Why Nice Girls Don't Like Ani DiFranco



Because she says fuck. And then she follows that with a repertoire that says fuck the government, fuck corporate America, fuck patriarchal society and fuck you if you don't like me.

After last year's Knitting Factory show, I thought Ani DiFranco was getting soft on us. I hadn't seen her since a show in Omaha, Neb., in 1997—back before her first marriage when she was still the ultimate modern lesbian feminist, back when she was still wailing on the guitar so hard she was busting a string a song. Last year, a decade later and still oozing with the glow of new motherhood, DiFranco seemed, well ... softer in a matured sort of way. No broken strings. No signature Ani hair.

At Knitting Factory's show Monday night, DiFranco proved that she's still the girl everyone in the room is in love with. The lesbians still love her for where she was a dozen years ago. The straight women love her because they always have and now, as a mother, she's more like one of their own. The men love her because, well ... she wails on the guitar.

Last night, I was front and center. Close enough to see the shiny black tape on the fingers of DiFranco's right hand—better for picking. Close enough to see the she wears two silver bands on that hand—one on the forefinger, one on the ring finger. Close enough to see the tattoos skipping across the fingers of her left hand. Close enough to see the sweat beading on her makeup-free forehead. And close enough to see that when she sings, she still means it.

The thing about DiFranco's music is that—like her—it's unapologetic. She prefaces the older stuff with "this is where I was," and the new stuff with, "and this is where I am now"—take it or leave it. Molestation, abortion, bisexuality, marriage, motherhood and then the really sexy stuff like poverty, racism, sexism and gay rights—none of it has ever been off limits for DiFranco and while her personal life changes, the rawness with which she writes never does.

And that's where the nice girls really start to feel the rub. Nice girls don't want to talk about abortion and gay rights and racism in songs. Nice girls don't want reality in music, they want to talk about "like looove and shit." (If you catch the reference on that one, tack on a few bonus points.) And what's really bothersome to the nice girls isn't that some pint-sized tattooed bisexual likes to get the crowd all riled up with post-Katrina, post-9/11, women-aren't-second-class-citizens lyrics, it's that in the face of lines like "everyone harbors a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room," nice girls are completely confounded, especially coming from the woman who says lipstick is not a sign of her declining mind.

What are we women to do? Wear lipstick or head out on stage unmade in front of hundreds? Say fuck the man or have his babies? Appear transient in our love lives while remaining steadfast in our support for others' rights? Nice girls give up. The rest of us say fuck it and do it all.