Everyone knows that while the Web has the capacity to bring musicians across the globe together in sweet collaborative harmony, reunite lost lovers and even aid in the apprehension of criminals, the anonymity that it enables also breeds a culture of hate, intolerance and screaming, keening, foot-stamping jealousy.
And no one knows that better — I’m willing to wager — than any woman anywhere that does something creative and then dares to put it out there. Musicians Kitty Pryde and Grimes are certainly aware of the flipside of the Internet coin and — this week — took to the Web to react to the BS that they, no doubt, have to put up with every day.
Both Kitty (in a post on Vice) and Grimes (on Tumblr) hit on similar points in their takedowns of Internet troll culture: 1). How they are patronized and harshly criticized for their work — largely because they are women and the patronizers and criticizers think that they don’t know what they’re doing, 2). How those some patronizers and criticizers simultaneously feel the need to sexualize them, leading to a kind of disturbing, threatening melange. Yup, when it comes to conversations about their music — it’s really a conversation about whether or not some random dude would f**k them or not.
Kitty Pryde, in her piece, details how she has become a lightening rod for this kind of attention — especially from teens, that oh-so-repressed yet oh-so-free demographic that is increasingly feeling more and more comfortable posting this kind of stuff on the Internet.
“These hormonal and impressionable teens are let loose into the Internet,” she says in her post. “Once they have their first taste of ‘I can say every bad word in one sentence,’ they are unstoppable. And as of like six months ago, my Facebook fanpage is like a dojo where they hone their technique.”
Specifically, Pryde points to a poem that found its way into her Facebook inbox in which some kid expresses his intense rage that the female rapper has made it (“Some how your sh*ts nationwide, while my tracks haven’t even left the East Side”), his desire to have sex with her (“One day I’ll see you at South by Southwest, I don’t even mind your small breast”) and his wish to both murder and marry her (“I f**kin hate your life, in death you’ll be my wife”).
Sadly, this is kind of idiocy is de rigueur when you’re a woman doing anything in the public sphere — just look at the comments section under any blog post anywhere written by a woman that features an author photo. It’s all basically some messed-up version of “f**k, marry, kill.”
What Pryde says in response, though, is what makes this instance worth looking at: She uses the kid’s own medium of attack — the Web — against him, writing a blog post on Vice in which she calmly dissects his rap, (remember, this kid is an aspiring rapper, which is why he hates/loves/lusts after Pryde in the first place), pointing out all of its inherent flaws. She subverts his assertions by demonstrating the one thing that he was trying to tear down in the first place: her skill as a rapper.
Grimes, for her part, launches her attack in a much more direct, less tongue-in-cheek way — but it’s no less effective. In a post titled “I don’t want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living” the musician takes aim at a barrage of people who have sought to tear her down as an artist because she’s a woman: 1). Men who grope and grab at her during shows (firsthand experience: I have seen this at her gigs), 2). Men who think that she doesn’t know what she’s doing musically and patronizingly offer to “help her out,” 3). Dudes who debate whether they would f**k her on message boards, 4). Those who accuse her of hating men because of all of the above, 5). Music writers who refer to her using words like “waif” and “cute.”
Grimes, like Kitty Pryde, is torn down by detractors via a one-two punch: 1). She doesn’t know what she’s doing, 2). She’s cute and I’d sleep with her.
In her post, Grimes lays this all out neatly and simply, a direct, matter-of-fact statement to fans and detractors that that treatment is not OK. (It is reminiscent, in some senses, of a wonderful piece that music writer Maura Johnston wrote a year ago about how not to write about female musicians. It’s all common sense, but it bears repeating). Since posting the statement on Tumblr yesterday, Grimes’ words have received more than 6,000 notes.
I am not choosing to point out these two posts because I think that this derision toward creative, public women is anything new and different. In this week’s excellent Elle profile of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna says, “As a radical feminist singer, I wasn’t particularly well liked. I was in a punk underground scene dominated by hardcore dudes who yelled mean shit at me every night, and journalists routinely called my voice shrill, unlistenable.” And you can bet your well whiskey that this kind of stuff was happening well before Hanna and Co. told the world to “suck my left one.”
I’m choosing to point the posts out because this kind of behavior is much more common now, and it’s a lot easier for fans and detractors to get close enough to their favorite/hated bands — whether it be via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram — to make their warped, disturbing opinions known. When you open the door to left the air in, you’re also letting in the flies.
Still, there is a flip side: As fans assemble on message boards to debate a female musician’s f**kability and send gross raps into Facebook inboxes, artists have the ability to speak up — intelligently — and let their opinions be known. In the case of Grimes and Kitty Pryde, these two women have done so with style.
Images courtesy of Kitty Pryde & Rob Ball