Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music

Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music

Article excerpt

Hayes, Eileen M. Songs In Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's music. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010. 231 pp., discography bibliography, index. ISBN 978-0-252-07698-5.

Through interview-based, multi-sited ethnographic research conducted at eight US women's music festivals held during the summers of 1992-95 and 2003-5, Songs in Black and Lavender reveals the sociocultural tensions that persist in women's music festivals. Since the early 1970s, women's music production has involved three overlapping groups and geographically dispersed networks, as identified by author eileen hayes: "white lesbian, lesbian feminist, and feminist musicians and activists" (p. 1). These groups have cultivated a network despite their geographic dispersion. Toni Armstrong, Jr., concisely described women's music as "music by, for, about, and financially controlled by women" (p. 2). Although the women's music industry has significantly declined since the 1970s, music festivals are a remnant of that era, providing a space for woman-identified participants, who may be broadly characterized as bisexual or heterosexual, but are predominately lesbian. The gatherings are held annually throughout the country with varying success in longevity. Founded in 1976, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MWMF)- one of the flagship events that hayes observes-is grounded in a separatist feminism that intends to dismantle patriarchy by radically focusing on women and girls. The author begins with and occasionally utilizes MWMF as a case study to examine and compare the "multiple axes of oppression" (p. 107) that arise for black women-identified participants who negotiate scenes that are like, dissimilar to, or independent of that festival.

Hayes explains that the colours black and lavender signify the primary issues for black women-identified participants: black represents their racial identity and lavender symbolizes their lesbian collectivity. The combination of the two colours indicates black lesbianism and is thus an analytical touchstone of her project. Women's music festivals are a rich site for ruminating on the complex positionality of black feminists, who embody diverse practices. With humour and theoretical rigor, hayes covers themes such as the politics of self and collective identity, the navigation of privilege in women-centred programming, the role of socio-economics in women's music organizing, and the business of exclusion.

Although they share some feminist interests with white women, a significant number of the black women at these festivals do not self-identify as feminists. Many of hayes's interlocutors convey that the term "feminism" is too confining. They demonstrate more of an interest in negotiating their racial and sexual identities in these contexts.

At the MWMF and other festivals, safe spaces have been both created and contested. As a result, the Women of color tent is accompanied by the White Women's Patio, which is a gesture of solidarity and is a site for educating participants about whiteness and privilege. Hayes discovers that in the broader women's music-festival discourse, other racial minorities perceived "women of colour" as a euphemism for solely black women.

While racial safe space has been afforded at the MWMF, there is no harbour for male to female (MtF) transgender participants because of the MWMF's women-born-women participant policy. …

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