THREE DIMENSIONAL GIRL
A Discussion with Ani DiFranco Part II
mens experience is universal a womens experience is...threatening'.
remember the first time i saw someone
lying on the cold street
i thought: i can't just walk past here
this can't just be true
but i learned by example
to just keep moving my feet
it's amazing the things that we all learn to do. -subdivision
James Campion: Id like to discuss the song, "Subdivision"
which begins with the line: "White people are so scared of black
people." That speaks to me as a writer. Hit them with something strong
in the lead, and once you get their attention, then you can start spinning
your philosophy. Is that where you were going there?
Ani DiFranco: Well, yeah, but thats
not usually my thing. I dont usually lead that way. That was different
for me as a writer, but I wanted to get peoples attention because
I feel the great liberation from segregation is a lie. Were still
living in a segregated society. Its not on the books, but defacto
economic segregation is as effective, or more so, than any signs that
you could put up over a restroom. And therein lies the very complex, radical
systematic criticism. To look at a lie like "separate but equal"
and say, well, okay, we attacked the "separate" part, but that
wasnt the problem. Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights leaders
were unable to really approach the "equal" thing. Theres
no fucking way with the amount of power involved.
jc: So just let us have the legal thing.
aniD: Yeah, so attacking it on the separate
side was about all they could swing at the time, and bless their hearts
for giving us that much, but now we need to keep the pressure on, and
keep looking at things like our evacuated cities, and applying words like
"racism" to it. You know, "Where did all the white people
go?" And how can you, in good conscience, set up a tax structure
where the suburban tax bases are not one with the city. So the suburban
schools are rich and full of computers and the city schools dont
jc: Its a class system. Human beings sectionalize themselves economically.
Well, "human beings"? Ive written it time and again; women
are not really responsible for these atrocities. Although Ive found
that as a writer youre empowered not in the sense of "Take
a look at me Im a woman", but "Take a look at me Im
aniD: Its interesting, because since
I started writing little poems my identity as a woman has informed my
writing. Everything from how I perceive the world to the experiences I
have, to the way I play the guitar; somewhat less linear. I hear music
in circles and I feel power dynamics amongst people only as a woman can,
and yet, like you say, I am writing about being a human and trying to
re-connect us across gender lines, as we have been socialized to not do.
But speaking to those gender dynamics has brought me so much defensive
reaction over the years, so many of the "Shes an angry, militant,
jc: Well, of course. Thats how you deal with the suppressed, by
defining those who speak their mind as pissed and subversive.
aniD: Yeah, its interesting to me,
that sort of knee-jerk reaction. I have seen over the years the media
dictate to my audience: "This is chick music for the sea of screaming
Grrrls." And then I get up on stage and say, "No. They were
wrong about us." First of all, please stop screaming, because it
will be much better for our dialogue. Second of all, just because Im
a girl doesnt mean Im not a human and this is not about us
and them. This is not a special interest group that I am speaking to or
from. Its the idea of women as being some kind of special interest
group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they
dont even recognize. Where mens experience is universal a
womens experience is...threatening. (laughs)
jc: (laughs) But youre still speaking as a woman. You cant
separate it completely.
AniD: Absolutely. And consciously doing so.
Admittedly doing so. Im not going to pretend for you that my life
is like that of a mans, not even for the purposes of making nice-nice
jc: What are your overall thoughts about what happened on 9/11?
AniD: Well, I was mid-town, so for me it
was all the smoke at the end of the avenues and the exodus uptown and
the ash-covered people. But one of the exquisite effects of that day for
me was the immediate recognition; first in the city and then in the whole
country, of us as one people. When that first building fell there was
color blindness in that blinding flash of light that I found so beautiful.
There were beautiful things that came of the ugliness, and that I think
can still come; the more that we keep the pressure on, and keep talking
about it and keep counteracting the propaganda, the fear.
jc: I still call it the "Gaping Wound on Wall Street", because
theres a reason why those buildings were hit.
AniD: Its poetry in motion. And the
genius to make that happen and the incredible arrogance and incompetence
it reveals. It was obvious what the plot was a few years earlier. In that
sense it should have been no surprise to any of us that they finally pulled
it off. And now its time to turn our eyes towards our own government and
not outward, because its the only way we can save ourselves, because
it was obvious from that example that there is no amount "human intelligence"
that could save us from such acts. Its only true justice and global
justice that are going to prevent that kind of rage and violence from
activating populations of people. Of course, were talking about
some crazy violent motherfuckers.
jc: But they dont just become crazy out of nowhere.
AniD: Yeah, and it takes a lot of people
who are very pissed off and very poor and have been living among violence
and oppression at the hands of this country for way to long to back those
I was supposed to be flying in that morning actually, but I drove in the
night before for whatever reason.
AniD: You know, theres incredible possibility
in those events that make us look at the brevity of our lives, at the
mortality of ourselves, of the consecutiveness between us. And if we can
take the energy that exploded in the city that day of oneness, and we
apply it globally, the realization of it... So, thats what Ive
been trying to do; to let the smoke of that awareness billow forth, not
the fear, not the us and them that George W. is trying promote.
jc: Or any president in his situation would probably have to promote,
because hes representing this huge conglomerate of countless years
of failed expectations abroad to try to defend a country that should have
been defended properly in the first place.
AniD: Well, I guess, I dont know if
Gore was sitting in the office he was voted into I dont know how
different it would be.
jc: No different. Im anti-Gore myself, not that Im pro-Bush,
but I never got over the PMRC thing. AniD:
(laughs) Again, without systematic change we have no third party, without
a third party we have one party. Not two, but one, somehow.
jc: (clapping) Bravo.
TALKIN REVOLUTION BLUES
James Campion in discussion with Ani DiFranco Part I
is about, "If you dont like your government, change it. If
you cant change it have a fucking revolution." They wrote it
right in the constitution.'
To read the entire unedited transcript of jcs discussion with ani
please visit: http://www.jamescampion.com/ad-dialogue.html
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