Hi,Ani DiFranco. How's it going? That would have been my first question. Interesting people don't just say, "good."
I didn't get to interview you—scheduling mix-up and all. That's probably all right, because I've been having a conversation with you for years through the body of work you've put out.
There was a time when it was such a relief just to encounter another loudmouthed lady, even it was only through a flimsy silver CD—a CD recorded onto a tape, actually, because I was still rocking a Walkman cassette player. Every lyric was a gem, and I swallowed them whole. Now that I'm grown, those glimmering stones have started to look like sparkly bullshit.
"I will not rest a wink until the women have regrouped," you sing on 2008’s Red Letter Year, your 18th studio album in as many years, and your first since becoming a mother. I felt a little better when I heard it. For weeks, I'd been wilting, watching the country interact with women in ways I'd never before seen. While I’m stoked omen have been counted as political heavies this year, the way it’s going down is discouraging. In 1994 you sang, “As long as you play their game, girl, you’re never going to win.” It makes me question if my pride swell over this year’s inclusive political process was more like gratitude for table scraps.
When a certain bouffanted figure’s high heels clicked their way to the podium, that swell deflated. Never, I’ve decided. Never will there be an era when standing bold and being smart trumps looking right and talking sassy.
It's been sapping me. On impact, the line about the women regrouping was medicine. But if I had a chance to ask you, Ani D., I would have wanted to know how we could tell when it had happened.
And, even worse, what if they did regroup, but it was under the same old Father War banner—this time written in lipstick? Then what?
I don't have a problem with lipstick. And neither do you (“like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind,” 1998, Little Plastic Castle). But I do take issue with generalities. Also in 1998, you wrote in a piece on Joni Mitchell for the L.A. Times that "either you are a feminist or you are a sexist." So what about sexist feminists? Is it that governor, with her anti-abortion stance, her abstinence-only rhetoric, her hockey mom/beauty queen veneer? Or is it me, because I hear the words "beauty queen" and twitch; because in a fit of second-wavedness, I think you've got to fight for abortion rights to be a feminist; because I can picture all the women being set up to fail with abstinence-only preaching?
You’ve said, “My idea of feminism is self-determination, and it’s very open-ended: Every woman has the right to become herself and do whatever she needs to do.” I know, I know. No easy answers here.
So how’s the baby? Is it kosher to ask a mom about her infant? And how her life has changed since she bred? I struggled with that as I put together the list of questions for the interview that never was. Because you just had a baby, and I want to know if you sing her lullabies—maybe a feminist lullaby. Like, "Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Nah, never mind, you should say lots of them."