July 14, 2014

The all-female band died from '90s feminism and cocooning

You are probably starting to hear louder and more desperate attempts to make that whole '90s revival happen, but it ain't happenin'. Way too lame of a decade.

One of the major exhibits that's always brought out to establish the politically correct bona fides of the Nineties is the so-called surge of the girl bands, such as L7 and Luscious Jackson, and mostly-girl bands like Elastica and Hole.

This was an obviously bogus argument at the time, and has only gotten more shameful 20 years later. The peak of female bands was back in the good old 1980s, while during the '90s the format was in fact in steep decline, and is non-existent today. (Data and analysis to follow below.)

How can that be, when the Eighties were more macho and gung-ho than the Nineties, which -- so the feminist theory goes -- should have scared off or crowded out women more so than during the decade of meek and mopey? Dial down the testosterone level, and women will feel more comfortable stepping forward and taking part, right? Wrong.

Women produce testosterone, too, and it makes them feel confident, too. When T-levels fell off a cliff during the wussification of the '90s, they were still high enough for guys to continue working in teams to make music -- just not nearly as well as in the '80s, when the rising-crime climate had average people in a higher state of arousal. But since women start with much lower levels -- even when they're relatively high -- a decent drop will leave just about all of them below the threshold necessary to play in a real band. (Unserious and unknown bands that exist only to indulge the feminist vanity of the performers, do not count.)

Along with confidence, you need trust to hold a band together. Folks in outgoing times are more trusting -- otherwise they would isolate themselves like they do in cocooning times. Social groups among women are harder to hold together than a guys-only group, not because there's no drama or fighting among men, but because we trust that we can make amends and move on, while women are more likely to perceive drama as "dealbreaker" events, burn their bridges, and cut their losses. So, when trust levels fell during the '90s, it left far many more women below the threshold for holding together a group of genetically unrelated people.

This is the greatest and least remarked-on irony of the past 20-some years -- that the feminization of society has made it nearly impossible for women to accomplish something impressive in popular culture.

Now onto a look at the cold hard facts, which you aren't going to read about in some puff piece about how the '90s were da bomb (...NOT!).

I'm ignoring girl groups and sticking with bands because playing instruments requires more skill than just singing. I'm also sticking with female-only bands to make the interpretation unambiguous; if I included mostly-female or female-fronted bands, you wouldn't know what the relative mix was over time. Wikipedia has a category page for all-female bands, most of which are wishful thinking and vainglory for the feminazi editors, but which do contain many legit examples.

As for pop culture visibility and resonating with the average person, I'm judging by the Billboard and UK charts. The band had to have at least one hit in the top 40 or 50. What particular chart didn't matter too much, but not an obscure one. Top 40, Mainstream Rock, Modern / Alternative Rock, Country, etc. I looked up the chart success on the discography entry for the band, or if there was none, from scanning through their main page.

Here are the all-female bands who enjoyed some level of chart success (as defined), by the decade that their singles were released in. Bands are listed only once, no matter how many hits they had.

1970s
Clout
Fanny

1980s
Bangles
Belle Stars / Bodysnatchers
Calamity Jane
Coyote Sisters
Girlschool
Go-Go's
Klymaxx
Vixen
Wendy & Lisa
We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It
Wild Rose

1990s
Babes in Toyland
Dixie Chicks
Drain STH
Hepburn
Indigo Girls
L7
Luscious Jackson
Thunderbugs

2000s
78violet
Client
Donnas

2010s
Haim

Wow, zero bands from the '60s. Hardly any from the '70s either, just two. The peak of 11 is where everyone who isn't brainwashed should expect it to be, in the '80s. Then it's all downhill from there: 8 in the '90s, 3 in the 2000s, and 1 from the 2010s so far.

Let's set the bar a little higher. A clueless person might think that those groups from the '80s were just a series of tokens, while the real chart-toppers blew up in the '90s. Here are those that scored a top 20 hit on the main chart (not a genre chart) of either the US or UK. And now let's list them by songs to show just how enduring the success of the earlier groups used to be, spanning three or four calendar years. Each line has the year, band name, song name, and highest chart rank (US if blank, UK if specified). Again they are separated by decade to make the pattern jump out.

