Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In Defense of Bebe Buell, 'Groupies' and Women in Music

I’ve been a bit touch-and-go with this site for a while now – a combination of moving to a new city, starting a job, trying to figure out how to live a life that makes me happy (all that super pleasant quarterlife crisis stuff!) – but my love for the women I write about and for the gorgeous dolls who read this site has never wavered. I keep your energy and passion with me always, mixing in my heart with everything I’ve loved and admired about the great muses of yesteryear. Because of this, I take it intensely personal when someone tries to slag off on someone I adore. I’m used to it to a certain extent – there are loads of people who criticize these women, calling them ‘groupies’ (as though that’s a bad thing!) and worthless, and basically throw some sort of moral assessment on them that ignores everything else about their amazing lives other than whose arm they were photographed on forty years ago.
I was looking through my comments feed today and found a comment left about a month ago on a post about Bebe Buell. Bebe is a bit of a controversial subject for many in the classic rock fandom. Many moons ago on this site, I mentioned that I liked I’m With the Band better than Rebel Heart purely because Miss Pamela was so forthcoming with the nerdiest facts of her life (I mean, the fart list anyone?) whereas Bebe, who was always a dreamer (something I admire and relate to her about immensely), also has this supreme self-confidence and assuredness in herself that intimidated me when first read her book when I was fourteen and thought I was the foulest creature to ever roam the planet. In my pubescent mind, Bebe was not only on a different level than myself – she was in a different plane of existence.
My little innocuous comment led to a GIANT blowup in the comments section. Bebe’s fans are passionately dedicated to her and will not stand for anyone speaking ill of her, but in that case I was mortified because I always considered myself one of her fans – but in someone else’s eyes I was the enemy!
In the time between that debacle and now, I’ve written about Bebe extensively. Most feedback I’ve seen on these posts are positive comments from people who admire her, love her music, find her infinitely sweet (and she is! She is one of the few people who loves to interact directly with her fans). But the comment I want to discuss came from a post I did over two years ago called “How to be like Bebe Buell.” This is one of my favorite types of posts to do – half serious, half fun, it allows me to indulge in my obsessive behavior about muses and icons. The comment that caught my eye this morning was only two lines and sent by an anonymous poster (what bravery it takes to comment anonymously on the internet!):
I was struck by the ludicrousness of this comment for multiple reasons. Firstly, I like that this person thought I had never heard the term ‘star-fucker’ before. Yes, in my many years being obsessed with groupies I had never once heard them dismissed in a derogatory way with this term. I am enlightened now! I can only imagine the anonymous commenter somehow being led to this site, leaving their snarky comment, and then being horrified by literally EVERY SINGLE OTHER POST on this blog.  
Secondly, the commenter ignores every other aspect of Bebe’s life that makes up her “great legacy” (which I use sarcasm-free). Apparently, a career as a top model, a writer and a recording artist as well as being a single mother and surviving an abusive marriage can be negated if you dated Jimmy Page for a few months when you were nineteen.
But what troubles me most is that this is yet another example of women being shamed for their sexual behavior. I am reminded of a recent piece on xoJane that discusses the public’s tendency to dismiss women due to their romantic pasts. In the article, the author cites the attacks against Mia and Dylan Farrow from defenders of Woody Allen as well as the recent treatment Joyce Maynard has experienced surrounding the release of the film adaptation of her novel Labor Day. For those who don’t know, Maynard had an eleven-month long relationship with J.D. Salinger when she was 18 and the author was 53, and that fact has been exploited by several critics to dismiss her work and her legitimacy as an artist in her own right.
I do not speak for Bebe, but I do speak for myself. For all that we have advanced in terms of a woman’s rights to her body, her sexuality and her identity, there is still a thriving pocket of humanity that thinks that a woman’s romantic choices are acceptable points of argument against her professional legitimacy. I cannot even articulate how troublesome this culture is to me. I feel like in recent months there has been a more open dialogue about female sexuality and the slut-shaming phenomenon – as well as the nature of feminism in general – and I am extremely thankful for that. I just hope that something comes of all this talk and people begin to change their minds and behavior.
I’d like to point out for the record that I know Bebe herself doesn’t consider herself a groupie – she has distanced herself from that term, especially in recent years, because of the loaded connotations of that tag. To close this post, I’ll include an excerpt of a quote from Bebe that was in Miss Pamela’s book Let's Spend the Night Together, from a conversation that revolved around the infamous G-word:
“I’m not upset about the actual word. I would be an idiot to say that I never hung around a rock band, didn’t date a rock star, or marry one, or see a lot of music in my life. Because it’s who I am, that’s part of me. But I’m not going to let somebody call me stupid, judgmental names either. […] Everybody’s a little bit of a groupie anyway. We’re all fans of something.” 


Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is So Important. Thank You for writing this.

Meghan said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Some people are just pigs. Don't let them bring you down to where they are. Bebe always seemed so sweet -- you should send this to her, she deserves to know she has loyal fans :-D

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is a really good opinion piece. I'm so tired of people hating on groupies. I'm a woman and in the music scene - I love it, but I hate the judging looks from people who think they shouldn't respect me just because I like music and the people who make it.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

"(what bravery it takes to comment anonymously on the internet!)"

You know you don't have to allow anonymous comments if you feel that way about them? But maybe you only hate negative anonymous comments, the positive ones are ok?

Alexis M said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Anon 1 - thank you! I know it's not a well-written piece, just kind of scattered around all my ideas, but thank you for saying that.

Alexis M said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Meghan - thank you very much for your comment! Bebe is a really sweet woman, and in my experience most all of the women who get dismissed in this way are really wonderful as well.

That being said, I don't think it's really a matter of 'being brought down' to anyone's level -- everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I'd like to think we live in a world and have a culture where every opinion can be considered valuable. I just thought of this as an opportunity to open a dialogue.

I've been thinking a lot lately about feminism and sexuality through the lens of music, and something about this comment in particular really fired up some ideas and things started percolating in my mind.

Alexis M said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Anon 2 - thank you, I'm glad you could relate to it. I think that a lot of our culture is still very much defined by it because that is what's comfortable. I think as humans, there is an inherent need for us to define as a way to comprehend and accept something. In defining things, of course there are going to be limitations put upon them, but at least we can somewhat make sense of things (even if we're overlooking many other facets).

We need to get to a place in culture where being involved with someone who is more famous than you, or being involved with multiple someones, is not considered mutually exclusive to one's own artistic credibility or worth.

Lots of thoughts are stewing around in my brain -- I don't know how well I'm expressing them!

Alexis M said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Anon 3 - thank you for your feedback. This is something I've thought a lot about. I actually used to not allow anonymous comments on my blog, but I liked the idea of anyone could leave a comment on my site, regardless of if they had a blog of their own or if their feedback was positive or negative.

The little dig about 'bravery' is more related to my experience on Tumblr than this particular account, so perhaps it was a little harsh for this forum. Anonymous commenters can say the cruelest things but not take responsibility for their words -- and believe me, they have! But I'll say this: as someone who HAS left anonymous comments on blogs in the past, I never felt brave for doing so. It is liberating, certainly, to say exactly how one feels and to feel free to say them. You can criticize or fawn all over someone and not have to experience the results. But there is a bravery to saying how you feel and putting your name with it.

It's honestly not a matter of like or hate. I appreciate both positive AND negative comments, but that doesn't mean I have to accept them passively. Especially when I find a comment to be a symptom of a larger issue I find in our culture.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion -- I understand that not everyone is going to find the people I write about as marvelous as I do. But I just didn't know what the commenter intended to achieve. If it was a criticism of what and who I admire – an attempt to belittle or dismiss, one anonymous comment will not change my mind. Obviously, my entire blog is centered around the culture and history of women in music, so I am not unacquainted with remarks such as these. In fact, I’ve been hearing this sort of stuff for years and years, and I’ve become less and less prone to tolerate it in any form.

I do appreciate that original comment because it really sparked something in me and inspired me to finally put some thoughts together that I’ve been having. And I appreciate your comment as well, because it’s allowed me to expand upon why I chose to respond to that particular moment. I want to encourage people to comment because blogs should be a safe place for people to talk, but I never want it to be a safe place for women-bashing.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I wasn't the commenter, but this ^^ is a really good response.

lee woo said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates
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The Nerdy Duo said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates
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Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Truth! Bebe is a hard working woman with a do-not-quit attitude. I worked with Bebe on a project some years back. She and her family are sweet and lovely people. Straight up, Liv Tyler is literally the nicest person I've ever met in my decades on this earth. I worshiped her in high school and upon meeting she did not disappoint.
BTW your moment of celebri-squee, I only read this because Bebe shared it to fb and said she was very touched by your taking the time to dissect this intelligently.

And it does totally take less courage to post anon. I have no desire to dox myself in telling a story about a celeb client.

aerobabe619 said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Your piece is an amazing testament to the true person Ms.Bebe Buell is. She is an inspiration to those looking to hold on tp their rocker chic,but have and show class. I for one changed,for the reason i had a grandchild coming. I wanted her to know her Mimi loves music has a rocker edge,but i changed things that could or would be bad for her. Bebe is a Lady anyone would be truly lucky to have as a friend.She cares about all of this earth,and the living on it. I say living because furry friends are just as important as us.Thank you for writing this piece. I forever always wanted her to know,and you said it so well.

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