Patti Smith’s female masculinity

This lady is fantastic. She is the godmother of punk, raw and real. She broke through a male dominated music scene in the 70’s with her unique fusion of spoken word and punk. Her attitude and image is unflinching and unapologetic with a definate masculine edge.

Patti Smith talks about issues like labour and factory work, both seen as masculine types of work, but she talks about these from the perspective of a woman being exploited – who sees the exploitation but who’s going to get the hell out of there and make something of herself.  It seems she senses freedom in masculinity.

“…i would rather smell the way boys smell…But no I gotta, I gotta put clammy lady in my nostril…” (patti smith – piss factory)

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2 Responses to Patti Smith’s female masculinity

  1. natasharoses says:

    Awesome, I’d been considering doing a post on the female masculinity of The Runaways, other musicians who broke through the barriers of a male-dominated rock scene in the ’70’s. I don’t know much about Patty Smith, but I wonder if there are any similarities to be found in her work and theirs?

    The Runaways informed their so-called-“masculine” traits with their experiences of being women in the world. For example, in her autobiography Neon Angel, lead singer Cherie Currie ties her onstage noise with her experience of rape. To scream, to make noise and demand attention as an artist, is understood as a masculine act, as women are supposed to be meek, quiet, invisible as musicians, and only visible as sex objects. Currie takes ownership of her rage and noise, not by identifying as male by any means, but by drawing from her sexual oppression, an oppression reserved for women moreso than for men.

    The Runaways also took on female masculinity with the sexual assertion in their music and costumes. They wore masculine leather jackets, paired with feminine flashy makeup and corsets. Songs like “Cherry Bomb” showed girl-as-sexual-initiator, when sexual initation was seen as a masculine act. Their music thus gave them a sex appeal some might consider feminine, but it was done in a more “masculine,” aggressive way than was popular. In “Queens of Noise,” they sing “We’re the queens of noise/Come and get it boys/Queens of noise/Not just one of your toys.” By naming themselves the “queens of noise”, they demand attention to their music, not just to their sexuality on its own. The “come and get it boys” part speaks again to their sexual assertiveness as well as to their attractiveness as girls, but the “not just one of your toys” lyrics reject feminine objectification of this female sexuality.

    It seems like The Runaways’ negotiation of female sexuality and masculine music genre might be similar to Patti Smith’s musical approach to labour politics, no? She tackles issues seen as masculine, and uses a “masculine” technique to get her voice heard, but it’s all from a very “female” perspective, right?

    • greasatron says:

      I think some comparisons can definately be draw, although Patti Smith did not rely on sexuality in the same way as the Runaways. Both musical acts, though, challenged male hegemony of the rock and roll scene, and demanded that women receive attention as musicians and not only as groupies. And they did this with in an unapologetic masculine way! Check out Wendy O’Williams of the Plasmatics, too, if you’re interested in other fiesty rock and roll women! She’s a tough lady who mixed sexy and masculine in an intense way.

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