Tuesday, April 20, 2004Okay, okay, really bad pun. But this is very cool: Western Washington University Associate Professor of History Kathleen Kennedy has published a journal article [PDF file, some adult content] in Women's History Review entitled "Results of a Misspent Youth: Joan Jett's Performance of Female Masculinity":
The article maps Joan Jett’s performances from her days with the Runaways in the mid-1970s through her successful solo career in the 1980s to her recent affiliations with the riot grrrls in the 1990s. Unlike some critics, who, while acknowledging Jett’s influence on generations of female rock performers, dismiss Jett as an inferior copy of male rock musicians, the author argues that Jett’s various performances of female masculinity challenged conventional understandings of masculinity and femininity. The article explores how Jett’s interest in punk enabled her to carve a space for herself in a male-dominated genre. It is further contended that as more spaces opened for women in the early 1990s, Jett’s performances took a more aggressive stance on traditionally feminist issues and enabled her to use her sexuality as an offensive weapon.As of this writing, I haven't yet read the article, but it looks fascinating. It's not a "fan piece," but a serious piece of work documenting a groundbreaking musical performer's influence on sociological gender norms. Be sure to read the citations and footnotes at the end of the article - they're very enlightening. [I first saw the link to this article on Joan Jett's official website]
I remember reading in a few interviews that Joan is/was a big fan of the films Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, both of which featured a number of gender-defying performances; if you read some of Kennedy's analyses of Joan's choice of music-video imagery, it's clear where these influences shaped Joan's art esthetics, but the extent she has reshaped them and made them uniquely her own is historically noteworthy.