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Feminist Waves and Classical Music:

Pedagogy, Performance, Research


hen Judy Tsou asked me to parti- of the last two decades, and that fact has huge

W cipate in this session, I was excited but

didn’t know what I’d speak about.
Not long after, a newsletter from the women’s
ramifications.” And so what would be the sec-
ond wave? The term “second-wave feminism”
applies to the feminism “of the late 60s and
studies program at Rice came my way. It was 70s, a popular-front social change movement
titled “A Special Issue Highlighting ‘Young Fem- that made its way into universities, legal policy,
inism.’ ” This grabbed my attention. The lead government agencies, and female-advocacy pro-
article was an interview with a member of the grams.” As Comer observes, “In institutions of
English department, Prof. Krista Comer, called higher education the big agenda items concerned
“Surfing the Third Wave.” I read on. She is to identifying the sites of women’s oppression, the-
offer a new course entitled “Third Wave Femi- orizing it, and theorizing interventions upon it.
nist Cultures.” Focusing on third-wave feminist Second-wave feminism is clearly closely identi-
cultures of the United States and Britain, it will fied with women’s studies programs and peda-
embrace “social movements, literary representa- gogy today. Second-wave feminists tend to be
tions, popular culture, and music, especially fem- perceived—often wrongly—to represent women
inist punk.” Third-wavers—born between 1965 as victims.”
and 1979, who came of age starting in the late Well, this was really interesting and, I have
1980s—“grew up with popular culture specif- to admit, rather new—at least the term “third
ically targeted to a mass youth audience. . . . wave.” Ideas began to roll around in my head,
They were raised on the new consumer culture and I realized that they might open a door

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 47

to theorizing various impressions I had about To return to my position in terms of the
changes in students and their reactions to waves: although I am mostly a second-waver,
woman-centered issues and history. Perhaps the I like to think that I am not purely a second-
wave idea would also shed light on certain issues waver. As the essay reveals, the terms are some-
in mass culture and in music that I’ve been times problematic, and there may be multiple
thinking about. Aha! I said, and so I told Judy interpretations of what they mean. So let’s say
I’d like to do something on third-wave feminism I am more a second-waver than a third-waver.
for the panel. Despite the ambiguities, my age and formative
In discussing third-wave feminism I’d like to research sensibilities place me in that category.
offer observations from experiences in teaching, The essay divides into two large sections. In
and in observing ordinary life. I’ve read helpful part 1 I introduce the concepts of second- and
sources on third-wave feminism and spoken with third-wave feminism and offer examples of how
Krista Comer. But I’d like to ground many of my they apply to pedagogy and performance. This
remarks in anecdotes and personal observations, combines personal observation and theoretical
and then make connections with the second and explanation. Part 2, new for this written version,
third waves. discusses second- and third-wave feminism with
Let me state the obvious: by generation (but I respect to research. I critique a revisionist view
think by much more), I’m a second-waver. Most of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel that appeared re-
of my research in women and music dates from cently in a scholarly journal and make connec-
the 1970s and 1980s, and these were the years tions with second- and third-wave feminism, as
in which serious research on women composers well as with postfeminism. In the article as a
and their music began. This was a time of discov- whole, we will see instances in three areas—
ery, recuperation, and dissemination: identifying pedagogy, performance, and research—of how
the who, what, when, and where, and doing edi- second- and third-wave feminism has interacted
tions and recordings of forgotten works.1 The re- with women and classical music in the recent
cuperative work waned somewhat in the 1990s, United States. One theme that circulates through
as studies on women became more interpretive the study is victimhood and its meanings in the
and more broad based culturally. The “how” second and third waves. I want to emphasize
questions were now explored in greater detail. that the main focus is on classical music. Popu-
This accompanied major inroads from other dis- lar music, especially the punk scene, is certainly
ciplines, for example, narrative theory, anthro- significant in the third wave, but I leave that area
pology, art history, psychology, and sociology.2 to others to investigate.3

1. Broad studies that figure as early landmarks are Eva Part 1: Pedagogy and Performance
Rieger, Frau, Musik, und Männerherrschaft (Frankfurt: We begin with specific issues—what I call
Ullstein-Verlag, 1981; 2d ed., Kassel: Furore-Verlag, “cases”—that are based in observation and
1988); and Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, eds., Women
Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150–1950 anecdote.
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986).
2. Among the major studies from the early 1990s are
Susan McClary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and
Sexuality (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Caecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and
1991); Marcia J. Citron, Gender and the Musical Canon Music (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993; reprint 3. One scholar who explores pop music in this context
ed. with new introduction, Urbana: University of Illinois is Judith A. Peraino, who uses feminist waves and post-
Press, 2000); Ruth A. Solie, ed., Musicology and Differ- feminism (which I treat below) as the framework for an
ence: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship (Berke- illuminating review of four books on women in rock and
ley: University of California Press, 1993); Phillip Brett, pop music. See her “Girls with Guitars and Other Strange
Gary Thomas, and Elizabeth Wood, eds., Queering the Stories,” Journal of the American Musicological Society
Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology (New York: 54, no.3 (2001): 692–709. My thanks to Professor Peraino
Routledge, 1994); and Susan C. Cook and Judy Tsou, eds., for drawing my attention to this valuable piece.

