Welcome to Blessing All the Birds, a feminist fan project focused on the work of songwriter Joanna Newsom. We see Newsom's work as feminist literature and our goal is to provide it the serious critical analysis it deserves, as well as to discuss her unique place in popular culture.
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one of my weird death hills concerns Joanna Newsom fans who are extremely resistant to the idea that “Baby Birch” is about an abortion, and who write lots of words about how this song is OBVIOUSLY about lots of things like… things (maybe she’s just really sad she broke up with a dude before they got to make babies :( did you ever think of that) and it’s JUST SO COMPLEX NO ONE CAN ASSIGN A MEANING, IT’S UNPOSSIBLE and how dare you imply my fragile ethereal elf queen might write anything that reaffirms abortion as a necessary choice sometimes blah blah blah

I mean, have you even read the lyrics? it’s not vague at all, you’re just really fucking resistant to the idea that abortion could inspire a complex, emotional song that simultaneously examines regret about limited possibilities and offers no apology for the decision made, because you’re choking on pro-life propaganda that implies that no one could think about an abortion for two seconds and go through with it, much less produce art about it

long story short, these fans can kiss my ass

I completely understand and appreciate this rage. Anti-abortion rhetoric and beliefs make my blood boil to dangerous temperatures. The very root of my feminism is about absolute self-determination and bodily autonomy and if people do not have absolute control of their uteruses, they are not liberated. And true liberation will not happen until abortion is available to everyone, for free, on demand (many other things have to happen as well, of course). Abortion stigma, even from those who work within and for reproductive justice, also makes my blood boil. There is this extremely problematic rhetoric going around which amounts to: “abortion should be safe, affordable, and rare.” First, as mentioned, abortion should be free and on demand, not “affordable.” Second and more importantly, “rare” stigmatizes the act of abortion and attaches a treacherous ethical value on it. “Rare” implies that abortion should be eliminated and that if the world were a perfect, utopian place, abortion would be “bad.” Someone should be able to have an abortion NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES. There should be no ethical judgments placed upon abortion as some sort of “necessary evil.” The “rare” rhetoric also implies that people have to explain WHY they had an abortion. No one should have to explain anything to anyone about their bodies and we should stop trying to police them by demanding an explanation. I would get an abortion no matter how I became pregnant. I just never, ever want to be pregnant. That’s it. The demands for explanations make some situations appear more legitimate than others. All abortions are legitimate. None should be policed. None should be shamed. All are about controlling one’s body without apology. 

We live in a society that absolutely and constantly stigmatizes marginalized people (e.g. people with uteruses) when they control their bodies. Marginalized people controlling their bodies is a direct threat to kyriarchy and we are taught from the moment we are born to uphold kyriarchy and it takes years of unlearning to even acknowledge that there is kyriarchy. And I know it is the case that sometimes when people interpret “Baby Birch,” they are reacting within that stigmatizing, kyriarchal framework. We live in a world where it is much more acceptable and admired for a person to say they deeply regretted their abortion than that they were deeply relieved by their abortion. There is so much more room for abortion stigma and apology than abortion acceptance and joy and that is so deeply problematic. I am not going to call out people whom I believe interpret “Baby Birch” in this way because I am much more critical of the “system” than the individual cases. I do not want to police people’s interpretations, I just want people to be aware of the system of interpretation and what voices and opinions there are room for in the kyriarchy. I am not at all saying that those who interpret this song as a miscarriage are wrong (it absolutely could be and I think “Only Skin” is in part about a miscarriage rather than an abortion). I am discussing those who absolutely deny that “Baby Birch” could be about an abortion because of the cultural narratives and stigma around abortion. I just want people to unlearn abortion stigma. That would be great. 

Moreover, it is completely valid for the original poster to bring up how if “Baby Birch” is about an abortion, it muddles the dominating narratives about Joanna Newsom and her (expressions of) femininity. Perfect ladies like Joanna don’t talk about abortion and they certainly do not get them! Controlling one’s body is radical in the kyriarchy and talking about it openly is just as radical. Too often I see that some people have no idea how messy and dark and troubling Newsom’s music can be, especially on Ys and Have One on Me. And people are resistant to see that because that complexity does not fit their preconceived notions of femininity. Ladies cannot talk eloquently about death, sex, mortality, obsession. They can only talk about love!!! Just take a look at some of the reviews of Have One on Me. They are pitiably uncritical and recycle sexist tropes and they are so and do so because of misogyny. That is a real concern and I do not think we throw that concern away because the original poster is angry. I am angry, too! Anger is a valid reaction to misogyny. 

  1. bonefromthevoid reblogged this from allthebirds and added:
    Oh, this must have been it. Joanna’s lyrics are pretty high art. They are so dense that people are bound to have...
  2. altahoradelanoche reblogged this from gracklesong
  3. spookyskookin reblogged this from gracklesong
  4. allthebirds reblogged this from gracklesong and added:
    I completely understand and appreciate this rage. Anti-abortion rhetoric and beliefs make my blood boil to dangerous...
  5. lezwitch reblogged this from gracklesong
  6. littleperennial reblogged this from allerleirauhhh and added:
    yeh, original poster has exact same mentality of people they complain about, hate it when that happens, especially with...
  7. allerleirauhhh reblogged this from gracklesong and added:
    Urgh I hate when people post in a musician’s tag just to be bitchy about other fans. I really don’t think people have...
  8. galesofnovember said: also, there’s a a rule somewhere that all songs/poems about abortion have to reference the rabbit dying
  9. gracklesong posted this