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Whore of Babylon with a chainsaw: Short life and times of ‘Metal Priestess’ Wendy O. Williams
05.28.2013
10:13 am

Topics:
Feminism
Punk

Tags:
The Plasmatics
Wendy O. Williams


 
This is a guest post by Kimberly Bright, author of Chris Spedding: Reluctant Guitar Hero.

The more my daughter and her friends listen to Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and Ke$ha, the more I miss Wendy O. Williams.

However, if you are under 40, there’s a good chance that you haven’t heard of Wendy O. Williams, and that is tragic.

There have been imitators of the shock rock icon known as the Priestess of Metal here and there, but no front-woman has come close to replicating her aggressive sexuality, gleeful destructiveness, violence, provocative art, or flagrant disregard for her own personal safety.

Ivy League-educated artist, producer, and promoter Rod Swenson hired 27-year-old Wendy O. Williams as a dominatrix for his experimental theater/live sex show “Captain Kink’s Theatre” in New York City in 1976.  Wendy had led a nomadic existence since running away from home at sixteen, making and selling crafts, cooking, working a string of jobs such as lifeguard, stripper, topless dancer, and Dunkin’ Donuts server.  Swenson was also making videos for young New York punk bands like The Ramones, Dead Boys, and The Patti Smith Group. He decided to form his own punk-metal band, The Plasmatics, a year later and recruited Wendy, by then his girlfriend, to front it. With an initial line-up of Richie Stotts on guitar, Chosei Funahara on bass, and Stu Deutsch on drums, The Plasmatics debuted at CBGB’s in 1978. Wes Beech was soon added on guitar and the only band member other than Wendy to weather repeated personnel changes. The Plasmatics’ music and stage shows became infamous, prompting the curious to wait in line for hours to watch them at CBGB’s.

Live Plasmatics montage from 1981:
 

 
Plasmatics songs were loud, authentic tributes to sex, violence, independence, and rejection of societal norms. Their fusion of punk and metal, common two decades later, perfectly complemented Wendy’s raspy, shouting, snarling vocals and her wild stage persona.  With a platinum blonde mohawk (offsetting Richie Stotts’ blue one), smoky eye makeup, lean, tanned body clad in tight black leather or as little as possible (sometimes only a leather jacket and black underwear, a G-string and shaving cream), Wendy’s physically demanding act involved wielding chainsaws to dismember guitars (in lieu of guitar solos) and hefting sledgehammers to smash television sets. When the band outgrew CBGB’s, Wendy added smashing and detonating cars (especially Cadillacs) onstage, an unmistakable middle finger to consumerism.

“Basically, I hate conformity. I hate people telling me what to do. It makes me want to smash things. So-called normal behavior patterns make me so bored, I could throw up!”—Wendy O. Williams

Below, WOW talks with Tom Synder. You get a great sense of her personal philosophy here:
 

 
Sexually provocative without even trying, Wendy shamelessly simulated sex and masturbation onstage, which eventually led to her arrest on obscenity and public indecency charges in Milwaukee and Cleveland. Following these charges (eventually dismissed), Wendy took to wearing her trademark strips of black electrical tape over her nipples like a walking censored photograph. She dominated her performance spaces like a tattooed Amazonian stripper with rage issues.

Thanks to MTV’s willingness to play Plasmatics videos, Wendy will always be remembered for her doing her own dangerous stunts involving explosives, helicopters, school buses, and cars with no brakes. She was a peculiar contradiction of reckless daredevil and fitness and health nut. Unrelated to her sexual persona and shocking subject matter, she had a soft spot for animals, so much so that she pioneered animal rights, vegetarianism, and ecological concerns at a pre-Meat is Murder time when these views were not widespread among musical artists—forget the general population—other than Paul and Linda McCartney.

First signed to Stiff Records in the U.K., The Plasmatics recorded five studio albums (New Hope for the Wretched, Beyond the Valley of 1984, Coup d’Etat, Electric Lady Land Sessions, and Maggots: The Record) and three EP’s (Meet the Plasmatics, Butcher Baby, Metal Priestess). While not massive sellers, these releases, particularly New Hope, were hugely influential, and The Plasmatics gained mainstream attention from unexpected sources: ABC’s late night comedy show Fridays, Tom Snyder’s talk show Tomorrow, an opening spot on a 1982 KISS tour, and SCTV, for which The Plasmatics made a charming cameo in the “Fishin’ Musicians” sketch.