48 Women & Music Volume 8

Case 1: Beauty Culture female pianists to be taken seriously as musicians
In art music one doesn’t have to go far to see in nineteenth-century Paris.6 It has led to the
beauty culture on display. Female sexuality and literal death of women (and still does in certain
feminine allure are front and center in leading parts of the world). So what gives now? Is this
female performers. Do I go too far in saying some kind of selling-out, or maybe something
“flaunting”? I’m thinking, for instance, of a else? Maybe the terms have changed. Maybe
piano trio that comes to Rice every year, that sexuality and display send different signals now.
I saw in concert last year—the Eroica Trio. But if so, to everyone?
They are a hot chamber group, performing In this regard, it is interesting to relate the
worldwide, issuing best-selling cds, specializ- views of a talented flutist—a female graduate
ing in Ravel/Albeniz-type fare (not that there’s student at Rice—who gave a report on this topic
anything wrong with that). These three young in a seminar on women in music a few years
women, two of them model-thin, offer a feast ago. A fabulous musician who went on to win
for the eye as they walk out in drop-dead gowns, a major competition and the daughter of a well-
sexy and low-cut. A buzz runs through the known violinist and pedagogue, Christina found
hall. Solo women artists also appear this way. articles and essays on female display for per-
Ads for their concerts and covers for their cds formers of classical music. In the end, though,
stress feminine sexuality. Anne-Sophie Mutter, what was most striking were her feelings of con-
for instance, enjoys clingy strapless gowns and fusion when it came time to choose a gown or
resembles a pop star or movie actress more than other clothing to wear when she performed as a
our traditional notions of what a classical vio- soloist. She described it as a political and a moral
linist looks like. Upcoming female performers decision: whether to ignore the “display” and
are also stressing their sexuality. For example, “decorative” aspect completely, or whether ac-
the debut issue of muso magazine for young tively to choose something sexy. She realized that
classical musicians features on the cover a sex- whichever way she went, the matter existed as a
ually alluring photo of violinist Lara St. John, concrete issue and assumed much too great an
who inside discusses her posing naked for her importance in relation to everything at stake in
debut cd.4 the performance. And I might add that Christina
So what does this mean? Is sex necessary for is a stunning-looking woman, with long red hair.
women to succeed in classical music? In second- She was grappling with the competing demands
wave terms, is this a caving-in to the negative of being taken seriously on one’s performing
stereotype about Woman—that she is Body? We merits; of expectations that women highlighted
remember the historical and ideological power on the stage must look good or even seductive to
of the mind-body dualism, which has wreaked “sell” the product; and her sense that this should
havoc on women throughout Western culture.5 not matter at all.
Female sexuality on display has limited women, Here is another pertinent example, this one
relegated them to the margins, and prevented not associated with music. It concerns the main
their participation in society. As an example we U.S. feminist magazine of the 1970s and 1980s,
can take the brilliant work of the musicologist Ms. At the end of each issue it had a section
Katherine Ellis, who has shown how a focus on entitled “No Comment.” It showed photos of
sexuality by male critics doomed the chances for women in ads who were demeaned or belit-
tled through compromising poses or insulting
4. “Rebel with a Cause,” interview with Lara St. John,
muso Magazine 1 (Spring 2004): 13–17.
5. See, for instance, Genevieve Lloyd, Man of Reason: 6. Katherine Ellis, “Female Pianists and Their Male Critics
“Male” and “Female” in Western Philosophy (Minneapo- in Nineteenth-Century Paris,” Journal of the American
lis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); and as applied Musicological Society 50, nos. 2–3 (Summer–Fall 1997):
to music, Citron, Gender and the Musical Canon, 44–54. 353–86.

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 49

captions. This reflected a second-wave sensibil- music, then don’t apologize for it. Don’t bring
ity. Today there is no such column, and not all these other issues into it.” I’d then tell them
even such a broad-based feminist magazine. Im- about the state of musicology and gender studies
ages like these are common currency today, and when the essay was written, how McClary has
there appears to be little opposition to them, by been sharply criticized for her work, and how
women as well as men. Have things regressed, she is trying to be absolutely clear with what
or are new currents in the air? she means—and how it’s important to bring in
the subtleties of the situation. Now, these are
Case 2: “Just Say It!” very smart students and excellent musicians, and
Each year in the survey of classic and roman- they’re not just blowing off steam or a historical
tic music that I teach to sophomore-level mu- mindset. No—they value it. But I think they’re
sic majors, we read Susan McClary’s article on annoyed with the sensibility behind the argu-
Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony.7 McClary ments. They don’t want what they see as fudg-
suggests an alternative narrative scheme for the ing; they’re ready to hear a direct call and seem
behavior of the second movement. This narra- to respect this approach more—or at least think
tive avoids the more familiar teleological narra- they respect it more.
tive of linearity and antagonism in favor of one A similar reaction occurs when we do another
that emphasizes the moment and creates change gendered interpretation later on—this time my
through other means. With considerable contex- gendered analysis of Cécile Chaminade’s Piano
tualization and explanation, McClary suggests Sonata.9 Many of the issues are similar. By now,
that such a narrative might reflect an alternative perhaps, they’ve been socialized into this sort of
sexual identity on the part of the composer. She cultural contextualization. And of course, they
is careful to explain that this is not an essential- may not want to antagonize the author, who is
ist relationship; she sets it up as a possibility. their professor. But I sense similar impatience in
McClary also provides background by relating many students. “Just say it!,” and let’s move on
the fiasco of having presented this hypothesis at from there.
a Schubert symposium at the 92nd St. Y in New
York, and of its disastrous reception at the time Case 3: “Get a Life!”
and in print: snide comments in the ladies’ room A related attitude, which might be summed up
and the question session after the presentation, as “Get a life!,” has emerged in a few pedagogic
and the mocking post-mortems in the New York situations. One is when I’ve discussed opera and
Times.8 As for my music history class, this is our shown opera videos in class. I would mention
first foray into gendered analysis, and one reason the difficult situations female characters have
I choose the essay is because of its care in framing faced, and how they are being pigeonholed in
contentious issues. the story as weak and hence are exploited by
So imagine my surprise when, at least twice in others in the fiction because of traits associated
recent years, the reaction to the article is some-
thing like, “Just say it! If you mean that Schubert 9. In chapter 4, “Music as Gendered Discourse,” of Cit-
was gay, and that’s what’s coming across in his ron, Gender and the Musical Canon, 145–59. A discus-
sion of the pedagogic challenges in doing this type of
analysis with undergraduates appears in Citron, “Gen-
7. Susan McClary, “Constructions of Subjectivity in Schu- dered Sonata Form: Toward a Feminist Critical Tradi-
bert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony,” in Queering the Pitch, tion,” in Festschrift Eva Rieger für ihren 60. Geburtstag,
205–34. ed. Freia Hoffmann and Jane Bowers (Oldenburg: bis-
8. Edward Rothstein, “Was Schubert Gay? If He Was, Verlag, 2000), 165–77. It was also transmitted in oral
So What?” New York Times, 4 February 1992; Edward form as “Gender and Analysis: Challenges and Opportuni-
Rothstein, “ ‘And If You Play ‘Boléro’ Backward . . .’ ” ties,” paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society
New York Times, 16 February 1992; and Bernard Hol- for Music Theory (Committee on the Status of Women:
land, “Dr. Freud, Is It True That Sometimes, Tea Is Only Celebrating a Decade of Progress in Feminist Scholarship
Tea?” New York Times, 17 February 1992. and Equity), Phoenix, Arizona, October 1997.

