“Maced by a Feminist”: The Retro, Weirdo Misogyny of Ariel Pink

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LA-based gnome and improbable rock star Ariel Pink told a story earlier this week about how he was “maced by a feminist” last year. He related the incident in an interview, apparently as a sort of confessional type thing, but if he was looking for sympathy, he’d perhaps have been better served keeping the tale for his friends. To save you watching the whole thing: Pink went home with a girl and, the next morning, got into an argument with her about which of them was to pay for a $4 smoothie — an argument that ended in her allegedly chasing him down the street, macing him, and vandalizing his car.

Pink isn’t exactly a household name, but still, you wonder how the media might have taken similar comments by a rapper of similar commercial stature. If it had been a famous rapper, he’d surely have been crucified for the nature of the language he used. More generally, though, there’s the question of the sort of behavior we tolerate from our artistic community and, more interestingly, specific subsets thereof. Pink is the sort of retro-loving dude we see a lot of in the indie world, and the fact that artists who mine the past for inspiration often also mine it for their views on gender politics (I mean, when was the last time you heard the phrase “women’s lib”?) just doesn’t get talked about enough.

There’s a sort of general indulgence of questionable behavior from these musicians because they’re white and weird and considered to be fundamentally unthreatening (see also: hilarious peace-and-love ambassadors and neo-hippie dipshits Foxygen, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, and the sad decline of Wayne Coyne).

Like Newcombe and Coyne, Pink’s what might have been described in the olden days as an “eccentric” — he’s a weird dude, in other words, and weird dude-ness has long been a means of getting away with behaving like an ass. So it’s gone in this case — the LA Times, for instance, led off its report on the story with a reminder that Pink once a song wrote about having his cat neutered, and speculated that the story “could all be a retrograde-gender-politics performance art prank.” No one ever said that about Chris Brown.

It’s worth noting here that, say what you like about Pink, some of the celebratory reactions to this story have been distasteful — you don’t mace someone and destroy their property in response to dickish behavior. Of course, we’ve only heard Pink’s side of the story (and that’s likely all we’ll ever hear, unless one of our intrepid music journalists really does track her down and make friends with her), but it always troubles me to see people cheerleading for violence, and mace is no joke — that shit can kill people.

Still, there’s also no reason for men to be surprised if women react in a manner that seems disproportionate to a given situation, because as often as not they’re not reacting just to that one situation. As someone who doesn’t get harassed and catcalled on the street every day, it’s difficult to put yourself in the shoes of someone who does, but if more men would do so, they’d perhaps be less surprised when the “joke” or “compliment” they’re hollering gets them shouted at and told to fuck off. If you act like a sexist asshole, you can’t complain if you’re the one who ends up on the receiving end of a woman’s reaction to a lifetime of putting up with sexist assholedom.

And in any case, you’re not automatically allowed to be an asshole in the first place just because you’re a wacky dude who kinda looks like Kurt Cobain. Pink has long had a reputation for being a dick — watch the interview and you’ll understand why — and this isn’t the first time his comments have betrayed a sort of casual misogyny. Last year, for instance, he told The Wire that “beta males have got it figured out so that they don’t even have to chase or rape their prey, so to speak,” as part of a theory about how being a successful indie dude means he now effectively gets revenge on the alpha male jock types who tormented him in the past, and also their female counterparts. (That’s right, ladies: if Ariel Pink wants to sleep with you, it’s because he doesn’t have to chase and rape you, and because in doing so he’s sticking it to the bros. Have fun.)

The comments inspired an excellent Quietus essay about beta male misogyny and the indie community, which really is worth reading in its entirety, but does a fine job of skewering Pink and his ilk in the following sentences:

The grossness of the statement goes beyond its reduction of women to instruments of revenge in a centuries-old dick-swinging contest. It also contains an implication that men can – and perhaps even should, if we read this as dating advice – feign sympathy with feminist anger about institutionalised, ‘traditional’ misogyny in order to pull. It’s hard to believe that the problems Pink has with alpha male sexual attitudes are motivated by anything other than a desire to heal his own old playground wounds, and there’s certainly no desire for gender equality behind it.

This is entirely true, and it’s telling, I think, that Pink spoke of being maced by “a feminist.” Not a “woman,” but a feminist. The implication is that most women wouldn’t find what he did unreasonable, just the crazy feminist ones! This is the sort of shit that you hear all too often from men (and, indeed, from some women) — that feminists are extremists, that “normal” women wouldn’t get upset about the shit they get upset about. Fuck that. Pink insists that he’s Nice to Women, and that, in fact, this is why the girl in question took him to task — “I treated her with the utmost respect… She wanted to bitch me out in public because she’s like, ‘I got a good one. He’s respectful of women and I can shame him in public.'”

No, dude, it’s because you’re an asshole. If you say to someone, “Shut your mouth, little girl, respect your elders, and fucking get out of here,” what do you expect to happen? It’s not the ’70s anymore. Thank god.