78 Clout "Substitute" (2 UK)

81 Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed" (20)
81 Go-Go's "We Got the Beat" (2)
82 Go-Go's "Vacation" (8)
82 Belle Stars "The Clapping Song" (11 UK)
83 Belle Stars "Sign of the Times" (3 UK)
84 Go-Go's "Head Over Heels" (11)
85 Klymaxx "I Miss You" (5)
86 Bangles "Manic Monday" (2)
86 Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian (1)
86 Klymaxx "Man Size Love" (15)
87 Bangles "Walking Down Your Street" (11)
87 Bangles "Hazy Shade of Winter" (2)
87 Klymaxx "I'd Still Say Yes" (18)
88 Bangles "In Your Room" (5)
89 Bangles "Eternal Flame" (1)
89 Belle Stars "Iko Iko" (14)
89 We've Got... "International Rescue" (11 UK)
89 We've Got... "Pink Sunshine" (14 UK)

99 Thunderbugs "Friends Forever" (5 UK)
99 Hepburn "I Quit" (8 UK)
99 Hepburn "Bugs" (14 UK)

00 Hepburn "Deep Deep Down" (16 UK)
00 Dixie Chicks "Goodbye Earl" (13)
07 78violet "Potential Breakup Song" (17)

13 Haim "The Wire" (16 UK)

Now things are looking even worse for the supposedly women-empowering Nineties. That decade had merely 3 big hits, and all are British-only hits. It's just as sparse in the 2000s, and so far there's only 1 hit in the 2010s. Just 1 hit remains from the '70s. And then there's the reliable Eighties to give us 18 positive role models for songs performed by women-only bands. You can also see a peak more in the later part of the '80s, when cocooning had reached its minimum (and so, just before the whole society would change direction circa 1990).

Let's raise the bar higher still, and make the dominance of the '80s unambiguous. Below is every song by an all-female band that was a top 10 hit in the US. (Not coincidentally, the bands are all from the L.A. area, back when California was more conservative, and not from the liberal bastions of the Upper Midwest and the East Coast.)

81 Go-Go's "We Got the Beat" (2)
82 Go-Go's "Vacation" (8)
85 Klymaxx "I Miss You" (5)
86 Bangles "Manic Monday" (2)
86 Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian (1)
87 Bangles "Hazy Shade of Winter" (2)
88 Bangles "In Your Room" (5)
89 Bangles "Eternal Flame" (1)

Have you heard of the Bechdel test? It's an attempt to measure women's independence from men in movies. A pretty bad attempt, but I think it would work better in a short medium like pop songs.

We already have groups of women who have a recognizable name and perform together. Of the elite songs listed just above, which ones are not primarily about boy-girl relationships? "We Got the Beat," "Manic Monday," "Walk Like an Egyptian," and "Hazy Shade of Winter." One of these four was also written by the band themselves -- "We Got the Beat." The Bangles did co-write most of their hits, but these three were by outside songwriters.

Funny -- it's almost as though not beating women over the head with feminist guilt allows them to live and behave like natural human beings, and to write and perform songs that are about topics other than boys. Once there is such a self-conscious feminist cocooning impulse, then the focus shifts to boys only -- sometimes as part of the usual boy-girl song, sometimes as part of the new self-aware "Independent Woman" song. But you aren't going to hear something that's not self-consciously not-about-boys, like "Manic Monday," that anyone can relate to.

It may sound obvious after discovering it, but let's repeat that point: outgoing people's music is easy for the audience to relate to, while cocooners' music is bland, distancing, and harder to relate to -- and in both cases, by design.

And yet, as socially and emotionally avoidant as the climate may have become by now, women, being naturally more fearful, have withdrawn much farther into their cocoons than men have. And that makes all the difference in playing a role where you're meant to break through and connect with a broad audience.

As any strip club performance will show, there need be no emotional connection with the audience for a woman to parade herself around and soak up free attention. That's about all that is left in a women's culture that is so profoundly afraid of men. Female bands have vanished, and in their place are the quasi-strippers and pseudo-sluts that make up "girl groups" and "strong independent singers" nowadays.

