Support Your Local Girl Gang
By Kileigh Ford
With women like Billie Holiday, Stevie Nicks, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin paving the way for female musicians in the millenium before our time, you’d think there would be a stronger feminine presence in the music industry today.
In a world where many countries are now embracing the feminine presence rather than suppressing it, one of the most influential industries is finally helping feed feminism to people of all ages: the music industry, not because of their numbers but because of their noise. Still to this day, there are an overwhelming number of men headlining festivals with little female representation, but why? According to Will Larnach-Jones, the head of operations for the Iceland Airwaves music festival ensuring a 50:50 balance between male and female artists for their upcoming festival was easy to get to and “shows you don’t have to try hard — there’s so many inspiring women around.” So what’s the reason behind the inequality?
The answer is: there isn’t one.
Growing up, it’s important for little girls to have people who represent part of their identity to look up to. With an increasing number of women in government and the film industry, the music industry is far behind. Regardless of what part of the industry, the numbers are low; 5% of sound engineers in England are women, according to the English based organization Soundgirls, and the Music Producers Guild guesses that women make up 6% of its members. And possibly the most shocking statistic: only 1/3 of the live performances in the UK included women in 2017, according to the Guardian.
The major problem that lack of female representation creates is that not seeing female musicians can prevent young girls from pursuing music. Without a role model to encourage them to take the same path, girls view the male-dominated field and look elsewhere for work. As a big music fan, I’m disappointed that off the top of my head, I can only name a few female musicians, mainly solo artists with very few all female bands, but the list of male artists could go on and on. Maybe that’s just because I enjoy a the deeper baritone of a man’s voice rather than the higher soprano of a woman’s, but perhaps I just haven’t been exposed to the all-girl rocking bands like I have male bands.
One turning point in this field has been Keychange. An initiative set out the empower women in music, Keychange has gotten over one hundred international music festivals and conferences to pledge to take action in order to ensure the gender makeup of their events is 50:50 by 2022. One notable Icelandic music festival, Iceland Airwaves, has come in much earlier with their pledge. This year, head of operations, Will Larnach-Jones, shared “We still have another round of acts to announce, but we’ll be over 50 percent,” adding that, “We looked at people we really liked, and then in meetings said, ‘Do we have enough?’ Happily we always did.”
Thanks to Keychange, we know change is coming, but the ladies who brought this change about are truly the ones to celebrate. We’re lucky to have women like Beyonce, and Madonna whose bold anthems and outfits have become slogans for feminist movements. “Who run the world? Girls!” Beyonce’s hit over the years, like If I Were a Boy…, Run the World (Girls), and her whole Lemonade album, explore the challenges put on women by society and promote embracing yourself. Once regarded as “too sexual” in her lyrics, Bey now rules the world as the icon of girl power and may her reign continue forever. Madonna rocked the world similarly through her words which inspire women, but her most notable move was embracing her body in more risque outfits and lyrics. While these ladies continue to inspire us today, there are some up and coming ladies moving and shaking the world like never before:
With their SoCal accents and eclectic mix of vintage and modern fashion, Haim is a three-piece, rock band comprised of the Haim sisters, notable for their old school sound and girl power feel. Haim’s top-charting songs and sound that pulls inspiration from Fleetwood Mac, Shania Twain, TLC, AC/DC, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins and Prince. They’ve rocked the modern world of rock and roll with their unique voices, girl love, and jaw dropping style. With a few top charting songs and certainly more to come, Haim is a force to watch out for.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Este Haim, the oldest of the trio, comments on being referred to as a girl band: “I think for us it’s just more about, you know, I think people just need to change the verbiage and the way that they describe music and the way that they look at women in music.” She reflects back on playing music with guys in high school who could either say women couldn’t play rock music or not let her play when she picked up her bass to strum, a fact that shocked her then and angers her now. “I don’t think it’s OK for people to say shit like that. It always bothers me, even when I heard people call us ‘girl band.’” She continued, “Honestly, at the end of the day, the fact that people are even talking about us is pretty surreal. I just never understood, like, you would never call a band like The Killers a boy band. So why are we a girl band? You know? We’re a band.”
