I’m a Misogynist

Posted: December 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Recently I went to the eye doctor, and after the nurse did my initial eye check she said, “the doctor will be in to see you in a few minutes.”  Soon the door opened, and a beautiful young woman walked in.  I noticed my first reaction was, “this can’t be the doctor.”

Horrified, I started challenging my original thought.  Of course women are doctors.  Of course this woman can be in her late twenties or early thirties and be a doctor.  Of course women who are smart and educated can also be gorgeous and sexy.  All of these things I know are true, but yet my initial gut reaction was one of surprise when this woman walked in the door, when I was expecting the doctor.  Then it hit me what the problem was.

I realized that I’m a misogynist.

Even though I’ve studied internalized oppression, internalized sexism, and I’ve taught my students about it, I’m not immune.  If I had such limiting beliefs about doctors and the woman in front of me, is it possible I have these beliefs about myself as well?

It takes a hard look at yourself.  In meditation we see things we don’t really want to see about ourselves.  And then we can’t un-see them.  Personally, I think I’ve been operating my whole life with the fundamental belief that men are the ones in power in the world, and in order to achieve my goals or to be successful, at some point I’ll need to convince male gatekeepers of that power to support me, and to give me what I want, or to give me permission.

In my mind, deep below all of my feminist ideals and intellectual background, that means sex appeal.  This is the way to power in the world.

Where did I get that message?  Being raised in an environment of sexual abuse probably didn’t help.  But in the film America the Beautiful 3, director Darryl Roberts looks at how images in the media are sending girls the message that, “if you’re not fuck-able, you’re invisible.”

I see a lot of teenage girls going through that dance – realizing that they have this sexuality, that it is a kind of power, and then seeing how they can use it to get attention and the things that they want.  In his TED Talk, Why I Stopped Watching Porn, Ran Gavrieli talks about how most 12-year-olds now have access to porn.  Girls grow up with the idea not only that their power is only in their attractiveness to men, but that using their sexuality (reduced by porn to simply mean penetration) is also the only way to get love.

We think that using sex appeal gives us power, but really we are not empowered at all.  We are only borrowing power, like a loan from a bank, who has the ability to foreclose on us at any time when they decide we’re no longer “fuck-able.”

A lot of female musicians seem to walk the line, too, between owning female sexual power and giving it away.  In Lady Gaga’s live performance of Poker Face, she seems strong and empowered, even when saying, “get your dicks out,” and miming giving hand jobs while singing.  I’m not so sure here.  I’m not convinced.  It seems like the message here is that the only way to hold onto your own sexuality as a woman is to be the pimp as well as the whore.  You’re willingly giving it away, and you don’t give a shit.

This is the story of the old madam in the brothel, and the way women have navigated patriarchy for thousands of years.  This is a lot of what my song Chameleon is about.

Is that the only way, even now?

I don’t know the answer yet.  I’m just sitting with the question.

I’m just starting with this – I’m a misogynist.  Now what to do about it?

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” – Stephen King

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In a recent interview I was asked, “do you mind being associated with ghouls and monsters?”  This started me thinking. Why do I dress up as monsters?  Do I feel like I’m a monster?

Monsters serve a purpose for us.  They allow us to access a part of ourselves that we often deny.  And sometimes this is useful. We spend so much of our lives trying to be pretty, to be nice, to be accepted.  There is something we love about bringing out the ugly, messy bits, the animal ferocity, the abandon that monsters allow us.

This is especially true for women.  Often we get the feeling that we will be rewarded for being quiet, nice, and pretty.  I feel that we need a space to be aggressive and bloody.

It’s not about violence or negativity, or being depressed.  It’s about reclaiming a part of ourselves that we’ve denied, in order to be a full expression of our humanity.

So join me.  Let’s be monsters.  RAWR.

Happy Halloween!

p.s. stay tuned – very soon you’ll have gifts of new songs and videos from Noelle Picara :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

I watched this TED talk by Brené Brown this weekend.  Then I watched it again.  

If you’re a performer or a survivor of trauma, watch this video.  Since I’m both, it was especially striking to me.  I had to watch it twice.  Some thoughts:

Shame, according to Brown, is the thing that keeps us from connecting with other people.  We’re so afraid that there’s something wrong with us that we can’t connect to others.

