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Happy International Women’s Day!

There is always much debate over whether feminism is still relevant today. I recently read an interview with Lily Allen who said that “The word feminism shouldn’t even be a thing anymore” – she claims that she had been misquoted by Shortlist Magazine, and a Twitter argument ensued, but whether she said it or not, there are many people who hold this opinion.

Frankly, they are wrong. Perhaps in some pockets of first world modern society, there is no need for feminism, but what about those women who are sold to men by men as sex slaves? What about those women who are forced by their husbands, and leaders to conceal their identities in public? What about those women who are raped and abused every day?

A common misconception is that feminists are women who hate men, and don’t shave their legs, but that’s not what it’s about, it’s about equal rights for not only women, but also men. I recently sat in a student council meeting where there was a debate about the need for a male liberation rep. If there was any need for males to be liberated, as a feminist, I would be all for this. However, there is not. Males do not face gender inequality. If they did, this would be a feminist issue, feminism deals with equality both ways.

Personally, as a music student, I have been in male dominated classrooms throughout my further and higher education. This is a microcosm of the music industry itself. I recently did some work experience at a major record label, and I noticed that the majority of the high power positions were held by men. Not only this, but the female artists and musicians are perceived differently to male artists and musicians. I just read an interview with London Grammar about how Hannah Reid is treated differently to the rest of the band, as interviewers always look to her fellow male band mates for answers to any questions about songwriting, and the actual music, when in fact Hannah has just as much to do with it as they do.

It is often assumed that female singer songwriters write “pretty” music, and this is something that Laura Marling strongly objects to in an interview with the Guardian. “Take another look. My songs are not pretty. They’re what I call optimistic realism… Some are depressing, and I have depressive sides to my character”. I think Laura Marling’s songs are beautiful, but they’re also deep and often dark in their subject matter. They’re lyrically poetic, and their forms are interesting and often daring. Not to mention her guitar playing which is proficient, precise, and full of character. Excellent craftsmanship and years of hard work goes into every one of her singles and albums. It’s understandable therefore, that she doesn’t want the only thing that people take away from her songs to be that they are “pretty”.

Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” video takes a satirical look at sexism in the music industry. Whilst I don’t think all women artists are forced to have liposuction, there are still some inequalities in the way female artists are presented in the media, and therefore there is still a definite need for feminism.

I’ll end with a wonderful quote by the wonderful Kate Nash…

“I think you just have to think about the reality of what it means and not get intimidated by it. Some people see it as a negative word that means you hate men and girls with nice legs and a tan. But all it means is that you think women’s rights are important; that you think women should have the right to make their own choices and to be empowered; and that you oppose sexism, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, pressure on women to look perfect, and being disrespected in the workplace. If you think that sexism is no big deal and that ‘we’ve come a long way,’ it’s important to educate yourself about serious issues that women worldwide are struggling with.”

Sources:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/lily-allen-the-word-feminism-shouldnt-even-be-a-thing-anymore-9173831.html

http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/music/london-grammar-singer-hannah-reid-on-sexism-in-the-music-industry-8957594.html

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/feb/04/popandrock.folk

http://www.teenvogue.com/entertainment/music/2013-03/kate-nash-album-charity

 

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Posted in feminism, International Women's Day, Music

Barney Hoskyns’ History of Music Journalism & Reflections on Information Consumption Today

I attended a lecture by Barney Hoskyns today about the history of music journalism and it inspired me to write this piece. I hope it will be one of many. Barney is undoubtedly one of the top music journalists in the country, and is responsible for the greatest online music journalism archive in the world – Rock’s Backpages. His lecture made me really think about the way that I consume information, and as a result I have made a decision to make a conscious effort to concentrate on the things that really interest me rather than binging on the mindless and pointless.

We live in a “grazing” culture. There are so many distractions in our busy lives that we simply don’t have time to sit down and read a book, or magazine cover to cover, instead we skim through the pages until we find what we are looking for. We don’t just listen to an album, we have to be doing something else, and simply play music in the background. Barney told us how his children always snack on food, and likened this to the way they consume information, always flitting from screen to screen. He said that just watching them made him feel stressed! He is hungry for bigger meals.

When pop music first arrived, it was a counter culture. The older generation feared it, and the younger generation loved it because it pissed their parents off. The word ‘pop’ however, suggests a balloon, something that is not made to last. Pop was superficial and artists’ fame never lasted long. ‘Rock’ suggests something more solid and lasting. This was when music journalism really began to get serious. William Mann, who was a classical music writer, wrote a famous article about the Beatles, praising them as true composers. Norman Jopling was another one of the first pop writers.  In 1966, Paul Williams created Crawdaddy! – the first serious popular music magazine. The writing was intelligent and the ‘rock critic’ was born. Barney describes The Rolling Stone as the best music magazine of all time because of its in-depth engagement and serious writing style. NME was also extremely important selling around 300,000 copies per week. Sadly these figures have declined a great deal, and in 2014 NME is down to selling just 17,000 copies per week.

The 1980s changed music writing. Instead of in-depth reviews, they became straightforward and star ratings were introduced. The purpose became solely to get people to buy music. This tamed the NME greatly. The music magazines were mostly funded by advertising, so if a bad review was written of a band on a funding label, that label would sometimes threaten to pull their advertising. Smash Hits magazine signifies the death of NME and saw the return of pop.

Nowadays, the value and impact of music is very different. It is more diffused, and is ‘just there’ like it’s part of the furniture. NME is no longer the bible, and gets lost in a cacophony of music blogs of all genres, and which vary in intellect. The true music critic is dead. There’s not time to read a long, in-depth review, people just want to know if it’s something worth buying or not. We can’t concentrate on one thing for very long without looking at our phones or mindlessly browsing Youtube. Barney made an insightful statement that art does not exist without the art critic. The art critic gives the art context and culture, without that, it is meaningless. Is this how it will be from now on? Will people just snack on culture? Information is endlessly flowing to our many screens, and it is sometimes hard to just block it out and appreciate the more organic things in life. The fear is that new generations won’t know any different. This mindless method of consumption will be accepted as the norm. However the vinyl revival suggests that there may still be an appetite for a more substantial cultural diet, and I, for one, really hope that there is.

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Posted in Music

Girl with Guitar

A painting of me by David Cobley is going to be displayed at the Mall Galleries from 17th to 22nd March, as part of the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize exhibition. More info here.

Guitar

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Posted in Art, Music, Uncategorized

2014 Gig Dates!

20th January 8pm @ The Exchange, Bristol. £5adv (contact me to buy a ticket)

28th February @ Hydra Bookshop, Bristol. 6.30pm. FREE

23rd March @ Moles, Bath. Time tbc. FREE

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Posted in Uncategorized