>The Raging Grannies have an insanely simple goal:
>To save the world
>Tuesday, July 25, 2000
>By M.L. LYKE
>SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
>The old dames dress dime-store tacky. Artificial flowers
>are wired to hats, floozy feather boas and plastic Hawaiian
>leis thrown around necks, slips hang below thrift-store skirts,
>and political buttons are pinned everywhere:
>"We shall overcome."
>"Protest the WTO."
>"Diverse women for diversity."
>Their shameless shtick's hardly four-star, either. Harmony's
>hit-and-miss, the accompaniment's kazoo, and the mature soprano
>voice warbling in and out of choruses is not Whitney Houston's.
>Not even close.
>"We're a gaggle of grannies/ Urging you off your fannies," sing
>the Raging Grannies, a rococo, loco, left-leaning chorus of 18
>activist women, aged 49-80, who are musical regulars at Seattle
>They sang at last week's protest against the arrival of the
>Trident submarine. They sang at the Million Mom March. They sang
>at WTO, to the cheers of youth one-third their age who described
>them as "awesome."
>"I think they're wonderful. It's so encouraging to see older women
>exercising their voice," says Seattle Central Community College
>student Deanna Chapman, at a Grannie "sweatshop fashion show" at
>The sweatshop stint's not for the politically fainthearted.
>"We have a song for you about greed," says musical director Rosy
>Betz-Zall, 49, introducing a gig in which the Grannies preach the
>evils of factory worker exploitation and paint horrific pictures
>of children laboring for 23 cents an hour behind barbed-wire
>fences in Third World countries.
>"There's no business like clothes business," sing the Seattle
>satirists. One by one, they strut the room in Nike shoes, trendy
>T-shirts from The Gap and pierced Mickey Mouse ears set off by
>gray hairs and loose flesh. When one misses her cue, the others
>laugh it off as "a senior moment."
>Soon the roomful of students is giving it up for the Grannies,
>whose goal is quite simple. They want to save the world. The sooner
>the better. And they'll twist the lyrics of any song to that end:
> "Oh, give me a home
> Where the rivers don't foam
> And the squirrels and chipmunks can play
> Where the lakes all have fish
> You can put on your dish
> And the skies are not smoggy and gray."
>The SCCC students, whose drab black, gray and olive clothes
>contrast with the screaming, mismatched neons and primaries of
>the Grannies, eat it up. They laugh. They sing. They pump their
>fists along with the didactic dames up front.
>They hear messages of peace ("We're gonna rage and roar/ And stop
>all war"), exploitation ("If no one knows it/ Let's expose it"),
>and are bombarded with no-no "isms": racism, ageism, sexism,
>classism -- "and any kind of slap in the face-ism," throws in petite,
>78-year-old Grannie Shirley Morrison, whose outr chapeau is stacked
>almost a foot high with artificial daisies, roses and dahlias, a
>white dove and buttons that read "First things first: A roof over
>every bed," and "Your silence will not protect you."
>Lifetimes of activism
>Silence is anything but golden to these hard-core, seasoned activists.
>This is confirmed in an afternoon meet with a half-dozen Grannies, all
>in street dress, sipping tea and coffee and Odwalla power drinks, at
>the Still Life in Fremont Coffeehouse. The conversation begins somberly
>The women, whose ages span three decades, talk earnestly about the
>mentally ill forced out on the streets, the oppression of women and
>children, the destruction of the environment, arms proliferation,
>genetic food manipulation, corporate greed ("They've sent our jobs out
>of the country/ They've sent our jobs over the sea ... ").
>The Grannies compare notes on lifetimes of activism. Some remember
>visiting Japanese prisoners in interment camps during World War II.
>Some remember blacks moving off sidewalks to let whites pass.
>They talk about their participation in the farmworkers' boycott, the
>civil rights marches, the Vietnam War sit-ins, the women's lib movement,
>their arrests at protests over Contra funding.
>They discuss the history of the Raging Grannies, begun in 1986-87 in
>Victoria, B.C., by peace activists heavily involved in street theater.
>The B.C. activists began writing satirical songs such as "Take Me Out
>to the Clearcut" to the tune of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," and the
>ultimate grrrl group was born.
>There are now about 60 chapters across Canada and at least five in the
>United States. The groups share songs, publish songbooks, hold
>"unconventions" and maintain a Web page: http://www.raginggrannies.com
>Humor gets attention
>The Seattle group made its debut in February of 1996, singing in the
>rain at a President's Day rally sponsored by the Washington State
>Labor Council. One new member, Hinda Kipnis, 68, says she saw the
>Grannies perform before joining and thought, "No way can I be in this
>group. I'm a perfectionist."
>This comment makes the Grannies howl, and the rest of the conversation
>dances between lively laughter and dead seriousness -- that one-two,
>step-step jig the Grannies do so well. "We believe passionately in
>issues," says Ruth Liatos, 69. "But when you use humor, when you make
>fun of yourself, people's eyes don't glaze over.
>"You see them spark up, smile, and they start listening."
>Ruth, class clown for the strident choir, grows uncharacteristically
>quiet, her malleable face momentarily fallen. "It's very rare as you
>get older to have people listen to you," she adds.
>But the people in the restaurant can't help but listen as the Grannies'
>animated voices rise in the warm afternoon air. The self-described
>"wise women elders" talk costumes. They talk lyrics. They talk about
>trashing tired stereotypes of older women. And suddenly they burst into
> "The old gray mares
> We ain't what we used to be
> We've given up respectability
> Don't give a fig for acceptability
> The old gray mares
> We ain't what we used to be
> We're far too awesome to care."
>With that, the Still Life erupts in applause, and, for one more Raging
>day, everything old is new again.
>The Raging Grannies are a colorful collection of left-leaning women who
>lift their voices against such ills as greed, violence and pollution.
>There are about 60 Raging Grannies chapters in Canada (the first formed
>in Victoria in the mid-'80s) and at least five in the United States,
>including the one in Seattle, which debuted in 1996.
>For more on the Grannies, check http://www.raginggrannies.com.
>P-I reporter M.L. Lyke can be reached at 206-448-8344 or
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