For survivors of sexual abuse, like me, shame is the main side effect we have to deal with.  A pervading sense of shame seeps into everything we do.  I remember being afraid to leave the house for periods of time, because when I was walking down Main Street in Newark, just to go to the drugstore, I felt like “people will see me and KNOW.”  Yes, I felt “excruciatingly vulnerable” – Brown’s definition of shame.  Any time I got an answer wrong in a class, or a friend got irritated at something I said – there it was – that flareup of shame again.

This is what struck me about this:

Sexual abuse attacks the victim by keeping them from connecting to other people.

It’s a simple yet important thing for everyone to understand.  Connecting with other people is the most meaningful experience in life, and sexual abuse takes that away from the victim.  

 

 

According to Brown, though, there’s hope.  People who were able to connect with others and finally feel a sense of self worth were the ones who showed courage, which she says, according to its etymology, actually means:

“Telling the story of who you are with your whole heart.”

See.  Performers.  Writers.  Artists.  Creative people.  This is where you come in.  

People who are able to connect with others let themselves be vulnerable.  They have the courage to be imperfect, and to show others their imperfections, and to say the two most powerful words that Brown says you can say to another person,

“Me too.”

This is what I’m doing.  Join me.

 

Noelle Picara

http://www.noellepicara.com

 

Tonight I’ll be performing “Medusa” for the first time live at Wilmington’s Ladybug Festival, a festival with performances by 30 female singer/songwriters.

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This performance is dedicated to the memory of Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons, two teenage girls who committed suicide after photos of them being sexually assaulted were published online. 

Audrie and Rehtaeh were ostracized and bullied by their classmates.  Many victims of sexual assault endure the same treatment.

As a sexual abuse survivor, it is important for us to remember the ones who didn’t survive.

I dream of a world free from sexual violence.  And I’m not just dreaming.  

I am screaming.

For these girls, for survivors and the ones who didn’t survive.  For every child.

Thank you for listening and for standing with me.  Everything I write, sing, and do is for you.

Noelle Picara

noellepicara.com

“Out of the ashes / I rise with my red hair / and I eat men like air”

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Noelle Picara is known to electrify audiences with her passionate style of theatrical piano rock and to “masterfully mesh beauty with death” (Hockessin Community News).  Following the successful release of her single and debut music video, “Zombie Girl,” Noelle is starting production on her first full-length album.  Noelle is excited to collaborate on the album with drummer Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls.

Noelle says, “this will not be an album for casual listening.  I want to push people outside of their comfort zones, to make people question the things we fear, our ideas of sex and power, and what it means to be a living and broken human being.  This album is for intelligent, passionate listeners who want to step into their own power and experience something truly transformative.”  The album is expected to be released in the fall of 2014.

To be the first to hear Noelle’s new songs, see her at the Ladybug Festival in Wilmington, Delaware on July 18th.  She will be unveiling her “Medusa” character, the first of several new costumes to compliment her sexy and terrifying performance art.  For more information, visit http://www.noellepicara.com

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I am probably going to piss some people off with this post.  And it isn’t even one of my posts about politics or feminism or religion.  I have a feeling, though, that people are going to argue with this statement:

There is no such thing as writer’s block.

A few months ago I was at a concert for singer/songwriters.  One of the songwriters introduced herself by saying, “I’ve finally got some new songs, after having writer’s block for the last three years.”

For some reason, this really got under my skin.  It irritated me.  I had a hard time believing her.  Is she saying that she actually sat down and tried to write every day for three years, but could never think of anything?  This doesn’t seem possible to me.

First, I think, we have to figure out what someone means by “Writer’s Block.”  As far as I can tell, it could mean one of two things.  The first one is that you can’t write ANYTHING.  

If someone is saying they literally can’t write a single word down on a page, then that tells me they are probably operating from the assumption that writing, whether it’s songwriting or novel writing or blog writing, comes down from some divine inspiration.  Some muse blesses you with an idea, and until that idea appears in your head, you’re not going to sit down and write anything.

To me, that’s total bullshit.  We make our own creativity.  Creativity is a muscle.  You have to exercise it by doing creative things.

