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The subject of this dissertation is how feminist beliefs have been expressed in alternative music and the resulting effects on identity and future musical styles

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PREFACE Since my mid-teens I have had a strong interest in alternative music. My preferred type of group has always been the more radical and revolutionary types - though more in terms of style and message than actual musical innovation. In my first two years at university wherever possible I chose courses on sexism and gender inequality. I found these topics intriguing as the group of male and female friends I had grown up with seemed to be absent of any sexist beliefs and I wished to learn more about how such ideas were manifested in society. This in turn led me to consider how feminism had been expressed in the field of alternative music as I had always considered it to be a more cultured and intelligent musical subculture than say, Techno or chart pop music. I discovered that there was a distinct lack of research into this topic, and since the study of music is a growing area within sociology, it was a perfect topic on which to base this dissertation. The subject of this dissertation is how feminist beliefs have been expressed in alternative music and the resulting effects on identity and future musical styles. I have found it necessary to draw attention to artists and styles which express a strong misogynistic view to demonstrate the extremities of view which alternative music contains within it. Alternative music covers a relatively limited sector of society, mainly that of the teenagers up to people in their late twenties, although there are many exceptions to this rule. The project begins with an explanation of what I define alternative music as being. I outline the various features which unite the vast array of bands which come under this term and briefly describe how it has progressed since it emerged along with punk music. Then I explain how the infrastructure of rock and alternative music is set up in such a way as to oppress women, and describe any recent developments within this. ...read more.


Albini's post-Big Black career was a short tenure as the core member of a band controversially-titled Rapeman, which helped further cement his reputation as a misogynist. Despite this negative attention his reputation has increased in importance, and he can be deemed as one of the most important figureheads of 90s alternative music. He has produced albums for strong female artists and groups as P.J. Harvey and The Breeders; while these bands make no claim for feminism they are perceived as strong female role models and their acceptance of Albini sends out dubious signals. The only women who came to prominence in the musical world during this period were artists such as Annie Lennox, the Go-Gos, and Madonna. While they expressed an image of female strength which was certainly inspired and enabled by the work of the punk and post-punk groups they rarely addressed important political issues, and even denied being at all feminist in the cases of Chrissie Hynde and the Go-Gos. While Madonna is arguably the most important female figure in music she never directly addressed issues of sexual equality; this role was usually taken by the more politicized and explicit bands of the alternative scene but as we have seen, there was a distinct lack of such artists at this time. The very late 1980s saw the American alternative scene open up to accommodate women. Kim Gordon (of Sonic Youth) and Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses) received much critical acclaim and attention. While not strictly feminist, they served as inspiration to the women involved in the next uprising of feminist artists in alternative music. 2.4 Riot Grrl "Feminism isn't over, it didn't fail, but something new must happen - Riot Grrrl. Next time a bloke feels your arse, slags off your body, generally treats you like shit - forget the moral highground... Just deck the bastard."(Leeds & Bradford Riot Grrrls, June 1993) ...read more.


While many of these views have been promoting feminist values there are exceptions to this. While there has never been an identifiable scene which served specifically to put down women there have always been various popular and influential artists who have implicitly and explicitly expressed misogynist views. My study has shown that there is a severe lack of information regarding female representation and empowerment in alternative music, particularly for the late 1990s. I feel there is a need for studies into the field of pop and Hip Hop music as they are musical styles which have generally served to oppress and objectify women but there seems to be an increasing reaction toward this, within the work of groups like Destiny's Child and artists such as Missy Elliot. I feel the main problem I encountered was the lack of sociological theory, not only in relation to feminism in the alternative sphere but to music as a whole. Despite notable work by Simon Frith and the multitude of feminist examinations of the Madonna's career, there is little real theory based around the sphere of popular music. This means my work is based on mainly descriptive writing of the various musical scenes, which I then had to apply to sociological criteria. Also, I feel the interviews were hindered by my gender. While I received generally open and honest answers, I sense that perhaps my interviewees would have been more forthright had I been a fellow female. My subject matter altered greatly over the course of the year. At first I wished to cover gender issues in the whole sphere of rock music, ranging from the Rolling Stones and David Bowie to Eminem and the Magnetic Fields. Clearly, this was to great a topic to tackle so I narrowed my field of focus down to the more extreme offshoot of rock music: the alternative scene. Still, I found a vast amount of information in this one musical style, which meant that I had to determine which artists were the more influential and important in the way that they address gender issues. ...read more.

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