I’m Sorry about Foxy Shazam

I f’ing love Foxy Shazam.

That being said, I have to ask a question: Does that change how people think about me? I mean, sure, every detail you learn about someone is bound to alter your perception of them slightly. But don’t be a smart aleck. I’m not talking about “slightly”– I’m wondering if it makes a big difference in whether someone thinks I am fundamentally good, or bad!

Why does it matter to me? Really, why should I care about someone who marks me as “no-good” just because Foxy Shazam, that ridiculous beautiful glittering loud mess of rock and roll, is one of my favorite bands? Anyone who really knows me either also likes the band, or they don’t hold my tastes against me. Because we’re all adults. Right? Yeah!

… But Foxy Shazam has a problem, and I want to apologize for it. The problem sounds like this:

That’s the biggest black ass I’ve ever seen, and I like it!

… That’s a quote from their single “I Like It“. A real slice of poetry, for sure. (/sarcasm, of course)

Now, I’ve met two other Foxy Shazam fans (plus a couple hundred more at their New Years Eve show last year :D), and they know this song, but it’s not their favorite. On the other hand, I’ve met people who only know Foxy Shazam by one song, and it’s not the melodramatic rock’n’roll rush of a love song “Holy Touch” or the freaky jam “Dangerous Man“, and it’s not the trumpet-pumped fight song “Unstoppable” or even the cheesy American ballad “Freedom.”

Nope. The song they know is the one about black booty, “I Like It.”

I cringe when I hear this song, which isn’t often since I took it off of my iPod. I get it that Foxy Shazam is an all-man band, and I get it that objectifying women and minorities is a piece of rock and roll. But, fuck, I don’t have to be okay with it. I try to forget about this song because, even though I love most of their others and I don’t think their themes are as cringe-worthy, I know that if I think about it too much, I won’t be able to listen to them anymore. It happened with Jack White, when his first solo album pushed me out of denial that he might be kind of a woman-hater...

Look, at the end of the day, I think rock and roll music is about feeling, not thinking. Not every band that falls under the “rock” umbrella is like that, but I think when you add the “roll,” you’re in the territory of wild stage shows, silly lyrics, and beautiful genderbending bastards like Eric Nally who blow you away with their powerful pipes. Queen is like that too, right? “Fat-bottomed girls, you make the rockin’ world go round!” Good old Freddie Mercury– what’s not to love? Even the homophobic manly-man dads from my hometown love Queen. (That’s a testament to the “feel, not think” nature of rock and roll, too!)

Still, I can’t let go of the fear that when I gush about Foxy Shazam, someone who only knows “I Like It” will think I’m all about black asses, or at least that I encourage white men to belt about them over some sexy guitar riffs. The truth is, I am not the best-versed in gender and race issues, so I don’t know how well I can articulate why I think this song warrants an apology. (You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t actually addressed the issue much, I just acknowledged it.) But I believe it all the same. And I’m apologizing. And I’m hoping that no one thinks I’m a racist, feminist-hypocrite when I say I just really like dancing and singing along to their other awesome songs.

A catcall here and there

For me, the interesting thing about catcalling is that it feels the same as being bullied– just like the verbal abuse I heard in middle school.

Of course, the comments are different. They used to be:

Do you own a different belt? Are you even a girl? Hey, nice tights.
You’re too big here and too small there, etc. etc. etc.

Now that I’ve graduated from taunts to catcalls, the comments sound like:

Heeeeey girl. I know what you want. Okay, just ac’ like you don’t see me! etc. etc. etc.

So, acknowledging these differences, I ask: why do the two situations feel identical? Here are 3 similarities between being bullied and catcalled, as I’ve experienced them:

1. In both situations, I feel vulnerable.

Whether I am twelve years old wearing my favorite, worn-out old belt, or twenty years old wearing my favorite dress, being called out in public makes me uncomfortable, especially among strangers. These comments draw attention to my body, and that attention doesn’t feel like respect or admiration. It feels like the desire of an outsider or a group to dominate me with invasive words and prying eyes.

2. In both situations, I feel afraid and I don’t know how to react.

I am unsafe. Should I respond at all? If so, should it be with a snarky comment, a scornful scolding, a glare, or a politely-worded objection? There are so many options and only a few seconds in which to respond… And what if my aggressor follows me? What then? How long can I continue to ignore the comments? How long will it take for the person to get bored, or for me to find a safe place?

3. In both situations, I feel embarrassed.

The thing is, I don’t hold any illusions about my beauty: I am average at best, but I am okay with it. What is not okay, is when someone catcalls me and I feel ashamed of my body because I perceive sarcasm in their words. What a funny joke: call the frumpy little nerd “sexy” and see how she reacts. Will she believe it, or will she catch the irony?

You could say that this is a self-esteem issue on my part, but I wouldn’t be convinced. Anyway, some women just don’t want to be called whatever names you’re shouting at them. A quick example: Have you ever met a petite person who hated being called ‘cute’?

