Women have come a long way.
Well, yes and no...
This is a complicated statement.
Yes, women in the U.S. have come pretty far (we won the right to vote in 1920, we are not longer burned alive for being suspected witches, we are no longer considered property).
However, in so many ways, we are still struggling, still yearning for a voice. We have yet to claim ownership over our own reproductive destiny, for one. Women of color and trans women are victimized at an alarming rate.
Zoom out and you see an even more disturbing story.
In parts of the middle east, women still struggle for the right to live their lives as they see fit; to make their own decisions, to merely drive a car.
In developing parts of the world female genital mutilation still exists, robbing women of their very connection to their own bodies and sexual power. Honor killings and human slavery are still common. Women and young girls are still routinely raped, killed, kidnapped and silenced.
When you look at the U.S.'s problems (especially white women's problems), they can seem less urgent in comparison. the plight of "man-spreading" on public transportation or the fact that women are sill paid less money than a man for the same exact same job? Child marriage in Florida?
I am here to say, to firmly assert, that there are no small peanuts in the fight for equality. Every win, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction - a step away from centuries of institutionalized and internalized patriarchy.
This is, after all, very much a man's world. Like kings crowned at birth, a large portion of men cannot see their own privilege. In fact, many deny it. It's understandable. What man would want to wake up to the fact that he is living in a nightmare of his own making?
We probably can't wake up half the population to their own privilege, but we can move the other half of the population toward empowerment. Also, this act of moving towards what we do want--to what we do believe to be true--is way more satisfying.
Just as we cannot ignore large rippling women's issues that cut to the core of human decency across the world, we cannot ignore the small micro aggressions that we experience everyday. Young girls growing up in the U.S. are still sold faulty messages about who they are, who they should become, and what society thinks of their worth.
Women are still not largely represented in roles of power. For the most part, they are not stars of their own stories. They are not leading ladies, heroes, rock stars. Hilary Clinton's presidential run, Wonder Woman, and Samantha Bee are the exceptions to the rule. They are like rare (if not important) unicorns.
People of color in the U.S. can probably understand this more than any white pussy-hat wearing feminist (a so-called "average all American" brown family didn't appear on T.V. nationally until the Cosby Show - and that's a whole other ball of wax). I am not pitting these struggles against each other, only connecting the dots. Young girls of every race and ethnicity today still look to T.V., magazines, and societal roles to tell them how to act. What, largely, do these women see when they look into the mirror of society? What looks back at them, every second of every day?
They see subservience, empty antiquated roles, the elevation of their bodies and degradation of their minds. If they are poor, they see a future that dead-ends, not soars. They see, they feel, they internalize an entire world crafted around the beating heart of the hungry male gaze.
Laws are still largely written by old white men, television shows are still (for the most part) written by and for old white men. Books and video games and advertisements are written for little boys who will one day become old white men. And so it all continues, round and round.
Like a record. Speaking of records...I love rock n roll records, and I love men who rock. This is not a dig against the male rock and roll establishment. But...and this is crucial: I WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE SEEING A WOMAN ROCKING IS COMMONPLACE.
Why is supporting lady-run music festivals in your community important?
I think I just answered that question! Because we want to set an example, to be the change we want to see in the world.
Ladyfest is an example to our youth, a tangible view of what a woman can be, if she so chooses. There is nothing more empowering than unleashing your authentic voice from the very pit of your belly, legs agape and firmly planted on the earth, heart open. Add in an instrument, acoustic, electric or otherwise...and you have a spiritual and empowering experience.
I was 8 years old when I caught a glimpse of Gwen Stefani on MTV. The year was 1995 and her song "Just a Girl" had just dropped. I remember seeing this wild, acrobatic woman dropping to the floor to to push ups while she sang, "I'm just a girl in the world, that's all that you'll let me be. I'm just a girl living in captivity."
Even then, the tongue-in-cheek lyrics cut to the bone. Children are perceptive; they soak in the bad as well as the good. This is why we must be everything for them. We must be fearless for them. I am so grateful that I came in contact with some good examples of what a woman in music could be. Women like Blondie (who Gwen obviously emulated), Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Dolly Parton, Exene Cervenka, Loretta Lynn, Sinead O'Connor, the list goes on. I did not have to become diehard fans of these women to know that they stood for something. I did not have to relate to their stories word-for-word to feel their residual power take place in my heart. They merely had to exist in the world for me to realize...
Hey...I could do that!
So, is showing a girl how to play guitar a small feat? Is getting up on stage and singing your own female song a tiny little insignificant thing?
I'm asking you.
This is by no means a dig against all men, but it needs to be said. Men and all members of the community are welcomed with open arms at Ladyfest. I know many enlightened males who make my life a joy. I thank you and it is also up to you to normalize women in roles of power. Thanks for standing with us, rocking with us!