This album seems to have some jazz elements and sounds reminiscent of Edith Piaf. It's artsy, not overpowering in voice or electricity.
These days, DiFranco is taking "Not in Our Name" around with her on tour, to pass out leaflets against the war on Iraq to the audience. There's no question that DiFranco is making an effort in many of the right areas. See also our discussion of DiFranco and her tour in response to a fan of hers in the letters of MIM Notes. (400k)
"Evolve" has some better lyrics than previous efforts. The title song "Evolve," mentions the price of being out of step with nature, support for legalization of marijuana, consumerism, the imprisonment craze and war. In "Serpentine," she says directly that "capitalism is the devil's wet dream," "yes, the goons have gone global/and the CEOs are shredding files, and the democrins and republicrats/ are flashing their toothy smiles/and uncle tom is posing for a photo op/with the oval office clan/and uncle sam is rigging cockfights/in the promised land."
In reference to why she runs her own record business, she says in "Serpentine," "and the music industry mafia is pimping girl power/sniping off sharpshooter singles from their styrafoam towers/and hip hop is tied up in the back room/with a logo stuffed in its mouth/ cuz the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." This last phrase refers to the fact that without independence from the system, no real change can come about, so those artists seeking change should be independent; although MIM would point out that "Rage Against the Machine" did pretty well with major labels: it is possible, just not generally true that the major labels are going to be a progressive influence.
As far as we know, the best place to buy this album price-wise is "Newbury Comics."
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DiFranco creates no illusion that changing the attitudes of men is a solution to violence against women under patriarchy. In "If he tries anything," DiFranco debunks the reactionary socialization that women are powerless to protect themselves: "I'm invincible/ so are you/ we do all the things/ they say we can't do/ we walk around in the middle of the night/ and if it's too far to walk/ we just hitch a ride."
While the song recognizes violence as a product of this system, as opposed to a tease selected for a few women, this song's solution to domination over women ends up just reversing the domination into power games. "We got rings of dirt around our necks/ we smell like shit/ still when we walk down the street/ all the boys line up/ to throw themselves at our feet."
This ultimately leads to confusion because women who defend themselves from one type of domination will only encounter more unless patriarchy is abolished. "The commoditization of sex" presents the idea that as long as she has power in walking down the street or power in individual sexual games then she has control. "i say i think he likes you/ you say i think he do to/ i say go and get him girl/ before he gets you/ i'll be watching you from the wings/ i will come to your rescue/ if he tries anything".
The contradictions in this type of thinking result in an inconsistent reaction to similar products of patriarchy. The pseudo-feminist can choose to defend herself against those types of rape that are most offensive and welcome the temporary taste of pseudo-power, but following this recipe continues the idea that in the end women will lose--they accept the normal domination of gender relations in the sex they don't consider to be rape, instead of realizing women have the real power to destroy those relations too, through revolution.
"We are wise wise women/ we are giggling girls/ we both carry a smile/ to show when we're pleased/ we both carry a switchblade/ in our sleeves/ tell you one thing/ i'm going to make noise when I go down/ for ten square blocks/ they're gonna know I died/ all the goddesses will come up/ to the ripped screen door/ and say what do you want dear/ and i'll say I want inside".
In a vengeful "How have you been," DiFranco shows that coercion exists in all sexual relationships. Not surprisingly, she buys into the petty-bourgeois-scarred-for-life-psycho-babble that says she must be hurt and have a boil-your-bunny-mentality to get even. "Me and you and your girlfriend makes three/ in the interest of numbers I will make myself scarce/ i'll make myself scarcely me/ but i'll be outside your window at night/ pull up your shades/ leave on your light/ 'cause I don't want to come in between/ I just want to know/ how have you been..."
Because it is not in the interests of men to stay in relationships, they use lies as coercion and the revenge for power that Ani seeks in return is also power through sex. The problem here is that the reason it is not in the interest of men to stay in relationship rests in their existing strength under patriarchy, so the revenge sought through sex once again is a way for women to allow themselves not to have the hope and seize power through revolutionary struggle. When women are in relationships in which they know they are being fucked over, it is a way to permit themselves to not reach for more. "And i'd do almost anything once/ something about you / i think I'd do you more/ if I had my way I'd stay here."
In "Out of Range," Ani DiFranco cannot decipher the violence against women and the reason that it exists, so of course she runs away. "Just the thought of our bed/ makes me crumble like the plaster/ where you punched the wall/ beside my head/ and i try to draw the line/ but it ends up running/ down the middle of me/ most of the time."
MIM knows that First World women have the choice to leave their partners when abuse is involved, but since DiFranco sees no possibility for real victory the line is skewed.
