"What is the question to the answer." Essay by Tammy Rae Carland

I recently tracked down a copy of Mr. Lady's excellent CD compilation from 1999, The New Women's Music Sampler (which features the legendary Need song "Girl Flavor Gum"). The big reason I wanted to find a copy of This CD is because of the essay by Mr. Lady co-founder and general genius Tammy Rae Carland:

What is the question to the answer.

What? Feminism is a political ideology that calls for the radical reordering of society. A reordering that doesn't simply invert the already existing power structure (which is a patriarchal one) but one that eliminates social control (financial, sexual, cultural, legislative, medical...) that leads individuals to believe they need a power structure. Feminism is a political call to action to bring an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and all the other political, social and psychological oppressions. Feminism is more something you do and less of something you are. Feminism is a political analysis of society and not a counterculture. Why? Because if we listen to the noise of the mainstream (and not so mainstream) art/music/fashion press police we will come to mistake fetishism for feminism. If we allow them to write the history it will teach the girls that the revolution started in 1991 and ended in 1994 (or was that 1968 and 1972). Because they perpetuate 50 years of backlash for ever four years of activism. Because they will convince us/them that we have ARRIVED, that we are already THERE, that IT happened, that we are postgay, postfeminist, postriotgrrrl, postrace, postpoor, postoppressed. Because generation gaps are an invention of capitalism. Because we need to live in a place where we are truly alive, present, safe, and accounted for. Because we refuse to allow our writing, songs, art, activism and political histories to be suppressed or stolen. Because we refuse to be embarrassed about the mistakes and faults and to move forward with a political agenda bent on the freedom of all. Here's 2 MORE CENTS. I'm thru being cool. Punk is an aesthetic, feminism is a political practice. Mr. Lady is not a genre label but a political business dedicated to producing lesbian, feminist, and queer culture. Self made names and community labels are not oppressive. I refuse to be ashamed of a feminist and/or gay history that is both flawed and seemingly "unattractive" as well as important and politically effective. Art is important. Lesbians matter. love, Tammy Rae.
(With a little help from Joanna Russ, Shulamith Firestone, and Audre Lorde).

I so clearly remember reading this essay when I was in high school, and it kind of changed the way I thought about a lot of things. Revisiting it now, I'm so surprised that it was written so long ago. Re-reading it I got all teary-eyed and inspired, the way I did when I read this as a teenager. So I wanted to post it here in the hope that you might find it useful, inspiring as well.

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