Monday, June 30, 2008

Revelation: Why I like (primarily) male vocal music

I have long been deeply disturbed by my own personal preference for music performed by male vocalists; I feel like it is something I should hand in my feminist card over--it seems contradictory to believe women should get equal opportunities in the music industry but not really be that into their music myself. And the thing is, it's not that I like what most people would cosnider "nice" male voices; I'm a huge fan of Placebo (no, really, I hear you say); I've done my time with the Smashing Pumpkins, and I was briefly fascinated by Lukas Rossi--none of these men have traditional voices. I've always been obsessed with the lyrics of songs, and I know far more lyrics than it is reasonable for one human being to know, so the words that are being sung are often (though not always) more relevant to my choice of music than the voice that is singing them.

So, recently I was working on a playlist for a mix CD for a friend of mine who likes female vocalists, and to my surprise, I discovered that actually, I like quite a number of female vocalists--Dilana, Brooke Fraser, both the Runga sisters, Alanis, Marie Fredriksson, Beth Ditto and Hanna Pakarinen--to name a few she might not have heard, or who she might not have heard recently (which doesn't even begin to touch on my flirtations with better-knowns like Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks and P!nk who I know she listens to). I was trying to figure out what the common theme was, and initially I thought it was rage, but that should imply that I would like (for example) Lily Allen, who I cannot abide. Thinking about it more, I realised it was actually just having something interesting to say, and saying it to an appealing melody in a way that meant I could connect with it emotionally. This allows for the spectrum Placebo have presented me with, for Hanna's rage and Bic's homesickness, even for Brooke's devotion that I do not share.

So where, I hear you asking, do I get my feminist card back? The answer is pretty simple: Exposure. The majority of my music exposure is through popular channels, for example the gym, commercial radio, television, and my itunes recommendations. At a guess, exposure is usually going to come via a record company, adn besides suing 12 year olds and screwing artists out of the majority of their royalties, record companies exist to make money. In a culture where women are objectified, dismembered and made two dimensional at every opportunity, it's a big risk for a record company to take on a woman who has strong feelings about anything, because you know, thinking and feeling women who sing about it are more than just tits, ass and male sexual fantasy. Even when such a woman does make it through the record company gauntlet, too often the lyrics are about how men have altered their lives for the worse, and how they are still cut up about it (this is probably how Alanis made it out, but all the subsequent albums were much more interesting). Men, on the other hand, can sing about whatever they want and get away with it; record companies will still sign them if they are angry or even write music that doesn't have women at its centre.

While this discovery has made me realise my discovery channels are failing, and has reinforced to me that the record companies are failing to provide what I want in so many ways, I no longer feel like I should hand in my feminist card over my musical taste...I just need to keep looking in less mainstream channels for women to love.

Update 8 Jul 2008: For a more theoretical and coherent discussion, read this at Smart Like Me.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Rant: Buy your own damn machines

Where I live, we have a public healthcare system where most things are paid for, and I am fortunate to have much of the care for my chronic illness paid for out of my taxes. Having said that, I do not particularly like the care I get for said illness. Too frequently of late I have waited a long time in waiting rooms; an hour and a half for bloodwork (and this cannot be claimed to be an inefficiency of public care--bloodwork is generally done by private companies who are contracted to the government or individual patients), and regularly at least an hour to see my specialist. The only time I have not waited, they phoned me five minutes before my appointment time to see where I was, because everyone else was gone and they wanted to go home. You can guarantee that they don't phone me before my appointment when they are running an hour plus late. Not only do they not phone me, it seems to be against clinic policy to apologise for the wait. Clearly, given that they always run late, their appointment times are too short, but obviously this is okay because in this circumstance it is only the patients (whose time is infinitely expendable) who have to wait, not the doctors. So yeah, I'm not crazy about my hospital.

Where I live charitable donations are tax deductible, so come tax time every charity is out asking for donations. Now, I am all for giving to charity; I have a couple of donations that go out monthly to organizations I support, and I am tempted to add a couple more to the list. So around tax time, I got a letter from the hospital where I get my care, soliciting donations for some "hi-tech" new ultrasound machines to help "pregnant women and men with prostate cancer". Now, leaving aside for a moment the fact that I don't even like the bloody hospital, this is wrong on so many levels:
  • They have my address because I am one of their patients. Not only does this show me that they are quite willing to use information I provided for reasons of healthcare to solicit for donations, it also shows that they are willing to ask for donations from those who already have the additional financial burden of a health condition bad enough to be treated at a public hospital (and yes, there are costs associated with illness even in socialised medicine). I've also had solicitations for donations from other public hospitals I have nothing to do with, and I'm somewhat suspicious as to how they got my information.
  • They were talking about how wonderful these new machines were. There have been no truly significant developments in ultrasound since the 90s, so either they are very slow off the mark, or they're...dissembling.
  • The government will be making a significant contribution towards the cost of these machines, and if the hospital cannot afford to replace equipment, it should either be asking the government for more money or looking at how it spends its operating budget (especially if these machines are just replacements).
  • They do the routine about "obese, older mothers" benefitting more from ultrasound. First of all, it is at best debatable how much obesity is really a risk in pregnancy, and secondly, ultrasound is a difficult imaging tool to use on patients with a lot of adipose tissue, so these machines won't help obese mothers that much anyway.
  • The letter also says how pregnancy and prostate imaging are "non invasive" diagnostic measures. Given that prostate ultrasound is performed transrectally, and pregnancy ultrasounds is often performed transvaginally, these people clearly have no idea what "invasive" means to non-medical professionals.
  • Despite asking me to send them a cheque or my visa card details, a replay paid envelope was not included. This is not only rude, it means I am altogether too likely to make a mistake and send money to the wrong address.
Given the cost of postage, I truly wonder whether they will make any money on this campaign at all. I'm pretty annoyed about all the trees involved in doing a paper mailout like this, and I'm equally annoyed at being targeted for all the reasons I list above. Honestly, if the donation section had not had my name and address on it, I would have paid for a stamp to send it back with "you've got to be joking" written on it in big red letters. Because really, they've got to be joking.