Amanda Fucking Palmer and The Art of Asking

Amanda Fucking Palmer and The Art of Asking


Amanda Palmer makes me uncomfortable. I’m probably not unique in that, but the reason this reaction is somewhat interesting – at least to me – is that I simultaneously like her a lot. I have a general policy of liking intense, interesting, creative, kick-ass women and Amanda is an ukulele-playing feminist who draws her brows on in completely mad ways and is the author of the wittiest humiliation of Daily Mail in history. Of course I love the woman.

So why the uncomfortableness and a vague sense of embarrassment? Why is it that while I sincerely think women should be freer and louder and prouder and do whatever they want with their mind and body, I start getting doubts when one of them actually does? I can hear all kinds of unworthy thoughts lurking in the back of my mind: Is all this taking-off-the-clothes and writing-on-the-body stuff really necessary? I mean, can’t she make her points, I don’t know, in a less dramatic way? Be a bit less emotional? Does she really have to share EVERYTHING? Well, I’m exaggerating a bit for effect, but you see where I’m coming from.

All these thoughts have of course nothing to do with Amanda, who I dearly wish will continue to act and live exactly as she pleases, and everything to do with me. Watching and reading Amanda Palmer is a great exercise in discovering your own prejudices and emotional handicaps. Some of these are universal, but some of them are clearly specific to women. It’s pretty scary to realize how ingrained some ugly patterns are in our society and thinking: I consider myself a feminist, and I still go there, I still think “this is just too… much”. People might argue (and they do), that it’s not gender specific and I just don’t like people behaving in certain ways. It is possible. But the point is that we’ll never know, will we? As long as we live in a world where women are supposed to be a certain way and men another, there is no way to tell how I would react if things were different.

It seems difficult to talk about Amanda Palmer without being personal. Originally, I was just going to recommend her book and make some intelligent observations about the future of the arts, but four paragraphs in and I haven’t even started. So, the book. If you have an interest in human psyche, music, art in general, Internet, marketing, living statues or, of course, Amanda Palmer, you should read it. I’m not going to promise that you’re going to like it, but seriously, it has more to say about the state of things than you get from your Gladwells and Talebs (it’s not a dig at these guys, they aren’t bad either).

In the heart of the book is the necessity and beauty of asking and how this connects to making art and doing it for a living. All the points in the book are presented through personal experience, from working as a living statue in a wedding dress to a wildly successful crowdfunding experiment and its backlash. It does in fact make total sense in the book and the gist of it is captured in her famous TED talk, now with millions of views.

Maybe because I had watched the TED talk before, my favorite parts of the book were two less central bits. One was the insight into the music industry and its business model(s) – how it works now and how it might work in the future. The least emotional part, you could say. The other theme I found extremely poignant, however, was also one of the most emotional: the mysterious workings of Internet, the way love and hate happen and un-happen there, the new and strange intimacy of the social media and its dark side. If you are considering writing a hateful comment somewhere on the web, I suggest your read this book first.

The whole story is an intelligent ramble, a collage of disparate pieces, but Amada is holding it together by the sheer power of her personality and by the simple fact that she has something to say. It is political and personal and it’s occasionally uncomfortable, but for a book like that, it’s a small price to pay. Or maybe it’s the reward.

16 Comments

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  1. 1
    GibsonGirl99

    You capture eloquently how, and perhaps why, Amanda has become the lighting rod she is. Huzzah on a lovely post, and what a great introduction to you, too!

    • 2
      Ykkinna

      Thank you! I’ve just discovered that she shared this post and I’m probably not entirely coherent right now. But I’m very glad if my thoughts resonate with someone.

  2. 3
    from the standpoint of a man, ....it is the best description of A P that I have read or heard. . I am tempted to go n but I guess that would put me too close to her., and that I cannot express. not at this time anyay.

    to repeat, as best i can, from the standpoint of a man, the article describes my discomfort with Amanda. I have always expounded that women should have the same rights as a man……….and probably within my mind, added, but softly. I think this is what the reviewer was saying. and expresses my ow reservations. i have never met her. and much as I would like to…probably, would rather not.. ecr-s

    • 4
      Ykkinna

      I believe that our emotions are similar, but despite the (occasional) discomfort I feel, my reservations are not about Amanda, but about myself and that very reaction.

