Her Anger

Posted: May 20, 2011 in Feminism

Without feminism to endorse it, I don’t  always know how to justify my anger. If I am not angry with ‘men’ who or what am I angry with? Because sometimes I am still fucking angry. Maybe even more so, now I realise all that time I wasted, all those lies I bought, all those pages I wrote. For the sake of something I don’t believe in or value any more.

Dorian Lynskey has considered angry women, after one or two such creatures criticised his recent book, 33 revolutions per minute (an inspired title), for omitting the story of women’s role in the history of protest songs, to a large extent. He asked for people to suggest ‘feminist’ songs by women to redress the balance. Or at least to draw attention to the question of ‘where are the women’ protest pop singers? This made me a bit…angry. Because I don’t want my anger to need feminism for it to exist or make sense. My anger is a loose canon, that sometimes erupts from me for no apparent reason at all. But there is always a reason really.

I told Dorian that PJ Harvey, one of my favourite angry women in pop (yes she has ‘toned herself down’ like a good ‘mature artist’ should, and suddenly gained unanimous critical acclaim when she used to get such mixed reactions, but she is still angry), has never publicly identified as a feminist. This used to irk me. I thought she was denying the obvious feminist message of her music. Now it is something I am very glad about. I hope it is because she genuinely isn’t a feminist, and not because she just doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed, as pop artists, especially women, tend to be.

I think Polly Jean would understand some of my anger, when it flies and floats and pierces the sky but without words or reason or a political ideology to back it up, to give it form. I think she’d be able to give it form, with the power of her voice and the urgency of her music. She does. She has.

Sheela Na Gig is reminding me, not only of my anger, but also of how I have been treated since leaving the ‘sisterhood’. Whenever I express a strong opinion, these days, instead of being applauded and encouraged by the feminist ranks, as I might if I were agreeing with them, I get accused of being an ‘attention seeker’ a ‘troll’ a ‘self-obsessed’ individual. So the lines:

‘Sheela Na Gig, Sheela Na Gig- You Exhibitionist’ are ringing particularly true for me.

Polly Jean found her anger without feminism. And I am damned well going to find mine.


  1. arctic_jay says:

    I like PJ a lot. She has a rough, quirky glamour and manages to be just pop enough. Even better, she flashes her beaver during performances and wrote a song where she turns letter writing into a metaphor about fucking. An admirable slut.

    I remember an interview with her during which she was asked how much discrimination she faced as a woman in the music industry. She pretty much said that she didn’t face any discrimination whatsoever for that reason, and she’s disavowed feminism on numerous occasions which makes me like her more. One thing confuses me though: she’s also said that she doesn’t think about gender when she writes songs, but I don’t see how that’s possible when so many of her songs pointedly play with gender identity.

    • Yes I think she is very careful to deny any ‘gender’ or feminist message or ideas in her songs. I expect it is partly for the reasons you suggest but also she just does not want to be presented as a ‘woman artist’ but as an artist first and foremost.

  2. Jenn says:

    I was discussing this with a friend a while back. With hip hop artists, sometimes they make points that are pretty damned feminist but in some lady-lifestyle-columnist-frightening language, so it’s all ‘oh, he’s a good musician, shame he has to condone rape cause he’s a black guy who, oh my god, raps, you know, like the kids listen to nowadays since approx. 1978’.

    With PJ Harvey, it’s the opposite problem: however much she disowns feminism and says she just wants to make nasty, sleazy rock music about sex, she always gets counted as a feminist artist, always gets her stuff interpreted as feminist. In a way, that’s pretty much the only way she is discriminated against as a woman in the music industry. Her cultural background isn’t this fucking hip cupcake-crocheting penis-mocking rape-worshipping subculture anyway. She’s originally a sculptor from, Devon isn’t it? Pretty sure from her lyrics that she’s a devout Christian, for one thing (she seems very discreet on her personal life). On a cultural level it’s already offensive to claim her for the feminist movement.

    The feminist movement wanting to claim everything with tits and a vagina as their own really makes me pissed. When it comes down to it, the feminist movement claiming feminism as its own makes me pissed (on a cultural level also, cause they tend to be very ignorant and patronising). But, this comes down to saying, if a woman does something ever it’s because she’s suffering cause she’s a woman. Which is like interpreting everything she ever says as a whimper. And, sometimes you just want to make nasty sleazy rock music about sex – something PJ Harvey has been extremely good at and doubtless still is.

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