It sounds very unlikely to me that you can’t write anything at all.  When my students don’t know what to write, I tell them to keep writing, “I don’t know what to write,” until they think of something.  If you keep your hand moving, eventually something kicks in.  You could write lists of names.  Go outside and write down all of the trees and rocks and things.  There are plenty of exercises you can use to start you writing SOMETHING.

So if you’re saying that you can’t write anything at all, I don’t believe it.  What I think you’re really saying is that you’re not WILLING to write at all until you passively receive some brilliant idea.

This brings me to possibility number two – what you mean by “Writer’s Block” is that you can’t write anything GOOD.

This, I can believe.  However, I’m still not going to give you a free pass on this one.

This excuse (and yes, I think they’re both excuses) tells me that you’re letting your critical mind take over your creative process.  You’re judging what you’re writing before it gets out.  You’re crippled by anxiety about writing something good.

I do feel some sympathy for this dilemma, but I’ll give you a good way to get over this – write something terrible.  Write as many terrible things as you possibly can.  Try to write the worst thing you have ever read in your life.  Let go of that critical mind.  Get really drunk and write for hours and hours.  Eventually, something will come of it.

Again, I think this explanation of writer’s block depends on a faulty assumption.  In this case, you’re assuming that everything you write should be good, when IN FACT, those of us who are really working at writing know that you have to write 99 awful things before you get one good one.

Anne Waldman told us once that you do your best work at strengthening those writing muscles when you can’t think of anything good to write about.  When you have nothing to work with, and you keep working anyway, that’s when you develop the skills you’ll need to really make the most of that brilliant idea.  And if you don’t keep working, you won’t get the brilliant idea.  

It’s just like exercising when you’re tired or sick or you don’t want to – the calories still get burned and the body still gets stronger.  When you’re practicing an instrument day after day, and you’re just not getting the notes right yet, you’re still learning.  Even when you’re not enjoying it or feeling like you’re doing a good job.

So, this is why the idea of “Writer’s Block” bothers me so much.

Basically, when you tell me you have writer’s block, you’re saying that you’re not willing to do the work.  You’re not willing to write the mountains of terrible stuff that you have to produce in order to get one little smidgen of something good.  You’re not willing to sit down every day and do the mental pushups and chin-ups of writing until you get strong enough to come up with the good ideas and the techniques to bring them out of you.

You think that writing is some passively received gift that came down from the gods and you either have it or you don’t, and some of us are lucky enough to be blessed with it, and you’re not, because you’re cursed with “Writer’s Block.”

Yes, this whole idea really bothers me, because I didn’t passively receive my songs from some stork dropping them on me from heaven.

I worked for this, bitch.  

Take credit for what you do, or what you don’t do.  

Noelle Picara

http://www.noellepicara.com

 

 

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SPOILER ALERT: This blog post includes major plot points from the new Evil Dead movie.

The main reason I like horror movies is because I think they are more real than any other movies.  Hear me out.  

Horror movies address our primal fears about life and what it means to be human, and they do it through symbol.  They don’t pretend that people are going to end up in love after an hour and live happily ever after, or that war is super cool and heroic, or that we’re going to skip along through life and conquer our problems and never die.  Horror movies are our life blood, our guts, our deepest innermost desires and fears brought onto the screen.  

When a director does it right, then the film connects with a lot of people.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers – the fear of communism.  28 Days Later – a fear of the mob mentality and human rage.  Romero’s Night of the Living Dead - fear of the past rising up to devour us.  Hitchcock’s The Birds – ’nuff said.

So what’s the overwhelming symbology in this new Evil Dead movie?  It was pretty damn clear to me.  Were you paying attention?

Throughout this movie we see young, pretty women who all become possessed by the devil, attack two innocent and well-meaning boys, and then it’s up to their fathers, brothers, and boyfriends to bash their brains in, shoot them, light them on fire, or bury them alive to “save their souls.”

This all harkens back to the rampant witch hunts 400 years ago, where a fear of women’s wisdom and sexuality caused the public executions of thousands of women.  Are we still in this mentality in the 21st century?

Right from the beginning a young woman who’s possessed by the devil is being burned alive by her father, to “save her.”  The new Evil Dead movie is full of reminders of the witch hunts.  Not only do we have the burning woman in the beginning, surrounded by onlookers, but the first strange thing we encounter in this movie is a basement full of dead cats.  Very similar to all of the cats that were killed during the witch hunts because they were feared to be the witches’ familiars (which, by the way, increased the rat population so much that it led to the black plague).

