Women in Music: 2017, the Year of the Rooster and of the Woman

By Kristin Hay (@kristinhayCS)

I don’t know about you, but after 2016 I didn’t have much hope for a ‘happy’ 2017. Trump was inaugurated the same day my dissertation was due which to me seemed symbolic of the end of the world, and like everyone else I felt a little less sure than I did this time last year, you know, before everyone from the 80s died.

It’s a sobering thing realising that our parents were right, life isn’t fair. Sometimes the good guy doesn’t win, sometimes there isn’t a good guy to begin with. Sometimes the most repulsive, reptilian people hold positions of unfathomable power – and I’m not talking about Piers Morgan, or Davros, creator of the Daleks…

However, I honestly believe that it isn’t all doom and gloom. On Saturday 21 January, 3.3 million women and men marched in the US alone, protesting Trump and demanding equal rights for women, ethnic minorities and people of all sexual orientations. In Britain, an estimated 80 – 100,000 people marched in the ‘Capitol’, London. It is in the face of adversary that art truly shines through.

Indeed, in December 2016, Amanda Palmer, former lead singer of The Dresden Dolls, said that “Trump is going to make punk rock great again. We’re going to crawl down staircases…and make amazing satirically political art.” It’s true that at times where the political climate is as conservative and draconian as it is now, artists truly let their weird flags fly.

In the 1990s, the Riot Grrrl movement took on a “personal is political” ideology and mixed punk rock with feminism, advocating for women’s rights and civil rights. Off the tail end of a conservative 1980s, bands such as Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy (and, to a lesser extent No Doubt) took on the establishment through their music and empowered women all over the world.

Last year, artists like Taylor Swift also adopted the term ‘feminist’, but for different motivations. Posting #selfies with their #girlsquad, they – at best – encouraged young girls to support and encourage one another. However, in reality, this branding of feminism was no more than a good way to boost sales. When push came to shove, these artists did little in support of women’s rights and definitely next to nothing for women who weren’t white, middle-class and called Selena Gomez.

This year is the year of action. If 2016 was ‘talking the talk’, 2017 should not only be ‘walking the walk’, it should be learning to run. More and more musicians are standing up for the rights of women and minorities and putting those words into action. The best thing that we can do at a time like this is letting our voices be heard, loud and clear. As horrible a time as this is, I truly feel it will inspire a new generation of politically-motived musicians and artists to stand in defiance of adversity. This year is going to be the year of women in music; take notice, because they’re coming.