Chicago Reader

Chicago Reader

Jessica Hopper’s article about Mecca Normal’s album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006). Excerpt:

“In press releases and online
materials, Smith provides links to
photos she’s used in her dating
profile, including shots where
she’s posing in her underwear and
others where she’s wearing nothing
but the ribbon in her hair. But
given how unpleasant The
Observer makes her dating life out
to be, it’s hard to argue that the
pictures are just Liz Phair-style
exhibitionism—if you’re gonna
use sex to sell records, you don’t
usually linger on the vulnerability
that intimacy requires.
In the band bio Smith notes
her reluctance to make an album
about dating—as evidenced by
the fallout late last year over the
book Are Men Necessary? by
New York Times columnist
Maureen Dowd, romance is a
loaded topic among the feminist
cognoscenti, perhaps because it’s
considered unseemly or irresponsible
for a feminist to openly
admit to wanting or needing
something from men (or caring
enough to be disappointed with
them). Dowd claims that successful
men don’t want competition
from their partners, and
thus tend to date or marry
down, choosing women who are
younger, less educated, and less
accomplished. Though she
makes her argument largely
with generalizations, as opposed
to Smith’s nuanced particulars,
both writers are suggesting the
same thing—that independent
women wind up alone.
Smith is forthcoming about
the concessions she makes for
intimacy—while she holds to her
standards with men who aren’t
good enough, she swallows her
pride and sells herself out to
others who don’t have much idea
who she is or much interest in
finding out. But her artistic
integrity never wavers, and
throughout it’s clear she knows
herself and understands the
choices she’s making. It’s a brave
act for her to admit that she quietly
shushes the “difficult” parts
of herself in order to connect
with men: she is airing a common
secret of women’s lives.”

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