Despite her attempts to reject socialization, DiFranco misplaces the oppression by the state, to lock up its opposition, and confuses the position of First World women. "Boys get locked up/ in some prison/ girls get locked up/ in some house/ and it doesn't matter/ if it's a warden or a spouse/ you just can't talk to 'em you just can't reason/ you just can't leave/ and you just can't please 'em."
MIM knows that women can leave their spouses but it is not in their short term material interests to do so, but the 3.1% of Black males in the country that are locked up by the state cannot leave; this much is true.
The result of DiFranco's weak analysis and perpetuation of reactionary stereotypes leaves her only an escapist alternative.
"I was locked/ into being my mother's daughter/ i was just eating bread and water/ thinking nothing ever changes/ then i was shocked/ to see the mistakes of each generation/ will just fade like a radio station/ if you drive out of range/ if you're not angry then you're just stupid/ or you don't care/ something's so unfair/ when the men of the hour/ can kill half the world in war/ or make them slaves to a superpower/ and then let them die poor."
Then when she begins to recognize the relationship between the system and the individual manifestations of patriarchy, she turns the song into a sad victim of love song. "Baby i love you that's why I'm leaving/ there's just no talking to you/ and there's just no pleasing you/ and i care enough/ that i'm mad/ that half the world don't even know what they could'a had".
In "Letter to a John," DiFranco again advocates the anarchist revenge that many pseudo-feminists opt for. Her hard-ass attitude is her way of saying that she is in control of the situation and her life as she rationalizes that prostitution is the way to take back the control she lost as a result of being sexually abused as a child.
"I'm just gonna sit on your lap/ for five dollars a song/ I want you to pay me for my beauty/ I think it's only right/ 'cause I have been paying for it all of my life/ I'm gonna take the money i make/ and I'm gonna go away/ I was eleven years old/ he was as old as my dad/ and he took something from me/ I didn't even know that I had/ So don't tell me about decency/ Don't tell me about pride/ Just give me something for my trouble/ 'cause this time it's not a free ride."
The solution that DiFranco proposes is reactionary because she seeks the power that will benefit herself only. MIM knows that the best revenge for violence against women is to build a revolutionary struggle. With her younger, more anarchist take, DiFranco ends up advocating the same that rich yuppie women advocate--"Now I just want to take/ I'm just gonna take/ I'm gonna take / and I'm gonna go away"--she just doesn't have it yet.
When First World women are enraged at the relative inequality within the white nation and seek revenge against the violence against women, they must also take a step further. Unless First World women are willing to fight against patriarchy and capitalism, they are accepting that they benefit from the status quo.
The most disgusting display of women being socialized to enjoy their submission on this album is where DiFranco sings: "we are made to fight/ and fuck and talk and fight again/ and sit around and laugh until we choke." When women are fascinated with violence and eroticize their loss of control, it only makes sense to find solace in the fact that you do not have to stand up and fight because you know you will not win.
Women have less economic and political power. In order to justify their passivity toward this, pseudo-feminists and anarchist feminists must play the game that they have some sense of power. Both groups are also actively on the side of the patriarchy when they do not organize and fight against the system itself.
Individual acts of power are temporary and revenge against all men is reactionary. It must come also with the understanding that the enemy is the system and the ally to the struggle of women are revolutionary feminists. MIM warns the revengeful anarchist feminists out there that you are not solving the origin of the problem if you are taking power back for the momentary image of control it gives. Feeding into this is feeding into the fact that anarchist feminists are merely taking advantage of their relative privilege under patriarchy.
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Review by a RAIL comrade
The first thing to notice about Difranco's new album is the I'm-a-weak-womyn crouching on the front cover. Was this supposed to be a symbol of the position wimmin are unwillingly born into in society? Or is this what Difranco herself is advocating? After listening to the album, the latter is unfortunately the case.
In "Done Wrong" she takes the old love theme and metaphorically compares mending a broken heart to rain falling. "i guess that makes me the jerk with the heartache/ here to sing to you about how i been done wrong/i am sitting, watching/ out the window of the coffee shop/ and i'm waiting, waiting/ waiting for it to let up." Her creativity ends with the metaphor as she just rehashes the grief stricken womyn syndrome.
Wimmin don't have to be waiting around pondering the trials and tribulations of sex and romance, wimmin are quite capable of leading successful revolutionary movements. Revolution is not made by individuals indulging in self-pity, but by the oppressed using scientific analysis of history and present material conditions, and by taking that analysis and developing a revolutionary practice strong enough to topple the capitalist patriarchal system. Difranco only perpetuates the myth that wimmin are incapable of fighting for revolution. In doing so, she carries on the tradition of gender aristocrats whining about the status quo but doing nothing because in the end, the gender aristocracy benefits from patriarchal relations.
