crowdsurfing, Glass felt how that power had been ripped from her for a moment, and it got to her. It was the “these people could rip me apart if they wanted to – and they might want to” moment.

  2. That article on sexual objectification vs empowerment has been an eye-opener for me when I first came across it several months ago. While it isn’t perfect – as there are power nuances that can be tricky to parse out – it’s definitely helped me differentiate between the two! Great post.

    • For sure, that article is golden. It’s also true that power moves in weird and complex ways that we can’t always pin down or understand — think of the ways that power shifts in the span of a single conversation! It’s not static, and sometimes trying to say who has the power in any situation can seem like an impossible task.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s