Last weekend I took a visit to my very un-local junkyard to try find some bits and bobs for my art and perhaps a colour parade costume. Rummaging through the trunks of pieces of fabric, old school folders and unused raver candy, I stumbled upon a box of old vinyl.
In this old box of vinyl I was fortunate to come across this fantastic “I am Woman: A compilation of 20 BEAUTIFUL songs” It was admittedly the bright orange cover that caught my eye, but I couldn't help fall in love with the records title track I AM WOMAN and gloriously fabulous woman on the cover.
The record was a compilation of woman-power and relics of 70s feminism and disco. As I held the record in my hand, I felt this warm rush throughout my body to think that there was a time in history when this record was enthusiastically hung on the walls of Australian feminists everywhere.
I then handed the record to my father as he checked out all the other goodies we had picked up that day and I can't help but giggle at the thought of the check-out woman’s face when he handed her the “I am woman” record.
However, as much as I love all things kitsch and womanly, it wasn't until I arrived in my bedroom and placed the needle on the record when I really began to understand second-wave feminism and the mistakes I might have made about my own.
As the title track “I am Woman” Proudly blasted through my bedroom windows, I pranced around to Helen Reddy’s glorious war-cry , “I am in invincible!” and threw my arms open at the final “I AM WOOOOOOMAAAANN” To me this song is exactly what feminism means to me, powerful, passionate, strong and melodic. However I was thoroughly caught off guard when the next song “Misty Blue” played. What does this have to do with feminism? I thought. Apart from the fact that it was a female singer, I was incredibly critical of the lyrics that tell the story of a woman’s heart-break at a failed relationship. Where was the strength? Where was the anger and passion? I was honestly slightly offended by the fact that a song about a woman crying over a MAN made it to MY feminist compilation record.
But then something clicked. As the sappy kitsch love songs flowed on, I was reminded of a part of feminism that I may have forgotten and needed to be reminded of. Part of the movement is to understand and respect the fact that as
women/humans we are emotional beings. These love songs were
justified in the way they portrayed women and feminists as still having
emotional attachments to people and men and most importantly reiterated the
fact that as women and feminists, we still have HEARTS. Perhaps it’s because I
have become so exhausted by the fact
that I have needed to defend my feminism so long that I have become a... heartless, almost angsty feminist? Maybe I've internalized the angst/angry feminist
trope unintentionally and found myself forming into the very being that most
teenage girls unfortunately have come to resent about feminism. Cue the common: “I don't like feminism because I like men”
By throwing my cynical attitude away I was able to enjoy “Dance Little Lady Dance” with a huge grin on my face. This record had taught me a lot about feminism that I had forgotten, that feminism can be fun, emotional but most of all, strong.