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Nancy Spungen: victim of sexism?

On the 30th anniversary of Nancy Spungen‘s murder by boyfriend Sid Vicious, New York magazine is publishing a piece contesting Nancy’s reputation as a nutball.

The piece, written by Karen Schoemer, asserts that Nancy, like Courtney Love, was despised by Vicious’s band mates in the Sex Pistols and the group’s fans not because she was loud and obnoxious, but because she was a female with opinions, who dared to acts as brazen and as outrageous as the men in the scene.

Punk rock scribe Legs McNeil talked about Nancy for the article, insisting Nancy “could be very, very nice,” and tells the author that Nancy was no more disturbed than anyone else involved in the punk scene.

Photographer Eileen Polk, a friend of Nancy’s, remembers her the same way and challenges her mother Deborah Spungen‘s unflattering portrayal of her as disruptive and mentally ill in the biography And I Don’t Want To Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder:

“Like most kids who are 17, basically her statement was, ‘I hate my family’…All the things that she loved and thought were important in the world, they told her were stupid. I think she had a really stifling middle-class upbringing.”

Polk recalls that before Nancy even met Sid, she was rejected by the catty groupie scene for running her mouth and being outrageous:

“Maybe Pamela Des Barres tells the story of female solidarity, but there was a lot of backstabbing. The other girls shunned her and were mean to her. And that made Nancy worse. She became vengeful. She kind of reacted to them putting her down by doing even worse things. The only people who didn’t shun her were the guys that were getting drugs from her.”

Nancy was so reviled that even after Sid Vicious admitted killing her, many people didn’t believe him, but no one did much to figure out who the real murderer was. It didn’t matter who killed Nancy.

I can’t say bravo enough to Schoemer for writing this piece. It shames me to think I have bought into the myth, on some level, of Nancy Spungen, the crazy girl who wanted to die. I’m so pleased that someone took the time to re-examine Nancy’s life and death through a feminist lens.

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6 thoughts on “Nancy Spungen: victim of sexism?

  1. “The 1970s punk rock scene was a notoriously sexist boys club. The only women tolerated, it seems, were groupies who kept their mouths shut except when performing a sex act.” Fucking nonsense! Chrissie Hynde, Poly Styrene, Eve Libertine, Joy De Vivre, Lesley Woods, Ari Up, Palm Olive, Tess Pollitt, Kate Korus, Ramona Carlier, Sue Catwoman, ,Gaye Advert, Siouxsie Sioux, Patti Smith, The Runaways, Ellie of the Stinky Toys, etc. Try telling any of them to keep their mouths shut except when performing a sex act!

  2. ginavivinetto on said:

    Okay I deleted that part. It wasn’t fair – –to girls in bands. I still think if you were a chick with opinions and you weren’t in a band, you were doomed.

  3. I gotta defer to your knowledge and experience on this one.

  4. ginavivinetto on said:


  5. Pingback: St. Paul’s: the drama, the tragedy… « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

  6. Terry C - NJ on said:

    Why would you hate someone who was so obviously mentally ill and who probably had been brain-damaged at birth?

    Nancy couldn’t help the way she was.

    The Sid-lovers are all a little sick.

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