We've heard a lot from lefty circles about how the mass media disseminates frightening images and messages in order to create a "culture of fear," the better to paralyze the populace and sap away their "agency." Well, what do they have to say about the widespread hysteria stoked by feminists about how all men are crypto-date-rapists, and hence you can only be safe by keeping apart from them? That has paralyzed women into holing up inside their domestic prisons all day long, on the one hand, and removed the "agency" of the counter-minority whose imaginary empowerment comes from strutting their stuff to get a rise out of men.

Hardly the outcome that the feminazi propagandists envisioned, is it? That's what happens when you get arrogant and fuck around with something that's already working well. Women were already competent and confident back in the '80s -- how exactly was becoming frightened of everyone, everything, and every place going to improve on that? But then you can't expect hysterical ideologues to really be thinking any of this through, down the line.

Now let's end on a more pleasant reminder of the good old days.


Competent, confident, engaging, curious, revealing, fun-loving, and tender.

19 comments:

  1. excellent analysis

    I remember the 80s well, turned 16 in 1985. In addition to the girl bands of the 80s we seemed to have more female rock performers, like Blondie , Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde , Heart , Tina Turner, Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks, Patty Smith and Cyndi Lauper.

    These females all had talent and were very popular with male and female fans. In addition these females embraced their feminine side, yet maintained a rock persona which attracted male fans.

    so true that the feminization of society and the feminist agenda have weakened the role of females in our culture. The fear of men was not evident from these 80 female rockers.







    so in addition to the all girl bands, the 80s had more girl performers in the rock genre who had real musical talent.

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  2. Odd - I was just listening to Fanny yesterday. They still hold up.

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  3. Anonymous1:58 PM

    I used to love the Bangles. Every adjective you used to describe them was spot on. Much better than that disheveled freak that was that Madonna accident.

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  4. Hadn't heard of most of them, despite my affinities for what Adam Cadre terms "frock rock". The UK bit explains some of that. Girlschool would be the one outside of the 90s I like.

    Some of the decline is the result of actual rock music being displaced from the charts by hip-hop/EDM/"urban pop" or whatever.

    The reference to Joan Jett reminds me that the Runaways aren't on there taking up half the 70s slots, but they apparently only had a hit in Japan.

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  5. Curtis6:19 PM

    modern feminism only benefits bureacrats.

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  6. Curtis6:48 PM

    "
    so in addition to the all girl bands, the 80s had more girl performers in the rock genre who had real musical talent."

    in general, cocooning times promote mediocrity, at least it seems that way to me.

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  7. "The reference to Joan Jett reminds me that the Runaways aren't on there taking up half the 70s slots, but they apparently only had a hit in Japan."

    I should've mentioned their place in the bogus hagiography of the past 20 years. I don't remember hearing about them until the mid-'90s -- didn't do anything for me, haven't listened to them since. Yet somehow they're mythic figures, have a recent movie about them, etc. etc. etc. But they're not good!

    Critic nerds cannot stand how unpretentious and well-crafted pop music was in the '80s. So we can't hear about Joan Jett or Lita Ford. We have to hear about an unremarkable punk band from the '70s that they both used to be in, before they really knew what they were doing.

    That's a pretty good litmus test for whether a music critic responds to music or not -- a good majority of them are deaf and numb. Do they have whatever opinion they have about Joan Jett and Lita Ford, while regarding the Runaways as more of a goof, and find it funny that people take them seriously? Or do they try to build the myth of the Runaways as a real band?

    I sense the metalheads regarding the Runaways as a harmless goof before Joan and Lita began rocking for real, while the punk crowd wants to make a leap of faith in the church of the Runaways. Metalheads respond to music, punks do not.

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  8. Don't really care for Lita, but I was never much for the Runaways either. Guess I lean metal? Although Joan Jett wasn't metal either.

    I've never seen it, but there's an early 80s movie called "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains" about an all-female punk band that gets big basically because of the media attention of them being just that, even though they don't have any musical talent.

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  9. As a 70s music fan, I have to admit I never heard of Fanny or Clout. Just checked out a couple of youtube videos. Fanny looks totally lesbian while Clout does have a couple of 'feminine' members. But as far as music is concerned, Fanny really rocks! They did hard rock much better than later female rocker chicks like Joan Jett, Pat Benatar or Melissa Etheridge. Thanks for making me discover this, as far as I am concerned, new band! And your description of the Bangles is perfect. They were all those things. Susanna Hoffs still sings, and she's quite good.

