I have been reading LADYPALOOZA over at Tiger Beatdown, and I realized, I have to speak up. Look, I am going to own this shit right here: I went to Lillith Fair when I was a teenager. And I FUCKING LOVED IT.
I know everyone trashes Lillith Fair now and says it sucked. And the music was bad. And whatever. But, you know, I am seriously suspicious of that. It reminds me of what Sady has said about hating on Twilight - some people make fun of Twilight merely because it was written by a woman, and lots of girls like it. And I admit, Twilight is very very very bad and makes me stabby, but also, there is a devaluing of music or literature or any art if women do it and women like it. It must not be Serious. It must not be Good.
And, do I listen to almost any of the music that I heard at Lillith Fair anymore? No. I don't. Because I think I have cultivated a decent musical taste, and that music is just not in my aesthetic anymore. But part of the reason I also don't listen to it is because I associate it with a very specific time and place growing up when I really needed to have same ladies speak for me, and be able to sing my heart out with them.
You know, my family is not the most functional, but I was given a very solid rock upbringing. My dad educated me seriously on Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Cream. I was raised on that stuff. And you notice anything about that list? Yeah. And I looooove Led Zep, and I will always love Led Zep, but when you grow up listening to lyrics that command some lady to, "Squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg," you know, after a while, you can really crave some fucking Jewel. You know?
I loved Liz Phair in high school. I loved Sleater-Kinney. But I also loved Sarah McLachlan. I mean, that song about having difficulty getting along with your mother? I was having difficulty with my mother! Or the Paula Cole song about being angry at all the ways your boyfriend devalues your opinion because you are a woman and he feels like he can? I so got that! Or when Sheryl Crow sings about feeling vulnerable and really just wants her partner to reassure her? I understood! Because sometimes, I didn't want Bikini Kill, because I couldn't conjure angry - I was sad and lost and maybe having boyfriend problems and I just wanted to sing mournfully about it or be quiet with it and breathe through it.
And also, here was the thing about Lillith Fair - it was a celebration of being female. Or, we made it a celebration of being female. Sometimes, I just wanted a musical ladyspace. I didn't want to have to defend my music choices to the dudes I was with. In fact, they were ALREADY discounting my musical tastes for having breasts, or liking people who sang who also had breasts, so FUCK IT, we might as well celebrate the breasts.
The first Lillith Fair I went to, I went with like 6 (7? maybe 8. We filled up a mini van to the max) other girls to a ski mountain in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. These girls I went with were all older, and they were mentors in a way, but they were also so generous and kind and just wonderfully beautiful people (this was my junior year in high school - they were seniors, or home from their first year in college). We laughed like mad the entire way there. We all wore hippie dresses and NONE of us talked about boys or how fat we were or anything negative about ourselves or picked on any other female, not even ones not in the car with us, at all. I had brought my markers, and I was beginning to cover everyone with designs and drawings (a decade of art school paid off!). We sang. We handed out all the cookies and cake we had baked for the trip and couldn't finish to other drivers on the road. It was silly and lovely and fabulous.
And once we got to Lillith Fair? We danced our asses off. We sang as loud as we could. We celebrated being together and singing and moving our bodies and being in the rain, and then being in the sunshine. I had strangers asking me to marker something on their skin, too, and it was so nice, to have all these lovely little interactions with strangers and decorate them. And for me, who was self-conscious and hated my body and had so many self-esteem issues, at no point did I remember that I thought I was fat. Or less than. Or that I shouldn't laugh so loud, be so out-there and present. I was just in my body and surrounded by really loving women and we just celebrated ourselves and our friendships and our female-ness.
I am sitting here smiling, remembering this. That was Lillith Fair to me. I don't care if the music was "bad" - it was exactly what we needed it to be. And I understand how Lillith Fair only featured a certain kind of lady singer, and mostly the kind of lady singer that was considered still a "lady" instead of an "angry feminazi bitch," but, lookit: you know what I did after that Lillith Fair? I went home and broke off a relationship I was in that was unhealthy because after spending a weekend (we stayed overnight at someone's sister's house in PA) around such support and singing and silliness and total glee, I was like, yeah, no, fuck this. I just danced around with a bunch of beautiful women and sang my heart out. There is no reason I have to tolerate shit for being a lady right now. Being a lady is GRAND. And if you are making it not grand, that is YOU, not me.
Now, there are times when I cannot stand Sarah McLachlan now. Or the Indigo Girls. Or whomever. When they play it in Starbucks, I kinda just want to get my coffee as quickly as possible and leave. But that shit was just really healthy for me for a while. It felt healing. And then sharing it with other women and being joyous about being together was also healing. I mean, look, I love Le Tigre, but their music, as much as it sometimes speaks to me, doesn't really promote silliness with lots of other women in the rain and swirling about in long dresses and just being ok in the body you are in. Le Tigre plays its own part in my life. And Lillith Fair, in a very positive way, did too.
So, yeah. I am actually considered, even though law students seem to have woefully bad music taste on the whole, to have pretty good music taste among my compatriots. But I just refuse to dump on Lillith Fair. Because part of me thinks that in the hating, there is just a little too much sexism, a little too much devaluing of women and their voices and their experiences and their tastes, for me to feel comfortable with participating. I went to Lillith Fair. I loved it. It is one of my favorite memories from high school.
AND I heard Joan Osborne, which I don't even CARE what you think about music, she has an AMAZING voice. So there.