The Plasmatics on Fridays:
 

 
Wendy recorded three “solo” albums (W.O.W., Kommander of Kaos, and Deffest! And Baddest!), using Plasmatics members but not naming the albums so for legal reasons, and three collaborative EP’s with Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead (Iron Fist, Stand By Your Man, What’s Words Worth?).

“She was great, I used to fuck her. Although sometimes you ought to say she fucked me. She was a workout freak, muscles like steel rope.”—Lemmy Kilmister, Lemmy: The Movie

“No Class” with Motörhead:
 

 
W.O.W. was produced and co-written by Gene Simmons, with some of the songs appearing on later KISS albums. This hard rock offering earned her a Grammy nomination in 1985 for Best Female Rock Vocalist. Kommander of Kaos, her second solo album, was co-produced by Swenson and Wes Beech.

Wendy ventured into acting as early as 1979, when she appeared in porn (Candy Goes to Hollywood), later followed by indie film (the execrable Reform School Girls which at least contained her songs), musical theater (Rocky Horror), and mainstream television (MacGyver, The New Adventures of Beans Baxter) with moderate success.

Then suddenly in 1988, when heavy metal hair bands were dominating popular music, Wendy was bizarrely convinced by Rod Swenson to change her career path to rap (technically “thrash-rap”). This was only a few years after Dee Dee Ramone’s own similarly bad decision. In 1988 Wendy released Deffest! And Baddest! as Ultrafly and The Home Girls. Unfortunately that was her last recorded work. Her final live performance was on New Year’s Eve, 1988, with Richie Stotts’ post-Plasmatics band, playing “Mastermind.”

Wendy abruptly left both music and acting in 1991, when she and Rod Swenson moved to rural Connecticut. Wendy’s explanation was that she was tired of dealing with people. In Storr, Connecticut Wendy worked as an animal rescuer, natural foods activist, and kept a day job at a health food co-op.

But she was not happy and fulfilled in her retirement and seclusion. She struggled with untreated depression for seven years, and made at least two unsuccessful suicide attempts. She finally succeeded in a methodically planned suicide in 1998, spending her last moments alone in the woods, feeding squirrels before turning a gun on herself.

“For me, much of the world makes no sense, but my feelings about what I am doing ring loud and clear to an inner ear and a place where there is no self, only calm.” –  Wendy O. Williams, suicide note


The loss of Wendy O. Williams’ voice and strong personality is still felt, 14 years later. Little has been released of her original, unedited concert footage, and there has been no proper retrospective of her career and enigmatic personal life.  She deserves better.
 

 
Below, The Plasmatics on German TV in 1981:
 

 
This is a guest post by Kimberly Bright, author of Chris Spedding: Reluctant Guitar Hero.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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What Would Jesus Do? (Barf!): Pat Robertson’s most sexist statement yet?
05.15.2013
01:45 pm

Topics:
Belief
Feminism

Tags:
Pat Robertson
Sexism


 
Who listens to this douchenozzle, anyway? I can’t believe this man still has an audience. Are they just too old and feeble-minded to know how to use a TV remote? What gives?

Here’s former Southern Baptist minister Pat Robertson giving advice to a woman whose husband cheated on her. He tells her “he’s a man” and to “make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.”

 
Now here’s Pat giving advice on what to do if your wife suffers from Alzheimer’s disease: Divorce her.

 
Mighty Christian of ya, Pat!

Via Christian Nightmares

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The joys of ‘Cosmarxpolitan’: Humor where Marx meets ‘Cosmo’

0000000001xramlrakomsoc.jpg
 
The collective behind Cosmarxpolitan describe themselves as “Smug college students” with too much time on their hands.

General Secretary of Cosmarxpolitan is Clara, who also blogs at That Girl Mag, and collaborates with The Central Committee of People’s Commissars (Andrew, Ken, Lucas, Mark, and Nicole) to produce these witty and amusing fake Cosmarxpolitan covers. As explained on the site’s FAQ:

The intention of Cosmarxpolitan is to ridicule the awful advice and backwards attitudes of magazines targeted at women; not to poke fun at those who suffered under communist rulers.

For those of you who think that we promote stereotypes that marginalize certain groups and privilege a deeply distorted narrative, it’s because we’re doing our best to channel Cosmo.

Only one of the collective is a Marxist (Ken), the rest are “just bourgeois scum, to varying degrees,” who hope that (once revolution comes) they will be “stripped of the chains of oppression, (and having other things to do), article writing will flourish.”

Vive la (r)évolution, comrades!

Follow Cosmarxpolitan on twitter and check Cosmarxpolitan here.
 
