Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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Sleater-Kinney’s Protest Rock
By Annie Wilner

Photo by Marina Chavez

Every anti-war movement deserves a good song (or two or three) for emotional sustenance and inspiration. The Iraqi conflict turned out to be short on inspiring music, from both sides of the political spectrum— except, we might suggest, from feminist rock trio Sleater-Kinney. Their album One Beat, although released last year as a response to the war in Afghanistan, seemed just as relevant in the spring of 2003. As they sing in “Combat Rock,”

“The good old boys are back on top again
And if we let them lead us blindly
The past becomes the future once again”

“When you write a protest song, what you’re secretly hoping is that there will come a time when you don’t need to sing it anymore, says Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein. “It is the one kind of song you hope at some point will just be obsolete.”

One Beat’s several anti-war anthems, all written by Brownstein and band cohorts Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss, were among the first sounds of post-9/11 dissent on U.S. record shelves. “I felt a bit bitter,” says Brownstein, “a little isolated.” She wondered, “Do we have to do this alone?” Since Sleater-Kinney (named after a road in Olympia, Washington, where the band formed) isn’t eager to be “spokespersons for anything,” they must have been relieved that their lead was finally followed by several progressive artists, including Jonatha Brooke, who rerecorded her 1995 song “War,” written about the last Gulf War but still timely [available as free download on www.jonathabrooke.com]

Beginning as unedited, reckless punk rockers, Sleater-Kinney formed in 1994 during the height of the Riot Grrrl movement in the Pacific Northwest. Like other grrrl bands of that time, such as Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy, they interpreted feminism through razor-sharp lyrics and a do-it-yourself guerilla aesthetic.

“We felt like we were on the brink of something, that we were going to change something,” says Brownstein. In such well-received CDs as All Hands on the Bad One and Dig Me Out, the three women, who range in age from 28 to 37, didn’t shy away from hot-button women’s issues like rape, but also confronted the everyday challenges of motherhood and domesticity. Despite their unabashedly female concerns, they’ve been accepted as one among equals in the predominately male rock and roll world, named America’s Best Rock Band by oft-grumpy critic Greil Marcus in the July 9, 2001 issue of Time.

“They are really one of the great bands regardless of gender,” says music critic Ann Powers, senior curator of the Experience Music Project in Seattle and a frequent contributor to the New York Times. “They are not just a girl band, or just a feminist band. They are free from the category they belong to, and they have furthered the category they belong to.”

Yet for young women especially, the band and its music serve as a touchstone. “I know that when I was young, or even now, I sometimes need music as a way of helping me explain some of the confusing emotions or feelings that I have,” Brownstein says. “Maybe we’re providing that for other people.”

And for anti-war activists, Sleater-Kinney provides a focus for discontent. “I hope women are creating [music and art about the world conflicts],” Brownstein said. “That to me has always been a powerful response to war, to see what’s coming out of people’s hearts and imaginations.”

Critic Powers sees the involvement of bands such as Sleater-Kinney in peace movements as a way to further broadcast the efforts of grassroots political efforts. “People forget that the Vietnam war movement took time to coalesce,” she says. “Sleater-Kinney are brave enough and strong enough to make a difference and get the word out.”

Sleater-Kinney’s April Tour Dates (with Pearl Jam)
Apr 15 Alltel Pavilion Walnut Creek Raleigh, NC Order tickets through
www.ticketmaster.com, call 919-834-4000, or visit your nearest Ticketmaster outlet
Apr 16 Verizon Wireless Amphitheater Charlotte, NC Order tickets through
www.ticketmaster.com, call 704-522-6500, or visit your nearest Ticketmaster outlet
Apr 18 AM South Amphitheater Nashville, TN Order tickets through
www.ticketmaster.com, call 615-255-9600, or visit your nearest Ticketmaster outlet
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