GA Book Club #9: ‘Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches’ by Audre Lorde

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/audre-lorde

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 girlsagainstgiggroping@gmail.com 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’!  

I’m a backing singer for a band that is playing a couple of festivals this year and feel so strongly about this campaign as a victim of sexual assault at a festival, is there anything I can do while at the festivals to help the campaign?? -Molly

Hi Molly,

The best thing you can do is raise awareness. Talk to artists, members of security, people who are working at the festival, people who are attending the festival about the issue of sexual assault at gigs and about what is being done to stop it! We would always say to look out for people who look uncomfortable in crowds too and check if they’re okay, if they are, they’ll still think it was a nice gesture that you asked and if they aren’t, you could help someone to get out of a bad situation, possibly one involving sexual assault within the crowds. Hope this helps, good luck with the festivals!

Hi, Since I feel so strongly i was looking to become an ambassador or rep or anything? But i saw that you werent recruiting so i was wondering when you would be as id love too? Thanks- Chantelle

Hi Chantelle! We haven’t got any plans to recruit more reps in the near future but keep an eye on our social media as when we do decide to take on more reps, we will post about it on there. Have a look at our reply to the previously asked question on this page about how to get involved with the campaign as doing some of the things we’ve suggested there will definitely mean you have a better chance of becoming a rep when do recruit!

10 Songs That Will Make You Feel Empowered

Music is one of the many empowering, influential, and motivational tools in life. These 10 songs contain lyrics that address the strength and courage of every woman. Hopefully, they inspire you to become the best version of yourself.

Alicia Keys – Superwoman

The combination of Alicia’s vocals and her deep-rooted feminist lyrics, makes this an empowering song for all women. She likens herself and other women to superheroes. Women go through a lot, but this song is a reminder of how strong they are.

Little Mix – Power

Power is a sassy, female-empowering anthem! From the beginning to the end, this song is energetic and infused with lyrics that clearly define the power of women. This song is a bold statement that says “Yes! WOMEN HAVE THE POWER!” The electric sound in the chorus makes it a feminist anthem any woman would like to blast any time of the day.

Hailee Steinfeld – Most Girls

Hailee uses this song to celebrate all kinds of girls, and hits home with a chorus that declares girls as strong and powerful. On this track, Hailee encourages women to do whatever they want in life as long as they feel like Queens.

Daya – Sit Still, Look Pretty

Daya’s lyrics are for every girl who would like to make her own rules and choices in life especially when it comes to men. Daya paints a picture of a girl who does nothing to please a man. She would rather chase her dreams and have “7 men to do the chores, cause that’s not what a lady’s for”.

Hailee Steinfeld – Love Myself

Who says a woman needs a man to feel beautiful or strong? Never! This song describes finding self love without a man’s presence. The lyrics address coping after a breakup and realizing self-value, while also functioning as an implicit sexual-anthem. The chants of “I love me” and “Hey” in the chorus reinforce a feeling of self pride and inner beauty.

Alicia Keys – Girl Can’t Be Herself

‘Girl Can’t Be Herself’ alludes to the expectations of women in the media and in society. To a lot of people in society, female beauty is defined by material things such as weight, makeup, and clothes. With her lyrics, she redefines the meaning of “beauty” and sprinkles some insightful words about inner beauty. Her words on this song are so powerful and empowering that they’re sure to make you feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.

Demi Lovato – Confident

It’s hard for women to walk through the thick forest of insecurities that life presents, but “Confident” is the song every woman can have on repeat as she continues that journey. The lyrics in this song apply to women who feel held back from doing certain things with their life. It is also a charge to do anything you want with your life.

Kesha – Woman

‘Woman’ is a funk-infused country/rock jam, lyrically exploding with female empowerment. Men often exaggerate their significance in a woman’s life.  However, Kesha reverses and redefines gender roles on this track with seriously empowering mantras.

Keith Urban – Female

‘Female’ is a ballad that urges respect for women. The lyrics on this song questions the definition of “Female” by the society, while praising female figures for being strong. The lyrics are thought-provoking and function as a call to action for women to be respected in the world. In the bridge, Keith Urban sings:

“She’s the heart of life
She’s the dreamer’s dream
She’s the hands of time
She’s the queen of kings”

Those lyrics present love, respect, support for females while eliciting a feeling of pride, and strength from listeners.

Beyoncé – Run The World (Girls)

On this song, Beyoncé stretches the theme to nothing short of a new world order lead by females. She makes it clear that she and her female compatriots (Everywoman) can not only “make these millions” and “bear the children”, but persuade men to simply do “anything” they ask. Also, on this high-energy anthem, she gives no room for other opinions on who runs the world — GIRLS! Beyoncé mentions “Girls” 52 times in this song; that’s empowerment at its peak.

Written by Tommy Monroe (@TommyMonroe_ on Twitter).

GA Book Club #9: ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Welcome back to the Girls Against Book Club and Happy Easter if you celebrate! If not I hope you’re enjoying a long weekend (if you’re in the UK). The extra time this bank holiday weekend has provided has been necessary for me in order to finish this month’s book, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Its the longest text the book club has read so far at 477 pages and I ,admittedly, finished it very last minute. It has also been one of my favourite books we’ve read so far, although I am partial to a long novel so I suppose a bit biased, and I’m excited to discuss it in this post!

Its difficult to summarise the plot of the novel as it has so much going on but I’ll give it a go for the benefit of those of you who haven’t read or finished the book yet. Americanafollows the lives of the Nigerian-born childhood lovers Ifemelu and Obinze, the former who moves to America for further study at University and the latter who moves to Britain in order to improve his life. Ifemelu is hugely successful in America, launching a popular blog about race, whereas Obinze spends his time in the U.K. in fear of being deported, which eventually happens when he is on his way to get married, which, if he was able to have gone through with, would have allowed him to legally stay in the U.K. Ifemelu and Obinze eventually reunite in their hometown of Lagos and rekindle their romance after many years apart in separate continents.

In describing the structure of this novel, I suppose it sounds like a love story, which it is. But its so much more than that. This book is an eye-opening commentary on race, immigration and black identity but moreover it provides an important insight into the experience of black women. A quote from The Guardian is printed on the front of my novel which states, ‘Some novels tell a great story and others make you change the way you look at the world. Americanah does both.’ I couldn’t agree more with this statement as the novel was not only enjoyable and engrossing for me to read but really provided me with a better education on the struggles that black people face and how each and every one of us can help to tackle them.

The novel describes the lives of Ifemelu and Obinze both separately and together but mostly focuses on Ifemelu’s teenage years and then her experiences in America. There are also excerpts from Ifemelu’s blog ,”Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-­American Black”, which I thought were so great. Including these excerpts that very overtly discuss and confront many of the issues that Ifemelu and the other black characters face forces the reader to think about the political implications of the novel and ensures that it is impossible to read this text without considering its significance.

One of my favourite blog posts was ‘What Academics Mean by White Privilege, or Yes It Sucks to Be Poor and White but Try Being Poor and Non-White’. In this post, Ifemelu discusses white privilege as well as Peggy McIntosh’s ‘test’ for white privilege. This as a great example of how the novel forces the reader to consider their own political awareness.

Another blog post that I enjoyed was ‘Friendly Tips for the American Non-Black: How to React to an American Black Talking About Blackness.’ In this blog post, Ifemelu explores how important it is for white people to listen to POC’s stories and accept what they say, rather than disputing them or comparing their experiences to their own, which, of course, are totally different. In addressing the ‘But black people are racist too’ argument, Ifemelu gives a clear-cut explanation of why this is not true, ‘racism is about the power of a group and in America it’s white folks who have that power.’ This is such a simple but effective way of explaining the difference between racism and prejudice and I hope Adichie’s ability to explain this so coherently helps people understand this vital difference.

Americanah explores many societal issues within western society regarding both race and gender. Adichie, in this novel, is particularly interested in the perceptions of black people in America compared to Nigeria, as Ifemelu is consistently surprised at how much people’s actions are, sometimes sub-consciously, sometimes not, influenced by the fact alone that she is black. After a strange encounter in the supermarket when the cashier goes out of her way in order not to describe an employee as black, Ifemelu asks her friend, Ginika, who is also Nigerian, why she would not describe the employee by her race. In reply, Ginika states ‘Because this is America. You’re supposed to pretend that you don’t notice certain things.’ Seemingly here, Adichie is portraying that one of the real problems with race in society that there is no open discussion about it. To be ‘colour-blind’ is not productive in a society where systematic racism has been enforced until fairly recently;people’s perceptions towards Ifemelu because she is black, and particularly because she is a non-American black, prove that no one really is ‘colour-blind’ to race anyway, as Ginika states, they just pretend to be.

Ifemelu is in America during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign  and a significant portion of the novel is spent in exploring the significance of such a presidency. A really touching moment is when Ifemelu is with her boyfriend, Blaine, who is a black American, and his friends and they discover that Obama has indeed become the president of America. Adichie describes their overwhelming happiness in a touching passage that proves how important his presidency was to black people in America. While they are celebrating, Ifemelu’s younger cousin, Dike, texts her saying, ‘I can’t believe it. My president is black like me.’ I felt like this moment in the novel proved not only how significance this presidency was for progress for POC but also portrayed the importance of representation, whether that’s in arts, the media or, in this case, politics.

If you haven’t read this novel, I would 100% recommend it. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about it is that sometimes it felt like it didn’t need to be as long as it was as there was a lot of, sometimes unnecessary, detail. However this didn’t stop me from constantly picking the novel up and enjoying every bit of it. Moreover though, I would recommend it because it really does provide an education that goes further than I’m assuming most white people have on what it is to be black and I do feel that its fair to say that this novel has changed the way I think.

During the month of April the Girls Against Book Club will be reading Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde. Lorde (1934-1992) was a black lesbian poet and feminist writer who grew up in Harlem. In this collection of fifteen essays and speeches, she considers issues of sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia and class. I think this is going to be a really interesting and insightful read and I’d love it if you joined me in reading it.

Send us your thoughts on the text on Twitter @girlsagainst or, if your thoughts don’t quite fit into 280 characters, send us an email at girlsagainstbookclub@gmail.com. You can also join our GoodReads group to keep up to date with the book club and join in the discussion on this months text. Please send your thoughts over before Sunday 6th May which is when the next book club post will go up.

We also have a list of the books we’ll be reading up until July which you can take a look at here if you want to get ahead of the book club or spend some extra time on a particular book!

You can purchase Sister Outsider here.

Written by Alice Porter (@aliceporterx on Twitter).

 

Powerful Words From Girls Who Galvanised The World At The ‘MARCH FOR OUR LIVES’ Rally

Led by students and survivors of the shooting which left 17 people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the world watched and supported the demonstrations that took place in Washington, D.C. and other parts of USA. The ‘March for our lives’ rally is a call to action on gun violence and the importance of students’ safety. With so many shootings and deaths in the first quarter of 2018, students, activists and survivors of shootings expressed their frustrations in compelling and emotive speeches. However, some women stood out as they eloquently presented their speeches while they elicited various empathetic and sympathetic reactions from the audience.

NAOMI WADLER

Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Alexandria, Virginia, who led a walk-out at her elementary school was on the stage to give a voice to African-American women and girls who had been silenced. In her speech she said, “I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.” She also added, “I urge everyone here and everyone who hears my voice to join me in telling the stories that aren’t told – to honour the girls, the women of colour who were murdered at disproportionate rates in this nation.” Although, she acknowledged how young she and her friends were, the words she spoke made the crowd go wild like she was a younger embodiment of Oprah.

