Shocking feminism

I go to lots of live music, it’s one of my passions.  And since I lived in London for more than ten years, I’ve seen lots of incredible musicians.

Tonight was one of the best gigs I’ve been to in years. 

Michelle Shocked, Bar Bodega, Wellington.

For those who don’t know her, Michelle Shocked is a folk singer-songwriter who tells stories.  Beautiful stories.  Most famous for “Anchorage” from “Short Sharp Shocked“, she has written a host of other great songs across several albums. 

She began as one of the feminist performers of the late 1980s, alongside Tracey Chapman, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, Phranc, kd lang, you get the picture.  Before we thought “don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me” was a liberatory feminist anthem.

Tonight, as well as the polished performance of songs an audience my age all loved, her feminism was out there on display.  She started with tracks from the bootleg “Texas Campfire Tapes“, explaining that “The Hep Cat” was her way of telling the world that being sexually harassed on the streets as a young woman, no matter what she wore or how she behaved, made her furious.  She told the very mixed (and sometimes uncomfortable) audience that young women have their behaviour controlled in ways young men do not, and that this included rape – “enough to make you want to go home and never go out” – and then she told us about her own rape.

Then she talked about shagging lots of charismatic political men – not one of whom ever talked about birth control – before suggesting it was not impossible that Julian Assange might be both political hero and predatory lefty man.

What was kinda shocking was to hear a woman talking about choices she’d made and the ways gender had influenced her life.  Why is that shocking?  Because so few performers do it as explicitly, and as gently, as she managed tonight.

Small wonder the crowd was so adoring that when she strolled off the stage, we all stepped back to admire the woman with 25 years in the music industry behind her.

Loved it.  Going to be playing her first two albums on repeat for the next wee while.

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