Childhood Feminist Anthems

(Life update: I’m back from Kendal Calling feeling slightly broken, but a few more Lush baths and I should be back to normal… I hope. Anyway, on with the post…)

Last week I was flicking through music channels on the tele when I came across Christina Aguilera’s classic tune ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ featuring Lil’ Kim from way back in 2003. That song was nine year-old Charlotte’s jam, but it has only just occurred me, listening as 21 year-old Charlotte, that that song is feminist as fuck. The lyrics are so on point, and still as relevant as ever 12 years later. This got me thinking that maybe this song and other music I listened to as a child/pre-teen impacted my way of thinking, my attitude and my beliefs more than I would have thought.

So I started thinking about which other songs I listened to when I was younger that probably also had a hand in instilling the feminist message in me before I even knew what the word meant, and came up with this list:

1) I’ve obviously already mentioned it, but had to put it in the official list – Christina Aguilera feat. Lil’ Kim – Can’t Hold Us Down (2003)

2) The Pussycat Dolls – I Don’t Need a Man (2006)

3) Spice Girls – Wannabe (1996)

The gateway to feminism for many a 90s girl – GIRL POWER!

4) Destiny’s Child – Independent Woman (2000)

5) The Pussycat Dolls (again) feat. will. i. am – Beep (2005)

The Pussycat Dolls generally I think taught me a lot about feeling good about yourself and expressing female sexuality unapologetically. That might seem strange in a post about childhood music, but growing up with that kind of message and not having it criticised as wrong for any reason can only be positive in my eyes.

6) Ciara – Like A Boy (2007)

7) Beyonce – If I Were A Boy (2008)

Obviously Beyonce/Destiny’s Child could fill this list by themselves, but I think this song came out at a time when I could understand the lyrics enough to appreciate the message.

8) Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl (2005)

9) Avril Lavigne – I Don’t Have To Try (2007)

I’ve got a lot to thank Avril for, and that grrrl power attitude, particularly from the Best Damn Thing album, is certainly one of them.

10) Christina Aguilera – Fighter (2002)

I thought I would round off the list with another Christina song, because she had many a feminist banger, and the angriness of this song I think probably had a hand in making me the angry feminist I am today. Thanks for making me a fighter, Christina!

I’ve always been adamant that music is important in shaping as well as being reflective of a person’s personality and the way they think about the world, and I think this has just proved to me that pop music had a very positive impact on me when I was growing up.

I hope you enjoy the little playlist I’ve put together, feel free to add your own/let me know which songs influenced you as a child!


I found an old diary of mine

I’m going back to Nottingham after my week at home today, and remembered I was supposed to sort out the shit under my bed (to make room for the next time I’m home when I’ll have brought my whole uni room/life with me).
So anyway, I made a teeny tiny dent by emptying the smallest box I could find, in which I found an old diary.
Most of it is hilarious;  I was 10 years old and my life seems to have revolved around practice tests for the 11+, playing sports and gossiping with my friends about my crush.
But only three pages in, 10 year old me discusses how I don’t think I have a chance with said-crush because I’m ‘fat’; I have ‘a big tummy, huge bum and massive thighs.’ How sad is that?
It doesn’t really come as a surprise to me, because I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t self concious about my size, or comparing myself to all of my friends, to everyone around me.
And I think this is why I get so defensive and feel so strongly about the whole phenomenon of ‘shaming skinny-shamers’. By this I mean Nicki Minaj’s ‘fuck skinny bitches’ and Meghan Trainor’s controversial ‘All About That Bass’. That last song in particular did a lot for my self confidence, in terms of accepting myself , curves and all. So it kinda hurts and makes that self confidence feel invalidated when I hear people criticise it. After so many years of hating the body I was born with, that’s kind of a huge blow.
It makes me angry that people criticise the lyrics ‘my mama told me don’t worry about your size/Boys like a little more booty to hold at night’, because, for one thing, that’s very familiar to a lot of not-skinny girls (including myself), but also, if you’re telling a young girl not to worry about her size, if it works to say boys still like you if you’ve got a bit of booty, it’s worth it. If it’s said in the right way, it puts a young girl’s mind at rest, without telling her her body and her worth is measured by a man’s opinion of her. You can tell her both: you’re worth it whether or not a boy likes you, but boys won’t not like you because you’re not super thin.
(I sincerely hope this is making some sense)
So basically, fuck skinny bitches. Do they bat an eyelid when fat girls are being bashed in pop music?  I don’t think so. Let us have our moment. One or two songs out of thousands that aren’t about you and you get defensive. That’s what I see when I read peoples’ complaints about these songs, whether or not the sentiment behind it comes from a good place. Solidarity with my curvy sisters!
I’m going to go back to owning my big booty and trying to block out all the negativity, now.

Female-unfriendly Festivals

You may have seen some of these images of this year’s Reading and Leeds line ups floating around the internet over the past few months. The first is what the poster would look like if there were no male-only bands and artists on the line up:

This to me is shocking, but not surprising. Last year a whopping 16 year precedent was broken by Hayley Williams of Paramore being the first female headliner in the festival’s history; and even then the female-fronted band were only co-headliners, sharing the honour with Queens of the Stone Age.

So why are women being so dramatically underrepresented in festival line ups?  Because it isn’t just Reading and Leeds. Across the broad spectrum of UK festivals, men dominate the majority of line ups.

Some would have you think that it’s because in the rock and indie scene, the genre Reading and Leeds cater for, there just aren’t many female acts. This could not be further from the truth. I could use the rest of the space in this article listing all of the talented female performers that are playing music right now who would fit in perfectly at any rock festival.

Luckily someone has done it for me, and put together this poster of what the line up would look like if it only had all-female acts or bands with females in, and it looks pretty freakin’ cool to me:

It is true to say that particularly in the rock scene women find it harder to make it, but that path is being paved and trodden on more and more these days. Just look at the likes of all-female band Haim, or Blood Red Shoes, or Chvrches, or Lucy Rose, Tonight Alive, Laura Marling, Halestorm, War Paint, Pvris… The list goes on.

Reading and Leeds act booker Jon Mac told the Telegraph last year that “[there is] a historical precedent that needs to change. If you look at aspiring musicians in the past, particularly in the rock, indie and dance worlds, there were more boys than girls trying to make a go of it and therefore more breaking through. Things need to and I believe are changing.”

And Melvin Benn, organiser of the twin festivals, said that “The idea that female bands are sidelined as a suggestion is just not there.”

How do festival organisers expect women to be inspired to get into music and continue breaking the mould if they don’t showcase all of this talent at their events?

And excuse me Melvin, but nine female acts out of over a hundred seems like sidelining to me.

Ladies in music are killing it right now, and festival-bookers, gig organisers and music magazine editors need to listen up and start showing them the respect they deserve.

[This is another thing I wrote for Her Campus a while ago but the email never got through.. Or maybe I’m just being ignored, who knows?]