Somewhere between disposal cameras and iPhones our society seemingly reached peak narcissism. Girls (and guys) can be found spending their days reading about the Kardashians, loving to hate them/hating to love them, tweeting their meals (like people care), taking endless amounts of selfies, body shaming themselves and others on social media and idolising Victoria’s Secret models for their bodies. In none of this am I saying I’m not guilty of occasionally looking at the Kardashian’s or wishing I had legs like Karlie Kloss but I want to talk about things I think girls should be focusing their time on rather than this unhealthy obsession with celebrities and bodies we can’t seem to shake. So what’s better than searching the latest with Kim K you ask? Spending our time engaging in noteworthy activities, enjoying life, food, our bodies, art, music and fashion. I could say today it’s important to find women to idolise in a healthy way, but really, it has always and will always be important for women to look up to other women for their mind, their actions and their endeavours. I want to talk about two much more noteworthy Kim’s that I think are worth fan-girling over for these reasons.
Kim Gordon and Kim Deal (pictured above from Sonic Youth video clip for 'Little Trouble Girl') are two women who really shouldn’t need an introduction. Both these women have been forerunners in the music industry, conquering gender stereotypes, influencing pop culture and contributing to the art and fashion worlds over the last 30 years. Women who have inadvertently shaped where we are today without having to pose in bikinis or strut a catwalk.
Kim Gordon (pictured left for Harpers Bazaar by Mark Abrahams) best known as the bassist in Sonic Youth, is the read deal. In her memoir, Girl In a Band, Gordon details her path to Sonic Youth, her involvement in the music, fashion and art industries over decades and her growth as both a woman and artist in the spotlight.
I’ll admit I’ve never been a die hard Sonic Youth fan, not because I don’t like their music, but I’ve honestly just never given it much time. While reading Gordon’s memoir however I listened to their albums out of curiosity for the writer and the woman, as I have often found myself doing with other muso’s autobiographies. She sets her book out in chronological order of the albums recorded, and throughout the book she is honest and open about her life, relationships and self discovery. I couldn’t put the book down! Here was a woman allowing herself to be so vulnerable to the reader in her accounts of her marriage (including her husband's affair), her experiences as a female rock star in an age where women weren’t necessarily seen as ‘rockers’ in the industry and her own family dynamics. She talks about being a mother on the road in a band, the struggles of a marriage breakdown when children are involved and single parenting. She talks about interviews where the guys in the band would be blatantly asked questions about the music and she would be thrown questions about taking her child on tour, as if to say you can't be in a female in band AND have kids.
One thing that stood out to me throughout the book was her ‘f*ck you I’m a girl but who cares’ attitude towards things. She's seemed to never let the fact that she's a woman hold her back from doing things she's wanted to do and liking things she's wanted to like. She gives a female reader support and endorsement to living your life the way you want to and knowing that it’s not easy, it’s not smooth, but it sure as hell can be fun when you do what you love doing.
My favourite line in the book was where she quotes her father’s view on humans “in between the lives we lead and the lives we fantasise about is the place in our head where most of us actually live”. This line really resonated with me as someone who lives in a constant mental battle about what I should be doing in life and overthinking everything. When you think like this it’s easy to get trapped into thinking you’ll never have your sh*t together, especially when you see others off living their dreams. But really, most of us are somewhere up in our heads constantly deconstructing our life decisions and our next plans of action. The majority of people don't know what they want to do or where they want to go either.
Gordon seems to be someone who needs constant artistic activities to keep herself moving. She has produced, directed film clips, short movies and done visual art projects. She can also be cited for her influence and input to fashion and pop culture and made names like Chloe Sevigny famous with her 90's fashion brand X-Girl. She has been a huge part in the New York scene and has buddies like Marc Jacobs and Sophia Coppola. You can find Gordon, now 63, still doing MJ fashion shoots for her friend, sitting front row at New York fashion week shows and attending openings for all sorts of events. She still plays music in her band Body/Head and has just released her first solo single “Murdered Out” in September. Gordon shows that being a girl or a certain age is no limit to abilities or taste.
Like Gordon, Kim Deal of the Pixies and Breeders (pictured right), started in the music industry as a young woman, in a time when females in the rock industry were not really "famous". Deal has often talked about her relationship with the word and feeling pressure as the band grew traction and she became more recognisable. Honestly, she just wanted to be in a band and play music.
Unlike my lack of Sonic Youth history, The Pixies and I go a long way back. They were ingrained in me through my childhood. My Dad had always told me I was never allowed to date a guy who didn’t know who The Pixies were and as a 12 year old girl I shrugged off the comment as one of those weird things my Dad used to say, but when I came around to dating years later I realised that too was one of my own rules. I couldn’t date someone who didn’t appreciate their influence on music today... or at least know who they were.
Kim Deal, now former bassist and back up singer for the Pixies, joined the group because she was the only person to respond to the advertisement for a “hardcore loving bassist”. Although she didn’t actually play bass at the time, and had to borrow her sister's bass guitar for the audition, she got the job and as a result the Pixies were born.
Kim was one of the first female rockers I knew of in a male dominated rock and roll world in the 90s. She isn’t a woman you would say screams sexiness according to society norms with her short hair style and favoured big t-shirt and baggy pants look, but she was recognised for her talent and musical influence. Sure there were females around, Alanis Morrisette was doing her solo work and the Spice Girls were spreading girl power to all corners of the planet. Deal was one of a few leading rock ladies to stand out in amongst the men, making great music that has influenced generations of rock since. Even Cobain cited the Pixies as the influence for making “Smells Like Teen Spirit” saying he just wanted to make a Pixies song.
Neither Gordon nor Deal set out to be influential female role models but incidentally they have shown other women that there are ways to break down these barriers that seem to be in the way sometimes. Both these women have shown that to get past these said boundaries we just have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. They put themselves out there knowing they would receive criticism and sexism but they just continued to do what they loved anyway and ignored the crap as much as they could. Sometimes this idea that we can’t do something is just in our heads and it’s a matter of overcoming our own fears rather than battling societal boundaries. We are afraid to get shut down, be mocked, be ridiculed as a woman but we really can do what we want to do if we put our minds to it. Sure we still live in a time where we have some hurdles to jump through but they are hurdles and not brick walls. Sometimes it just takes that extra push, vulnerability and strong willingness to get over them.