Friday, October 15, 2010

Grandmothers and grrrls: ecofeminist elders and fourth wave rockers personalize feminism

Feminism is a personal identity politic in my life. A brief history of personal identity politics on Wikipedia explains that:
the term identity politics has been used in political and academic discourse in the United States since the 1970s. One aim of identity politics has been to empower the oppressed to articulate their oppression in terms of their own experience-a process of consciousness raising that distinguishes identity politics from the liberal conception of politics as driven by individual self-interest.
The personal part of identity politics has provided one of the most powerful expressions and evolutions of my feminist understanding. Identity politics move feminist empowerment beyond just theories and discussion to include a narrative or a story; a daily living implication of the powers and oppressions addressed by feminism.

I don't keep my feminism restricted to the classroom. It is something I live everyday. One small way I keep myself inspired as a feminist and take part in intentional conscious raising is through using an ecofeminist daily planner. Last year this planner was dedicated to a group of women actualizing the power of personal identity politics in a global way.

The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers came together as an intentional action of prayer and consciousness raising for the first time in 2004. Thirteen community elders from all over the world came together under the banner of spiritual activism. The Grandmothers Council explains their mission as:
We represent a global alliance of prayer, education and healing for our Mother Earth, all Her inhabitants, all the children and for the next seven generations to come.

The Grandmothers Council's activism inspires restored hope in creating a sustainable word and healing the suffering already in existence. And for me personally, I deeply appreciated the power of a feminist movement that sprang from the heart of an older population. The knowledge and resources of elders are too often ignored in our current society and in political activism.

Much like society ignores the input of elders, so too the voices of the very young as seen as having little value. When I was a pre-teen, feminism found me through riot grrrl. Riot grrrl was a manifestation of feminism through underground woman/queer made punk music, mostly in the North Western United States in the early 1990s. Riot grrrl was a musical or artistic expression of third wave feminism. Like most dedicated riot grrrls, that feminist movement and music changed my life forever. It began my exploration of personal identity politics. Today, the riot grrrls who have all grown up have grown a new wave of this movement to empower today's very young feminists.

Rock and Roll Camp for Girls started in 2001 in Portland, Oregon. It is a grassroots DIY organization that joins young girls ages 8-17 with local female musicians with the intention of :
building girls self esteem through music, creation and performance.
Girls Rock Camp may often be the first true act of feminist consciousness-raising many of these young people get to experience, and its a powerful one. The young musician's get to create entire songs,albums, bands and performances all with the intentional guidance of an often semi-famous and feminist local rocker. If you sat an 8 year old down and tried to explain consciousness-raising to her, she may not be able to totally grasp the complexity of such political action theories. However, if you give her a guitar, tell her that her voice is valuable and necessary and ask her to share it; then she has gone beyond having to understand consciousness-raising to actually participating in it.

Through personalizing feminism, at all ages and phases of life, it becomes easier to both digest the oppressions taking place in our lives and to deconstruct them out of us. Deeply personal forms of activism, like music and prayer, provide the daily sustenance of feminist living that academic theories sometimes just cannot.


gtg263r said...

I quite enjoyed the structure and content of this post, contrasting widely disparate generations and cultures of feminists who are furthering female empowerment in very different ways.

I wanted to just add a word about riot grrrl music. I have a surface familiarity with many of the iconic riot grrrl bands, though I am not very steeped in the genre. Still, I appreciate the radical musical politics with which riot grrrls approached their craft.

Of particular significance, as I think Dusty seems to imply in his blog post, is the fact that riot grrrl was a movement. The significance of this stems from the observation that riot grrrl is aesthetically and politically rooted in punk rock - yet I am not aware of any prior feminist movement in punk rock before riot grrrl.

Granted, female musicians have been involved with prominent and influential punk bands since its early days. (See, e.g., the Slits, X-Ray Spex, Crass.) Furthermore, these bands touched upon subject matters in the vein of later riot grrrls. (See, e.g., "Typical Girls" by the Slits; "Oh Bondage, Up Yours" by X-Ray Spex; "Shaved Women" by Crass.)

Although this early participation by women in punk rock is a wonderful historical point, the point here still stands that, as far as I know, riot grrrl was the first movement of significance in punk rock with indelible ties to feminism.

Rebecca said...

I always thought of Annie Lennox as an early feminist rocker.

She is doing an amazing project now that I think "personalizies" her feminism. She is using her voice beyond just a token conversation and using it in very meaningful ways to help others.

Below is a link to the project: