It’s easy to get lost in the many albums, EPs, singles, and videos released by top artists every month. However, digital streaming platforms are also filled with many artists who don’t have the type of fan base their mainstream counterparts do, but deserve a lot of attention. Of those emerging artists, female performers form a subset. Realistically, most people understand, or have an idea of how hard it is for female artists in the industry which is why every month we show support to 7 exceptional female singers we want the world to pay attention to.
The list this month features new videos and singles by: Shae Universe, Òlah Bliss, Donalee, Crystal Caines, Lauren Faith, Lorine Chia, and Alus.
Òlah Bliss – Homegirl
“Homegirl” comes with one of those flute-based sounds you can almost never forget. Through the lyrics, Òlah sends a warning to anyone in her circle of friends who seeks more than friendship.
There’s more to Lauren Faith than her vocal dexterity and pen game. She’s also a talented producer. “D.M.T” is a sultry, R&B-inspired pop song that appears on her debut EP, Cosmic EP. Lauren is the kind of singer you listen to while sipping wine in the bathtub.
Shaé has a way with melodies! I think what I really like about Shaé’s energy is her consistency. She has been on a roll since 2015 when she released her first single. One can’t help but be stunned by the choreography and visual colors in “Meant To Be”.
Weeks ago, I was reminded of how much TRAKGIRL cares about females in the industry when she tweeted: “We can say you are for women empowerment, but are you pushing towards getting more women into the ‘system’?” Well aware of the challenges faced by many women in the music industry, Shakari Boles aka, TRAKGIRL continues to prove she is a role model to those who can relate to the struggle. TRAKGIRL, is a dynamic and talented music producer, songwriter, and entrepreneur. She broke into the music scene during her sophomore year in college. That was when she produced “Ode to Tae”, a track on Omarion’s EP, “Care Package”. Since then, she has produced for other artists like Luke James, King Chip, Belly, and Jhene Aiko. Other than her outstanding productions, she’s also passionate about encouraging female creatives to reach their full potential, and get what they deserve in the industry. This passion lead to the creation of her brands, “PAY US TODAY”, and “The 7% Series”. TRAKGIRL created The 7% Series to uplift female creatives like producers, engineers, and mixers. The percentage of such women in the industry is less than 7%, but the goal of the brand is to honor them. While launching the program, she stressed the need for women to lift each other up as a means to increase opportunities in the recording studio. At the event, she said, “We have to create a pathway for other girls. They have to see there are role models.” Through speaking engagements and producer clinics, she has been a mentor to females who aspire to get into the industry. Motivated by the goal to support creatives, she also launched a fashion brand, PAY US TODAY that promotes fair and equal pay for creatives regardless of gender. In an interview with Forbes, When asked about how she is breaking stereotypes for women within the music industry she said: “I really want to continue to use my voice and be an advocate for women who wish to become a music producer. I really want to share my knowledge and inspire people. I’m just an advocate for women; I’m all for empowerment.” She continues to expand her brands to promote self-awareness and women empowerment in the music industry. TRAKGIRL is not only changing the music industry, but paving a way for future aspiring female producers and creatives.
In a world where stereotypes shape a lot of reactions, black women are often seen through the distorting lens of prejudices about race, gender, and class. From childhood, black girls and boys are told by our parents that we have to work twice as hard and be twice as good in order to get the same opportunities as our white peers. Once we get into the real world, we learn that “twice as good” isn’t enough, and we really have to be extraordinary.
Meet the two successful black women, Yomi Adegoke, and Elizabeth Uviebinené who have highlighted the racial issues surrounding black people in the UK with their book, Slay In Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible. In this book, they focus on Black women—the easy targets. Yomi Adegoke is a journalist and senior writer at The Pool. Even back in 2013, when she wrote articles like ‘A Rose By Any Other Name May Leave You Unemployed’ and ‘Hipster Racism: The Bane of Higher Education’, she expressed nothing but love and support for black people. Elizabeth Uviebinené is a marketing manager who brings brands to life, increases engagement and drives growth in her marketing campaigns. She is committed to increasing the visibility of diverse perspectives, by creating campaigns that are culturally progressive and commercially impactful.
