Punk folksinger Ani DiFranco fired off a terse letter to women's magazine Ms. after the singer said she was offended at being portrayed as "some kinda Fortune-500-young-entrepreneur-
from-hell" in an article entitled "21 Feminists For the 21st Century."
In a lengthy letter reprinted in the magazine's current issue (and reprinted here from the pages of Rock and Rap Confidential), DiFranco bristles at the sentence from the September/October issue that says she recently told the Financial News Network that she "makes more money per album sold than Hootie and the Blowfish," referring to the commercially successful pop band from South Carolina.
In the letter, DiFranco said the quote -- which ran next to a photo of her and was based on information from an earlier Los Angeles Times financial section piece -- ghettoizes her as an artist and fails to put her music in its proper context. "Problem is," wrote DiFranco, "I couldn't help but be a little weirded out by the paragraph next to my head that summed up [my] me-ness and my relationship to the feminist continuum." The letter continues, "It was specified that I don't just have my own record company, but my own 'profitable' record company."
The ironic conclusion of the aforementioned blurb, she wrote, is a quote from her insisting "it's not about the money." "Why then, I ask myself, must 'the money' be the focus of so much of the media that surrounds me?" she asked. "Why can't I escape it, even in the hallowed pages of Ms?"
Editors who compiled the section were unavailable for comment at press time. Despite DiFranco's concerns with the approach to the article, the piece does give the singer props for not "compromising her feminist message" as well as for keeping her focus "on the songs, which combine personal reflections with potent politics."
Superchunk bassist Laura Ballance said she can partially sympathize with how DiFranco felt about the article's focus. Like DiFranco, Ballance co-founded her own label, Merge, almost a decade ago in order to release Superchunk's albums. And while she has never felt a conflict in terms of articles focusing on the band's indie label versus their music, she said, she has noticed a different kind of attention that has sometimes distracted from talk of artistic merits.
"I can see how that might get under her skin," said Ballance of DiFranco's reaction. "People dwelling on any one particular aspect of what you do is annoying. In a way, people focus on how our music is made more than that fact of what is made sometimes. Because a lot of the time we're the 'indie rock stalwarts Superchunk,' instead of Superchunk, a good band. People seem obsessed with the fact that we do it ourselves." [Mon., Jan. 12, 1998, 6 p.m. PST]