50 Women & Music Volume 8

with female gender. The exploitation may be vi- covery and theorizing that many of us second-
olent, and it can lead to what Catherine Clément wavers did or have continued to do. The term
has famously called the “undoing of women”— has been used sharply by self-styled “postfemi-
women’s death.10 But I’ve had the feeling that nists” such as Naomi Wolf, Katie Roiphe, and
over the years, students’ reactions have been de- Camille Paglia. In the early 1990s these figures
parting from my own. And I mean female stu- produced populist writings that declared fem-
dents too—maybe even mostly female students. inism dead and attempted to replace it with
Or maybe I notice the reactions of female stu- woman-centered ideas they consider less con-
dents more. In any event, the point is that they fining, highbrow, and harmful than feminism.
lose patience with these female operatic charac- Part of their stated mission was to empower
ters. In a seminar on Verdi and Wagner last year, women by pulling them away from the ideal
for example, Gilda in Rigoletto proved a mys- of victimhood they saw embodied in traditional
tery to several female students. Gilda may not feminism.
be an easy character for any woman, of course— In fact, there are many problems in postfem-
myself included—but I’m willing to see her as a inist thinking. For one, it tends to be ahistori-
historical type and remove her from expectations cal, paying virtually no attention to the events
of real behavior today. So I would explain her or attitudes of the past. Second, it is confined
to the class in this light. But even then there was to middle-class white experience in America, ex-
much criticism: how could Gilda be so protected, cluding factors of race, class, and geographic cul-
so naïve, so gullible, so one-sidedly sweet, and on ture. And third, postfeminist thinking ignores or
and on. While no one actually said it, their mes- dismisses scholarship and earlier feminist theo-
sage for Gilda was “Get a life!” Translation: pull rizing. Postfeminists’ views are often expressed
yourself together, learn your options, make your as a blanket rejection that pays little heed to
own decisions, and control your own destiny— second-wave works and ideas, even if only to
no excuses, no cop-outs, no mitigating factors. argue with them. Pertinent to my study is that
Something similar, although greatly toned third-wave feminism finds a large part of its en-
down, has come up in “Women in Music” ergy as a movement in refuting the claims of so-
classes. Over the years students have become less called postfeminism. A defining moment came in
open to explanations that propose adverse social 1992 when the young feminist Rebecca Walker
or personal conditions to explain why women marked herself off from postfeminism and si-
have not advanced. It’s also true, of course, multaneously staked a claim in a rising tide by
that recently women composers and their music declaring, “I am not a postfeminism feminist.
have gained an enormous acceptance. These I am the Third Wave.”11 Despite third wave’s
very same students, when they were growing independence from postfeminism, both move-
up, may well have performed music by, say, ments find the notion of victimhood problem-
Fanny Hensel or Clara Schumann or Cécile atic, although in different ways and with differ-
Chaminade; they probably were introduced to ent solutions.
women’s music in music history survey courses.
This is obviously a different picture from the Case 4: Woman and Girl
time when serious research into women’s music With the next case I am in society at large,
began, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. where the word “girl” has returned to denote
Retrospectively, the paradigm of victimhood
has been coined to characterize the kind of dis- 11. The statement first appeared in Ms., January/February
1992, and was quoted later, for example, in Ednie Kaeh
Garrison, “The Third Wave and the Cultural Predicament
10. Catherine Clément, Opera, or The Undoing of Wo- of Feminist Consciousness in the United States,” (PhD
men, trans. Betsy Wing (Minneapolis: University of Min- diss., Program in American Studies, Washington State Uni-
nesota Press, 1988). versity, 2000), 1.

