Andrew Breitbart’s Message: Kurt Cobain and Feminism by Dani Pettas

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On Thursday, Jezebel featured a piece by Tracy Moore called “What Do We Want From Male Feminists?”

The focus is on Kurt Cobain, who would have been 46. Cobain kind of had an androgynous look, called Axyl Rose a “homophobe” and identified as a feminist. Moore references Amanda Marcotte’s writing, “Nirvana’s Secret Feminism.” A parody of cheerleaders in a music video made a statement about women’s beauty standards. Anecdotes advising men towards feminism are given, with Kurt Cobain held up as an example.

March marks the one year anniversary of Andrew Breitbart’s death. He would have seen a 44th birthday in February–but would not have been playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

There’s a climactic moment in Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World, where he desperately flips the dial from FM to AM and discovers conservative talk radio.

His music taste had been “a very specific type of angst-driven British alt-rock–the The, New Order… The Specials, The Cure, Depeche Mode.” About the likes of Nirvana, Breitbart said: “And my hatred of grunge was visceral. The forced thrift-shop flannel look belied Los Angeles’s temperate weather. Who were these whiny suicidal freaks? I didn’t want to know…”

In the book, Cobain (who I’m starting to feel bad for) personifies the slacker generation’s cynicism. “My generation had embraced Kurt Cobain and late-1980s stand-up comedy and Spy magazine–we’d embraced irony as our badge of hipness.”

A group of social theorists were influential in the 1930s and 40s, the Frankfurt School. Entering the US to escape Nazism, they apparently didn’t jibe with the cheery “vision of paradise” in SoCal. Their “ilk were the Kurt Cobains of their day: massively depressed, nihilistic people.”

Herbert Marcuse was the originator of the “New Left,” on a mission “to dismantle American society” by pitting different “victim groups” against each other. Feminism was part of post-structuralism (Wilhelm Reich is cited) and defined “sexual relationships” as “inherently relationships between the oppressor and the oppressed.” Breitbart uses the phrase Marxist/Feminist.

The grunge rock comparison concludes: “If only they had IKEA furniture, this would have made for a fantastic season of The Real World.”

Yes, I’m still talking about Andrew Breitbart–the Anthony Weiner guy. The Frankfurt Schoolers were the beginnings of what he called the Democrat-Media Complex, which he was “at war” with.

Breitbart observed collusion between Old–or mainstream–Media like CNN, in contrast with New Media, like the Drudge Report. For instance, Bill Clinton was given a free pass in reporting on Paula Jones’s sexual harassment charge. Newsweek had then subverted what would have been the first breaking news about Monica Lewinsky.

He likened MSNBC to the fictional naked emperor. In a video, he indicted Rachel Maddow as responsible for the “broken promise to the American People” in MSNBC’s “overselling” of Obama as “the greatest thing that ever walked the earth.”

Amanda Marcotte’s piece, as quoted in Jezebel, said embracing the feminism of the “Smells Like Tean Spirit” video was to “choose to be a badass.”

For me in 2013, the word feminism is now like a brand name. It conjures the MSNBC narrative that Breitbart criticized, with a hipster connotation–perhaps appearing along with Rosie the Riviter reprints in a Williamsburg loft on an episode of Girls.

Instead, watching videos from Girl Writes What or Typhonblue on Youtube feels rebellious–like something “they” don’t want me to do, something they don’t want me to think. Debating whether or not Susan Brownmiller’s views from 1975 are valid feels badass, like fighting the system.

For comparison, a Citizen Radio podcast last week was promoted as a tear-down of MRAs. For 10 minutes, Jamie Kilstein talked about an ironic t-shirt. That was it. That was the expression of “cool feminist anger.”

My personal outlook–in terms of smashing the gender binary–is in-line with Tracy Moore’s last paragraph, but my disdain for hipster feminsim is in-line with Andrew Breitbart’s. Also, his preference for New Order, The Cure and Depeche Mode.

But, hey! Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette released new albums last year! (What were they called again? I forgot.)

Alison Tieman
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<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="3060 http://www.genderratic.com/?p=2661">38 comments</span>

  • I don’t understand why “smashing the gender binary” is such an urgent must. Creating a society full of SNL “Pat”-like individuals doesn’t rank very high on most people’s lists of priorities.