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  10. By my very strict standards, The Bangles were the only girl band, ever. They actually played instruments. They had great taste in covers and wrote great originals.They were good looking. And they were not (to my knowledge) the "get-himself-laid" project of a male svengali. They are an absolutely singular phenomenon in the history of pop music.

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  11. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Sleater-Kinney

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  12. A.B. Prosper1:51 AM

    Lots of bands are studio constructed bands and I think the Runaways were one of those, a studio created them and marketed them and all that. They didn't do that well in the US though I think their music is better than people give them credit for.

    Though I lean metal over punk I find their music has a certain 70's bad girl energy to it , you can feel the subculture and their signature song Cherry Bomb is just venomous.

    However your premise could not be more true no one will care about the 1990's and there will be no revival .

    The thing about the 1990's though is that it's a weird short decade like no other , as i see it the election of Bill Clinton is the intro to the first part of the decade (93-95) and the Internet era 1995-2000 the second and to be honest I doubt anyone is nostalgic for them outside marketing departments.

    Some media people will care about (1997 was a very good movie year) but the rest will be justly forgotten I suspect

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  13. Another layer of irony in this is that who raised the timid, men-avoiding women-children that so many Millineal girls have grown up to be? The confident women of the 1980's did, that's who. In the early 1980's, it was unthinkable that the outgoing, fun-loving Valley Girls would grow up to be overbearing helecopter mothers you often talk about.

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  14. Right, you tend to be more like your grandparents than your parents, since there's a roughly 60-year period between peaks (or valleys) in the cocooning-and-crime cycle, and that's more like a distance of two generations.

    Millennials are the new Silent Gen. Who raised the naive and timid Silents? The savvy and streetwise flappers of the Greatest Gen, whose formative years were the Jazz Age / Roaring Twenties.

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  15. Curtis3:55 PM

    Gen X (1965-1986) is more like the G.I. Generation. Millenials(1987-?) are more like the Silents. albeit, they are different in some respects because they came of age in a time of inequality, as opposed to a time of equality, such as the Silents.

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  16. Anonymous8:01 AM

    'Feminazis'. Please, not you as well! The NSDAP were probably the most ANTI-Feminist political group in history; they believed men should be men and women should be women. Kinder, kirche, kuche.

    Study where feminism starts and you'll realize that femimarxist, femizionist, femilesbian, femileftist are all much more accurate descriptions.

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  17. Don't talk like such a speech nazi.

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  18. Swedish movie about 12 your old girls who form a punk band and persist in being untalented (except for the devout Christian classical guitar playing girl they rope in):
    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2014/07/we_are_the_best_directed_by_lukas_moodysson_reviewed.html

    I've probably mentioned before that punk accepts and to some extent even valorizes untalented amateurs*. As the magazine cover said "Here's one chord. Here's another. Here's a third. Go form a band". In a sense they would agree with John Phillips Sousa, who bemoaned the introduction of phonographs which withered the capacities of the young, habituated to listening to mass production rather than creating their own. Punk tends to aim at breaking down the distinction between performer and audience; they may play without a stage (Rocket From the Crypt has never played a venue with one) and thrust the microphone into the maw of the attendees more often than that of the singer.
    *Eater would seem to be an echt-example, since the kids literally stole instruments to pose for a photo when the lie they made up about forming a band made it to a reporter. But I actually prefer three out of four covers on their first album to the originals, and not merely in a Portsmouth Sinfonia sense.

    Randall Collins noted in "Violence: A Microsociological Theory" how the moshing and slam-dancing of punk was in some sense a move by the audience to reclaim the focus of attention that had once been typical of music in the pre-star era when it was intended to facilitate dancing. Many songs heavily feature anti-harmony (call-and-response) and the expectation that the audience will chant along; in the case of Oi this may mean simply using their football club's chant which the audience will be used to singing on the terraces. It's difficult for a mass of amateurs to distinguish themselves; deindividualization is often enough part of the appeal, ironic for a genre associated with individualism.

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  19. newdays6:14 AM

    Meanwhile at heartiste (which I haven't visited in months), it's assumed that women nowadays have an overload of testosterone, which is considered a bad thing.

    The girls in your "good ol days" photo do have very pronounced jawlines.

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