EMMA GONZÁLEZ

Emma González spent 6 minutes, 20 seconds on stage. Each second representing the time Nikolas Cruz spent aiming at her schoolmates. “No one could comprehend the devastating aftermath or how far this would reach or where this would go,” González said. “For those who still can’t comprehend because they refuse to, i’ll tell you where it went: right into the ground, six feet deep.” During her time on the March for Our Lives stage, she listed her slain classmates in a poem which she composed. For over 4 minutes, she didn’t speak but her silence said a lot and remains one of the most impactful statements at the protest. According to reports, she’s responsible for the loudest silence in the history of social protest in USA.

YOLANDA RENEE KING

The 9-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, made a surprise appearance on the stage. Just like her grandfather, she also had a dream to share with the audience. She said, “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of the skin, but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun-free world, period.”

EDNA CHAVEZ

Edna Chavez who is an activist and youth leader in Los Angeles, spoke passionately about the need not only for gun law reform but also for drastic cultural change in schools. Edna, who lost her brother to gun violence, commanded the stage to give a moving speech about the trauma survivors face and the urgent need for change. She said, “I have lived in South L.A. my entire life and have lost many loved ones to gun violence. This is normal. Normal to the point that I have learned to duck from bullets before I learned how to read.” In her speech, she emphasized that more guns and more police on campuses is not the answer while stating that cops in schools are more likely to “profile and criminalize” black and brown students than to make them feel safe.

SAM FUENTES

Sam was one of more than a dozen students injured last month when Nikolas Cruz attacked Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “Our mission is simple and our ambitions are unbeatable”.“Let’s keep the guns out of the hands of
the wrong people and keep them in the hands of the safe and reasonable.” she said. Fuentes ended her address, asking the crowd to join her in signing ‘Happy Birthday’ for one of her classmates, Nick Dworet, who died during the February 14 massacre and would have turned 18 on March 24. Unlike many Happy Birthday songs, this was too difficult to sing as tears rolled down and voices quivered.

DELANEY TARR

The 17-year-old survivor of the Parkland, Florida, massacre, stood before thousands at the ‘March for Our Lives’ protest in Washington, D.C., to vow, “We are not here for bread crumbs. We are here for real change.” Her words were firm and unfeigned as she addressed the real purpose of the “movement”. She spoke passionately about gun control and the 17 people killed by Nikolas Cruz.

 

 

 

AALAYAH EASTMOND

Before the day of the protest, the 17-year- old said she will be marching not only for tougher gun laws — but for the classmate whose body she hid beneath during last month’s massacre at her school. In her speech, she said “Yes, I am a Parkland survivor and an MSD student, but before this, i was a regular black girl and after this i am still black and I am still regular and i will fight for all of us.” More than anything, Aalayah sounded determined to fight for “her angels” to stop gun violence.

 

 

 

Written By: Tommy Monroe (@TommyMonroe_ on Twitter).

Problematic Song Lyrics

As young women growing up in a world where music surrounds us, whether that’s on the TV, radio or played in clubs and bars, the misrepresentation and degradation of women is constantly echoed around us.

Even thinking about this song enrages me. Blurred Lines peaked at number one in at least 25 countries, becoming the number one song of 2013 in several of them. Yet, this highly misogynistic song celebrating the ‘blurred lines’ of consent, should not have been given this spot in the charts or in my opinion even produced. If the song title is not enough to cause concern, the lyrics ‘I know you want it’ suggests a complete lack of consent and is full of assumption that is extremely problematic. This not only perpetuates a toxic stereotype of male dominance and female submission but is actually celebrating the rape culture that for so many women across the world is terrifying and dangerous.

