I Think You Should Hear: "Women's Rights," by Childbirth

I Think You Should Hear: "Women's Rights," by Childbirth
This meme is a Proustian madeleine for people who graduated liberal arts college in the 2000s.

Women’s Rights, the second and final album by Childbirth, was released nine years ago. It feels like a time capsule from a vanished age. 

Childbirth was both a feminist punk band and a joke about being in a feminist punk band; the title track is just three women yelling the words “CHILDBIRTH” and “WOMEN’S RIGHTS” over a slapdash assortment of chords, which serves as both an introduction to the band and a parody of how people think bands like these are supposed to sound. The band’s promotional photos featured them laughing alone with salad (or, I guess, together with salad), a meme that instantly flags an immersion in early-10s women’s digital media and the gender politics that supposedly resulted.  

Feminist… but funny! Feminist… but ironic! Feminist… but, unlike all those gross icky downer feminists throughout history who got mad at stuff and effected substantive changes in regard to how we see and treat gender, also sort of cool! There was a real appetite for that sort of thing, in the early 2010s. Some of us (ahem) managed to build whole careers on it. You could do “feminist” and get away with it, for a surprisingly long time, as long as you also knew how to flag yourself as ironic and cynical and skeptical and in the know with the right sort of media circles. You couldn’t be Andrea Dworkin, but you could be Liz Lemon, and you would get work. 

Childbirth’s first album came out in 2014, and its last album came out in 2015. After 2015, the band Childbirth did not exist. The year 2016 lays over the band’s legacy like the layer of ash in the fossil record, a silent indication of a terrible impact: Here is where something big fell out of the sky and vaporized us. Here is where the old life went extinct. 

So Women’s Rights (the album, and possibly the concept) feels more like visiting the skeleton of a T-Rex in a natural history museum than seeing one in the wild. Still, there's lots of fun to be had that way. This really was a glorious creature, in its time and in its context. It is, at bare minimum, more awe-inspiring than any of the smaller, shoddier predators that have taken its place. 

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