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 51

an adult female. What happened to the societal movement.12 But I’m not convinced that com-
urge to call adult females “women”? There was mon usage today always reflects these empow-
a time, during the 1970s and 1980s, when ev- ering images. My gut feeling is that, yes, there
eryone tried hard to eliminate the word “girl” are new meanings for the word that are not as
to refer to an adult female. This was a goal of negative as in the past, but there is still usage that
feminism as a social movement, and the effort infantilizes women. It depends on context.
was largely successful, creating lasting changes.
As an example, consider the fact that today we Case 5: “The Count Is a Sleazeball” and “Carmen Is
have gender-neutral ways to refer to a mixed a Slut,” or Sexist Pigs and Female Whores
group of men and women. The use of “girl” Back to the classroom. Flash to a student’s oral
infantilized and trivialized a woman. Some of report in “Mozart Operas” seminar this semester
us can recall the repressive decade of the 1950s on the character of Count Almaviva in The Mar-
for women, a time when “girl” was in regular riage of Figaro. This is a very bright female grad-
use for an adult. It is recalled, for instance, in uate student, an excellent violinist, and someone
the 1950s tv series “I Love Lucy,” which still who did her homework and consulted the rec-
runs on American tv. There is scatterbrained ommended sources for the forty-five-minute pre-
Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball), and we sentation. At the top of her handout is the title,
see husband Ricky and neighbor Fred speak of “The Count Is a Sleazeball.” Now, I grant that
Lucy and friend Ethel as “girls”—how the girls the Count is not likeable, that he views women as
have lunch, how the girls gab a lot, how the sexual prey. Still, I was surprised at the way this
girls spend so much time shopping. These are was phrased for a fairly formal occasion—for the
insults. The message is that women are frivolous, pop, “in-your-face” style of expression, but also
gossipy, and intellectual lightweights—as in the for the harshness in judging the character. As
phrase from the era, “You don’t need to keep emerged in group discussion, the Count is not
that in your pretty little head.” Lucy and Ethel all bad. He is actually rather complex, caught
themselves use the term “girl.” Indeed, given in the net of being an outmoded figure of the
my internalization of the debilitating message ancien régime when social reality has progressed
of “girl” for adult females, I wince when I see beyond him. Sure, the term “sleazeball” can be
reruns of the show. chalked up to student immaturity. But maybe it
Yet over the last decade “girl” has made a indicates something else.
strong comeback into everyday language. Ads, And from another class comes the labeling
commercials, tv programs, ordinary conversa- of Carmen as a “slut,” and from a female stu-
tions, you name it: “girl” is back. Is this part dent. What a shocker! I respect students and
of a new movement to subordinate women? The
answer is partly yes, I think—but then again, I’m 12. Garrison, “The Third Wave,” chapter 5 (243–75),
a second-waver and keenly aware of the nega- has an informative discussion of the riot grrrls. She notes
how the term “grrrl” emerged with the singer Bikini Kill
tive connotations of the word. But might I be and the activist Kathleen Hanna, and presents informative
behind the curve? Maybe “girl” has newer mean- excerpts from Surfergrrls: Look Ethel! An Internet Guide
ings and resonance, and I’m stuck in old-style for Us, ed. Laurel Gilbert and Crystal Kile (Seattle: Seal
Press, 1996), 6: “ ‘Grrrl’ is intended to recall the naughty,
thinking. confident, and curious 10-year-olds we were before society
One newer meaning comes from black popu- made it clear it was time to stop being loud and playing
lar talk from the 1980s—where the expression with boys, and concentrate on learning ‘to girl.’ ” Gilbert
and Kile also discuss riot grrrls, whom they describe as “a
“You go, girl” is a phrase of support and en- loosely affiliated group of young, generally punkist take-
couragement. It empowers a woman rather than no-prisoners feminists who publish zines [and] play in
detract from her. In this respect “girl” is posi- bands.” “Grrrl” and “riot grrrl” are certainly important
markers of the word “girl,” but since they inhabit the pop
tive. There is also the “gorilla grrrls” movement musical world, they don’t occupy a prominent place in the
of rebellion in art and the “riot grrrls” punk body of my essay.

52 Women & Music Volume 8

grant them freedom to expresses their views. of a voluptuous cowgirl. One of her hands rests
Even when I don’t agree with a particular inter- jauntily on her jutting hip. The other is firing a
pretation, I believe the student is entitled to it. gun. An earlier feminist might frown upon my
Furthermore, in this case, this was the prevailing cowgirl’s fringed hot pants and halter top as pro-
view of Carmen in critical work and stage pro- moting sexual exploitation, and might see her
ductions until quite recently. What I find surpris- pistol as perpetuating male patterns of violence.
ing is the return of this strong word to everyday Yet I see this image as distinctly feminist. Having
conversation and academic discourse. I mention a tattoo signifies a subculture that subverts tradi-
it because I’ve heard it many times, and it ap- tional notions of feminine beauty. That this tat-
pears to be common currency among younger too is a pinup girl with a gun represents the ap-
people. For a second-waver, it evokes the return propriation and redefinition of sexuality, power,
of the double standard between men and women and violence—ideas characteristic of third-wave
that permits unlimited sexual activity for men punk feminism.”15
but only limited and socially sanctioned sexual As a counterpoint, I interject a remark by the
activity for women. Wow, I think: thirty-plus musicologist Claire Taylor-Jay in her review of
years of progress down the drain! But here again, Derek Scott’s collection Music, Culture, and So-
maybe I’m stuck in the second wave. Could the ciety. In criticizing the volume for overly empha-
word’s associations and the very act of using the sizing the body, Taylor-Jay writes: “Feminism
word mean different things today? argues that a woman’s body should be irrelevant
I’m apparently not the only one struck by such to her abilities and status, so to categorize writ-
harsh student characterizations of women. In an ings on gender as being about ‘the body’ seems
op-ed piece on 24 January 2004 in the New York to fall back onto the previous reductionism.”
Times, the academic Rhonda Garelick relates And by that she means the essentialist associa-
how surprised she is that her students “divide tion of woman and body.16 Taylor-Jay must be a
female characters into ‘bad girls’ and ‘good girls’ second-waver.
(sometimes literally using these words)” in dis- Let’s return to third-waver Klein:
cussing classic French films in class.13
Feminism has moved away from a struggle for
Third-Wave Ruminations equality toward an engagement with difference, an
End of cases. And now to consider, how does assertion that girls can have the best of both worlds
the third-wave relate to my examples? Here is a (that they, e.g., can be both violently angry and
sampling of pertinent writings from third-wave vampily glamorous). This feminism owes much to
writers on third-wave feminism: the struggles of the second wave, yet it differs in
First by Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake many ways, especially in the way it is defined by
in the introduction to their excellent collection, contradiction.
Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing
Klein notes how her generation has been influ-
Feminism: “We argue that contradiction—or
enced by aids and by gay and lesbian sexualities.
what looks like contradiction . . . —marks the
desires and strategies of third-wave feminists.”14
Or this by Melissa Klein, a twenty-five-year- began to shape a new feminism, a new kind
old punk contributor to Third Wave Agenda: of activism emphasizing our generation’s cynical
“On my left upper arm I have a 6"-long tattoo
15. Melissa Klein, “Duality and Redefinition: Young Fem-
13. Rhonda Garelick, “Career Girls,” New York Times, inism and the Alternative Music Community,” in Hey-
24 January 2004. wood and Drake, Third Wave Agenda, 207.
14. Leslie Heywood and Jennifer Drake, “Introduction,” 16. Claire Trevor-Jay, review of Derek Scott’s Music, Cul-
in Third Wave Agenda: Being Feminist, Doing Feminism ture, and Society: A Reader, in Music and Letters 83, no.
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 2. 3 (August 2002): 510.

