The beauty of P.J. Harvey
is in the way she is able to capture the dark underbelly of feminity. This is at its best in her first few albums. Though artists like Le Tigre and The Gossip are more known for their hard-hitting feminist stances, someone like Polly Jean cannot be overlooked because she brings a whole new flavor to the dish.
Though I love Le Tigre and The Gossip I feel that many fans may discount their styles because of their more political aspects and turn themselves away. Also, they have incredible power to their work, but often not the tender side that draws you in and makes it more personal. PJ Harvey seems well respected by music critics and male and female fans alike, though there are also many people, (male and female) who find her disturbing and off-putting as well. Though I can completely see why some would feel this way as at first I felt that way as well, her talent is undeniable. The problem people find in her, I believe, is simply that she is bringing a quality to womanhood that makes us uncomfortable. All of the sudden the female musician is making the feminine grotesque instead of enticing and for the female fan who is looking to find someone more like herself, this also may be off-putting as she is not making us the angels in the house, but instead showing the powerful villanesses we have the potential for being. For the male listener it's even more obvious, she is intimidating, she is men a taste of what it is like to be intimidated by the same thing they desire to be close to and I think it leaves them flustered and confused. She is astonishing in her ability to make the vulnerable sides of woman frightening. This is, more than likely, why she is not considered a feminist icon in music because she isn't speaking hearts and flowers and femininity but the dirty and gritty parts of it. Some may find this unfriendly to women, I find it empowering as it shows the raw power of womanhood despite these things not being the socially acceptable ways of viewing womankind. She both draws you in and repels at the same time, and in doing this is able to get the choke hold more securely. Her lyrics bring to mind a passionate love that might be seen as romantic in other people's songs except in hers the same love is frightening, obsessive, dangerous and uncontrollable but she does this without discounting herself from it or making it seem sinful. She is able to talk about the beauty in women in such a way that distorts it into a kind of straight jacket of insanity and uncontrollableness. No longer is the woman sweet, fragile and needing of love but loving you so hard she can accidently kill you from her unceasing grip. "I'll make it better, and rub it 'til it bleeds" she assures us. You want her to touch you yet at the same time she will rip you to shreds.
I do believe that though women are subordinated in our society that most men are deathly afraid of them still. They have the mood swings and the communicative abilities to make someone crumble if not properly trained in these feminine arts. The unknown is always scary, and women have always seemed to remain a mystery to men because they are so unpredictable and therefore we're scary and intimidating creatures that can tempt someone closer with our sweetness and demure qualities and readiness to show vulnerability, only to be able to snap back into the female mantis in mating season. She is able to play off of all the qualities and powers women have over men, she has instead changes the perspective and tells them they should be wary of her and that she can hurt them when they're in their most vulnerable state or if they hurt her she will return it two-fold. She tells them they don't please her, that they are not as manly as they think they are (I'm calling you weak
). She makes them feel like for once they're the ones subordinated, and she does it so well. She leaves many women listeners walking a little taller feeling the power they hold. This is woman. This is what PJ Harvey has captured and allowed for women to be both delicate and scary as hell.(And in case any of you don't know what a Sheela-Na-Gig is, read this.)
Labels: PJ Harvey, rock