  • This needs an introductory write up or something.
    Typhonblue posts it, yet it’s credited to another person, but there is no information on who this other person is, or link to where it was posted.

  • …Are we supposed to take Breitbart’s assessments as more worthy of note because they came from him? The whole article seems partially disconnected from him, and, like, I’m not quite sure what the point of including him is.

    Anrew Breitbart was a horrible, despicable person who by all observations did not understand why other people value truth more highly than falsehood. I would not trust anything he says, even if it seemed to align with my views or goals, because he’s the one thing worse than a compulsive liar: a compulsive bullshitter.

  • @Aych: Smashing the binary is just my personal POV. It’s less that I think everyone should become androgynous, than people could interact more androgynously (like talk to Barbie and Ken the same way). I didn’t mean to suggest priorities.

    @Clarence: I might reblog it on my own blog or wordpress page (no one reads my blog though). It’s not posted anywhere else.

    @DrDrBeat: It’s not an endorsement of Breitbart. It’s just to point out what’s in his book–a little timely because he died a year ago.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • I remember reading about the conflict between Kurt Cobain and Axel Rose and noticing how both men were not just manipulated but forced into the conflict by Kurt’s wife, who started mouthing off to Axel, who in turn told Kurt to keep his wife in line. Kurt responded by taunting Axel. Both these men took the path of minimal damage to themselves, and it was all for the amuzement of Courtney Love.

  • Dani: Yeah, I can see it’s your personal opinion and I know you didn’t mean to suggest priorities. I just don’t see why it’s so very important a thing.

    If a girl wants to play baseball? Guess what? She can play baseball. Not too many people are stopping her nowadays.

    I don’t know, perhaps my living experience in non-western countries have messed-up my perspective, but I tend to think that the European and American societies are both free, tolerant and pretty damn well-off enough for women to do as they damn well please. How much binary-smashing is left?

  • Kurt Cobain as a role-model for male feminists? He was a talented musician, but he was also a deeply fucked-up and unhappy person who exhibited almost constant self-destructive behaviour. Kurt hated himself. That’s what they want us to be like?

  • “I don’t know, perhaps my living experience in non-western countries have messed-up my perspective, but I tend to think that the European and American societies are both free, tolerant and pretty damn well-off enough for women to do as they damn well please. How much binary-smashing is left?”

    Having those same opportunities for men? A girl playing baseball at the little league level is no news, not worthy of scorn, and the worst insult she could get is “tomboy”. A boy going in ballet, some kind of dancing, figure skating, or just dressed too tastefully for the taste of his culture, gets a lot more crap for it. That should change, he shouldn’t be punished for not being a robot who likes the same thing every other boy does.

  • Schala: Those who are most enthusiastic about “binary smashing” are adamant that the primary beneficiaries of it would be women. Somehow, I’m not sure how. And _this_ is what I fail to comprehend the most, so I decided not to touch on your point.

    Besides, you and I both know that not many folks give a crap about whether or not men are happy. The least-concerned folks of all are those who wield the phrase “smashing the gender binary.”

  • I’m for expectation-smashing, and I support non-binary people, even if I’m binary-identified. I don’t care one bit what people think will be more advantaged by it, only what actions are done about it.

    Feminists wanting to help male victims of rape, on FTB, is nothing, if rape crisis shelters for men are not also built. Words are empty when not followed by actions about it.

  • “Kurt Cobain as a role-model for male feminists? He was a talented musician, but he was also a deeply fucked-up and unhappy person who exhibited almost constant self-destructive behaviour. Kurt hated himself. That’s what they want us to be like?”

    Yes, Patrick. That’s their ideal – a man filled with suicidal self-hatred in the service of righteousness, wiht rigteousness defined as male self-hatred. It’s plain old patriarchal male disposability tarted up as progressiveness and moral superiority. The Ladies’ Auxialiary of the Patriarchy.

  • I liked allot of stuff from Seatle…

    For what it’s worth Queensryche, Nevermore and Forced Entry were from there…

    It’s strange that both Kurt Cobain and Layne Stanley are dead…

    I saw those bands as a backlash to the glam rock of Motley Crue, Ratt, Poison and Warrant.