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 53

and disenfranchised temperament. . . . Our poli- only as it occurs in their personal worlds; practi-
tics reflects a postmodern focus on contradiction cally speaking, third wavers who encounter sex-
and duality, on the reclamation of terms. Sado- ism thus respond to it in distinct, idiosyncratic,
masochism, pornography, the words cunt and and—more often than not—aggressive ways, a
queer and pussy and girl—are all things to be re- response that is presented as appropriate and
examined or reclaimed. In terms of gender, our effective.”21 The second wave would be likely to
rebellion is to make it camp.17 make this a communal issue and one that united
the sisterhood.
She concludes: “I regard the willingness to Shugart goes on to offer the perceptive com-
experiment, to accept duality, and to have more ment that the “center” of third-wave feminism
questions than answers, as positive attributes— is the “real world” rather than some location
attributes that have given birth to a new brand outside the core of mainstream society. Shugart
of activism, a striving for social change unique sees advantages but also has concerns, for she
to the young women of my community and my worries that feminism will lose its bite:
Coming at things differently, Helene Shugart, The center—which third wavers appear to con-
in the journal Women’s Studies in Communica- sider interchangeable with the “real” world—is
tion, characterizes the rhetorical profile of the dangerous territory, and historically, it has been
third wave as “informal, grassroots, individu- profoundly threatened by feminism. It may be
alistic, aggressive, diverse, and characterized by that we are witnessing the very early stages of
a penchant for contradictions and inconsisten- feminism’s establishment in the mainstream and
cies. Third-wave feminists are radical.” And she popular consciousness; whether feminism can yet
quotes Rebecca Walker, who says third-wavers venture out of the margins and maintain its in-
“push at our notions of what is good and bad, tegrity, however, is questionable.22
correct and incorrect behavior and ideology in a
feminist.”19 § § §
And there is the wonderful comment by the
veteran second-waver Catherine Stimpson, from What do we get from these statements, and
1996, on collective subject position in relation- how do they relate to my case studies? First,
ship to the center: “Third wavers may know something that is quite obvious: third-wave fem-
about marginality, but they find little glamour in inism is influenced by aspects of general culture
it.”20 This contrasts with the second wave, which experienced by younger people, especially post-
gained much of its energy through a focus on modernism. Postmodernism is characterized by
social protest. contradiction, blurred boundaries, cynicism, and
There are other differences as well. Shugart little distinction between high and low forms
remarks on third-wavers and sexism: “Third wa-
vers are apt to perceive and respond to sexism 21. Shugart, “Isn’t It Ironic,” 149. On the other hand,
Cathryn Bailey believes that common ground between the
second and third waves should be noted as well as the
17. Klein, “Duality and Redefinition,” 207–8. differences, and she urges caution in the application of the
18. Klein, “Duality and Redefinition,” 225. waves analogy; see Bailey’s “Making Waves and Drawing
19. Rebecca Walker, ed., “Introduction,” in To Be Real: Lines: The Politics of Defining the Vicissitudes of Fem-
Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism inism,” Hypatia 12, no. 3 (Summer 1997): 17–28. Lisa
(New York: Anchor, 1995), xxxv, quoted in Helene A. Maria Hogeland takes a different tack, contending that a
Shugart, “Isn’t It Ironic? The Intersection of Third-Wave focus on generational differences can mask real differences
Feminism and Generation x,” Women’s Studies in Com- between the two waves; see “Against Generational Think-
munication 24, no.2 (fall 2001): 132. ing, or Some Things That ‘Third Wave’ Feminism Isn’t,”
20. Catherine Stimpson, “Women’s Studies and Its Dis- Women’s Studies in Communication 24, no. 1 (Spring
contents,” Dissent 43 (Winter 1996): 74, quoted in 2001): 107–21.
Shugart, “Isn’t It Ironic,” 133. 22. Shugart, “Isn’t It Ironic,” 166.