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More glossy revolutionary covers, after the collective jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Disney’s depressing rejection letter to a woman, 1938
04.26.2013
01:39 pm

Topics:
Animation
Feminism
History

Tags:
Disney


 
Depressing to read this? Yes, but it was 1938 so what do you expect?

The good news is Disney hired a woman by the name of Retta Scott in 1942 who worked as one of the animators on Bambi. You go, Retta!
 

June 7, 1938

Miss Mary V. Ford
Searcy,
Arkansas

Dear Miss Ford,

Your letter of recent date has been received in the Inking and Painting Department for reply.

Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for the training school.

The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with Indian ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions.

In order to apply for a position as “Inker” or “Painter” it is necessary that one appear at the Studio, bringing samples of pen and ink and water color work. It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really very few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply.

Yours very truly,

WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS, LTD

By:

(Signed)

Via Retronaut

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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When bad perms happen to good people: Man-perm edition
04.26.2013
09:19 am

Topics:
Amusing
Feminism

Tags:
Man Perms


David Bowie
 
Full disclosure: My mother gave me home-perm in 1982. In fact, my mother was so good at it (not really), that she convinced my father he needed one, too. Yes, my dad rocked the home-perm with a mustache. Years later, he confided to the both of us, it was one of the worst decisions of his entire life.

PS - There’s an Official George Harrison Perm Fan Club where their motto is “Permalicious. So delicious.”
 

Donald Sutherland
 

George Harrison
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Kool Thing: Kim Gordon on her divorce from Thurston Moore and breast cancer
04.23.2013
10:45 am

Topics:
Feminism
Music
Punk

Tags:
Sonic Youth
Kim Gordon


Vintage shot of Kim Gordon via Suicide Watch

There’s a fascinating must-read short profile of Kim Gordon in this month’s Elle by Lizzy Goodman. In it, the Sonic Youth co-founder discusses being single again at the still Sonically Youthful age of 59, divvying up those pop culture treasures she and Thurston Moore must’ve amassed over the years and her breast cancer treatment:

“We have all these books, records, and art and are getting it all assessed; that’s what is taking so long,” she says after ordering a glass of rosé. But both have moved on. Among her suitors are a restaurateur, an architect, and an actor. “It’s just weird,” Gordon says of navigating new romance. “I can’t tell what’s normal.” And Moore has regularly been seen with the same woman, fueling the rumor that his affair helped doom their marriage. “We seemed to have a normal relationship inside of a crazy world,” Gordon says of her marriage. “And in fact, it ended in a kind of normal way—midlife crisis, starstruck woman.”

Some years ago, a woman Gordon declines to name became a part of the Sonic Youth world, first as the girlfriend of an erstwhile band member and later as a partner on a literary project with Moore. Eventually, Gordon discovered a text message and confronted him about having an affair. They went to counseling, but he kept seeing the other woman. “We never got to the point where we could just get rid of her so I could decide what I wanted to do,” Gordon says. “Thurston was carrying on this whole double life with her. He was really like a lost soul.” Moore moved out. Gordon stayed home and listened to a lot of hip-hop. “Rap music is really good when you’re traumatized,” she says.

The first few months were rough. “It did feel like every day was different,” she recalls. “It’s a huge, drastic change.” But slowly things improved. She adjusted to the framework of semisingle parenthood. (Coco, their only child, is now a freshman at a Chicago art school.) Gordon kept their colonial filled with friends—a musician, a poet, and Moore’s adult niece, with whom Gordon has remained very close. “Sometimes I cook dinner and just invite whomever,” she says of her improvised family life. “Everyone helps out a bit with the dogs. It’s a big house. It’s nice to have people around.” Things were stabilizing. Then Gordon was found to have a noninvasive form of breast cancer called DCIS. “I’m fine; it’s literally the best you can have,” she says of her diagnosis, which required a lumpectomy. “I didn’t do radiation or anything, but I was like, Okay, what else is going to happen to me?”

Read more at Elle.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Conspiracy of Women: Lydia Lunch’s Post Catastrophe Collaborative Workshop


 
Lydia Lunch sent me this post about the upcoming Post Catastrophe Collaborative Workshop that she’s curating in Ojai California on May 24-27.

I should think if there was anyone you’d want in your corner post-catastrophe, it would be Lydia!

To question why women artists need a workshop by and for each other in 2013 is to ignore the damage done to the sensitive psyche by the brutarian policies of kleptomaniacal plutocrats in their race for global domination.

From the imperialist profiteering of endless war, to the justification of the psychosis of bloodlust in the name of God, oil or natural resources, from austerity measures as punishment against entire nations for the fraud perpetrated by greedy corporations and their criminal finance ministers, to the blatant arrogance of corrupt politicians who do their bidding with utter disregard for the health of the planet or the life of its inhabitants, we as women demand a safe place in which to create from the ashes of this man-made destruction.