    I liked the grunge look–ie a goatee and flannels.

    Strangely enough, I saw Kurt as rebelling against traditional masculinity. From what I read, he was often bullied, called a sissy and a fag. To me it’s really feminist’s taking his rebellion against “oppressive masculinity” and using it for their purposes.

    as far as androgynous-he had a slight build but often had facial stuble. He was no David Bowie. As far as rebelling against what a “rock star” looked like, he wasn’t glammed out in make-up and platform boots.

  • I loved Queensryche and Soundgarden. Was never much of a fan of Nirvana: I liked all of two of their very prolific song list. I actually liked Weird Al Yankovics parody of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” more than the original.

    I did like ‘grunge’ and adult ‘alternative’ better than 90 percent of the crap that flourished in the second part of the 80’s (85′ on). People have to realize just what a wasteland in terms of both sophistication, theme, and even the much overhyped concept of ‘taste’ pop music had become. For a brief time, arguably into the late 90’s music found its way again in my honest opinion. Now there is plenty of music being produced this days both independent of the conglomerates and not that is good, (some of it even of a popish flavor, I don’t hate any genre totally) but it’s swamped by an absolute crap ton of garbage like pretty much any Ke$ha song ever. This is probably because with the audience being so fragmented via all the music sharing venues on the internet, to get big you have to appeal to the LCD and that is usually sex or romantic status games.

  • Androgynous means between men and women on average, it doesn’t mean a super-feminine-looking guy or a super-masculine-looking girl.

    I’m androgynous. I’m almost hairless face-wise if I let it grow, I have a slight build, I have no large shoulder, nor large hips (both are small and undeveloped), my Adam’s apple (and everyone has it, not just men) is small and mostly invisible, my voice is high for most men, but low for most women, so it’s in the overlap range. I have size 8 men’s, or size 9 women’s shoe size, which is small for a man, but big for a woman. I’m 5’6½”, which is tall for a woman, but short for a man. And my facial features are also androgynous.

    I don’t have to look like David Bowie to be androgynous.

  • OO, so that feud was just more women’s proxy violence? Figures.

    Cobain should have just pimped her to Rose. /s

  • I really don’t see Cobain as androgynous. He wore loose, shapeless clothes, grew his facial hair, sang in a low growl or a ragged shout, and thrashed his guitar, which he held low-slung. He acted out his pain, expressing it as anger, rather than seek sympathy for it, he self-medicated (self-anaesthetised) with heroin and finally shot himself. He conformed to masculine norms as a musician and, particularly sadly, as a mentally ill person.

  • @Ginkgo @Patrick Brown: “Androgynous” is from the Jezebel piece, “came off as more androgynous than anything else.” (It’s not my own assessment).

  • What Clarence and Patrick said. Huh? And I agree w/Gingko and Patrick; Cobain was not androgynous.

    Are you serious about Marcuse? That sentence about him is so messed up, don’t know where to start. For starters, could you provide one single quote from him using the term “victim groups”–which you attribute to him with quote marks? You won’t find it. “New Left mission”–where is this term in his work? This is not a term of his either.

    Comparing Grunge to the Frankfurt school is wacky; rather like comparing Shakespeare to Heavy Metal. I suppose you could make a comparison, but a little silly, isn’t it? (If Lady Macbeth is Metallica, does that make King Lear Led Zeppelin? Does this mean Queen is A Comedy of Errors?) And of what significance is this comparison?

    So if Marcuse is Cobain/Nirvana (and I agree he would be), would Pearl Jam be Habermas? And this would make Alice in Chains Erich Fromm, and leaves Soundgarden to be Walter Benjamin.

    Again, not sure I get the significance… fun parlor game though!

  • @DaisyDeadhead:

    It’s from the Andrew Breitbart’s book. It says, “all of these major contributors to the Frankfurt School of thought paled in comparison to Herbert Marcuse, the founder of the ‘New Left.’ ”

    “Marcuse’s mission was to dismantle American society by using diversity…. He wanted to… set all ‘victim groups’ in opposition to the society at large. Marcuse’s theory of victim groups as the new proletariat…”

    That’s what it says in Righteous Indignation (by Andrew Breitbart). The quotes about Kurt Cobain, grunge rock, and the comparison to the Frankfurt school are from the book also.