Music is a very important thing for many, and we need to start to question the content of the lyrics in the songs all around us:

1. Blurred Lines- Robin Thicke

Even thinking about this song enrages me. ‘Blurred Lines’ peaked at number one in at least 25 countries, becoming the number one song of 2013 in several of them. Yet, this highly misogynistic song celebrating the ‘blurred lines’ of consent, should not have been given this spot in the charts or in my opinion even produced.

Throughout the entire song, references to what could be interpreted as a rape scene are made ‘Do it like it hurt, like it hurt’ ‘Baby, can you breathe?’ this not only suggests that while he hasn’t been given any direct consent but chooses to believe he has, he is now endangering the woman by forcing himself upon her. Theses lyrics are extremely explicit and the visual imagery that is seen in the music video also provides a problem regarding the sexualized female form that can be evidently seen. This song was extremely accessible for many teenage boys and girls on platforms such as YouTube, not only causing a problem regarding their individual safety and to what they are exposed to in the lyrics, but it also shapes their views and opinions regarding consent.

By idealising these issues through the music video it teaches young boys that consent isn’t important and that ‘no doesn’t always mean no’. This is a highly toxic message to provide as organisations such as ours are constantly trying to combat issues regarding sexual assault, so I don’t understand how a song with lyrics as harmful as these can be praised while trivializing sexual assault.

2. U.O.E.N.O-  Rocko featuring Future and Rick Ross

A second lyric where by rape culture is again celebrated is in the song U.O.E.N.O by hip hop artist Rocko featuring Future and Rick Ross. Ross raps the lyric ‘Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it’. Suggesting that he used a drug and then took her home to take advantage of her in a vulnerable position. By making subjects such as sexual assault and ‘date rape’ drugs normalized, it not only encourages these kinds of actions but it makes assault survivors feel less validated. These song lyrics are completely harmful for women and men as they encourage the violation of women and the fact that it is seemingly acceptable.

3. ‘All About That Bass’-Meghan Trainor

This familiar, catchy, char-topping pop tune  also raises a cause for concern. While celebrating the ‘boom, boom that all the boys chase’ it suggests that if you have curves or a larger bottom or boobs then men are going to view you as beautiful. Although this song prides itself on body positivity and acceptance with lyrics such as ‘skinny bitches’ it seriously degrades those who are skinny or aren’t as curvy as figures like Kim Kardashian or Nikki Minaj who possess the iconic ‘hourglass figure’.

Meghan Trainor also sings ‘boys like a little bit more booty to hold at night’ while this message not only suggests that your beauty is defined by how males feel about you, it again marginalizes those who are thinner. Why can’t this pop tune celebrate loving every single size and figure of our bodies not dependent on how others view our worth but how we regard ourselves? Does this song really have to make those who are curvier feel better by calling those who are thin ‘stick figure Barbie doll’? Instead of encouraging self -doubt and knocking self -esteem of those women who don’t fit into this ideal of ‘all the right junk in all the right places’ let’s embrace body positivity of ALL shapes and sizes because we are all individually unique and that is what makes us beautiful.

4. Taylor Swift – ‘Blank Space’

This catchy pop tune has been a worldwide hit, but unfortunately, the tale behind it seems to promote the over-generalised stereotype that all women are insanely jealous, destructive beings. It also solidifies the idea that it’s acceptable for women to be both physically and mentally abusive in relationships, therefore making society believe that women can’t be domestic abusers. The lyrics, combined with the video released for this song portray that idea perfectly.

One example of this is in the video where Taylor gets progressively angry at her boyfriend for being on his phone and messaging other people while he’s with her. Yes, it’s annoying when you’re not being payed attention to, but the video implies that she’s angry because he’s speaking with other people that aren’t her, which shows clear signs of an unhealthy and mentally abusive relationship. This is further backed up through the line ‘oh my god, who is she? I get drunk on jealousy’, which shows how Taylor is unhappy with him speaking to other females, again showing signs of controlling within the relationship.