  3. 5
    Maz

    Brutal honesty is disquieting in a world where many still struggle with the idea of women being heard…. Thank you for sharing your eloquent views.

  4. 7
    Sherry

    What I also love about Amanda’s book is that it connects the vulnerability of asking for money or support within one’s creative art projects with the vulnerability of asking for help or support or even a hug from one’s romantic partner. It’s funny (in a humorous and sad way) how asking for help with a creative project is somehow easier than being emotionally vulnerable to another person. And I think Amanda demonstrates that beautifully in her book in how she talks about her creative processes as well as her relationship with husband Neil Gaiman. It’s a powerful book all around.

    And I love what you say here about the complexity of both loving / admiring a person like Amanda and also (when you really boil it down to the basics) find yourself afraid of someone like her. Because she is so open and willing to just dive in and say and do whatever she feels is right, even if it conflicts greatly with other people’s views. I wouldn’t want her to be any other way. And I wish I could be more like that, in my own way.

    • 8
      Ykkinna

      Thank you for this beautiful comment, Sherry. It’s impossible to write a comprehensive review of The Art of Asking, as there is always something else to reflect. I wouldn’t call my piece a review anyway, as it’s more about my reaction to it than about the book itself. But yes, I completely agree with you regarding asking and vulnerability. I actually told the story of Amanda and Neil to one of my friends, who was struggling with accepting help from her partner.

      And of course, I don’t want Amanda to change, I want to change myself.

  5. 9
    bardot

    Fascinating…and I am intrigued on so many levels….I am particularily interested in what she has to say about the negatives of social media and our online obsession….

    • 10
      Ykkinna

      She is very active on social media herself, but there was a backlash after her kickstarter campaign and she attracts a lot of trolling anyway, so she knows the dark side of it well. There is one incredible story about online abuse in the book, but I don’t want to spoil it for you, in case you decide to read the book.

  6. 11
    Holly

    I’ll be honest and say straight out that I’d never heard of Amanda Fucking Palmer. After reading your post and watching her TED talk, I can say she’s welcome to couchsurf here any time.

    Being an older woman (59) I feel less constrained by society than ever, and I don’t feel restricted by male/female roles that are inevitable in the childbearing years. After menopause, there is a kind of mourning for losing that particular way of being in the world, but simultaneously there is also an exuberant rejoicing in the freedom from it.

    It’s so wonderful to witness Amanda’s incredible humanity. It makes my heart glad to know she exists, and that she has a community of others who are inspired as I am. I look forward to reading the book. Thank you for bringing her to my attention.

  7. 13
    Johanob

    Must investigate!I find it fascinating when we feel uncomfortable in our own skin,because of one of our”own”.Not sure how this translates in my own life-or even why,but it’s interesting in how even I myself change in behaviour and demeanour sometimes.Maybe we should start to be more brave and embrace those individualities that we see in others,that are present in ourselves.Hope you have an awesome week!Yes you smell FABULOUS today….lol.x

    • 14
      Ykkinna

      Please, do investigate! She’s quite something. And thank you, you smell fabulous, too 🙂

  8. 15
    Lapsong Souchange

    In the interest of free speech & diversity of ideas, here goes:

    Own your spidey sense! Amanda Palmer makes you uncomfortable because she’s an over-the-top narcissist & as with all people with personality disorders may be charming initially but will eventually be hell to be around. Just because a woman acts like she has no boundaries, doesn’t mean she’s a feminist hero. Amanda Palmer is an asshole. Her book is a slapshod piece of narcissist ramblings from someone whose more interested in talking about herself than in learning to play her instrument.

    • 16
      Ykkinna

      I don’t know Amanda personally, so have no idea how it would be to have her around for an extended period of time. But I did enjoy the book (some parts more, some less) and I don’t see anything wrong with people speaking about themselves. If it doesn’t interest me, I can stop listening. Also, as a person who does play an instrument, I do not consider this activity to be morally superior to talking.

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