Friday, March 18, 2011

Beth Ditto: Useful

Beth Ditto is charming. It might explain why she seldom gets asked any difficult questions and can say quite surprising things without interviewers going "what was that?"

So, chatting with Tim Jonze in yesterday's Guardian, she said this:

"I feel like I've made a difference for certain people and that's what matters. Growing up with riot grrrl, I feel like I owe it to the me of tomorrow – without sounding too ridiculous – to do this. The people who listened to Gossip when they were 14, they're 20 now and it's no longer cool, but when they're 30 they can look back and think, 'I listened to the Gossip and it was really helpful', and that will be how Bikini Kill or Nirvana were for me."
Jonze is interested more in how Ditto feels in the world of celebrity and so doesn't pick up on the curiously bloodless claim.

Sure, some people grow to be embarrassed by the music they listen to during their teenage years, and, yes, perhaps some look back later on and think "actually, that was quite an important thing that I did for the time". But is that really the way Bikini Kill resonate through people's lives? Riot Grrl was, for those there at the time, a life-changing thing; it wasn't just a phase.

It was a mission, and people on a mission might leave the path, but not because it ceased to be cool. It wasn't dressing up and trying out, it changed the way people fundamentally lived and thought and did. The Bikini Kill Archive is stuffed with evidence of that.

Ditto's description might fit the Gossip. And The Osmonds. And perhaps you might get Le Tigre in to do a remix when you're in need of the attention, then drop them when it's not going to help get the prime-time TV slots, looking back on it later as useful. But it's a total misjudgement of what riot grrl was.

(By the way, isn't it normal when a newspaper writes about a former columnist to normally acknowledge that they wrote a regular piece for that paper? Even if it was a slightly cringey one like What Would Beth Ditto Do?)