Friday, July 17, 2015

AVL-set show seems like a good way to cope with Runaways rape news

The feminist music community - not to mention the rock world - was sent reeling last week after the Huffington Post published Jason Cherkis' shocking article about Runaways' bassist Jackie Fox's 1975 rape. This weekend's one-off reunion of `90s goth rock feminists Jack Off Jill in Asheville may offer some sort of catharsis to music-loving feminists like myself who were thrown for a loop that female artists who are held up as trailblazers and have continued to spin rock n' roll stereotypes on their ears since, could have witnessed or at least been privy to such a horrendous assault.

Jack Off Jill (pictured above) will play a sold out show at Asheville's Orange Peel with JD Samson of Le Tigre and Man and Minneapolis band Kitten Forever. Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland and Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and Cold Cold Hearts will DJ.

Saturday's event is sandwiched between an opening reception on Friday at The Odditorium featuring Los Angeles visual artist Camille Rose Garcia (who will unveil a mural she painted for the reunion) and a performance by Marilyn Manson co-founder Daisy Berkowitz and Sunday DJ sets from Samson, Barbero, and Wolfe.

Those acts may not mean much to the average reader, but if you were into `90s riot grrrl it's a pretty exceptional list. I don't know if the Runaways' ordeal will be addressed at all or if their's or Jett's music will make its way into the mix, but a gathering of like-minded females bent on nurturing ideals of equal rights and self-acceptance and combating shame can help remind us why this movement is still so important. Fox's story is a blaring example of why women's rights, equal rights and rape culture remain hot button issues. But maybe it also means we're making progress.

Like most readers I was shaken by Fox's account of how she was drugged and publicly raped in front of members of the band and other party-goers by the band's now famous (and deceased) manager Kim Fowley. The revelation rocked my world. I was furious. I couldn't sleep. I tried composing a blog in my head, but instead got out of bed and went to vent to my mom at 3 a.m.

I'm still struggling with it. Fox's story brought into question all the feminist ideals I hold dear and not only tarnished the legacy of the Runaways but altered my view on the so-called role models that grew out of that band. Beyond the news of Fowley's vile crime was Fox's replacement Victory Tischler-Blue's testimony that her bandmates later laughed off the incident and mocked Fox in her absence. You can read her post-fallout statement here.

Girls can be catty, but man that seems almost more disturbing than the actual incident itself. Maybe it's easier for me to accept the revolting actions of a man I have no love for than it is the behavior of a bunch of women I admire. I was at first disgusted with Joan Jett, who Fox and others placed at the scene yet who denies any knowledge of the incident. If she was not there as she says, I wish she'd talk about what she actually does remember because, as author of the Runaways' bio "Queens of Noise" Evelyn McDonnell writes in her statement on Cherkis' story, the tale of Fowley's public rape of a young girl after a Runaways' show isn't new. Singer Cherie Currie addressed it in her own book, but at the time she was writing it no one including Fox (pictured in her youth with the band, second from right above) was ready to admit that it happened. The victim in Currie's story remained anonymous. Surely there were whispers or as Tischler-Blue argues, jabs addressing the incident. McDonnell suggests that some of the inexperienced people in the room may not have viewed it as rape given the time period and drugs, which is somewhat believable. I imagine they'd be haunted either way.

Cherkis' writes about the bystander effect. I've tried to think of the era, of being put in a similar situation, of myself as a naive teenager, of looking the other way. There's not much I can truly compare this to. As an adult I once had a boss who would target other employees. Her behavior was mean-spirited and the damage she inflicted was psychological, but I did little to defend people that I considered my friends. It ate at me though. I wanted to keep my job and I didn't want to be on the wrong end of her ire, but I remember walking on eggshells, drinking a glass of wine everyday after work, and stewing about the things she'd say in my presence.

I don't blame those girls for standing by idly, but I would like to hear more from the other members in response to the story and particularly Tischler-Blue's accusations. I've checked Cherkis' and Fox's Twitter almost daily since, waiting for responses or news but there's still little aside from Currie's Facebook responses and Jett's brief statement. Both are fairly defensive, but I think fans just want acknowledgment and to understand. It's easy to jump into blame-mode after reading it, but as Fox says, that's not what it's about.

My heart aches for those kids, those young girls, and especially Jackie. Maybe fans, who have been defensive of all sides, can find understanding through communities made up of women who support each other - like at this weekend's gathering in Asheville. That's something the Runaways obviously could not do.