The Bolshevik Empress has Returned!

I wrote for VICE over decade ago under my real name and also a bunch of pseudonyms, one of which was The Bolshevik Empress. And, unrelated, here we are again. But no more fake names!

READ: These New Startups Want to Make the Sharing Economy Less Racist and Sexist

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

On Feminism.

* logs in, dusts off blog *

Woah. This is still here? And it’s still on?

After my longest break from blogging I am happy to return with a classic “explaining myself, mostly to myself” post. While I’ve had many ideas for posts, the one-two punch of motherhood and new role of label manager prevents me from actually getting anything down. Not to mention the speculative fiction novel — whose progress has come to a complete and grinding halt. 😦

So what brings me back? Grade three has begun for one kid, and a Tempra-induced teething nap consumes the other. Topically, a raging Facebook exchange with some of my dearest friends begs further thought/explanation:

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 10.20.49 AM

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 10.21.04 AM

The discussion continues. Every time I log in, more comments. More discussion. Which is great: it makes Facebook temporarily feel useful.

In my opinion, the topic is definitely one to be contested: feminism, like any system of beliefs, must be incremental. Labels and the labelling of oneself is purely a matter of personal choice. If I choose not to identify myself as a feminist, what does that mean? Does it mean I don’t believe in women? That however or wherever you were born you do not deserve to be treated with fairness and respect? To come to that conclusion is closed minded.

I believe in equality. This, I will stand atop a mountain and proclaim loudly. I will stomp on those who think any person is better than any other person based on which category they belong to. Fuck you if you think your “haters gonna hate” is better than my “haters gonna hate” attitude. That’s the point: to identify with any establishment immediately makes one part of the problem. In this classic Noisey/Vice article (classic in that it takes the stance of “If you’re not with us then you’re against us”), the author suggests the following:

“We get so mad when some nitwit says she’s not a feminist. I guess if you’re cool with being raped all the time and having no options in life other than being a baby machine or a prostitute, then yeah, you’re probably not a feminist. But if you enjoy birth-control pills and not being beaten up by your owner—I mean, husband—then you pretty much are one so you may as well stop shaving your legs right now. Just kidding.”

Heh…I like the Just kidding at the end. That’s cute. But putting this in less extreme terms, as an independent, strong woman it is “correct” to be a feminist and “incorrect” to identify oneself otherwise. Any opposing stance is heresy. I must therefore be a witch. Burn me at the stake. Woman-on-woman crime (a.k.a. catfight).

Contrary to what you have just read, I am a woman. Hopefully a positive influence to other women, especially my daughter. Early in my rock-band career (in the 90’s) my role in The Dears was scoffed at. I was often deemed an unnecessary accessory in The Dears: women shouldn’t be in bands, keyboards do not belong in rock. I was (and still am) constantly talked to condescendingly by sound guys about how to plug things in. It’s getting better, but it’s still lame. I am asked on a weekly basis — mostly by other women — why my hair is grey. If I doubted my self for a second, my hair would not be grey. I give a shit about how I look, but I don’t care to “fall in line” with the false ideal of what a woman should be. It’s one of my little protests. The natural you, male or female, is the best you. It’s not a feminist thought. It’s a human one.

And yet, people fear that which they do not understand, that which does not conform. It is human nature. Suggested reading: Heart of Darkness.

Let’s flip the script on this one. Let’s turn the table on my problem with “-isms” and “-ists.” Why are we forced to identify with categories? Why do humans need to starkly label themselves? Why do they second guess themselves about, in essence, who they are? Because at our core, as human beings, we are uncertain. The modern world encourages us to be lost. We are forced to be motivated not by philosophical thought but by material status. Our psychological state, our self-worth, is perpetually undermined. It is instead medicated and suppressed, pushed away and replaced with a litany of hang-ups.

If we truly had equality, if everybody simply believed in equality, feminism would not need to exist. So let’s get real here. I’m not into labels because they segregate. My husband and children are black. You want to talk unfairness, the things you just “can’t say,” the truths others unlike you will never understand? Read this book (trust me, it will be fun!), then get back to me about the whole thing.