In the wise words of Este Haim, “Yeah, I’m all about women in music and women being creative and passionate in general. I’ve always been most attracted to women that are strong and powerful and that know what the fuck they’re doing. ’Cause nine times out of ten, I just feel like people don’t have the verbiage and that’s the problem. We need to switch the way that we talk about women. That’s what I think needs to change. I think sometimes they don’t even know that they’re doing it and that’s the problem. You say the word “feminist” and already, like, you can feel the eye rolls in the room. Like, fuck off, man. Fuck off. It has this crazy negative connotation that I never understood. So yeah, that’s all. I’ll get off my soapbox now. [Laughs] I’m just all about ladies.”
As we all should be.
Often credited as “the feminist band you need to know”, the musical duo Girlpool don’t hold back on sharing the inequalities in society. Their first release features numerous songs about taking back and exploring sexuality. The two are fervent believers in spreading the news that stereotypes and gender inequality are issues that need to be called out and fixed. Girlpool focuses on demonstrating that women and non binary individuals alike are more than looks and when they venture into this male dominated field, they can take over, a feat Girlpool has accomplished themselves. With their explicit lyrics and flowing melodies, Girlpool tells you exactly what you need to hear, there’s no holding back and that’s why you need to know them.
An icon and revolutionary musician for the world and LGBTQ+ community, Hayley Kiyoko has used her child television show beginning to make a platform for the most pressing social issues to be heard. Nicknamed the “Lesbian Jesus”, Hayley Kiyoko first explored her sexuality in her EP, This Side of Paradise, and now has a full album dedicated to the ladies . With songs like Girls Like Girls, Feelings and Curious, Hayley has created a safe space in the music industry for girls and boys alike struggling with their sexuality. The Girls Like Girls music video, co-directed by Kiyoko, depicts one girl crushing on her friend and watching her with her boyfriend, ending with (sorry for spoilers) the two girls together. This music video in particular skyrocketed the singer to fame. Hayley Kiyoko is normalizing being LGBTQ in not only the industry but the whole world and she’s being celebrated to the greatest extent because of it.
SZA begins writing down everything the industry tells her not to, then she makes magic. Exposing the truths of being a woman, being in complicated, unofficial romantic situations and exploring your sexuality. Saying the same things the men in her field have been for years, SZA takes a stand to explore the sexuality of unattached women like a linguistic goddess, heavily deviating from the ‘Looking for love or happy in love’ norm. Basically, SZA is breaking open the door and into the room where the men of the R&B genre are smoking cigars and talking about their latest smash, saying “hey, I can do that same thing and better than you.” She sets out to break the stereotypes of women depicted in the genre and, although her album CTRL has seen some backlash for doing the opposite, she takes her sexuality and womanhood into her own hands, telling the world that girls do not confirm to this one image but that they are so much more.
Double double, toil and trouble, Hailee Steinfeld rocks the world a singer and actress with lyrics that strike a chord of empowerment. Supporting women and appreciating yourself are two of the main messages Steinfeld tries to get through in her music. On one of her latest releases, Most Girls, Hailee shares her feelings on that moment you dream of all through high school where that person you’ve been crushing hard on for years is sitting inches away from you, pushes that loose tuft of hair behind your ear, looks into your eyes and says, “You’re not like most girls.” On the topic, she says,
“I felt that we’ve been accepting the compliment ‘You’re not like most girls’ for a very long time. I have. I feel like there’s been this golden standard or rule that in order to be special you have to be different to other women… I think this generation of women is more than ever banding together and really lifting each other up, and I think girls and guys are really starting to think that way as well.”
She continues, “Here I am singing this song about how most girls are beautiful, strong, independent, have so much to offer. And the headlines out of that were: ‘Hailee tries on a bunch of wigs, shows off her midriff,’ or whatever. That’s not what I’m trying to say.” Following her message, Hailee’s first single, Love Myself, was called a “mastur-banger” by Noisey of Vice for its words about touching and loving yourself. Pushing the boundaries of what society says is okay to sing about, Hailee Steinfeld has brought us many hip shaking, girl power theme songs.