  • “now these guys are androgynous…”

    That’s called drag (or glam), the opposite is drab.

    To me there is androgynous in body (even naked you’d see it), and androgynous in looks. And glam is definitely on the feminine side, for looks. Would you think women looking like that was androgynous? If not, then its not.

    It’s not “androgynous for men”. It’s “what sex is this person?, I have difficulty telling” regardless of the sex of that person. The Scandinavian guy who posed in a magazine not long ago, that’s androgyny. It’s often just a lack of development either way for the body. Most children pre-puberty qualify as androgynous, they could easily pass for boy or girl given the right clothing and behavior.

  • @DaisyDeadhead:

    Breitbart gave a quote from Marcuse’s An Essay on Liberation, which was “with all the defiance, and the hatred, and the joy of rebellious victims, defining their own humanity against the definitions of the masters.”

    I used the wording”against each other” instead of Breitbart’s “society at large,” which is probably better wording. The whole sentence in the book was, “He wanted to set blacks in opposition to whites, set all ‘victim groups’ in opposition to the society at large.”

    (Thanks for the feedback!)

  • So, I guess I’m alone in knowing all of these musical groups only by their incarnations in ‘Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure’?

    I just looked up a picture of Cobain, and I have to agree that he looks about as androgynous as our lord and savior Nicholas Cage.

    I can’t say I’m entirely certain why most of the things that are in this post are in it, but the Jezebel piece does indeed seem pretty awful and appears to join the Marcotte article in glossing over (or perhaps simply not caring about) a hell of a lot. For what it’s worth, I was a lot less able to come to terms with and begin to handle my own depression and self hatred when I was a male feminist (in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I’m still not very good at dealing with it now) and that Jezebel article certainly doesn’t make me want to reconsider not being one.

  • “What Do We Want From Male Feminists?” is a question that deserves an answer:

    Um, androgynous, talented men like Cobain who try to toady up to what women claim they want, then hook up with psychopaths, supply them with heroin, and then, blow their own brains out when they become disposable at age 27. The perfect male feminist – the gold standard, in fact. Lads, you don’t have to rush the the sign-up table.

    At the end, allowing women to define him must have made that bullet in his brain feel like the blessing of a teen spirit.

  • “okay, I guess Kurt Cobain’s “androgyny” is more not being hypermasculine than effeminate. He doesn’t strike me as “gay.”

    Simon Doonan would insist he’s too much of a slob to be gay. (Totally tongue in chek though; he has a book out “Gay Men Don’t Get Fat” and then has a big long chapter on big old bears.)

    I remember when Ryan Gosling suddenely was a huge hit, Renee at Woamnist Musings had a good (as usual) post on him, but she kept calling him “hypermasculine” which I thought was a hoot. i gues how masculine or feminine a face reads is temepred by how your culture indoctrinates you to read features.

    For one thing Ryan Gosling has a pointed chin – a diagnostic feature of Caucasian males (skulls obviously) is a square chin. On top of that he looks like he like he has very little body hair. Lack of body hair may not register as particularly non-masculine to a black women; don’t know. And then, for me at least, there is his coloring – I read that honey blond hair as not as masculine as dark brown hair, and it gives an extra, maybe ironic, boost when someone who presents as so masculine by his presence rather his appearance.

  • Dani, interesting. Perhaps you didn’t know that when Marcuse wrote “Eros and Civilization” –he was promptly blamed by conservatives for all the hippie sex orgies. Now, the conservatives have suddenly rewritten him as all grim and German and looking for victim groups? They need to make up their minds.

    If Marcuse was interested in ‘victims’, it was likely because he thought they needed more fun, not because he was “using” them. (He was not a businessman, leader of a party, nor a politician, so how could he ‘use’ anyone?) And “using diversity” is an interesting idea–either diversity exists or it doesn’t. Marcuse hardly “discovered” diversity… this is the age of La Raza and the Black Panthers and Gay Liberation we are talking about. He was commenting on the social phenomena he saw right in front of him.

