Feminism, and a Blues Apology

There is a lot of violence in the world, a lot of physical assault and murder, and a lot of hateful abuse.

Many times folks on the left treat a statement like that as a picture of something far away, something going on in countries ruined by imperialism and corporate rapaciousness and other sinister institutional evils. Or it’s something that wardens to do inmates and cops do to protesters. Or the hateful abuse is something the right-wing does with push-polls and slander campaigns. All true.

But you know, women are still getting beaten, raped, and murdered all the time, every day, in every city in America. Not just in violent 11-o’clock news crimes: women are still assaulted and raped more often than we care to admit in the homes of our neighbors, in the streets behind our businesses. And all around us, when racist and ethnic abuses are derided by the majority of us, people still get away with casual misogyny every hour of the day, even on the mainstream media, and even in the supposedly progressive blogosphere.

But I must offer my own confession and apology here. I’m a musician and in my affection for the blues I’ve sung songs that seemed to condone violence against women, like Little Walter’s “Boom boom, out go the lights” and the “Cocaine Blues” that Johnny Cash sang in his concert for San Quentin. I guess it was considered OK because it was, oh, authentic somehow; as if we know it’s the voice of a real, everyday man if it involves the beating or killing of a woman. I don’t sing those songs anymore, and I apologize for what they seemed to celebrate when I did. There are people in those music crowds who would consider me inauthentic for abandoning such “great art” on such a small matter as violence against women. They are wrong, and the songs are wrong.

This work – the work of peace and equality for women – is not done. It is time to re-kindle an awareness of how utterly backward our world still is with regard to violence and hatred against women, not to mention subtler oppression and inequality. And this includes our own media, our blog communities, and more vitally our domestic economy and culture. This is not about political correctness. It is about basic human rights for women, basic human decency and respect.

A good place to begin this re-kindling might be Hillary Clinton’s speech in Beijing. It is a profoundly moving speech, and the work of a truly great woman.

But I have to confess that I hadn’t read the Beijing speech until I followed the link embedded in another article, more timely considering this election cycle. It’s by legendary radical feminist Robin Morgan. It’s called Goodbye to all that (#2), a long-overdue sequal to her landmark article of 1970 when she took on the casual misogyny that was operating within the New Left. I hope every woman and everyone with a concern for peace, for dignity, for women’s rights will read it… before they vote in this year’s primaries!


Cross-posted at Pan Metron.

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Father, software engineer, democrat, etc.
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