Taylor also, unfortunately, shows evidence of physical harm in the video – pushing him away and throwing a vase in his direction, as well as stabbing a portrait of him with a knife, burning/cutting up his clothes and attacking his car with a golf club. It’s safe to say that if this was the other way round, and there was in fact a man carrying out these actions towards Taylor, it would be deemed much more unacceptable by society and fans alike. Unfortunately, this implies to society that every woman is ‘crazy’, even if they don’t show it.

Although this is just my personal interpretation from the song/video, I think it’s important to see how important it is that women represent women well. Yes, it’s okay to show unhappiness/anger in a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be done in a way that might not only imply that women are always likely to act in an unacceptable way, but also upset victims of domestic abuse that may have had similar things happen to them.

Written by Samantha Hall and Emma Randall (@_samanthahall_ and @emmarandall99 on Twitter).

The Songs I Listen to Are Misogynistic, Does That Mean I Am Too? (PART ONE)

This post is the first of a two-part series on the blog centred around the debate of whether you can still be a feminist if you listen to misogynistic music. In this article, Neive considers this  debate in relation to the indie genre.

A poster from CATB’s merch stand a few years ago.

Every strand of the music industry is encompassed by at least a degree of misogyny and the indie genre is no exception. Separating art and artist is a debate that has caused significant divide in this genre in particular, although it is often not characterised as such (which is another issue in itself), and the undeniable sexism which is at play is inexcusable. As much as it would pain me to stop listening to some of my favourite artists, I think the issue of continuing to support them boils down to the fact that by supporting them, you are indirectly supporting their views by default.

It goes beyond just lyrics it appears too, and so think that is an integral turning point for when it becomes acceptable to continue supporting such bands. It is incidents such as Catfish & The Bottlemen’s infamous merch stand poster from a few years ago, which makes you stop and consider what the bands you are listening to are really thinking. The aforementioned poster is blatant objectification, as much as it may have been intended as a joke. I think that with instances like this, there is an extent to which it is a joke, but an important factor to consider is how much the ideas and beliefs behind the joke are genuine. Of course, there is always room to reform and learn from past mistakes, and with this being a few years ago, it is completely possible that since then, the band have been educated.

At the end of the day, not everyone is automatically aware of the injustice and prejudice within our society, especially if you come from a place of social privilege. Begrudging someone the opportunity to educate themselves and overcome their internalised discriminatory attitudes is unfair. However, when no attempts are made to rectify this misogynistic mindset, I think it becomes evident that this issue is of no concern to the artist.

As a band, regardless of the size or number of fans, you are awarded with at least some level of power and obviously there are bands that use this power for good and at least try to assert a positive influence over fans who are often young, impressionable and vulnerable. Despite this, it is integral to acknowledge the artists who abuse this power and take advantage of their audiences.

It is bands like Misfires and Mooseblood, who have been publicly condemned and accused of using their status to sexually harass and take advantage of their fans. Yet still, there are some fans continuing to support them, and festivals continuing to book these artists, and here in lies the issue. By providing continual support despite their actions, you are ultimately funding their pursuits and allowing their career to flourish.

This could be detrimental- allowing them to have influence and power over an even wider audience and showing they can just behave in this manner without any backlash is completely wrong. I think in cases like these, separating art and artist is not possible. An artist’s personal life and beliefs have such a significant impact on their art, and thus their misogyny and art are intertwined. Therefore, supporting these artists extends to supporting their misogyny and so it is imperative we do not separate the two and instead actively criticise their views and prompt a change by showing acting in this manner is unacceptable.

Written by Neive McCarthy (@neiveeee on Twitter).