Slay In Your Lane is no ordinary book. It is like a bible for black women that offers advice on how they can navigate their way through the rough road set by racists to prevent them from being as successful as they should be. This book would be 10 times bulkier if they focused on the numerous challenges of being black in general. Nonetheless, it is a book every member of the black community can learn a lot from and relate to. This is the book everyone who has ever been enthused about “Wakanda” should hold on to. The lessons aren’t just for black people, it extends to people of color, and even caucasians. As Yomi Adegoke said, “I think non-black people should read it to understand the experience of what it means to be a black woman.”
From education, to employment, dating, representation, money, and health, Slay In Your Lane explores the uniquely challenging experiences black British women face every day, and offers advice on how to rise above them. In addition to their own experiences, the best friends interview some of the UK’s most successful black women, like Florence Adepoju, Amma Asante, Afua Hirsch, Dawn Butler, Cynthia Erivo, and Vanessa Kingori. In this book, they talk about the “concrete ceiling”, “impenetrable glasshouses”, the “long, back-door route into success” and such bias at work places that drives some black candidates to send in job applications using aliases. They also tackle issues around health, dating and representation that are specific to black women.
Since its release, it’s been the number one Best Seller under “Business Ethics” on Amazon. BBC lists it as a “top book for 2018”, while ELLE UK mentions it among “12 addictive books to get you through 2018.” With Slay In Your Lane, the two successful black British women continue to add bullet points to their already rich resumé.
Here is this months list of recommended reading – the best writing on women, gender, music and art taken from all over the internet.
In the month of June new music from Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Jorja Smith and many more wonderful women in the music industry, allows us to appreciate the incredible talent that all these women possess. During this month there has been a momentous achievement for women in Saudi Arabia as they have finally been allowed to drive suggesting that a gradual step towards equality has been made.
Everything is Love is the Ultimate Ode To Black Freedom
Welcome back to the latest instalment of the Girls Against Book Club! For the month of June we’ve been reading Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein, a memoir by 1/3rd of the band Sleater Kinney. Today I’m writing this post collaboratively with Emma, who you might know from our monthly book club Instagram live videos. Rather than having my thoughts on the book and then Emma’s separately, I thought I’d intertwine them throughout the post (if you get confused, my thoughts will be in normal font and Emma’s will be in italics). So, with that, here’s Emma with a bit on Brownstein’s biography:
Carrie Brownstein is one third of Time’s ‘best American rock band’, Sleater- Kinney which was integral in the formation of the ‘riot grrrl’ movement. Often associated with third- wave feminism, the riot grrrl movement allowed women from different backgrounds to come together and express themselves creatively and utilise their music to make political statements about what they were facing within their individual communities and society as a whole. Sleater Kinney were known for their lyricism against war and traditional gender roles. In this memoir Carrie Brownstein captures perfectly what it was like to be a young woman in the underground feminist rock-punk movement that has helped shape music from the 1990’s through to today.
I wasn’t very familiar with Sleater Kinney before reading this memoir and I was kind of worried that this would diminish the book’s value for me. It definitely didn’t though and this book can clearly be enjoyable for Sleater Kinney fans and those who aren’t as familiar with them alike. Although I do think I would have enjoyed some particular details more if I was a bigger fan- such as the descriptions of the intimate moments that the band had- the book’s value, for me, was in learning more about the band who were so integral to the Riot Grrrl movement and getting some perspective from a woman whose life has been shaped around being ‘a girl in a band’.
Emma writes on Brownstein’s reflections on being female in an overwhelmingly male space:
In her memoir, Brownstein retells her dissatisfaction with life and her longing to belong within the music scene. As an all female band, the trials and tribulations the band faced are presented in the memoir allowing us to understand the unwavering determination and strength within them. Sleater Kinney’s lyrics ‘As a woman I was taught to always be hungry…We could eat just about anything / We might even eat your hate up like love” are expanded through her explanation of them ‘To me, that perfectly summed up being a young girl. It was the first time someone put into words my sense of alienation, the feeling that all these institutions and stories we’d been taught to hold as sacred often had very little to do with my own lived experiences.’
One of the most interesting moments in the book for me was Brownstein’s frustration with constantly having to defend herself and her band against the questions they are constantly asked but might not have answers to. She writes, ‘ More than anything, I felt that this meta-discourse, talking about the talk, is part of how it feels to be a “woman in music” (or a “woman in anything”, for that matter- politics, business, comedy, power.) Even today, I feel that women in music are constantly asked ‘how it feels’ to be where they are and who they are and with these questions comes a sentiment on the interviewers behalf, consciously or not, that they do not deserve to be there or shouldn’t be there. These ‘how does it feel’ questions are usually asked to people who have reached milestones, who are the first people to reach a certain point, such as walking on the moon or beating a world record. But women being in bands and within the world of music are no longer anomalies so why are we still asking them these questions? And how do we expect them to answer it? As Carrie writes, ‘To this day, because I know no other way of being or feeling, I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman in a band- I have nothing else to compare it to.’
As well as womanhood, fans, from being one to having them, and fandom is also a significant theme in this memoir as Emma discusses:
Brownstein’s passion for music is described as she intrinsically interweaves her self with her love for the likes of Madonna and George Michael. It is this love for music and the thrill of being a fan that provides the stability and purpose to her life. ‘To become a fan of something, to open and change, is a move of deliberate optimism, curiosity, and enthusiasm.’ Brownstein’s sense of attachment to music allows her to transport herself within the music acting as her only salvation from her troubled life. Starting with her early years, her life is tracked out through an intimate style of growth. When Brownstein’s mother is diagnosed as anorexic, during this period of her life it is evident that her sense of security is gone. Her later struggles arise when her Father admits he is gay leaving her doubting her previous relationship with him. Brownstein’s experience as a bisexual woman is explored throughout the memoir as she retells her relationships with her other band members and the struggles which this inevitably brought.
I think this part of the book is what is so important about it for many people and why many music fans hold it close to their heats. Carrie’s love of music is so undeniable throughout this book and it is the thing, for me, that made this book so deeply personal. Brownstein defines herself through music and lives to play it, literally moving cities to find Sleater Kinney. She talks about needing Sleater Kinney in a way that allows the reader to truly understand how much the band means to her. And the fact that the messages in their music promoted feminism and not ‘a version of feminism that was being dumbed down and marketed sloganized, and diminished [but one that drew] deeper, more divisive lines’ perhaps made the band even more important to them, and it certainly does for their fans and for the reader.
I do think some parts of this book were lost on me just because it feels like it’s written for someone who is a Sleater Kinney fan, which is fine, I’m not criticising the book at all but, for me, I just know I could have appreciated it more than I did! Despite this, Brownstein’s writing style is beautifully personal and easy-to-read, a combination that isn’t easy to perfect, and her story is as emotional as it is inspiring.
Here’s Emma’s final thoughts on the book:
In Brownstein’s electrifying memoir, her journey of self-acceptance is written with a beautiful, fiery narrative tracking the events of this incredible woman’s life.This deeply personal memoir exploring the effects of deep passion for music brings inspiration and awe to the reader. With sharp wit and language echoing her jagged, alliterative lyrics, Carrie Brownstein’s writing transports you back to the 90’s and encourages you to treasure the music that truly ignites your soul.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this new format for the book club posts, do let us know as we might make it a monthly thing! Be sure to watch our Instagram Live video on Monday evening to hear more of our thoughts on the book as Emma and I discuss it further!
It’s now July which means the book club has officially been up and running for one year now, how exciting! So this month we are going to go back to our roots and read ‘Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body’ by Roxane Gay as the first book we read was ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay!
Welcome back to the Girls Against Book Club! During the month of May, we’ve been reading Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a feminist utopian novel published in 1915. Before we move on to talking about that though, I want to mention that we’re coming to the end of the list of books I prepared for the first 6 months of 2018 and I will be creating a list for the remaining months very soon. So, if anyone has any recommendations please send them over to us by some form of social media! The books we read are centred around themes of intersectional feminism and issues within the music industry so if you can think of anything that you think might be a good fit, please let us know!
Now onto the novel! Herland was recommended to me by one of the founders, Anna, when we were first coming up with ideas for the book club and how it should be run and I’ve wanted to include it as one of our books ever since. It’s a fairly short novel- my copy is only 124 pages- with elements of humour and a first-person, reflective narrative, which makes it pretty easy to read.
