Question and Answer, Ani DiFranco
"Taking my seriously is a big mistake. I certainly wouldn't"
July 1997 Details
Hey, Ani, your hair's pink today. For a
butch-bisexual-hyperpolitical-feminist-radical whatever, you sure play
with your hair a lot. It's been weaved, shaved--
Hellooo! I'm an insomniac! What am I gonna do? Everyone who tours with
me goes to sleep by (rolls her eyes heavenward) three, so beteen three
and five, I'm like. La-de-da-de-da. I like to be a disguise for
myself-you know, it's like you're having the shittiest day of your
life, but if you can wake up in the morning and there's somebody new
in the mirror, it's "Ooo, who's she? She's probably very happy and
well adjusted." If you don't look anything like you did last week,
maybe you can reinvent yourself personally as well.
I like this girlie-girl side of you.
See, there's been a perception of me as a hairy, ugly, puppy-eating,
stompy-booted, loudmouthed chick- i.e. bitch- but that stereotype is
crumbling because I shop up and I'm goofy little me.
And "goofy little me" seems to have become "rock star."
(screams) No! No! No!
Oh, please. Your shows are always sold out, and as can be heard on
your new live album, Living in Clip, your female fan base is as
screamingly vocal as it gets.
I guess it's kind of unbelievable to people- maybe because it's rare
for people to be happy where they are- but I've always been happy
playing in little bars. I never had the rock-star dream. There's some
inherent gene in me that makes me want to thwart things like being a
rock star of radio-friendly gal.
Okay, so if you're not a rock star, what are you-Woody Guthrie?
I'm his long-lost bastardess great-granddaughter, definitely. 'Cause
I'm interested in subcorporate music that comes from a totally
opposite impetus than commercial music. I've played folk festivals
since I was fifteen and I've always called myself a folksinger because
I'm interested in music that tells the story of the community, like
Wood Guthrie was doing.
And what's your impetus?
I was gonna say "To be the sounding board of the community," but I
think that sounds so pretentious. But..it's like poets or musicians
who give voice to certain things within a given community. So what's
my community? I hate to say young women, because I think that's sort
of defining and narrowing my audience, but--
But it's often been the case. Because of your lyrics like "It's Mr.
DiFranco to you," you're taken very seriously by the girls. You know,
I even found an Ani D. web site called Shrine to the Goddess.
God. Look, my songs are just little letters to me-they're like, Okay,
this is what happened, this is what you did wrong, this is what you'll
do next time. I've never said "I am the truth, I am the way." but a
lot of women project onto me the embodiment of their own tansition
from girlhood to womanhood-learning to be agressive or just be
themeselves. And I think it's good that people take certain issues
seriously. But I can't solve the problems of my own life, let alone
anyone else's, so taking me seriously is a big mistake. (laughs) I
Because you're always been out about your love of girl booty, you have
a hefty lesbian following. But last year you fell in love with a man
and then had the audacity to make Dilate, an entire album about that
relationship. The girls weren't pleased.
It was probably a really necessary loss of innocence for them- like
finding out your parents are assholes after you thought they were God.
We all need to see ourselves affirmed somewhere in our culture, those
of us who aren't on the television or in the history books. And I can
appreciate how when you find somebody who makes sense to you, you
latch on to them. But it's a dangerous dynamic. I mean, please--Shrine
to the Goddess?
But Ani, face it- to much of your audience, that's what you are.
When people do the blind-adoration thing, it can turn in an instant
into rage. It makes me feel weird that some women think that Dilate is
a big betrayal. I think, Why were you here in the first place? For
just a sexual fantasy? I'd like to think people were at my shows for
the songs, not just because they think I'm some kind of alternative
sex symbol for scrufty ne'er-do-wells everywhere.
Yeah, but you are- that's part of what the girls are screaming for.
You know, making Living in Clip was a real learning experience,
because after listening to the tracks over and over, I hear what they
scream for, and suddenly it occurs to me where the stereotype of me
comes from. In "Shameless" for instance, there's a line that says,
"I've got to cover my butt because I covet another man's wife." It's a
metaphoric, like Thou shalt not cover another man's wife. And in the
actual, literal gender situation that I was writing about, it's a man
I was coveting and his woman who will be mad at us.
But the audience takes it as you being hot for another man's wife, so
it's like, Go, dyke!
Yeah... Go on, girl! and when I listen to that screaming, I feel like
I'm being reduced to a stereotype of myself.
Are you still with Mr. Dilate?
Yes, and me and Mr. Dilate have an almost ungendered love. It's so
funny that I'm now seen as being the straight girl of the universe,
whereas with this guy I get more of a girl than any of the women I
ever hung out with. Because we sort of take turns.
Being the girl?
Being the girl, being the boy- totally.
You've gotta explain that, honey.
Right- what kind of toy does that involve?! No, it's just that "queer"
to me doesn't have anything to do with anatomy. It's an alternative
idea of sexuality. Two people of the opposite sex can have a
completely queer relatioinship.
Okay, describe that.
I don't want to describe that! (laughs) You know, like, people who
don't get all their ideas about love and sex from the dominant
discourse of society. People who don't try and imitate the movie kiss
of the damn Beaver Cleaver situation. People who come up with their
own Beaver Cleaver situation! God, I can't believing I'm doing this
Besides loving a man, tell us something else that might appall your
I'm a huge Bruce Springsteen fan- I love him. That should do it.
~Interview by Brantley Bardin
Thanks to the wondrrful Sarah for typing this! check out her amazing ani page!
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