We are seeing in these times a striking attempt on a global scale to redress economic and social imbalance by sheer physical presence—the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement in the US. Pervasive ecological imperatives have been won (and lost) by indigenous-led groups in South America and Africa. This consensus is essential for large-scale change, and yet, the foundered promise of the movements of the 1960s and 1970s indicate the depth to which transformation must but has not yet occurred in the way we live.

The dominator model continues to run the world, and in so doing affects us in both obvious and unconscious ways.

Indeed this bespeaks a need for the attention to the microcosm, to the immediate community. In the West where we are not bound by blood tribe or homeland, we come together in kindred passions.

What is absolutely necessary is the fostering of environments, which we must learn together how to more adeptly create, in which the existing hierarchical, dominator paradigm can be further and further subverted by the constant intention to transform our learned ways of relating to ourselves and one another within this powerful action of collaboration/co-creation.

This by its nascent nature requires a protected space—here by and for women—in which to listen and share the deep language of the body; the creative impulse; the desire to collaborate and the methods to invoke; the experience of time, space and accomplishment unfettered by the anxieties of funding and recognition. This last is extremely important.

Our current model of success for everyone, artists included, remains competitive and largely solitary in the West.

Women who create and attempt to move within established systems find themselves indentured into the necessary sales pitch to self-promote, furthering the continuance of the established pattern, which fosters alienation and dissociation rather than community.

A workshop by and for women can provide a haven of inspiration, encouragement and a sense of community in these extremely trying times. The burden of often deeply traumatized women constantly having to manage their emotions and warp themselves to adjust to social situations that adhere to linear, rational, productive values is soul-killing.

Art has the ability to act as salve to the universal wound. It gives voice to the silent scream within us all.

It rebels as pleasure in times of trauma. It brings a sense of beauty and joy by rising up in celebration of life, a direct contra-diction to the widespread brutality of socio-sadistic bullies who seek to divide and conquer.

A space of protection and clarity to explore the strengths and weaknesses women possess, along with their innate neural capacity for emotional imprint and communal feeling; concurrently with the research and practice of creative techniques together can foster tremendous healing along with powerful work.

This is an essential contribution toward the continuance of the species and its shift away from trying to dominate the planet toward the recognition that it is simply part of all life.

This workshop seeks to bring together a diverse and multi-generational collection of women artists who comprehend the importance of community, collaboration and creation as an inspirational weapon in the war against divisiveness, division and death. 

—Lydia Lunch /Vanessa Skantze

Lydia Lunch will be curating the second Post Catastrophe Collaborative Workshop in Ojai California May 24-27, 2013

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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1959 Miss Universe judging criteria
03.19.2013
07:01 am

Topics:
Feminism

Tags:
Miss Universe

Miss Universe
 
For anyone under the impression that yesteryear was kinder and more accepting of the variability in female form, take a gander at this 1959 chart used by the judges of the Miss Universe pageant.

ALL FIGURED OUT–This chart is used by judges as [a] guide in picking Miss Universe. First six show figure flaws, seventh is perfectly proportioned. (1) Shoulders too square. (2) Shoulders too sloping. (3) Hips too wide. (4) Shoulder bones too pronounced. (5) Shoulders and back hunched. (6) Legs irregular, with spaces at calves, knees, thighs. (7) The form divine, needs only a beautiful face.

There you have it! Women have always been subjected to absurdly rigid standards of beauty, the trends waxing and waning like the inconstant moon!

So fuck it, and pass me the Cheetos!

Via the Society Pages

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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The Rules Aren’t Broken, They’re FIXED: Time to Rewrite Them


 
This is a guest post by UK blogger and leftist activist Scriptonite Daily

A new ad campaign hit the streets of London two days ago, drawing attention to a surprisingly unrecognized state of affairs: the City of London is the tax haven in our own backyard.  While the British government is busy protecting banker’s bonuses, a global grass roots campaign has set up to take on the rules which create the institutionalized inequality which sees 0.1% of the world’s population owning 81% of the world’s wealth, while 8 million people will die this year because they are too poor stay alive. It’s time to help make The Rules.