Seeking The Perfect Fuck
In "Untouchable Face" she sings about a one night stand with an already coupled person. She says "I see you and i'm so perplexed/ what was i thinking/ what will i think of next/ where can i hide". And in essence blaming herself for the pointless endeavor. The person supposedly won't recognize her if they meet again, and Difranco says "who am i/ that i should be vying for your touch". She is doing exactly what the patriarchy advocates for wimmin. She continues to look for perfect relationships that don't exist in a coercive system. She proceeds to blame herself, thereby individualizing the scenario and ignoring the systematic treatment of wimmin as sexual objects and the systematic passive reaction to objectification.
When it comes time to face the problem what does she say? Simply, "so fuck you/ and your untouchable face/ and fuck you/ for existing in the first place". That solves absolutely nothing. Making herself feel better about the one night stand, she says nothing of changing her compliance with patriarchal norms. She is ultimately saying that the power differences that show their faces in society are beyond the power of change that wimmin hold, so she concedes to patriarchy.
When it comes time for actual action on her part, individual men become the blame for the power differences, not the overall capitalist patriarchal system. In "Going Down", talking about oral sex with men, she sings "you can't get through it/ you can't get over it/ you can't get around/ just like in a dream/ you'll open your mouth wide to scream/ and you won't make a sound/.../you can't believe you're here/ and you're not gonna get through it/ so you are going down". So just keep doing it until it really reaches the point when she's "just about done/ with the oh-woe-is-me shit". She is saying that she hasn't gotten everything she wants out of this servile relationship yet, so she'll stick around for a little while longer. She tries to preserve the sex that is benefiting her for the time being, then when it isn't she says "and i want everything back/ that's mine". That doesn't sound much like rocking the patriarchal boat to really gain power. Instead she is rowing right along with it.
In "Outta me, onto you" she says "some people wear their heart/ up on their sleeve/ i wear mine underneath/ my right pant leg/ strapped to my boot/ don't think 'cuz i'm easy, i'm naive/ don't think i won't pull it out/ don't think i won't shoot". This shows the contradiction in her own line. At one instant she advocates looking and waiting for the perfect mate while also being prepared at any instant to shoot if they "push too hard" or "go too far." This reactionary and limited line is representative of the power that the patriarchy creates for wimmin. The system says wimmin have no choice or alternatives to complacency or individual reaction. There is another option though, the option to cease power through proletarian revolution where the entire system would be smashed and the oppression along with it.
How To Really Fight Patriarchy?
Patriarchy and all of it manifestations will not be abolished unless wimmin organize for complete revolution. By what Difranco is saying, she doesn't seem to mind. Like most white wimmin privileged enough to make up the gender aristocracy in the First World, as long as she gets the revenge she is seeking on all the men who haven't given her the sex that was beneficial to her, she'll live just fine with the concession given to her on the backs of Third World wimmin.
With this reactionary position, she comes to conclusions like that of the song "Napoleon" where she says "i knew you would always want more/ i know you would never be done/ 'cuz everyone is a fucking napoleon/ yeah everyone is a fucking napoleon" implying that all the oppression of the world is rooted in the natural human inclination toward greed. Relying on such reactionary theories will obviously not end oppression and will for that matter only support it. If it is just human instinct to oppress other humans, why bother reforming your own practice and try to create change? The human nature approach protects her own anarchistic line.
Difranco's politics only lead young wimmin's eyes away from overthrowing the entire system with the power all wimmin do possess. In "Shameless", she proposes that the answer to unequal relationships is same sex relationships. Though her analysis is correct saying "they're gonna wanna know/ how we plan to get out" and "they're gonna be mad at us/and all the things/ we wanna do" and "i gotta cover my butt 'cuz i covet/ another man's wife", focusing on the patriarchy seeing a threat in homosexuality, she still fails to realize that power differentials exist in all relationships. Engaging in homosexual relationships is not wrong, but the belief that they escape the coerciveness in society is incorrect.
If totally equal relationships is what Difranco is seeking, she is going to have to work for communism which would abolish the oppression of groups over groups. If she really wanted to take a blow at patriarchy, she should advocate asexuality. The next best choice being forever monogamy which reduces the threat of someone leaving for a "better" sex. But to advocate either of these, Difranco herself would have to give up the fun in the power games she plays and can benefit off of. Instead of accepting the power that the patriarchy concedes to wimmin, wimmin should fight for real power. By siding with the proletarian masses who don't have the choices like birth control and economic self-sufficiency that First World wimmin do, wimmin can throw out imperialism and the gender differences that go along with it. Revolutionary feminism, real feminism, gains power that includes real determination over one's sexuality through the overthrow of the voyeuristic coercive society.
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