For my middle-school bullies, dim-witted sarcasm was the tool of the trade, and I definitely see parallel behaviors in catcallers. They hurt my pride just as much as taunts did when I was a kid. As always, it only hurts more when I feel afraid to stand up for myself, lest I attract more unwanted attention or anger the person who’s aggravating me.

My purpose in writing all this is to explain to people (boys and men, generally) why I am afraid of catcalling, even though I’ve never been assaulted, followed, or faced any dangerous consequences.

And as a side note, all of this is also related to my sour reaction to my male friends and boyfriends who have (at some point) called me hot or sexy. I don’t believe that any of them said what they said with the intention of hurting, upsetting, or dominating me, but the impact was the same: The sentiment expressed in these comments doesn’t feel like respect or admiration. Unless we are very intimate, it sounds to me like a catcall, and a catcall feels just like an attack from a bully.

Thanks for reading. I’d really like to hear some feedback about this; I know fear and vulnerability are common reactions to this kind of attention, but I’m curious about what others think of my feelings of embarrassment.

love, caprice cake

A Stash

I am incredible.

Every few weeks I have a fit because I am not a published poet, a catchy songwriter, a clever satirist, a leading activist. And I get this itch that urges me to start something fresh, exciting, meaningful!

Meanwhile folders and folders of writing sit abandoned on my laptop. Almost 200 poems, story ideas, prompts, half-baked ideas. Things that just need a little love.

And I feel like going back to these ideas is breaking some unspoken code of art. Like, they had their moment of inspiration, but that moment has passed. And so I sit and despair over a lack of motivation in the present.

Not only is that illogical, it’s also not getting me anywhere!

So with that, I’m going to go edit some of my poems.

<3

Update: Music Now, and Some for Later

So after about a month in Volgograd, I cracked and bought a cheap guitar. She is black and red, her name is Fantastika, but you may call her Tika.

I’m pleased to say that I ended up buying the guitar from the smallest shop I visited. It was perhaps the size of my dorm room in college; the shopkeeper had maybe 20 guitars in stock. He was friendly and, since I struggled to communicate with him in Russian, I did it through music. It really is the universal language…

I began to play “Old Jacket”, a sort of ballad by Bulat Okudzhava. He was a bard, one I’ve heard be compared to Bob Dylan. The shopkeeper recognized the tune, gave me a surprised smile, and sang along with me. (It’s a beautiful song, sad and sort of funny. I love Regina Spektor’s cover.)

Well, he was so enchanted with me that he gave me a discount on the guitar, plus free strings and guitar picks! Well, alright– I’ll admit that ‘enchanted’ is hyperbole…

I believe he was not just a good salesman, but also genuinely kind. Coming from a skeptic like me, that means a lot. He was so friendly that I wish I had a reason to visit him again, but he gave me all the supplies I need!

I do know I’ll be going back in December to get a gift for my new Russian friend. She’s entirely responsible for this lovely purchase; she’s a Volgograd native and fellow musician. The kind of strings the shopkeeper gave me are made in America and are of the highest quality.. She buys them for herself only as a treat. I think a pack of those strings would be an appropriate “thank-you” gift from me. :)

 

That’s all for this post, but I’d like to let you know what to expect from this blog in the coming weeks! I’ve been listening to a lot of Modest Mouse, and lately I’ve taken to analyzing their songs. I’m going to do a series of posts (anywhere from 10 to 20, who knows!) about my favorites. Keep an eye out!

Love, caprice cake

Yulia and the Lucky Ticket

I love hanging out with Russians, but until I can talk coherently, it’s easier to spend time with them if we have a mission. That’s why Yulia took me out to show me good places to buy a cheap guitar.

I don’t know Yulia’s last name, where she lives and studies, or anything about her personal life. I do know that she has blonde hair and cute little bangs, speaks English (about as well as I speak Russian), and plays the guitar. And I have her phone number. I suppose I have enough details to call her a friend– right? :b

We met up near the city’s center and hopped on a trolley. The “konductor” (ticket-person) took our coins and gave us our tickets, and Yulia, after examining hers for a few seconds, told me,

“One time I got a lucky ticket. And I ate it.”

It took me a moment to understand what she’d said. “Wait. Why did you eat it?”

Pointing to the 6-digit number printed on her ticket, she explained, “When the sum of the first three numbers equals the sum of the last three, it’s lucky.”

“Oh.” Of course, that didn’t explain to me why she ate it, but we rolled along in the trolley and I just rolled with her superstition. After a pause, I asked, “How did you eat it? Did you stick it in a bowl of ice cream or something?”

She laughed. “No. I just–” she made a crumbling motion with her hands and then pretended to pop something in her mouth. “And I ate it. So I could be lucky.” And although she didn’t wink… something in her tone made me feel as if she had.

Yulia: You’re awesome.