Incoherent Thoughts about Jimmy Page

I won’t watch Woody Allen movies. I don’t intentionally listen to R. Kelly. Michael Jackson, who played such a formative part of my youth, is out.

I still listen to Led Zeppelin.

Which is why, really, I’m not going to look down on you for listening to R. Kelly.

Here’s the thing. I don’t think you can seek social justice through elaborate rule-writing and prohibition-enacting. Yes, in part, it’s the change/exchange problem. Deciding our problems are solved by careful enactment of proper rules of behavior means someone gets to put herself in charge of those rules of behavior. But, more than that, in terms of changing people’s minds, rule-making short-circuits that. It puts in place a practice rather than a change.

(I’m trying to thread a needle here, so let me be clear that I think rule-making serves many a useful purpose, especially in terms of drawing and maintaining healthy boundaries.)

But what I mean is that, I don’t think “If you’re a feminist, you don’t watch Woody Allen movies” is a useful thing for feminists. Sure, it gives a way to police all feminists and make sure that they’re “following the rules,” which, sure, we can disguise as “being supportive enough of victims” but really, it’s just about keeping other women’s behavior in check. “How can a feminist watch a Woody Allen movie?” once you get over the initial “with her eyes” part, is a useful question.

“How can I keep listening to Led Zeppelin, knowing what I know?” is a hard question. But a useful one.

I don’t, honestly, give a shit at this point if people think I’m a good feminist. I am, at best, an imperfect ally. And I’m not interested in signaling to others that my politics are right and getting the signal back from them that they have found my politics acceptable, because I just can’t get over the feeling that it’s a lie, a performance.

I care that, when I settle down in my bed at night, and it’s just me and my thoughts, that I can make sense of and make peace with my thoughts.

Last night, some twitter account started just to harass my friend tweeted at him and me and this other dude about what’s it like to know your wife is sleeping with a murderer. I tweeted back that I was shocked to learn my wife was cheating on me.

So, here’s the thing. I still don’t know how to deal with this. Do I still consider myself his friend? Yes. What does that mean for my friendships with folks who are directly impacted by his behavior, because they now, still, have to deal with the fall out from this? I don’t know. I feel weird about it.

But being tweeted at by an anonymous account didn’t make me feel ashamed to be found associating with him or something. Which I think was supposed to be the intended outcome. It made me feel like I’m already lumped in with the bad guys, so fuck wrestling with how to be a good guy. Which, I have to tell you, in this case, would be a mighty convenient way to view the situation.

I just don’t think it’s the right way. I don’t know if there’s a right way.

I guess the thing I’m trying to get at is that, for me, in all these cases, there’s a line, a moment when you’ve gone too far and you can’t get back to your familiar shore, so you have to stake out some new position. Like, you kind of knew about the Woody Allen thing, but you didn’t really pay too much attention, and you loved his movies, but then, maybe, you read Dylan Farrows account and it just rang true. And maybe you read all the other counter-arguments, hoping that they’d convince you that you could, once more, feel okay about watching Woody Allen movies, but they all seemed to be making excuses or missing the point.

And that’s it. This thing you loved? You can’t love it easily anymore.

Someday that’s going to happen to me about Led Zeppelin. Maybe it will be when one of my friends has a 14 year old daughter and I have to stare right in the face of how young that is. Or maybe it will come when my niece turns 14 and I try to imagine what it would be like to learn some rockstar asshole had his roadie kidnap her so that he could rape her.

I don’t know. Putting it that way, it makes me wonder if today might be the day, when one of their songs comes up on shuffle and I don’t say “Wow,” but instead say “Yuck.”

And, you know, fuck Jimmie Page for that.

8 thoughts on “Incoherent Thoughts about Jimmy Page

  1. One of the things that I am keenly aware of with all this Allen stuff is that I never liked his movies or him, so it is very easy for me to just say “Fuck Woody Allen” and move on, but what if this involved someone I admired for his art? I would definitely believe the victim/survivor (that’s easy), but I don’t know if I would as easily sever my admiration of the artist as an artist. I *think* I would, but it might take a little longer.

  2. The younger you were when you started to like an artist’s work, the harder it is to put that work aside in a simple, uncomplicated way because of that artist’s failures as a human being. Jim Gordon murdered his mother; Jim Gordon wrote the piano part of “Layla.” I still listen to it. Would I listen if, each time I played it, he made money from my doing so? I don’t know. But I loved the song before he was a murderer, and the one fact doesn’t cancel out the other. Now, If I knew that he was a murderer and then heard his work, I’d probably hate it. But the thing is, liking a person and liking a person’s work are separate emotional responses, and unless the person’s faults have an impact on the work (which, you know, they may well do) they aren’t going to cancel each other out very easily.

  3. Collectively, I think we cling to the fantasy of purity, goodness, transcendence through artistic expression. I can appreciate the blossoming of 16th and 17th European silver work, see its beauty even, but as a historian of empire, I know where that silver is from, the coerced conditions of human suffering that had to exist for the raw materials to enter the smith’s workshop in the first place. We can either require ourselves to forget to enjoy consuming or we have to be ok with the idea that there is no pure place (no art apart from the imperfect world). And that you can be healed by broken things, since broken things are all we have.

  4. bridgett, I really think that those last two sentences of yours are going to make me cry, if I read them again.

    And, honestly, I guess it’s why I remain so uncertain about the never-ending purity wars. I don’t feel pure. I don’t want to feel pure. I want to take this broken thing and make beautiful things with it.

  5. there was something on the internet recently that if Mia Farrow wants to continue her war against Woody Allen that she “needs to quit being friends with Roman Polanski.” — now, I don’t know if she’s friends with RP or not since I’ve got no inside knowledge of who Mia keeps company; but if she does hang with Roman, she needs to seriously adjust her priorities.

  6. If you’re familiar with Laurie Anderson, this is part of a song called “Progress”: History is an angel being blown backwards into the future / He said: History is a pile of debris / And the angel wants to go back and fix things / To repair the things that have been broken / But there is a storm blowing from Paradise / And the storm keeps blowing the angel backwards into the future / And this storm, this storm is called Progress

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