There are three young women in this movie.  The one who has sinned the most, the heroin addict, is the first to succumb to possession when she ventures out in the woods and is tied up in a bush and raped by some big black penis vine that possesses her.  Just as in the witch trials, convicted witches were supposed to have gone out into the woods at night to have sex with the devil.

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“You’re reading too much into this,” you are saying to yourself.  

I think I’m reading just enough.  Let’s keep going.

The second woman to succumb has transgressed a little bit.  She is a know-it-all, her friends are blaming her for being bossy and getting them into this mess, and she was a little flirty at the beginning.  There wasn’t much character development, so we have to go with what we’ve got.  She cut her own face open and attacked one of the men, so he consequently had to bash her head in to save himself.

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The third woman is the last to succumb, because she is quiet, diminutive, and just defers to her boyfriend, the hero.  She only becomes possessed when Mia, the heroin addict, tricks her into coming into the basement, does some sexy lesbian stuff with her (naughty!), kisses her and bites her hand.  This virtuous woman actually cuts off her left arm where she was bitten in order to keep the evil out –  she’s the good girl.  The left side, by the way, is not only thought of the devil’s side, but has consistently been connected with the feminine.

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Meanwhile the two men in this story are being stabbed, beaten, shot, and otherwise abused by these possessed women.  The possessed Mia even goes so far as to say to her brother, the hero, that she will “suck his cock.”  Wow, really?  These evil women are pushing sex on those innocent men, her brother no less, and it’s up to them to defend themselves.  At this point I almost walked out of the movie but I wanted to stay and see how much worse it got.

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“Are you sure about this?” you may argue.  “One of the men did become possessed, too.”

That’s correct, dissenter.  However, the possessed women in this movie were killed in very detailed and graphic close-up shots in the following ways: bashing one’s head in with a toilet seat until it was flattened, cut up and shot with a shotgun, and the last had her face sawed in half with a chainsaw.  The only man who was possessed in this movie was killed by lighting a gas can, shutting the door, and all we saw were the flames escaping from the window.  No gory death for the boys.

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I was surprised at first that Mia was the only one to survive at the end; I had at first assumed it would be the hero, her brother.  However, it makes a lot more sense this way in maintaining the innocence of the hero.  He couldn’t kill his sister with total impunity with the viewers, so instead he buried her alive to “save her,” purged the devil from her, and then sacrificed himself so she could live.

However, she only became victorious after she severed her left arm. Coincidence? I think there are no coincidences in a movie that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make. That’s just naive. 

As a side note, the only other woman referenced in the movie, Mia’s mother, had gone crazy and died in a mental institution.  No good news for the girls here.

“Okay, so maybe I see your point.  What’s got you all hot and bothered?”

This is the problem I have with this – we really don’t need more of this in the world, in movies or otherwise.  Every day, all over the world, women really do have their heads bashed in, their faces cut open, they are burned alive, they are held down and raped in the woods, and often the perpetrators really think they deserve this.  During the witch trials, the Bible was used as justification in killing women who became too powerful or who challenged the church through their knowledge or sexuality.  We don’t need another voice who supports this and maintains that the brothers, fathers, and boyfriends involved are innocent victims.

Look at the Steubenville rape trial and the response on CNN, where the rapists were the ones to get the sympathy.  See my point?

This is the primal fear being addressed in this movie – fear of the witch – the powerful, knowledgeable, or sexualized woman.  Are we really still afraid of this in the 21st century?

I’m not a film critic.  But I’ll tell you what I want from Evil Dead.  I want campy.  I want Ash.  I want Bruce Campbell and snarky one-liners.  I don’t want a movie that takes itself so seriously and furthers an idea that men are justified in “defending” themselves by bashing women’s brains in because it’s for their own good.

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I’m glad I watched this movie because it only solidified my own work as a singer/songwriter, in which I’m taking on the female archetypes that have been turned into monsters – Medusa, the witch, the banshee – and recovering their power.

Check out my Zombie Girl stuff at my website.

Thanks for reading. RAWR.