I admit it. I was a teenage riot grrl.
It all started when I was 16 and I went to visit my cousin at college at Bowling Green State University. When I returned home to Kentucky, two things came back with me: A newly acquired taste for amaretto sours and an Ani DiFranco tape. All my friends were still listening to Mariah Carey and I came home with cassette with a tender love song with the lyric “F*ck you, and your untouchable face and f*ck you, for existing in the first place.”
Honestly: I didn’t know women could be so angry before i heard Ani DiFranco. I was delighted to find out that they could. I identified with Ani on a fundamental level. In fact, I credit her for my feminist awakening. She was a revelation.
I didn’t know how to be strong and feminine. I didn’t know how to put into words the way I felt about men, about myself, about my value. She started her own record label. She defied binary sexuality. She was fearless. She was a role model to me and lots of young women just like me.
See these lyrics from “Not a Pretty Girl”
“I am not a pretty girl/ That is not what I do.
I ain’t no damsel in distress/ And I don’t need to be rescued.”
This was nothing like the messages we were getting from pop songs at the time. These are messages young women still are not getting in pop songs.
And so, now that I’m a grown woman, I don’t drink amaretto sours anymore (bring on the tequila!), but I still listen to Ani. And though she–like me—was very angry in the ’90s, also like me, she has mellowed out a little. A couple kids will do that to ya, and Ani and I are both parents now.
Last time she was here, mere weeks before the election we thought would put a woman in the White House, DiFranco seemed jubilant, joyous, free. I’m not sure she’ll be quite so carefree this time around. But, as she taught me all those years ago, sometimes it’s alright to be angry.
Ani DiFranco plays The Eccles Saturday, November 4. Tickets available here.