Perkins Gilman was one of the earliest first-wave feminists, born in Connecticut in 1860, she spent her life writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction, all of which had feminist aims. Her short story The Yellow Wallpaper, published in the late 19th century, is considered one of the earliest and most important works of feminist fiction. I read this as part of my English A-Level and loved it, so I was really keen to read this novel. I enjoyed the novel and thought it was most useful for exploring the ideas of early feminists. Because this book was published over 100 years ago, I do think there are some gaps in it and some ideas that are problematic and, although I am going to discuss them, I’m very aware that Perkins Gilman is always going to inevitably be a product of her time. Despite this, I think the idea of the book is a really interesting way of portraying the backwardness of a patriarchal society and presenting the merits of feminism and Gilman’s ideas would have been totally revolutionary to a contemporary reader.
The most problematic element of this novel is the fact that it is framed as a utopia, as obviously a first-wave feminists idea of utopia is going to be different to that of a modern feminists’ version. Perkins Gilman’s idea of a utopia is an island of women who are able to give birth without having sex and are living in an advanced world without poverty, war or any other of what might be considered ‘the vices of society’. Through portraying three men who have entered this country for the first time, Perkins Gilman is able to debunk many contemporary myths about women. First and foremost, she deals with the rhetoric spawned by many at the time about the incompetency of women’s ability to govern and even work. This is depicted by the repetitive claim of the three men who enter the country that ‘There must be men’, because they are so impressed with the country.
However this utopia seems to also enforce contemporary, and maybe even current, myths about women, namely the one that women are naturally maternal and that their overwhelming purpose is to have children. In describing the women of Herland, one of the men’s mentors tells them ‘You see, we are Mothers’ and they are persistent in describing how natural maternity is to each and every one of the women. Their womanhood is so linked to their motherhood that it seems to suggest that women who are infertile or simply did not want to have a child, would not be considered as a woman in Herland. This is very much a case of considering the novel as a product of it’s time though, as obviously, I’d like to think, views around motherhood and maternity have transformed significantly over the past 100 years. But nevertheless, it’s an element of the novel that I found consistently problematic. Also problematic is the way in which the women are framed as having no sexual desire whatsoever, as this suggests, as many of Perkins Gilman’s contemporary’s would have believed, that women are naturally chaste beings. One of the Herlanders even describes sex as seeming ‘so against nature.’
There are some parts of the novel that are still relevant to modern feminism though, which I really enjoyed, especially because they were often presented in a humorous way. For example, when the men marry three of the women of Herland, the women are confused at the prospect of changing their maiden name asking, ‘Do the husbands then take their wives’ maiden names?’ Obviously now, there is much less pressure on women to take their husband’s names but for readers of Herland in the early 19th century, seeing how confused this female character is about this tradition would have really made them question it and the connotations of this element of marriage.
Another part of the novel I found really interesting was the men’s assumption that all of the women of Herland would be young, stating ‘Most men do think that way’. Obviously, this is a stupidly ignorant way to think but it made me think about the discussion around the use of the world ‘girl’ rather than ‘woman’ when describing a female adult. I’ve mostly heard this discussion around the term ‘Girl Boss’, as many believe it sub-consciously suggests that a boss figure is inherently male. Many have also commented on how strange it is that we are referring to women in their 20s, 30s and 40s as ‘girls’ when we would rarely refer to men of these ages as ‘boys’. This assumption within the novel really made me think of the reasons, connotations and consequences of defining the female figure as one of youthfulness.
An issue that I knew I would have this book is it’s lack of intersectionality. Gilman was a white woman writing before most feminists had began to consider intersectionality within feminism and so I assumed that her representations would be restrictive. As mentioned before, the women of Herland are portrayed as having no sexual desire, seemingly because of the fact that there is no men on the island, totally ruling out the idea of bisexuality or lesbianism. The fact that children and birth is described as the women’s ‘raison d’etre’ is also exclusionary of trans women. It is ambiguous as to whether there any women of colour in this country but the fact that there is no mention of any, to me, suggests that there isn’t or, if there is, there narrative is being silenced, as three white men from an American society that was inherently racist, surely would have commented on the appearance of women who were not white.
I realize that I have criticized the novel quite disproportionately in this blog post and that is because I feel a responsibility to pick up on some of the things that Perkins Gilman ignored, whether she did so sub-consciously or otherwise, and as a product of her time, there are many. But there are so many merits to this book and I hope this discussion of it hasn’t taken away from them. I’d really recommend reading the novel for yourself because I simply don’t have the word count to go through all of the things I liked about this novel as well as all of it’s problematic elements.