54 Women & Music Volume 8

of culture. Television, media culture, pop cul- feminists speak of “democratized technologies”
ture, and technology have all spread the post- as a key premise of third-wave feminism.25
modernist message, and in their various forms Individual control extends to self-display and
are themselves products of postmodernism. But self-presentation. And here is where the old
postmodernism does not represent the whole meanings of femininity and sexual display break
story. For Shugart, at least, third-wave fem- down. As Klein and others have written, third-
inism has more to do with traits of Genera- wavers glory in putting one’s own stamp on
tion x (the generation born between 1967 and physical expression, in reclaiming areas that
1977) than with feminism per se.23 Leaving aside were previously taboo for women, and in using
this question as being beyond the scope of this irony to establish subjectivity. One gains power
study, we see that third-wave feminism is steeped from such moves, and in this way one is no
in contradiction, irony, and cynicism. Third- longer a victim. One doesn’t have to reject the
wavers enjoy destroying categories and finding assumptions and structures that have restricted
their own ways to protest and reconfigure the women or been reserved for men; instead, one
world. They are practical and grounded in the “reclaims” them and uses them to one’s advan-
real world rather than some abstract theoretical tage. Shugart describes third-wavers’ behavior
space, which is how they view second-wavers’ as “self-determined and self-possessed—lots of
relationship to feminism. Various terms have ‘selfs’ here, no accident, because the emphasis
been coined to describe the practical bent of on individualism is intense.”26 Of course, this
the third-wave: do-it-yourself feminism (diy), me-only strategy has drawn criticism. In the
or “theory in the flesh” (by Cherie Moraga second wave, consciousness raising happened on
and Gloria Anzaldúa), or “lived theory” (bell a communal level. In the third wave one might
hooks’s term).24 Multiplicity, adaptability, and say that it is in the aggregate of individualist
individuality are more important than adherence strategies that practical change occurs.
to any one feminist “line,” and it is interesting The comments of these writers shed light on
that feminists of color have devised these terms our case studies. Beauty culture, case no. 1, can
that are partly protests against second-wave’s be understood in Klein’s terms as a recognition
white, middle-class, heterosexual emphasis. So that women can have it all, including sexiness
this is another way that third-wave feminism and fashion, without denying any part of them-
breaks down boundaries. selves. A breaking of the mind-body dualism, it
Part of the individualistic solutions in third- asserts that looking good or flaunting sexiness
wave feminism involve technology, especially has no negative effect on the way women’s in-
the Internet. Communication at the terminal is tellectual (or musical) capacities are judged. The
rooted in and controlled by the individual, who strategy maximizes individual subjectivity at the
through the Internet can form a limitless net- same time it reclaims areas previously off-limits
work of relationships and communication with because they limited women’s functioning in so-
other individuals and groups. Several third-wave ciety. We should remember, however, that Klein
is a punk third-waver, and her comments ap-
ply the most to that pop-rebellion culture. To
what extent they apply, say, to a young woman
23. This is one of the main points of her “Isn’t It Ironic.” (for example a graduate student) who is a per-
24. Garrison, “The Third Wave,” 138–42, discusses the- former of classical music is another question.
ory in the flesh and lived theory. diy is mentioned in
Hogeland, “Against Generational Thinking,” 117, and be- Here I am swayed by the instincts of Christina
comes the basis of an article that recounts a do-it-yourself and her dilemma at concert time in deciding
project of young feminists: Tali Edut, with Dyann Log-
wood and Ophera Edut, “hues Magazine: The Making
of a Movement,” in Heywood and Drake, Third Wave 25. See especially Garrison, “The Third Wave,” 256–58.
Agenda, 83–98. 26. Shugart, “Isn’t It Ironic,” 132.

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 55

what to wear. Indeed, I suspect that the pres- or beer to drink, and so forth. “Control” is a
sures on women performers are increasing more strong buzzword. Being in control—in reality
and more as the marketing pressures for women something that is not completely possible, of
to look sexy are increasing. On the other hand, course—means that you are not acted against,
maybe my fears represent a narrow second-wave that you control your own destiny, have un-
view: maybe it’s a positive development because constrained free will, and avoid adversity and
it increases women’s choices. This libertarian so- certainly death through confidence and clear-
lution is theoretically appealing. But in the real headedness. This mindset collides with the dire
world—at least in the United States—the unfet- circumstances and irresolvable conflicts of many
tered female body still conveys cultural associa- female characters, and students may not be able
tions that can work against women by restricting to find a separate historical niche in which to
their roles and reducing their status in society. place them. For women students, who tend to
The “Just Say It” reactions to McClary’s ar- identify with female characters, the gap produces
ticle on Schubert and sexuality—case no. 2— great unease. We are not victims, they think;
reflect the assertive and practical bent of the these characters who are victims are morally
third-wave generation. Direct action, without flawed and hence “bad” characters. In other
the fussiness of intervening theory, explanation, words, the high discomfort level with the char-
or communal structures, characterizes speech acters’ status as victims renders these characters
and behavior. The “democratized technologies” incomprehensible, and they may be rejected out
of the Internet foster a sense of direct access, of of hand. Yes, it’s possible that some of this can be
an ability to get an answer clearly and quickly. attributed to immaturity. But the change in tol-
Discussing the subtleties of an issue and desiring erance level from earlier students is pronounced,
group consensus may have been the preference and hence I believe these other factors have come
of the second wave. Now there are more ef- into play.
ficient paths to decisions and actions. Third- The reappearance of “girl” (case no. 4,
wavers (and beyond) are steeped in this culture, “Woman and Girl”) is another example of how
and I think this partly explains impatience with previously demeaning terms and concepts are
McClary’s qualified discussions of Schubert’s appropriated and reclaimed, often as a way of
homosexuality. Other possible reasons could en- subverting their negative meaning. Irony can
tail a more matter-of-fact attitude toward homo- figure into the equation, as Klein contends, so
sexuality (why do we need all this pussyfooting that a kind of postmodernist duality or wink-of-
around the issue?), or perhaps a more conser- the-eye sense of fun comes with using the term.
vative political outlook that wants bottom-line It’s another in-your-face reclamation of territory
thinking and eschews “liberal” cultural qualifi- that was once taboo.
cation. Of course, there are still many students In case no. 5 (“The Count Is a Sleazeball”
who continue to find McClary’s argumentation and “Carmen Is a Slut”) several factors are
persuasive and well crafted. As always, these involved. “The Count is a Sleazeball” screams
matters aren’t black and white. intense individualism of expression on the part
The adverse reactions of students, especially of the student giving the report. I see a blurring
women, to female characters in opera (case no. 3, of categories as the boundary between academic
“Get a Life”) hangs on the matter of victimhood. discourse and off-the-cuff remark is collapsed.
Today’s young people receive loud and clear the I would not come to this conclusion except for
message to “take control of their lives”: when to the fact that, as stated previously, this is a smart
view a tv program, through time-shifting; how student, who I think made a deliberate choice to
to access phone and computer messages when phrase the handout this way. More to the point
it fits your schedule; how to manage money in third-wave terms, she displays a strong dose
and career; how to decide what car to drive of cynicism toward the character as she chooses

