Last week we all discovered that basically everyone likes Kate Bush. The news of Kate Bush’s live shows was greeted with a social media blanket of uproarious delight, marred only by the sadness that it would be impossible to get tickets due to the number of people posting on twitter about how it would be impossible to get tickets.
I’m no exception. I’ve liked Kate Bush since a friend of mine borrowed The Whole Story from the library when we were both about 17. I loved it. I might be no exception but Kate Bush is mine. I don’t even like music. I don’t think of Kate Bush as music. It’s much more special than that.
It has to be, doesn’t it? Otherwise we’d have to say that Kate Bush is somehow the same basic thing as Liam Gallagher, say, and that makes no kind of sense.
But if Kate Bush isn’t music, isn’t a singer songwriter with excellent taste in dresses and a flexible spine, what is she? What’s going on?
A lot of people talk about magic when they talk about Kate Bush. There’s lots of spiritual/folky/witchy imagery, so that makes sense. I think they’re on the right track. I think Kate Bush is from another world. Precisely, a parallel universe. Really.
Kate Bush exists in a parallel universe from the rest of us. There is no other explanation for the way Kate Bush behaves, what she creates, how she is treated and how she is gloried in. Kate Bush is from a universe where the patriarchy doesn’t exist. It is really the only explanation. What she’s doing here is a mystery, but here she is and she is allowed to be something women in pop culture are hardly ever allowed. Kate Bush is allowed to be a complete person. A human being.
As a human being, Kate Bush is allowed, at 17, to make an album about Victorian literature and masturbation. In the 1970s. And Kate Bush is allowed to wear leotards or that bikini in Babooska and she doesn’t get shamed for it.
Or not much – and when men do try and engage with Kate Bush in the normal way they engage with female pop stars, (that humina-humina bullshit) it’s just a bit weird. Like, why are you doing that? Why do that with Kate Bush? She’s special. She’s a woman who gets to be a human. You don’t get to treat her like an object. What’s inside Kate Bush, how she feels, is as important as what’s outside. If you think Babooska is about that outfit more than it is about female anger and jealously then you’re plainly a bit weird.
Oh, it can be about the outfit as well. Because she gets to play around with that stuff, Kate Bush. Play around with it and not be defined by it in precisely the way women are never allowed to do.
The media doesn’t laugh if Kate Bush says silly stuff, they don’t rush to mock her mistakes, they don’t search frantically for ways to tear her down. Kate Bush has a child and no one undermines her parenting, or defines her as a mother. (Mother-of-one, Kate Bush.)
It’s impossible to find another female auteur musician who escapes judgment the way Kate Bush does. From Amanda Palmer to Madonna they are all found lacking. But Kate Bush never ends up in the side bar of shame. Even weight fluctuation, the ultimate female failure, barely causes a fleshy ripple.
And Kate Bush revels in the feminine without it making her trivial. She can flounce and waft and swirl. She can weave flowers in her hair, relish sex, pulse and bleed and bring us up close to all her lady business. And we are not repulsed, as we would be by anyone else who rubbed their femininity in our faces like this. But not with Kate Bush. Kate Bush can flaunt her femininity the way men get to flaunt their masculinity. In that way where it’s all cool.
On 50 Words For Snow there is a song about having a one night stand with a snowman. And Kate Bush, isn’t criticised for doing this when she has a child. A woman who is a mother making art about weird sex and no one even cares. Just like they wouldn’t if a man who had kids did this.
Because Kate Bush exists outside patriarchy. It’s the only explanation.
A Kate Bush Top Ten
About an unborn child experiencing a nuclear war
9. The Sensual World/ Flower of the Mountain
A song with an intro that combines church bells and a bullwhip
8. Wuthering Heights
You know how much criticism women’s voices get for being screetchy or grating. Ahem.
7. Wedding List
Kill Bill in 1/100th of the time
6. Deeper Understanding
Computers provide a comfort people can’t. Said first and said best
5. Oh England, My Lionheart
A nostalgic, homesick song about this country that isn’t uncomfortable or triumphant
4. The Infant Kiss
Based on The Innocents/Turn of the Screw – a song about a governess falling for a child who may be possessed by a ghost
3. Heads We’re Dancing
A song about getting off with Hitler by mistake
2. Song of Solomon
A song about the book of the bible that is about sex
1. Hounds of Love
The absolute stricken horror of falling in love
When I was writing this I Googled for links about Kate Bush and feminism and found mostly quotes from Kate Bush decrying it, or questioning it’s worth. A bit disappointing until you realise that Kate Bush doesn’t need feminism. She is possibly the one woman who pretty much doesn’t.
When we look at Kate Bush, we see a better world – and I think that is why so many of us adore her so much, because we love seeing this. We see this tiny glimpse of what the world could be like if female artists got to do their art while being seen as people and not constantly held to ridiculous standards, trivialized and ridiculed and then shamed for being either too sexy or not sexy enough all the time.
And if the media can do this for Kate Bush, why not for all women? The fact Kate Bush exists shows us it is possible for a woman to exist this way. A little chink of hope.
Right now Kate Bush is like the slayer. The one girl in all the world who gets to live outside patriachy. If we managed to do a spell like Willow does in Chosen, and end patriarchy, we would all get to be like Kate Bush. Not the same as her, not identical, but the same because we would all get to be as true to ourselves and celebrated for it as she is.
Let’s all go and live in Kate Bush’s world. I think that would be nice.