Feminism in Music: The Future

Currently, mainstream feminism rules the music industry– artists like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus focus on individual empowerment for women, but don’t take into account the experiences of women who differ with regards to race, class, gender identity, nationality, etc. And, this mainstream feminism is a direct reflection of the “girl power” feminism found within the 1990’s. So, if we were to imagine a future where both mainstream and alternative music scenes were inclusive of all voices, especially of those who have been the most marginalized, what would that look like? What does the future of feminism within music look like? Below I’ve listed some bands and artists that are currently changing the face of feminism within music, and therefore, creating a future that attempts to eradicate the white, patriarchal, corporate music industry that is currently in place.

// PWR BTTM //

Queer punk duo PWR BTTM came out with Ugly Cherries last year, an album dedicated to the duo’s experiences with queerness, adulthood, and gender identity. For Liv and Ben, who make up PWR BTTM, their own personal experiences regarding gender identity and queerness are not detached from their lives as musicians, and therefore, the duo have asked for easily accessible gender neutral restrooms for everyone who goes to their shows. Liv of PWR BTTM notes in Fusion,

“We’ve talked a lot about this before, but Ben and I both used to feel like there wasn’t a place in the music world for anybody like us…In that sense, I feel good about the representation we’ve achieved. But it’s not enough. This restroom policy is exciting to me because there’s something concrete to make these punk and DIY spaces more welcoming for trans people.”

In addition, the duo is also having conversations about how to promote consensual moshing at their shows. The band’s manager, Jeanette Wall, said that they’re looking to making wheelchair accessibility at venues a priority as well. Check out PWR BTTM’S NPR Tiny Desk Concert below:

// MITSKI //

In Jael Goldfine’s article entitled “The Thriving, Redefined Girl Power of Mitski”, Goldfine argues that Japanese-American indie artist Mitski is redefining the concept of “girl power”; while girl power, popularized in the music industry by artists such as The Spice Girls and Miley Cyrus, has widely been understood as a projection of independence, confidence, and power, Mitski is redefining girl power in, “the way she, subtly yet so vividly, evokes and interrogates distinctly female realities, particularly those seen as shameful or weak or dumb things to be and to feel”. While the dominant performance of girl power by women musicians has been defined as being strong and confident, Mitski does not turn to this version of girl power within her music or press; instead of acting strong, confident, and unbreakable, or, the stereotypical traits of masculinity, Mitski’s music tells listeners, and more importantly, girls and women, that there is strength in vulnerability, and that girl power should be about the validation of “the full range of female experiences and emotions”, not just independence and confidence.

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Mitski

In “Your Best American Girl”, off Mitski’s forthcoming album Puberty 2, Mitski sings about her experience as a Japanese-American woman:

“But this song is quite autobiographical because I didn’t grow up in the U.S. I am half Japanese, and it came from wanting to just fit into this very American person’s life and simply not being able to. Just fundamentally being from a different place and feeling like I would just get in the way of their progression if their life, because I could just never get to wherever they’re naturally going.”

// SPEEDY ORTIZ //

Massachusetts-based band Speedy Ortiz is actively working to make shows, and music, more inclusive for concertgoers. The band recently announced their new help hotline, seen in the flier posted to their Facebook page below, which will take texts and emails from concertgoers who want to report any form of discrimination or harassment inflicted on them or other concertgoers.

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Sadie Dupuis, the front-woman of Speedy Ortiz, explains in Noisey that she decided this hotline was necessary when she experienced “three separate moments of harassment during a festival within the span of an hour and a half”, and realized that similar experiences were happening to concertgoers. Dupuis realized that the privilege she was granted as a performer could be used to try to hopefully eradicate the harassment that she and other concertgoers had experienced. This hotline, monitored by the band themselves, is appropriate in the sense that concertgoers might feel more comfortable reporting acts of harassment or discrimination if they feel that the people they’re confiding this information in genuinely care about their well-being and safety, something that many Americans feel that cops are not accomplishing.

// G.L.O.S.S. //

Punk band G.L.O.S.S. (who’s name stands for Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit) is slowly destroying the largely white, male, heterosexual, and cisgender demographic that punk music has been known for. All of the members of the band identify as trans* or queer, and most of G.L.O.S.S.’s music reflects those experiences. For instance, on Lined Lips and Spiked Bats, front-woman Sadie screams:

“THEY WANTED ME/TO BE A MAN/THEY WANTED ME TO BECOME ONE OF THEM/STRAIGHT AND REPRESSED/EMOTIONS GROTESQUE/READY FOR WAR AND THE CUBICLE DESK/STRAIGHT AMERICA YOU WON’T RUIN ME!”

G.L.O.S.S. is revolutionary in that, in a society that alienates trans* people, especially trans* women, punk is represented in a new light through the first-hand experiences of members of G.L.O.S.S. , their lyrics, and the safe spaces they create at their shows. Front-woman Sadie comments on the feedback she’s received for their music:

“I have been brought to tears many times from letters, emails and conversations at our shows with other queer and trans folks who have been impacted by our songs… I think for trans women to be honest about their lives there [will] be a lot of pain and a lot of shit to dig up. Singing in G.L.O.S.S. is kind of like getting to be a superhero, like weaponizing a lifetime of anguish and alienation.”

Check out G.L.O.S.S.’s song “G.L.O.S.S. (We’re From the Future) below:

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