But seriously, if you want to identify as a feminist, then by all means. I won’t judge you. Just don’t make me wear the ribbon.

Will Vice be The Harbinger of Neo-Grunge?

Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other places that algorithmically recommend things one should be interested in, I read an article on the Vice media empire. The headline: “Can Vice Get 20-Somethings to Watch the News?” The most intriguing quote was from Vice co-founder Shane Smith on some of the inner workings of the Vice machine:

“Most of the people who work here are 14 years old. They sit two inches from each other. We only employ millionaires’ children.” And later calls Vice “a sweatshop for trustafarians.” Simultaneously a hilarious yet poignant comment on what defines much of today’s culture.

I thought not much of it, finished the article, then went into the backyard to do some seasonal gardening. Tomato plants: gone. Mealy dogwood: uprooted. Hula hoop and toy shovel: stored in the garage. Yet as I worked the article resonated with me. I thought, if engaging the youth in current events is the goal of Vice today, then back in the mag’s early years was it more to get the bored 20-somethings of the late 90s to care?

When sitting back, pondering the genesis of hipsterdom, I often trace it back to Vice, and the importance they laid on the concept of “cool.” I mean, Vice didn’t invent it, they just presented a pre-existing sub-culture in a consumable format. And yeah: back then, I understood what Vice was because I was living it. Watching one of the guys that started the mag drink his own piss on the patio at Foufounes, or letting someone smack my bare ass at a bar in exchange for more beer — these things are what young people do. In your 20’s, getting messed up and having fun is serious business. It wasn’t #YOLO it was punk rock. You don’t fuck around with that. You write about it.

But it’s not 1997. Fifteen years have passed, and my lifetime subscription to the magazine has long been revoked. After having a kid, I was admittedly nervous about having a full-colour, glossy magazine showing stylized images of syringes, used condoms and blood-soaked models lying around the house. In 2008 I posted on my blog a comparison of Vice to the Economist, calling one “stupid” and the other “smart.” At the time, I found it ironic that I held subscriptions to two diametrically opposite magazines. Soon after this post, Vice stopped coming. An independently wealthy intern must have caught it.

Little did I realize that the two magazines were converging, and now I am fascinated by the concept of non-ironic, hipster investigative reporting. And I have to commend the concept of fearless fieldwork and its promotion of xenophilia to a young population that is otherwise totally living in a self-obsessed, social-media infused bubble (see #RKOI as an extreme example).

Today’s culture is at a tipping point, much as it was back in the 90s: we’re waiting for the next Grunge to topple the current mainstream “regime.” The romanticized, nicely packaged version of reality in which we float about must be torn down, and we need to remember that our heroes, and the people and places that influence our very existence, are never perfect.

This post also appeared with a lamer title on HuffingtonPost.ca

Kids These Days (Condescending Blog)

I haven’t blogged here in a while, so I’m going to take this opportunity to WAIL on a couple of “self proclaimed music critics” or “bloggers” as it were (see below). Now, it is obvious to me that these are young people (20-somethings), trying to find their place in the world. They are learning about who they are and the things that define them. I know it. I lived it: I wrote for VICE from the age of 20 to 25. That’s your SNARK PRIME. In your 20’s, it’s your time to be flippant and critical: you’ve only emerged from your teens (when you know everything about the world) and entered into a nascent adulthood. A time to illustrate to the world how much you really know, because now you have to pay rent and get a job and be responsible for yourself.  

So this is my rant, my response to these arrogant bloggers who say that my band is boring to watch live, (despite describing in the previous sentence how the whole crowd was singing along and how they felt an inexplicable energy in the room) but that they wouldn’t be interested in The Dears once they took that experience home. I call bullshit on their words. BULLSHIT.