If you would like to hear a more balanced review of this novel, head over to our Instagram page tonight (Sunday 3rd June) at 6pm as Anna and I will be going live to discuss Herland and I’ll, hopefully, have time to go a little bit deeper in my discussion.
For the month of June we will be reading ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ by Carrie Brownstein. This book has been highly recommended to me by another GA rep, Sophia, and although I don’t know much about the author, I’m really excited to read it! GoodReads describes it as ‘From a leader of feminist punk music at the dawn of the riot-grrrl era, a candid and deeply personal look at life in rock and roll.’
Speaking of GoodReads, we have a group page over there where everyone is free to discuss the book of the month! I’d love to hear your thoughts on ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ before, during and after you’ve read it over there but if you’re more comfortable contributing your views privately, you can send them to email@example.com. To have your views included in next month’s book club post, please send them over before Sunday 1st July! You can also send us your thoughts via Twitter (@girlsagainst) or Instagram (@girls.against).
Written by Alice Porter (@aliceporterx on Twitter).
Here is this months list of recommended reading – the best writing on women, gender, music and art taken from all over the internet.
During the month of May we have been blessed with new music from female fronted band ‘CHVRCHES’, Harvey Weinstein has been charged with rape and sex abuse and the Irish referendum vote leaves women with the freedom that they deserved long ago. This month holds many achievements we can celebrate, here are a few articles celebrating them:
Bjork’s First TV Performance In 8 Years Is Breathtaking
Being from a hard-working family and a musically bland city, Janelle Monáe has always highlighted the under-appreciated and the outsider with her lyrics. What sets her apart is the willingness to speak and deliver multilayered analysis of complicated social issues. She isn’t just a feminist who gives powerful speeches, the topic is a resounding feature in her music. Since her mixtape days, she has, sonically, lyrically, and aesthetically articulated a vision for the liberation of women and black People.
On ‘Dirty Computer’ she tackles some interdisciplinary construct of black feminism, which embody womanhood, queerness and racism. Her most uplifting and inspiring songs on the album are ‘Crazy, Classic, Life’, ‘Django Jane’, ‘Pynk’, ‘I Like That’ and ‘Americans’.
On ‘Crazy, Classic, Life’, She promotes self-freedom, self-confidence and independence for all women as she sings “I am not America’s nightmare, I am the American Dream”. The intro on this song is an excerpt from the ‘Declaration Of Independence’ which beams a spotlight on the need for equal rights for men and women. With her lyrics, she paints a picture of what it’s like to live a crazy, classic, life in a world where everyone is equal.
‘Django Jane’ is the all-rap track, in which Janelle talks about the power of women and her accomplishments as a woman. In an interview with The Guardian, she described this song as a response to threats being made to her rights as a black, sexually liberated woman.
With lines like: “Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it. Y’all can’t ban it…..” and “We gave you life, we gave you birth, We gave you God, we gave you Earth” she puts women on the pinnacle of the world. After noting the contribution and importance of women to the world, she poses the unchallengeable rhetorical question “If she the G.O.A.T. now, would anybody doubt it?”. Indeed every woman is the G.O.A.T.
She uses the lyrics on ‘Pynk’ to declare the supremacy of the color and links it to women using it as a euphemism and simile for the vagina and other parts of the body. Stereotypically in Western culture, boys are associated with blue and girls with pink. Janelle fits in an uncomplicated female empowerment message into this song as she sings: “Cause boy, it’s cool if you got blue We got the pynk“. This line leaves men in the shadows of jealousy as the color they constantly avoid turns out to be the most supreme color. ‘Pynk’ isn’t just a reference to female body parts, but also a reference to everything around us that shares the color pink. With this song, she creates a great argument for Pink as the best color in the world. Many women will feel self-love as they listen to this song and appreciate the beauty in being female.
On ‘I Like That’, she cant be judged for showing interest and being attracted to whoever, or whatever she likes. Her second and third verse contain lyrics that describe a lady who is confident and knows her worth—that’s how every woman should feel! As she sings: “I don’t care what I look like but I feel good. Better than amazing, and better than I could” in her second verse, psychologically, it creates the highest feeling of self-confidence and self-esteem.