56 Women & Music Volume 8

to ignore explanations that place the Count in a with her life, and that the frustrations that have
nuanced light. Perhaps a similar cynicism under- been ascribed to Fanny are feminist authors’
lies “Carmen is a slut,” as does an aversion to own frustrations with Fanny’s life. Kimber di-
nuanced sexual interpretation we saw toward rects most of her criticism at Gloria Kamen’s
McClary. One might be tempted to consider biography for children and Françoise Tillard’s
“slut” a third-wave reclamation that collapses French biography.29 But she also criticizes Eva
the pejorative associations of the word. This Weissweiler, Diane Jezic, and me. My work is
does not fit the situation, however; these students cited for problems a few times only, and a long
used “slut” as condemnation, without duality footnote states that my work frequently treats
or irony.27 Has the recent American upsurge in the sister-brother relationship “without many
religion and religious values influenced operatic of the exaggerations critiqued in this article.
hermeneutics? As before, let me add that this Nonetheless, the relationship is of central im-
does not represent the thinking of all students. portance in her Hensel scholarship.”30
The point is that it marks a change from past Well, I appear to be off the hook—I’m not
classes, and third-wave sensibilities appear to criticized too severely. The problem, however,
play a role in the equation. is that by placing most of my research off to
the side, Kimber critiques a field without con-
Part 2: Research sidering the main works in the field (I say this
Now we turn to another area. This concerns a with all due modesty). In other words, Kim-
problematic article that appeared in the jour- ber constructs a theory about a field by mis-
nal Nineteenth-Century Music: Marian Wilson representing the field, by telling a partial story
Kimber’s “The ‘Suppression’ of Fanny Mendels- that she presents as the full story. She creates a
sohn: Rethinking Feminist Biography.”28 Basi- straw man—or a “straw woman,” as Annegret
cally, Kimber criticizes feminist work on Fanny Fauser has shrewdly observed.31 Kimber exag-
Mendelssohn Hensel for taking away her agency gerates and distorts what feminist scholars have
as an individual and blaming Fanny’s lack of done. Then, given the extremist position that she
success solely on brother Felix (Kimber’s empha- describes, it is easy for Kimber to say that this is
sis). Felix becomes the villain in such accounts not the way Hensel should be viewed. The prob-
(Kimber’s word and emphasis). Kimber charges lem, once again, is that Kimber has been highly
that Hensel is made a victim, and that this is a selective, ignoring a substantial body of work
gross distortion given attitudes toward women that accords with her view that Fanny’s life is
at the time. She asserts that Hensel was content nuanced and complex. If Kimber had accurately
represented the field, she would not have any
27. When I presented this paper at the University of North basis for her attack.
Carolina, Chapel Hill, in February 2004, a female student Two issues are at stake here, it seems to me.
in the audience suggested that the use of “slut” by her One is questionable scholarship: omission and
generation is less a condemnation than a way of marking
off certain behavior from one’s own. This is an interesting distortion are not favored qualities in musi-
interpretation. But although the marking of a boundary cological research. The other has to do with
between oneself and others may be a protectionist move, it our topic on feminist waves. I wonder whether
implicitly criticizes the Othered behavior, especially since
the word itself is so negative. The protectionist idea re-
minds me of Susan McClary’s essay on female madness 29. Gloria Kamen, Hidden Music: The Life of Fanny
in music, and how frames have been erected to keep the Mendelssohn (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996); and
deviant behavior contained and the audience from identi- Françoise Tillard, Fanny Mendelssohn (Paris: Belfond,
fying with the madness. See “Excess and Frame: The Musi- 1994), English translation, Fanny Mendelssohn, trans.
cal Representation of Madwomen,” in Feminine Endings, Camille Naish (Portland or: Amadeus Press, 1996).
80–111. 30. Kimber, “The ‘Suppression’ of Fanny Mendelssohn,”
28. Marian Wilson Kimber, “The ‘Suppression’ of Fanny 114 n. 4.
Mendelssohn: Rethinking Feminist Biography,” Nine- 31. Remark in a private communication with the present
teenth-Century Music 26, no. 2 (Fall 2002): 113–29. author.

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 57

Kimber’s scholarly instincts have been guided It’s quite possible that Kimber is influenced
by ideologies that resemble those of power fem- by power feminism. Kimber’s strong emphasis
inism. Power feminism, we recall, arose as a on how Hensel has been turned into a victim
backlash to feminism as a social and academic accords with a core tenet of power feminism. She
movement. While the emphases of leading power goes to great pains to show how feminists have
feminists may vary somewhat, they all criticize distorted Hensel’s life, although in the process
feminists for making victims out of women. she conveniently omits work that presents a bal-
René Denfeld, for instance, charges feminists anced picture of Hensel—that discusses the con-
with returning to a kind of sexual prudery of tradictions and ambiguities in Hensel’s life and
the nineteenth century. Her book is called The recognizes that attitudes were different toward
New Victorians, and she equates today’s femi- women in the nineteenth century. Kimber’s ex-
nists with the sexually repressed women of the clusionist strategy bears a strong likeness to a
Victorian era.32 Naomi Wolf, another power typical power-feminist move of nonengagement
feminist, is an upper-middle-class pragmatist. with feminist literature. Furthermore, the broad-
She believes that American women have “made brush characterization of work on Hensel as if
it,” having the money and resources to get what feminist work were all the same recalls the essen-
they want personally and financially.33 Camille tializing tactic of power feminism toward tradi-
Paglia, a rugged individualist who was earlier tional feminism.
spurned by the academy, comes down hard On the other hand, Kimber displays a histori-
on helplessness.34 All these writers situate their cal sensibility in some respects when she explores
views in a narrow world: middle-to-upper-class Hensel’s reception in the late nineteenth century.
white, heterosexual America; the present; and This is useful. But she exploits a strategy that
with nary a scholarly vision. Popular writers, resembles Denfeld’s mission in The New Victo-
their unit of expression is the “sound byte” for rians. For as Kimber recounts the past, she dis-
the media. credits modern-day feminists by saying that their
I want to emphasize again that power femi- work, not new as they claim (or as Kimber claims
nism is defined by its opposition to victim sta- that they claim), repeats what late Romantic
tus. As mentioned earlier, its extremism in this writers said about Hensel. I see this continuity
respect is one of the reasons third-wave feminism as a positive, not a negative. Kimber appears to
arose, not to mention the desire of young women be unaware of a basic tenet of historiography:
of color and of diverse classes and sexualities that a topic treated in different eras will be dif-
to articulate a voice for themselves. As scholars ferent each time—different cultural conditions,
have pointed out (see above), many third-wavers different audiences, different “horizons of expec-
see connections with the second wave. And un- tations” (in Gadamer-Jaussian terms).36 Beyond
like power feminism, third-wavers do not un- the question of validity, however, the fact of the
critically accept the association of victimization link recalls Denfeld’s idea that modern feminists
with the second wave.35 are reimposing the same prudery and limits on
women that were practiced by the Victorians.
Near the end Kimber virtually accuses fem-
32. René Denfeld, The New Victorians: A Young Wo-
man’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order (New York: inist scholars of Hensel of making up stories,
Warner, 1995). another tell-tale sign of Kimber’s power feminist
33. Naomi Wolf, Fire with Fire: The New Female Power leanings: “If feminist biography and women’s
and How It Will Change the Twenty-First Century (New
York: Random House, 1993).
34. See, for instance, Camille Paglia, Sex, Art, and Ameri- Women, Sex, and Power in the Nineties, ed. Nan Bauer
can Culture: Essays (New York: Random House, Maglin and Donna Perry (New Brunswick nj: Rutgers
1992). University Press, 1996).
35. For an excellent scholarly exploration of power fem- 36. For a discussion of the concept see Citron, Gender and
inism see the collection “Bad Girls,” “Good Girls”: the Musical Canon, 204.