Kids these days are emerging from a digital haze, of being bombarded with millions of songs and thousands of bands. I understand, it can be difficult to make heads or tails of anything. What is good? Who knows? Who can we trust? Today’s youth have been programmed to not follow their heart, but to follow the blogosphere. They are influenced by everything and everyone. How can they know about music when they’ve never really listened to anything? They can’t know until they are 35, because that’s when they begin to know themselves. Until then they are bombarded with a culture that is desperately trying to compete for their attention. They bring several floor toms and impossible instruments on stage. They have crazy, premeditated outfits and freak out on stage, because that’s how they think they should act. Otherwise how will they cut above the rest?

THANK GOD I “show my age” on stage. Do you know what that is called? DIGNITY.

On the flip side I thank the hundreds of other people who did enjoy the show! I admit it wasn’t our best show ever but it was loads of fun. And we got some great reviews from Spinner.com and Telescope Media. This blog even called us a “buzzband” which in my opinion, defies the very definition of the word.

And finally, I congratulate the young writers whom I have addressed here for being annoying enough to draw attention to themselves. You have succeeded in your task! You can read the “show reviews” written by “music fanatic” Shawn Burgess at THE iNDiE MACHiNE and also Lisa Lagace at TurnTheRecordOver.com. Thank you for farting all over everyone else’s experience (including mine), and for reluctantly enjoying the show! Please respond in the comments section below!

P.S. I reference God for effect and do not adhere to any him/her/it theology.

MUSICAL INTERPRETATION: Them Kids by Sam Roberts

I, Teenager (Pt. 1)

My mom recently sent me home with a real-life photo album full of pictures of me. It basically starts when I was a baby and goes up until my university graduation, at which time everybody switched to digital cameras, and therefore no more printed photos exist.

I found some zingers in there: bad haircuts, bad clothes, bad glasses, good memories, great friends. The one piece that totally blew my mind was a live review of WU-TANG CLAN that I had WRITTEN BY HAND and then FAXED to Suroosh at the then titled Voice (presently Vice). Now, which of the items in that declaration was more shocking: that my submission was 100% analogue, or that I went to see the Wu-Tang? I choose the former.

I know, you’re thinking: Is this a joke? I read it last night and had the same reaction. Weird “Al” on stage with the Wu? Did I just make that up? As I recall I had taken some bad drugs before the show and spent most of the time barfing in the toilet and trying not to pass out (moral: don’t do drugs). Did this concert happen as I described it or is this some sort of first-gen mashup sarcasm?

Dated May 28, 1996, means I had just turned 19 when I wrote this. AND from the handwriting on the date, it also appears that I got my DAD to fax it for me. A quick note to my Mom and Dad: you are brave and the greatest parents EVER. You trusted me – just sent those vibes my way – and I ended up at a sketchy concert with a poster that promised SECURITY STRICTLY ENFORCED. And lived to tell. I love you.

So: was this teenaged drivel fit to print? Viceland.com does not have archived print editions on the internet earlier than December 2005. Luckily, I have mild OCD and, had they printed it, should have a copy in the garage.

So until I can dig that out, this post is to be continued

Stupid and Smart

Here are the two magazines we currently have subscriptions to:

STUPID: Vice magazine. Duh. Since I wrote for them for free years ago, they started sending me this free subscription, which never stopped. I don’t mind really, because I just read it while gawking and gasping and thinking: “This isn’t funny anymore.” I think of it as cultural research into a culture that is so overwrought it has lost its identity. Pretty mindless, but I mostly look at the pictures (probably the best part that has evolved out of the magazine).

SMART: The Economist. Super smart. They use big words and make money chuckle-worthy. I also like to look at the pictures because the captions below them are the best. I actually read articles in the Economist, though, which give me cockamamie investment ideas. My famous story is the idea to buy stock in Apple right before they launched iTunes, which was inspired by 1) being in the music industry; 2) believing in Apple and their computers; and 3) reading The Economist. Well, needless to say I didn’t have any money back then to buy anything other than beer, so that never happened. But my banker uncle keeps bugging me about what a great call that was.