Liz Phair is (still) setting the record straight on women's equality
In 1993, Liz Phair staked her claim as one of the most audacious and uncompromising indie rock goddesses on the planet. Her debut album, Exile in Guyville, was a rarity (a rad one) amid the male-dominated genre of rock and roll. As the New Yorker wrote on the 20th anniversary of the album, “Part of the point of the record was that Phair (a) had written the songs and (b) was going to sing them, no matter the damage.” Strung with Third Wave feminist ideals, Phair’s music had no issue alluding to taboos of female sexuality and dominance. If you don’t believe us, just reflect on the lyrics to “Flower.”
Over 20 years later, Liz Phair is still an advocate for women’s equality. Back in 2012, she famously came to the defense of Lana Del Rey after she was publicly ridiculed for her SNL performance. She even lent her voice to the Wall Street Journal regarding the issue, claiming that Lana Del Rey is the type of artist she hoped to inspire when she made Exile in Guyville. “Lana Del Rey seems to be bothering everybody because she allegedly ‘remade’ herself from a folk singing, girl-next-door type into an electro-urban kitty cat on the prowl . . . I would argue that the uncomfortable feelings she elicits are simply the by-product of watching a woman wanting and taking like a man.”
She supported her position on Lana and other females with this beautifully brazen statement,
This week, on the advent of her 48th birthday, Liz Phair sat down with Spin magazine to dish some unfiltered observations. From the taboos still attached to female sexuality to the double standards running rampant in the music industry, Liz Phair gives it to us straight. As if we had a choice!
On female sexuality:
“They cannot wrap their heads around something — women having sex — that is natural and has been in effect for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s about control. It’s disturbing to me that in my lifetime, I doubt I’ll see what I would consider the natural way to look at women as equal.”
On trailblazing (it can be a thankless job):
Following her debut album, Phair was approached by a woman at her friend’s wedding. When the woman asked Phair whether or not she would be singing at the wedding, Phair replied, “No, I’m not here to sing, I’m here for the wedding.” Offended, the woman looked at Phair as if to say, “Oh, you live a double life, don’t you? You seem like a double-life kind of person.” Hurt by the woman’s reaction, Phair told Spin, “All the art that I thought that I was playing with and playing against was gone. This was just a woman coming out and breaking taboos, but no one in the mainstream thanked me for breaking them. I don’t understand how our society cannot incorporate a woman’s right to be human.”
On double standards in the music industry:
“Why do women have to be perfect to get this honor [of performing on SNL]? Think of how many thousands of bands flew through SNL. I can think of tons of times I’ve seen an SNL performance where the music was kind of lackluster. Lana was really crucified. They literally acted like she had to deserve it. That’s so offensive. When Bright Eyes first got onstage, he wasn’t nervous? I’m sure he was, and yet everyone would just be like, ‘Oh, well.’ It’s such a double standard.”
On women in music today:
Aside from advocating the work of Emily Greene and Lena Fayre, Phair is enjoying the legion of young women in music. “I get a lot out of younger female artists’ songwriting-wise. I find it very inspiring, more so than male artists right now. I’m obsessed with women in their early twenties.”
Check out the issue of Spin for more on this lady icon.