The Way it Works Isn’t Working

The 2005 United Nations World Summit, before the bloated banking sector crashed the global economy, revealed the system was well broken before the crash;

Half the world lives on less than $2 a day
30,000 children die every single day due to poverty
2 billion people have no access to electricity
20% of people in the highest-income countries consume 86% of the world’s resources. The poorest 20% account for a minuscule 1.3%

 

 

A recent study showed that the neoliberal policies of the last thirty years have seen such a decline in social mobility that capitalism’s so called “meritocracy” delivers results no better than the medieval oligarchy. In fact, the top 1% of earners now pocket 10p in every £1 earned in Britain – an increase of 7% in the last fifteen years. The poorest half of the population taking home just 18p – dropping 1% during the same period.

The story in the US is similar. Robert Reich, former US Labour Secretary under Bill Clinton commented:

“Income inequality and wealth inequality even more so, are worse in the United States since the 1920s, and by some measures since the 1890s. Most of the economic gains in the past 25 years have gone to the top 15-20 percent of Americans, but more recently, in the past six to seven years, most of the economic gains have gone to the top one percent. . . . The average CEO is making about 380 times more than the average worker – a huge gap relative to what it used to be 40 years ago – it was about 30 times.”

Whilst wages, working conditions and social security for the majority of the world are being undermined, the conditions of the 1% continue to improve as the rules which govern the world are bent in their favour.  It is time we stopped living in a fantasy land of “trickle-down economics” and “anyone can make it if they try” fairy tales.

The Rules – A Campaign We Need to Get Behind

The campaign, which encompasses phone boxes (60 in all across the capital), a mobile billboard, viral video, postcards (and more) will run from the 11th to the 24th of March, is being brought to the UK by new anti-poverty initiative – The Rules  - on behalf of people from the majority world who have signed a petition by people online and via a new mobile innovation called Crowdring, which enables people to sign a petition via dialling a “missed call.” This is a similar mechanism to Indian anti-corruption campaign of 2011, which became the biggest petition-type campaign ever seen, allowing people to participate without internet access and at very low cost.

The Rules invites all comers, anywhere in the world, to join a global movement to rewrite the rules in the interests of the majority of the world, rather than the minority:

“Our world has never been more connected or more prosperous than it is today. Yet right now, one in every three of us alive today does not have access to the most basic needs for a decent life – food, education, medical care, a safe environment.

The good news is that for the first time, ordinary citizens like you and I have the power and ability to change the rules that are creating these injustices. Technology and the shift of global power mean that we can now demand our say in decisions that have traditionally been made by elites behind closed doors. But the truth is, these things will only change if we demand it.”

The campaign operates as a decentralised network with several campaign hubs around the world, including in Johannesburg, Mumbai, New York and Rio. The focus of these hubs is to identify issues, opportunities, technologies and regional strategies for each campaign.

The ‘engine room’ for their campaigns is the Working Group, which is made up of more than 70 people from around the world. Members come as individual volunteers, not as representatives of their respective organisations. They come from a broad range of organizations – from civil society, to grassroots advocacy groups, to policy think tanks, to technology providers.

The sole objective of the Working Group is to help create campaigns for viable, alternative rules that serve the interests of the world’s majority, with disproportionate benefit to the poor, vulnerable and marginalised among us.

There will be a day of action on 16 March, where representatives from the majority world, The Rules and UK activists from groups such as Occupy and UK Uncut will all come together to transform a space in the City of London into a “tropical tax haven.” Pete the Temp has been confirmed to MC.

So, spread the word and join the campaign.  It is time to stop complaining about the rules, and start rewriting them.

Take Action

Join The Rules campaign and be a part of the solution

This is a guest post from UK blogger and leftist social activist Scriptonite Daily. Follow Scriptonite Daily on Facebook and Twitter.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Dirty Girls’: 13-year-old riot grrrls don’t give a shit what you think of them, 1996
03.08.2013
10:35 am

Topics:
Activism
Feminism
Heroes
Punk

Tags:
feminism
Riot Grrrl
Zines


 
Fascinating amateur documentary about some spirited and independent-thinking 13-year-old riot grrls who publish their own ‘zine. They’re the outcasts of the school and they just don’t give a shit.

When you meet their classmates, it’s easy to understand why…

Everyone in the schoolyard held strong opinions about these so-called “dirty girls,” and meanwhile the “dirty girls” themselves aimed to get their message across by distributing their zine across campus.

This was posted on YouTube just a few days ago and hasn’t had too many views yet. I wonder if these girls—well, they’ll be nearing their thirties now—have seen it?

If I was one of these self-possessed young women, I think I’d watch this today—it’s International Women’s Day, of course—with great pride. I wonder what became of them?

Shot in 1996 by Michael Lucid, when he himself was a high school student, and finished in 2000.
 

 
Via World of Wonder

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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