After I wrote my review of Girl Power by Marisa Meltzer I went back to read the email interview I did with her for the book. Not surprisingly a bunch of quotes she used were edited in a way that sort of changed their meaning. Several came from the body of emails I wrote her about why I hadn't gotten around to answering the interview yet. I guess it's naive of me to think that those emails were off the record, but I did assume that at the time...to have them quoted outside of that context felt a little weird but whatever, it's ultimately my fault for not being clear or guarded enough.
Regardless, I feel it's more than fair to quote from the emails given this situation. Anyhow here is one Q & A that I thought would be interesting to share, given the nature of my criticism of her book.
I'd be interested to hear how you all would answer her questions.
Marisa: How do you see the purpose of the underground? Is it inevitable that the mainstream will coopt subcultures? Is it our job to keep them pure? Is purity a good or bad thing for the underground?
Tobi: Hmm….the underground is where I am at….does it have a purpose? That is kind of like asking, does Olympia have a purpose? Or maybe, what is the purpose of Astoria? Or what is the point of Anacortes? These are places where people live. We don't all live in New York or LA and we don't all need to look to those places to be entertained or buy stuff from. We can make stuff and entertain ourselves where we are with what we have available to us.
I guess it's like asking, what is the purpose of folk music? What is the purpose of people sitting around a campfire and playing guitar? What is the purpose of having someone over for dinner? What is the purpose of growing your own food or making pickles?
As far as co-opting, that is a very good question…it can be disconcerting when that happens, but what I like to say is that the mainstream can change the meaning of something, sure, that is inevitable, meaning is not fixed and it changes.
The second part of this got lost in the email shuffle. To paraphrase the idea:
The mainstream cannot take away our ability to create new meanings. Culture then becomes an arena of political struggle where dominant meanings are contested. This is largely about hegemony. Power. Who has the upper hand and how can we be persuasive?
As far as women go, there is patriarchy to consider. How could riot grrl become mainstream without its meaning changing? The mainstream is patriarchy. Riot Grrl is feminist. Something has to give, right? I guess that's why we have The Spice Girls.
I'm not sure how to address your question about purity, can you give me an example?
I think that was the end of our discussion on this point...
Photo: Ernest Arnold (Grandma's brother) and Nellie Brown (a friend)
2 years ago