Hi! I’ve been following this campaign for nearly 2 years since I heard Circa Waves shout you out at a gig. As it is something I feel strongly about, I was wondering if there is any way that I can become a rep or join the campaign? Thank you! -Megan Dyson

Hi Megan, thanks so much for showing an interest in the campaign! We’re not recruiting for reps at the moment but here’s 5 things you can do to support the campaign:

  1. HAND OUT FLYERS AND POSTERS! All of our PDFs can be found here stick them anywhere u can! (ask permission if you need to tho)
  2. TALK TO PEOPLE! Security? Bands? Venues? Have they heard of GA, do they know about sexual assault happening at gigs? If not… tell them! Any security companies that are unaware? Let us know
  3. DON’T BE A BYSTANDER! Let people know around you that you are looking out for them. Keep an eye out in the crowd, see if anyone feels uncomfortable or needs help & report it.
  4. WRITE FOR US! We’re always looking for blog contributions so feel free to email any potential ideas or submissions to girlsagainst@outlook.com
  5. CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM! Any ideas on what we could be doing better? Ideas about how to progress as a campaign? Let us know. We are always excited to hear new ideas and perspectives on how to tackle sexual assault at gigs.

Hope this helps!

Kesha: A Feminist Figure We Should All Be Praising

Her show stopping performance at the 60th annual Grammy awards was a powerful call to action as she was flanked by an army of incredible women at the 60th annual Grammy award show. Her first major success came in early 2009 after she featured on American rapper Flo Rida’s number-one single ‘Right Round’. In 2005, Kesha Rose was signed to Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and his music publishing company, Prescription Songs.

Kesha’s unpolished aesthetic and juvenile stage persona, which she described as her own personality “times ten”, quickly made her a deeply polarizing figure. What seemed to start off as a great career was later harmed by Dr Luke’s alleged verbal and sexual abuse towards her. This brought her career into a drought and her tears flowed like the rain.

Kesha had always been a strong woman. Whether she was praising cunnilingus in her breakout single ‘Right Round’ with Flo Rida, or subverting gender roles in ‘Blah Blah Blah’, her lyrics are rife with references to female sexual freedom.Today, Kesha is a force to reckon with and a feminist idol. Kesha has been one of the prime supporters of the widely known #MeToo movement which aims to put an end to sexual abuse, in Hollywood and beyond.

Despite the isolating experience dealing with lengthy court proceedings while coping with emotional trauma, Kesha rose above it all and poured out her heart into her Grammy nominated album—’Rainbows’. Her inspiring album, which was a cathartic response to her legal battle and the pain she felt, has been a source of inspiration to many females around the world. With her words, she healed the pain of wounds inflected by men on thousands of women, soothing them with her voice. Rainbow was released before the #MeToo and #TimeIsUp movement but has correlated with the beginning of a reckoning for sexism, misogyny and abuse of power.

Kesha’s public support of #MeToo is particularly poignant after years locked in a legal battle with her former producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and his Sony imprint Kemosabe. Kesha went through a brutally public court battle in 2016 when she was trying to get free of her contract with Sony that bound her to working with Dr. Luke, the producer who she accused of sexual assault. She lost her case and the internet came rushing to her support with the hashtag #FreeKesha. That was the beginning of awareness in the entertainment industry. She persevered through it all, setting an inspiring example for women who are also trying to overcome abuse.The bitter and protracted fight has made Kesha a hero to survivors of abuse. Kesha put her entire career on the line in her fight to free herself from her alleged abuser. Looking at it figuratively, Kesha put everything she had on the line in her fight to free all women bound by the chains of sexist men.

Women aren’t in any industry to be taken advantage of, women are strong, hard working and goal oriented. Over the years women have been made to seem like the lesser gender. However, never undermine the power of a woman. Undermining the power of a woman is undermining the power of a mother, a wife, a sister, a leader, an innovator, a role model and a human being.

In Kesha’s essay celebrating her feminist anthem ‘Woman’ She stated “In the past few years, i have felt like a woman more than ever. I just feel the strength and awesomeness and power of being female.” Indeed, Kesha Rose is a feminist figure we should all praise.

 

Written by Tommy Monroe (@TommyMonroe_ on Twitter).