Revolution Girl Style: Fifty Years of Women in Rock and Roll

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Revolution Girl Style: Fifty Years of Women in Rock and Roll

Rock and roll was born of a black man's soul and a white man's...well, his whiteness; his wallet and radio station. Rock is the white man's version of black man's music; it's full of rebellion and rawness and soul, a style of music that captured America's youth and the fire and brimstone of the clergy's private hell. Elvis heard Big Mama Thornton's throaty and soulful "Hound Dog" and the rest is history; unquestionable talent aside, it was his white skin that allowed certain DJs to play him on the radio in the midst of the rigid segregation of the nineteen-fifties. Ever since then, rock has constantly walked the line between trendsetters and trendfollowers; those who innovate
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Their battlecry was, "the personal is political," they gave people two choices: to perpetuate the system or to challenge it. Folk music and folk rock, anti-authoritarian by tradition and anti-commercial by default, became the soundtrack of a generation and a voice for many burgeoning feminists, fighting (without a blueprint) for visibility and empowerment: Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Grace Slick, and Janis Joplin. Later on, around the time when punk rock came around, it wasn't just what you sang that was political, but how you sang it. Just having a prominent artist be female is not enough to break down gender roles and stereotypes; the Spice Girls may say "Girl Power!" but in the meantime they're reinforcing every popular stereotype and narrowly defined beauty standard the mass media have ever come up with. Styles where women can un-self-consciously express themselves are sparse; if you cross certain lines your novelty status as a woman will suddenly attract more attention than the content of what you're doing. "It's okay to be a nappy-headed Tracy Chapman or a hairy-legged Michelle Shocked, as long as you're a gentle folkie singing about moral integrity in a reassuringly feminine voice. No raspy Janis Joplinisms or Patti Smith surrealism allowed, and God forbid that Chapman's tell-it-like-it-is lyrics might actually make reference to her sexual orientation." (Mifflin 77) Women systematically explored and challenged social

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