Various Artists, Free to Fight (DOWNLOAD)
1. So, the other day I was watching videos of Team Dresch on YouTube and I was watching a performance of “Freewheel” from a few years ago and there was this really sweet (as in heartwarming) moment where Jody Bleyle pumped her fist in the air at the point in the song where everyone shouts “Freewheel!”
2. I was reading this post on Tobi Vail’s blog Jigsaw Underground where she poses some really interesting questions about the “meaning” of being in a band/being an artist. The question that really caught my attention was: is it really enough to make a cool sounding record? Was it ever?
I don’t think that all art has to be political in intent, and I suppose it doesn’t have to become political in interpretation, but I do think that over the years, I’ve become the kind of person who is unable to depoliticize their media consumption. In response to Tobi’s question, I don’t think it’s “really enough to make a cool sounding record.” BUT, as a consumer of cultural products, I think that people on the consuming end have the same opportunity to politicize a cultural product as the producer does and, in my opinion, I think that the consumer is invested with more power than the producer when it comes to acknowledging/interpreting/acting on political messages that may or may not be encoded into cultural products.
So, Tobi’s question, for me, intersected with that moment of watching Jody Bleyle pump her first in the air & I was brought back to my early teens and listening to a copy of Jody’s Free to Fight compilation dubbed onto cassette. Free to Fight was released on Jody’s label, Candy Ass Records, in 1995 on double-CD and double-LP. The songs on Free to Fight mingled seamlessly with spoken word tracks featuring self defense tips. The compilation was accompanied by a 72 page booklet featuring work by feminist theorists, writers, and artists (if only I had a .pdf of the booklet to share with this!)
I’m not the kind of person who says things like “punk rock saved my life,” but I am the kind of person who can sincerely say that Free to Fight helped me learn not just how to take steps toward better defending myself, but (more importantly) that I had the right to defend myself. As a young person, I saw and heard Free to Fight in the most immediate of senses: I was experiencing violence and needed help in learning how to respond — now, I’m able to step back and consider (outside of the violence I experienced as a young person) the systemic issues that facilitated the need for a compilation like Free to Fight. I’m able to think about the fact that, in many ways, creating Free to Fight and touring behind it was an innovative way for artists to educate themselves and their communities about violence against women, how women can respond to acts of violence in the moment, how women can work with each other to address violence in their communities, etc.
Free to Fight is a cool sounding album, yeah, but it also speaks to a larger need. I don’t think that every artist is obligated to do what Jody and the artists featured on Free to Fight did, but I do think that art can be made more meaningful and interesting when artists and listeners seek to engage politically, whether that engagement is direct or indirect*.
Trigger Warning The songs/self defense tips/spoken word on Free to Fight may be triggering for survivors of assault. Listen with caution.
1. Sarah Rides the Greyhound (spoken word)
2. Monster Snack – The Third Sex
3. Definition of Self Defense (self defense strategy)
4. Song for Anne Bannon – Team Dresch
5. Sleep’n wit’ the Enemy – Mizzery
6. Violence is Violence (self defense strategy)
7. Killing Your Clone is Still Murder – Sue P. Fox
8. Carnation Red – Rebecca Gates
9. Body Language (self defense strategy)
10. Don’t – Fifth Column
11. Yelling (self defense strategy)
12. Real Defense – 151
13. Make a Scene (self defense strategy)
14. The Martyr – Containe
15. Assertiveness Practice (self defense strategy)
16. New Terror Story – Nikki, Jen, Rueben
17. St. What’s Her Name – The Lois
18. Alice’s Story (spoken word)
19. Primary Targets (self defense strategy)
20. Target Practice (self defense strategy/song)
21. Striking (self defense strategy)
22. Disgracias – Cheesecake
23. Laura Sister Nobody Crosses the Street (spoken word)
24. Daddy’s Crazy – Azteca X
25. Get Out of My Head – Heaven’s to Betsy
26. Sylvia Gets Fancy (spoken word)
27. Forever Fired – Excuse Seventeen
28. Lucky One – Nikki McClure
Various Artists, Free to Fight (DOWNLOAD)
* I’m definitely interested in thinking more about music that is political, but that doesn’t share a direct political message. I think Tobi’s review of Grass Widow’s Past Time speaks pretty eloquently about this.