ENTERTAINMENT

The Feminist Frontline Of Australian Music

Three homegrown artists reveal what the 'f' word means to them.

16/02/2017 6:10 PM AEDT | Updated 16/02/2017 6:13 PM AEDT

Beyoncé is renowned for keeping a low profile on social media. But when she voiced her support for the Women's March in Washington D.C. via Facebook, she made a real impact. Because when the Beyhive speaks, people listen.

And while she's not the only artist speaking up against Trump's America (Zendaya, Ellie Goulding and Demi Lovato to name a few) it was notable because it demonstrated how music and the women's movement have long been intertwined.

As much as some people or politicians may try and trick you, feminism is for everybody. Sadly, though, arriving at this point comes with its own challenges. We have everyday misogyny and, frankly, widespread misunderstanding to thank for that.

Outrage in the media over whether certain celebrities self-describe as a feminist only adds to the confusion. Sure, the 'f' word means different things to different people, but at its very core, it is the belief that women should have equal rights and opportunities as men. Simple.

So how do some of Australia's rising musical talent feel about the state of feminism today? We asked three of them, and their answers were equal parts hopeful and inspiring.

Ngaiire

Dan Segal and Myles Pritchard

What's your earliest memory of feminism?

"My early memories of feminism are courtesy of my mother. She was born in a pigsty in Papua New Guinea and was later disowned by her father because she was born a girl, not a boy which was frowned upon. My grandmother had to steal and beg for every last penny to put mum through school behind her father's back. Because of that, she constantly encouraged me to get an education. She instilled in me and my sister early on that the world that we lived in was not a matriarchal society, and so we had to really fight to find our position."

What does feminism mean to you?

"It means not taking no for answer because usually the people who are the ones making decisions at the top, in all aspects of the world we live, are conducted by white men."

You've hung out with Solange Knowles, Beyonce's sister who is also committed to speaking out on political issues. But many famous faces prefer to stay quiet, especially when it comes to associating themselves with the 'feminist' label. Do you agree with this approach?

"Your version of feminism might not be my version of feminism -- but I don't think it should be about the word 'feminism' -- it's about humanity. If there is something that directly affects people, like equal rights, then anyone with a prominent standing has a responsibility to speak out about those things, whether they like it or not."

Bec Sandridge

Supplied

Who introduced you to feminism?

"I was a real English nerd in high school and my teacher introduced to me to the idea of feminism. We were looking at a lot of female writers and I gravitated towards a lot of poetry, which also lead me to music and artists like Regina Spektor and Carrie Brownstein."

Pretty great early heroes to have if you ask me! Tell us what does feminism means to you today?

"Feminism is about embracing, celebrating and exploring how complex being female is. It's about pushing for equality and recognising how diverse being a female is."

A bunch of celebrities have been publicly shamed for distancing themselves from the feminism movement. What do you make of that?

"It's obviously agitating but I think any kind of response with anger shuts down a dialogue. It's really important, especially now, to open up a conversation rather than shut something down and say 'that's wrong.' For me, it's more important to say 'Hey, why do you feel scared of the word feminism?' More often than not people are afraid of the word because of a lack of understanding."

Have you experienced sexism in the music industry?

"Sexism definitely exists. I've experienced remarks and comments like 'do you know how to use your guitar' or 'do you need help plugging it in' but with that comes a special bond among female artists. There's this sense of community growing which is awesome. Women are taking up more space on stage and starting to make a lot of noise, we're really owning it."

Naomi Robinson, frontwoman of Mosquito Coast

Penny Lane

What does being a feminist mean to you?

"Being equal to men and not feeling like women are more or less important. It's about mutual respect among genders and understanding and appreciating how it's different for us and that there is social injustice."

What was your earliest memory of feminism?

"Movies played a big role in my journey to understanding what it was all about. You don't learn about it in school, so it depends if you are in a community that talks about it or not. I mean, some people I know don't know about the concept at all. For me, it was Quentin Tarantino's movie 'Jackie Brown' that really showed me what a strong female character looked like. Jackie was sassy, driven and knows who she is the whole movie."

Feminism has become, to some people, a dirty word. Why do you think this is the case?

"There are certain connotations attached to it which sadly deter people from the word itself. But it is just a word -- and it's up to the person -- just because you're a woman doesn't mean you have to associate with it. At the end of the day, I'm sure if that person saw something that was discriminatory or unfair happening, they would take stand."

And that's what it all comes down to, really. If you see something that is wrong, you should change it. And if you can't change it, you should at least voice the fact there is an injustice -- whether it's pay inequality, or having the right to make the decision to keep your baby -- no matter where you are in the world.

Call it what you will -- feminism, being a kickass, empowered woman, whatever -- just don't ever stay quiet, deal?

Ngaiire, Bec Sandridge and Mosquito Coast will perform this Saturday, February 18 at Mountain Sounds Festival, an environmentally sustainable event supporting local artists on the NSW Central Coast.

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