    In addition, the “New Left” was the name given to the larger 60s/70s movement that was leftist but pointedly *not* pro-communist (as the Old Left was) –such as SDS and the faction that would become the McGovernites–and we can argue that as a Marxist, he was not typical of the new left at all. Marxists were always a minority within the New Left.

    Marcuse thought the future of capitalism was “inventing needs” to capitalize on, probably one of his greatest contributions to Marxist theory. He thought after the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, medicine were met, the new territory would be capitalizing on differences in neurosis, identity and status. Thus, he saw “diversity” as the new market, not as something that would necessarily benefit the Left.

    In fact, he thought anything at all could be marketed and packaged to “invent needs” and thus benefit corporate capitalism. (This included the New Left and the counterculture itself, unfortunately. Besides William Irwin Thompson, he was one of the first, few radical theorists to call out the counterculture on its own collaboration.)

    I go to the wall for my man Herbert. 🙂

    Bibo, if you have never seen the documentary “Kurt and Courtney”–have a look sometime.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_%26_Courtney
    As in so much else, its even worse than we thought.

  • I find it hilarious that Tracy Moore and Amanda Marcotte, as representatives of modern feminism, highlight Kurt Cobain as their model male activist. Their selection of Cobain falls in line with criticisms that traditional liberals and intellectuals have against the “New Left” and 2nd/3rd wave feminism: An appropriation of the tools (rhetoric/academia/activism) that the older generation used, in a sort of “me-too” fashion, to disavow the old-guard and legitimize themselves, but contributing nothing substantial to the majority of those who were supposed to benefit from such activism.

    While Nirvana produced a lot of popular music and Cobain was talented. He was also knowledgable about the roots of rock music (His tribute to Leadbelly and Bowie during Nirvana’s unplugged concert was welcome). However his novel contributions to music as an art itself were few, if any; Nirvana appropriated a lot of their sound from older Punk and New Wave bands, but just added more distortion and muffled vocals. Likewise, while he was feminist, his contributions to that movement, as a whole, were lacking.

    What makes Moore and Marcotte’s selection of Cobain even more ironic is the fact that Nirvana in the 90s had a spat with Killing Joke, over the fact that it was alleged the chorus and verse of “Come as you Are” was basically a rip off of “Eighties” made a decade earlier (The video, if you care to compare: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1U1Ue_5kq8) Killing Joke were the frontrunners in pushing Industrial and darker New Wave music into the mainstream, and many bands cite thier influence in doing so. In addition, if you look at what Jaz Coleman is doing nowadays musically, as well as his ecology activism, it puts Cobain to shame.

  • Welcome, CerniLabut.

    “I find it hilarious that Tracy Moore and Amanda Marcotte, as representatives of modern feminism, highlight Kurt Cobain as their model male activist.”

    I felt the same way, but you articulate it better. Derivative. I remember when that whole thing grunge thing went big. It was a huge buzz here in the Seattle area of course, but it always seemed to me to be more about the psoe and the tone than any really musical innovation. As far as music and performance went, Cobain’s big advantage was his looks and persona.

    “”I find it hilarious that Tracy Moore and Amanda Marcotte, as representatives of modern feminism,,….”

    Well they are well matched with Cobain. Derivative, poor copies of earlier innovation, incapable of making a coherent argument or of seeing all many, many holes in they arguments they do make.

  • I find it hilarious that Tracy Moore and Amanda Marcotte, as representatives of modern feminism, highlight Kurt Cobain as their model male activist.
    I wager its on the logic of, “He’s male, he’s famous, and he ID’s as feminist so he must be a good example.”

    Gingko:
    Well they are well matched with Cobain. Derivative, poor copies of earlier innovation, incapable of making a coherent argument or of seeing all many, many holes in they arguments they do make.
    I don’t know did Cobain try to write off entire groups of people with mischaracterizations and declare people guilty of crimes as soon as they were charged just to go dead silent when proven wrong?

  • Danny, no. The comparison fails there.

    I think the explanation you give fits the facts and has the virtue of being simple.

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