The Harvard College Women’s Center hosted lesbian singer, songwriter, and activist Alix Dobkin for music, dinner, and discussion last night.
Susan Marine, director of the Women’s Center, described Dobkin as “a pioneer in the folk music scene and as a woman musician in general.”
Marine said she saw this event as an opportunity to highlight the idea of music as activism, feature women in non-traditional fields, and offer an inter-generational perspective to female college students.
Along with several students interested in feminism and music as a tool for social justice, many of those attending the event were personal friends of Dobkin who were involved in the folk music scene of the ’70s and ’80s.
“When I was coming out I was so afraid,” said Kathryn A. Willmore, former vice president of MIT and longtime friend of Dobkin’s. “And then I would put on Alix’s songs and they would tell me that I was moving to exactly the right place.”
In addition to playing several of her songs at the event, Dobkin read excerpts from her new book, “My Red Blood: A Memoir of Growing Up Communist, Coming Onto the Greenwich Village Folk Scene, and Coming Out in the Feminist Movement.”
In the readings and the discussion that followed, Dobkin emphasized her role and the role of music in the feminist movement of the 1970s. She said that her involvement with music for, by, and about women aims to send a political message.
“Music is the strength of this culture, the organizing force,” Dobkin said.
She added that she felt the goal of the music of her day was often a political message, and modern music has a less meaningful aim.
“Now everyone’s plugged in individually,” she said.
Willmore agreed that not only is music less geared toward sending a message, but campuses in general display less political perspective.
“These days, I don’t see a whole lot of activism on campuses,” she said. “Recent generations of students are focused on where they can get rather than challenging the order.”
Koshka M. Duff, a graduate student in feminist philosophy, also noted this emphasis on individualism, particularly with respect to issues of feminism.
“The element of organization and solidarity has been lost in recent feminist trends,” she said. “But I believe that social movements in general are moving toward more diverse tactics and offering really good ideas for how to change things.”