Johnny Marr: Feminism, Women and a bit of gender
Let's face it, most men born between 1962 and 1973 are feminists. Even my 52 year-old- steelworking-uncle is a feminist. They didn't have any choice. It's the way things were. The graffiti in the women's toilets in Sheffield told me so.
Back in the 80s we were used to seeing people whose gender was ambiguous: Marilyn, Pete Burns, Annie Lennox. Even my steelworking uncle used to put on his bronze eye shadow before stepping out for the night in his ballet shoes and cape. The Smiths were part of this, of course, most obviously Morrissey. But what about Johnny Marr?
Like many of the more subtle aspects of Johnny Marr, all the bits that aren't to do with his guitar playing, his influence on women and feminism has kind of got missed. He was generally considered to be the 'laddish' one in The Smiths. It was the way many men justified being fans of the band. But by all accounts that definition is a very simple one.
Here's a man who can wield an iron, sew on a button and pierce your mate's ears. You might say that some of this is the natural consequence of punk; the DIY approach that said that anyone could do anything, regardless of gender. One look at Viv Albertine's autobiography will tell you otherwise.
A self-confessed fashion fan, Johnny took his style influences from women as well as men. Most notable of these is the Perry girls - an interesting case of a man being influenced by a woman who was influenced by a man! The androgynous style liberated early female mods, allowing them to have a more sexually relaxed style, whilst the men were prettifying themselves with eyeliner and mascara.
Johnny Marr talks spiritedly about growing up in era when the gender roles were more
fluid. It's a freedom that younger generations haven't had the luxury of experiencing.
As many of his contemporaries have moved out of the limelight or begun to dress more conservatively, it's important to have Marr show you there's more to being a man that just being macho. That you can have one foot in Manchester City and one hand in a pot of nail polish at the same time.
On a more personal level, Johnny Marr has spoken about the significant presence of women in his family, the young aunts, for instance, who lived nearby. There's nothing like the potent matriarchy of the working class household! Likewise, never underestimate the power and influence of the 'big sister', especially one who'll introduce you to some good music.
And, of course, there is Angie, a woman who is as much a part of the iconography of The Smiths as gladioli. A mystery woman in some respects but clearly by no means a 'little wife'. The enduringness of their relationship has allowed Johnny Marr to be perceived as a romantic figure but also one who has a respect for women and family traditions. As with much of his behaviour, it runs contrary to the cliché of the promiscuous guitar hero.
All of which contributes to a universal appeal. Who'd have thought it? Any of The Smiths becoming sex symbols! And yet here's Johnny in his fifty year old prime, in his skinny jeans and winking, being pursued across Twitter by men, women and at least one bear. Good on ya!