‘Americans‘ is not only unshackling for females, but for every American. Janelle mentions the infamous gap in pay between men and women in the line: “Seventy-nine cent to your dollar”.
In a Trump-era, Janelle Monáe has created an anthem not only for black women, but for every American. In addition to her empowering lyrics on this song, she adds a ‘Not my America’ speech in the bridge that hits home.
An excerpt from the spoken words in the bridge:
“Until women can get equal pay for equal work, this is not my America
Until same-gender loving people can be who they are, this is not my America.”
The chorus serves as an American anthem for the underrepresented and underprivileged.
The most important thing about this album is the message. With the lyrics, she addresses serious issues like sexuality, feminism, politics, and love. Her lyrics are poetic, metaphorical and rhythmic. With her lyrics, she shows strength, passion, pain, love, aggression, confidence and fear. She presents her lyrics like a mediator betweenthe oppressed and the oppressor. She’s like the Archangel in the Bible, and what Neo represents to the Matrix. For feminists and people of color, this album will elicit strong emotions. Most importantly, every woman should hold on to this album like a bible.
Written by Tommy Monroe (@TommyMonroe_ on Twitter.)
Welcome back to the GA Book Club! It feels like I haven’t written a book club post in a long time because the first Sunday of the month has fallen a little later than usual. But that’s good because it’s given me time to really get stuck into April’s book, Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde.
Before I talk about the text, I’ll tell you a little bit about Lorde herself as she is truly a remarkable woman. Born in New York City in 1934, Lorde was predominantly a poet throughout her life. In everything she did, she voiced issues of gender, race and sexuality. Lorde herself was a black, female, lesbian feminist, something she discusses throughout many of the essays in this book, and so, obviously, these issues were very close to her heart. After a long battle with cancer, that she documented in The Cancer Journals (1980), she passed away in 1992 shortly after taking on an African name, Gamba Adisa, meaning “she who makes her meaning clear.” She is viewed as an important figure in the twentieth century feminism movement and, in my opinion, is one of the few second-wave feminists who consistently advocated intersectionality within feminism.
The essays and speeches within this text are both academic and personal but each and every one of them felt like a really important read. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to talk about every essay within the book but I will discuss some of my favourites.
Moving through chronologically, I’ll start with ‘Poetry Is Not a Luxury’, one of her shorter essays. In this essay, Lorde discusses how essential poetry is for women’s existence in a world where they are restricted in so many ways. She states, ‘Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought.’ She also describes the power of poetry in bringing freedom and revolution to women. As a lover of literature and a believer that culture really can bring about change, I loved this essay so much.
In ‘An Open Letter to Mary Daly’, Lorde discusses what is today referred to as ‘white feminism’ and portrays the dangerous problems of exclusionary empowerment. She discusses the importance of white women, who are inherently privileged by the very nature of their race, speaking up for black women. She addresses white women in saying, ‘The white women with hoods on Ohio handing out KKK literature on the street may not like what you have to say, but they will shoot me on sight.’ This anecdote is the perfect example of why it is so important for everyone to make use of their privilege. It also reminded me of the recent incident of two black men being arrested at a Starbucks in America for no other reason than that they were there. If you watch the video, it’s clear that the black men know they cannot speak up for themselves in fear of further accusations, whereas the white man is`able to do so without caution. This is a great example of how to use your privilege but also a harrowing representation of the extent to which racism still exists in America.
In a further discussion of the importance of intersectionality within feminism in the essay ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’, Lorde points out that it is not just necessary to value intersectionality but extremely beneficial. She states, ‘Difference must be not merely tolerated but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.’ Lorde’s discussion of feminism is so ahead of its time and, despite the fact that it was first published in 1984, it’s still a really important book for 2018 because of this sophistication.
‘A room of one’s own may be a necessary for writing prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of time.’ This quote from the essay ‘Age, Race, Class, and Sex’ might just be my favourite from the entirety of the text. By referencing Virginia Woolf’s book about the disadvantages women face in the cultural sphere, particularly the literary one, Lorde portrays how there isn’t just one level of oppression. It may have been hard for white women to break into the literary world because of societal attitudes and disadvantaged education but many black women may not have even had the privilege of any education and the societal barriers that faced them meant that maybe they couldn’t get a seat on the bus, never mind admission to university. I am not degrading certain types of oppression in this discussion but rather portraying just how many different levels of oppression there are, which is why we must consider women as a group as varied and diverse and cater our feminism as such. As Lorde states, ‘Some problems we share as women, some we do not.’
