The Ani DiFranco Discussion

Aquarian Weekly 5/22/02 REALITY CHECK

THREE DIMENSIONAL GIRL A Discussion with Ani DiFranco Part II (Part I)

i 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

jc: I’d 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?

ad: Well, yeah, but that’s not usually my thing. I don’t usually lead that way. That was different for me as a writer, but I wanted to get people’s attention because I feel the great liberation from segregation is a lie. We’re still living in a segregated society. It’s not on the books, but defacto economic segregation is as affective, 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 wasn’t the problem. Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights leaders were unable to really approach the “equal” thing. There’s no fucking way with the amount of power involved.

jc: So just let us have the legal thing.

ad: 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 don’t have pencils.

jc: It’s a class system. Human beings sectionalize themselves economically. Well, human beings? I’ve written it time and again; women are not really responsible for these atrocities. Although I’ve found that as a writer you’re empowered not in the sense of “Take a look at me I’m a woman”, but “Take a look at me I’m a human.”

ad: It’s 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 “She’s an angry, militant, man-hater.”

jc: Well, of course. That’s how you deal with the suppressed, by defining those who speak their mind as pissed and subversive.

ad: Yeah, it’s 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 I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m 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. It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize. Where men’s experience is universal a women’s experience is…threatening. (laughs)

jc: (laughs) But you’re still speaking as a woman. You can’t separate it completely. ad: Absolutely. And consciously doing so. Admittedly doing so. I’m not going to pretend for you that my life is like that of a man’s, not even for the purposes of making nice-nice music.

jc: What are your overall thoughts about what happened on 9/11?

ad: 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 counter-acting the propaganda, the fear.

It’s the idea of women as being some kind of special interest group, that kind of pre-supposition that writers write from that they don’t even recognize. Where men’s experience is universal a women’s experience is…threatening.

jc: I still call it the “Gaping Wound on Wall Street”, because there’s a reason why those buildings were hit.

ad: It’s 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 it’s 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. It’s only true justice and global justice that are going to prevent that kind of rage and violence from activating populations of people. Of course, we’re talking about some crazy violent motherfuckers.

jc: But they don’t just become crazy out of nowhere.

ad: 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 guys up. I was supposed to be flying in that morning actually, but I drove in the night before for whatever reason.

jc: Karmic.

ad: You know, there’s 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, that’s what I’ve 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 he’s 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.

ad: Well, I guess, I don’t know if Gore was sitting in the office he was voted into I don’t know how different it would be.

jc: No different. I’m anti-Gore myself, not that I’m pro-Bush, but I never got over the PMRC thing.

ad: (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.

For a complete unedited transcript of the conversartion: Ani Dialogue

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