58 Women & Music Volume 8

history as a whole are to have any validity, they negative rhetoric of power feminism and fellow
must not abandon a historical method that be- third-wavers. She devises a good solution:
lieves in evidence and replace it with fiction.”37
This charge is so general and nonspecific as to Although [the power feminists] Wolf, Roiphe, and
impugn everyone, and it encapsulates the kinds Denfeld would drain claims to victimhood of any
of problems contained in the piece. Of course, semblance of agency, the radical act of pronounc-
it might be heartening to realize that feminist ing oneself victim to systemic inequity does not
work in music has progressed to a point where necessarily amount to a defeatist confession of ut-
differences of opinion are voiced. But one looks ter weakness. In many instances, to name oneself
to informed engagement for joining the debate, “victim” is an articulation of strength, for to give
and regrettably that did not happen in Kimber’s a name to the injustices that continue to oppress
critique. is to adamantly refuse victim status. A feminist
philosophy or theory that advocates such naming
Final Thoughts actions is not operating from the confines of a vic-
One theme of this study of feminist waves has tim paradigm. In my desire to break through the
been victimhood. As some thoughtful third- racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, ageist ties that
wavers recognize, it may not be easy at times continue to bind, I am not a “victim feminist.” I
to refute the charge that victim status is not am a feminist activist who actively refuses to be a
helpful. It is true that second-wave sensibilities victim.39
were shaped by the fact that almost nothing
on female creators in music had appeared, and Siegel advocates joining with feminists of the
we did not have basic information on the who, past and building on that movement: a way for
what, where, and when. We also had to find the two generations (and more to come) to be
the music and get it published and recorded. connected and help each other, rather than sep-
Furthermore, the recognition in the 1970s that arated and at odds.
women’s voices had been long suppressed incited What is the payoff from a second-wave per-
anger. We wanted to know why the suppression spective? Here I take the liberty of letting myself
had happened. Since the 1970s, thanks to the represent the second wave. In my opinion, the
efforts of countless dedicated scholars, we know empowerment for us and for our historical sub-
much more about women’s musical activities in jects gains through awareness of the third wave
history.38 The initial negativism has abated, and and the sensibilities of young women (and men).
work is more nuanced. Power feminism, however, is not beneficial in
Nevertheless, third-wavers might find it hard its narrow worldview, ahistorical outlook, and
to understand the sensibilities behind second- exclusionist methodology. For practitioners of
wavers’ work. Hence one may be attracted to the second and third waves, the more we under-
the ideas of the third-waver Deborah Siegel, who stand and learn from each other, the richer and
wants to reclaim the term “victim” from the more meaningful our work will be. For second-
wavers, it means a better understanding of our
students, present and recent, and how to forge
37. Kimber, “The ‘Suppression’ of Fanny Mendelssohn,”
126. meaningful conversations on music and culture.
38. Among them, in no special order, are Susan C. Cook, Of course, generational differences and their
Nancy Reich, Judith Tick, Adrienne Fried Block, Karin
Pendle, Elizabeth Wood, Catherine Smith, Diane Jezic,
Eva Rieger, Susan McClary, Jim Briscoe, Suzanne Cu- 39. Deborah Siegel, “Reading between the Waves: Femi-
sick, J. Michèle Edwards, Jane Bowers, Judy Tsou, Rhian nist Historiography in a ‘Postfeminist’ Moment,” in Hey-
Samuel, Annegret Fauser, and Ellen Rosand. My apologies wood and Drake, Third Wave Agenda, 76–77. In the same
if I inadvertently omitted any of my wonderful colleagues, collection see also Carolyn Sorisio, “A Tale of Two Fem-
although there are too many important scholars to be rec- inisms: Power and Victimization in Contemporary Femi-
ognized in such a short space. nist Debate,” 134–49.

Citron, Feminist Waves and Classical Music 59

tensions are always with us, and strictly speaking Note
the third wave as a sensibility of young people This essay is an expanded version of my paper “Of
is already past us (a fourth wave? a Generation Feminist Waves and Music,” presented at the session
z?). But our having a sense of successive waves of “Music and the Women’s Studies Department” orga-
feminism—of ongoing transition and change— nized by the Committee on the Status of Women at
the Annual Meeting of the American Musicological
creates a special awareness of the meanings of
Society, Columbus, Ohio, October 2002. Entirely new
women and music in the early twenty-first cen-
is the section that discusses research (part 2). My deep
tury and shapes and transforms our work in the appreciation to committee chair Judy Tsou for inviting
years to come. me to participate in this stimulating event.

60 Women & Music Volume 8