The folk scene receives a feminist critique

I arrived at the New Haven Folk Festival last week and was floored by the $28 admissions fee. $28? Very funny.

I coughed up for the generous $18 student deal, though it was equivalent to four venti-fat-free-no-whip iced mochas at Starbucks.

The sacrifices I make to support progressive politics.

I’m certain that the unexpectedly steep price didn’t limit the New Haven community members who would potentially want to be a part of the pro-peace, pro-love, pro-environmental sentiment fostered at the festival. Based on the population in attendance, we can draw the obvious, logical conclusion that almost no people of color want to protest the war or spread love or channel energy into the environment. It’s as simple as that.

Isn’t it?

After all, the folk movement really digs the “race thing”. The mural behind the stage even depicted musicians of an array of ethnicities. Oh, there aren’t any black people here? We hadn’t noticed …

I soon became bored with the five crunchy white men with beards who comprised the second act. Perhaps my discomfort involved their eerily paternalistic references to the singer’s “little girl”. It became an entertaining brainteaser: is this song about his daughter or his lover?

Of course, I realize that the specificity of the women in the songs aren’t really the point. These folk musicians are fighting corporate capitalist America, The Man — and there’s really no time for feminist games.

Not that women aren’t welcome in the progressive movement. We love (our) women!

Nothing gets us going more than women who are empowered, intelligent, free-spirited, beautiful, passive … Oops did we say that? We meant “properly feminine”.

Eventually, I wandered up to the area of informational tables. As I tend to mentally replace “GMO” with “KFC” and cringe, I thought it would be up my alley to peruse a brochure on the dangers of genetically modified organisms.

(Have you, too, heard that the notorious fast food chain must now be called KFC instead of Kentucky Fried Chicken because their product bears closer chemical resemblance to Pine Sol than a formerly living, breathing animal — or am I making that up?)

From this brochure I learned not only that GMOs suck, but that sex and sexuality are necessarily reproductive in nature.

Hmm, the latter doesn’t sound quite right.

Liberals using echoes of Catholicism to make a point about GMOs? There must be some mistake.

The (white) woman behind the table gave me a confused look when I mentioned the brochure’s exclusively reproductive definition of sexuality.

“Well, you were created by sex,” she said.

She wasn’t quite sure how to respond when I informed her that, in fact, I had resulted from artificial insemination. Her former concern — for my wellbeing and education, mind you — faded into perplexed fear. What the hell was I talking about?

I saw a picture of the white male brochure author, who smiled at me from the back cover, hunched over a laptop computer and scrunching his eyebrows in concentration.

“To further our anti-GMO campaign, I’ll take the sexual liberation movement, throw it to the ground like an almost-dead carcass, and jump up and down, stomping the last breath out of its quivering, clutching body. That’ll drive our point home!”

After his (re)productive frenzy, he wipes the sweat off his brow, kicks off his shoes, loosens his tie, and smiles.

You gotta love it when sociopolitical struggles further themselves at the direct expense of complementary movements. One must wonder, after all, exactly how far away from the Bush administration we can run without any people of color, strong women, or queers.

A cover of TIME magazine last year showed Bush and several white men around a table signing a bill banning partial-birth abortion. The stage of the New Haven Folk Festival offered five white men around instruments, singing about their little girls. How far have we really progressed?

But they had big beards and flannel shirts on — how cool!

(True to Yalie form, I would like to propose we have a meeting to sit around and talk about this urgent, pressing activist matter. Thursday at 8 p.m. anyone?)

At the festival, I returned to my place in the grass just in time to hear the opening song by “disappear fear”, an all-grrrrl group with an explicitly queer, feminist, and radical agenda. Captivated by lead singer Sonia, I began to feel a twinge of hope.

Damn, this folk movement could be hot.



Loren Krywanczyk has been forced by the FDA to simply go by “LK.”

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