22 January, 2010

On Rape Culture, Amanda Palmer, and Disappointment

An open letter to Amanda Palmer,

I have adored your music for many years. When I was sixteen and dealing with abuse, depression and self-harm, your words spoke to me. I was the Girl Anachronism, stuck in a prison of her own skin; I was the Perfect Fit, always nowhere, never belonging; I was thrown around in a sea of turmoil, desperately trying to make sense of this sensless world. 

As I grew older and learned more about you, my adoration turned to admiration. You were unashamed about your sexuality, about your feminism, your body hair, your belly. I have tried in vain to capture just a small piece of that self-confidence. 

You spoke of topics others wouldn't dare to touch; rape, abortion, sexual abuse, and you did it with upbeat tunes, humour and a twinkle in your eye. It was shocking, confronting. It worked. You forced people to stop and pay attention. You made it work. 

And then there was Katy Perry. You raped her. You found a look alike, played her song of confusion and empowerment, and raped that look alike on stage.
And I have to ask why.

You've told the world how hard it is, to be a popstar and a woman. A woman like Katy Perry, perhaps?
So why?

Why did you decide to simulate rape? Why did you feel the need to violate her like that? Aren't you aware that many of your fans are rape and sexual abuse survivors? Aren't you aware of the impact this might hav hade on them? The impact it has had on some of them? 

I support your right to using shock and humour to discuss difficult subjects. Hell, I love it. You give your fans a way of talking, you empower them. 
But this? It was scary, triggering, worrying, and sickening. It made me cringe and cry and twitch and shake. This is not shock and humour. It is rape culture. And it makes me ill. 


Kaia said...

I have debated answering this for a few days now. Because I don't want to throw myself head first into a shit storm or anything, but there are a few things I'd like to say regardless.

First off, rape apology is never okay, and I do wish that she'd stopped that little thing a bit earlier; the first half was funny as hell, I have to say, the second half, while still amusing, a bit much, yes (and I say that as somebody who has been in bad situations, more than once).

Then again, AFP takes things too far. She always has. And as she's admitted to being raped (you link to that post) I don't think this was meant to mock that. Not at all.

Still, I don't want to excuse her just because I love her music; she still does some things that make me go "..."

Fairly often, actually.

The thing I'd like to point out, though, is that, in my opinion, there is nothing empowering about that Katy Perry song. As a gay woman? I find it offensive. It's very much of the "oh, I can kiss this girl while my boyfriend stands over there and watches, because it doesn't mean anything anyway, la la la".

And I believe that is what Amanda was trying to get across, however crudely it came out.

There are few things worse than women who pretend that encounters with women don't count or are just innocent and don't mean anything. It makes me madder than most things, actually, because it tells me that my sexual orientation is not real. I hate that. I really, really hate that.

So, yes. Amanda went too far, but I can see where she was coming from. (I think, after all I can't see inside her head.)

Pharaoh Katt said...

I think I agree with you about the Katy Perry song thing, and I probably didn't think it through enough before using the word empowering. To give you an idea where I was comingfrom: I'm a queer woman myself (pansexual) and there's a certain sort of empowerment in shouting to the world "Yes, I like women".
So absolutely, Katy Perry singing it is appropriation and wrong and annoying.

When I sing it, it brings me back to the time when I was first trying to deal with my attraction to women, because I had been raised to believe it was sinful and wrong. So my first feelings and encounters "Felt so wrong", "felt so right".

And even in saying this, the current cultural trend of treating bi/queer/pan as some hip trend horrible, and that song is part of it.

As far as Amanda having been raped, I used to make fun of and trivialise self-harm. I did this as a way to cope, because I was currently self-harming. It made it less real for me.
But while I was doing this, I was effectively telling those around me that self-harm was something to be trivialised, somehow not real or weak or whatever. And some of my self-harming friends were horribly hurt by my words.
So while I had experienced it, and my intent was not to cause harm, I caused harm. This is the harm I think of when I see her skit.

And yeah, the beginning was funny as hell. I really wish she hadn't ended it the way she did. Especially since (I've heard but not confirmed) that it was meant to be anti-prop8. Katy Perry spoke publivally against prop8.

Thanks for the comment, it was very in depth and thoughtful.

Kaia said...

What music helps us in these situations are really subjective. I personally listened a lot to Ani DiFranco when I first came out, in particular "In or Out". Her earlier albums are amazing in this aspect. It's really frustrating that there are so few songs out there that aren't heteronormative.

I watched the clip several times and towards the end they hold up the sheet with the words FUCK PROP 8 on it, so I guess it was against it. I didn't know Katy Perry also opposes it, though! Interesting.

David said...

I just want to point to another good post on the subject, with quite a lot of analysis of what's going on in the (disturbing) video.

maevele said...

I'd still love to see her address these concerns while she is accepting criticism

Anonymous said...

If you think the nether end of that clip is funny, I think you need to watch it with the sound off. The look on the Katy Perry actresses face is terrified. I'm sure the actress herself wasn't terrified, but she was playing it though she were. It wasn't funny. Didn't even come close. Rape jokes are just.not.funny.