On Thursday, I went to go see a talk by the fab feminist art historian, Pin-Up Grrrls author, and Girldrive interviewee Maria Buszek, whose next book will argue for inclusion of feminist music and pop culture in the narrative of art history.
The talk was fascinating. As Maria described the elitism and the dismissal of feminist pop culture in university’s art history departments, I felt like she could have been talking about women’s studies departments, too. I’m a very pop culture, everyday feminist myself, one who grew up on Sassy and Bust and Courtney Love and Salt N’ Pepa, one who reads Bitch and Jezebel on the regs, one whose own mom was a rock critic. So at first, I was a little like “duh–of course pop culture is a big part of feminism!” Since I’ve started writing and thinking about these topics, I’ve always made the claim that critiquing pop culture is often the best (or at least the most fun) gateway to having a feminist consciousness.
Then I remembered: I’ve never taken a women’s studies class. I didn’t have my lightbulb moment in a college colloquium. And while I have my own favorite theorists, my sheroes are activists (Bella Abzug, Dolores Huerta) and pop stars (Cyndi Lauper, Kathleen Hanna), not scholars. But Maria reminded me that in the Ivory Tower, both in the art world and the feminist world, work like Le Tigre’s Hot Topic video and Beth Ditto’s pin-up style get left out. This in turn dismisses the relationship between activism and art, and between personal stories and objective history. As Maria said: “Hello, people–the personal is political! It’s time we apply that phrase to the narrative of art history.”
In the hour and ten minutes I sat listening to the talk, the last moments were the best: watching Peaches’ new video, “Billionaire.” I didn’t know much about Peaches before this lecture–only about the hits–and I had never seen her in action. But I left completely convinced that she’s a feminist artist. Watch the video and tell me I’m wrong. (Also: the song has the word “mangina” in the first ten seconds. Just sayin’.)