Finally, Lorde’s essay, ‘The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’ is so great and extremely thought-provoking. She explains why angry responses to racism (and all other issues of discrimination) are totally justified. Today, we are told to talk about feminism and oppression in a ‘calm and collected’ manner in order to be ‘taken seriously’- but this essay made me think, why should we? We have a right to be angry about the oppression women, people of colour and the LGBTQ community have faced. We shouldn’t have to smile and calmly dismiss sexist comments in order to be taken seriously. We should be taken seriously because these issues are real and affect millions of people every single day. Lorde states that dismissing black women’s arguments purely because they are angry ‘is merely another way of preserving racial blindness, the power of unaddressed privilege, unbleached, intact.’ So the next time someone tells you that they will not listen to you if you are angry, tell them that you won’t listen to them unless they ARE angry, because they should be.
One of our reps, Emma Randall, is sharing her views on ‘Sister Outsider’ this month:
‘Audre Lorde’s ‘Sister Outsider’ is filled with inspirational and eye opening passages. Whether it being in her anecdotes during her ‘Trip to Russia’ and ‘Grenada revisited’ or in the transcript of an interview with Adrienne Rich, Lorde teaches us what it is like to be a black lesbian feminist through the powerful use of words in this collection. For me, ‘Sister Outsider’ amazed me in the way in which she used language to convey her thoughts and opinions. By writing almost poetically, Lorde was able to question the representation of black lesbian feminists and tackle issues regarding racism, homophobia, ageism and sexism in such a powerful way. In the essay ‘Poetry Is Not A Luxury’, Lorde explores the power of poetry and that it is ‘the vital necessity of our existence’ as it allows us to conceptualise ideas. Poetry provides Lorde with the ability to challenge society and the racism embedded into the system. Through poetry, those who have been oppressed are strong, she explains there is power in such differences and these must empower us. The oxymoron in the title ‘Sister Outsider’ suggests that Lorde doesn’t fit into any group in society and that she must create a sense of belonging for herself. The struggles faced by Lorde are presented in ‘An Open Letter to Mary Daly’. In this letter, Lorde writes to the white feminist author Mary Daly asking her about the absence of black goddesses in her book ‘Gyn/Ecology’.
‘Why are her goddess images only white, western European, judeo Christian? Where was Afrekete, Yemanje, Oyo and Mawulisa? Where were the warrior goddesses of the Vodun, the Dahomeian Amazons and the warrior women of Dan?’
Lorde shows that a Eurocentric scope dealing with only the ecology of Western women has been included in the book. In excluding black female heritage from the book Lorde suggests that a lack of understanding about the history of the black female is evident. This again marginalizes Lorde, deeming her as an outsider. It is important to take this message and apply it to our own experiences. Is the representation of all women included? Her letter received no reply from Mary Daly and was subsequently opened up to the community of women.
This collection has influenced many of my current thoughts and opinions, Lorde is able to inform the reader of the institutional dehumanization that oppresses minority groups in 1970 and 1980 America. Yet, this collection expands to all areas of society and it is timeless, I would recommend it to all.’
Emma and I will be going live on the Girls Against Instagram this evening at 5:30pm to discuss more about our views on Lorde’s essay collection so keep an eye out on our Instagram to join in the discussion and ask us any questions!
For the month of May, the book club will be reading ‘Herland’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Published in 1915, this is the earliest novel we have read so far. It’s a utopian novel describing an isolated society composed entirely of women. Perkins Gilman was a feminist writer of the 19th and early 20th century and she also wrote the well known short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. ‘Herland’ is a fairly short novel so there’s no excuses not to join in and read it this month! You can join our GoodReads group to keep up to date with the book club and contribute to the discussion of all of the texts we read. You can also email us with your views on ‘Herland’ at firstname.lastname@example.org and, with your permission, we will include them in next month’s post! The post on ‘Herland’ will go up on Sunday 3rd June so please send any opinions over before then.
Hopefully see you over on our Instagram this evening for more discussion of ‘Sister Outsider’!