Music – like nearly everything else – is a male-dominated industry. That’s not to say female musicians haven’t helped make it what it is today. Rather, the contributions women have made in music are largely overlooked, undermined, and excluded. When women are allowed into music’s boys’ club, they face sexism that challenges their competency and purpose as musicians. With so much stacked against them, female musicians have still muscled their way into the music industry–but not without a fight. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate the women who have paved or are paving the way for women and girls across music genres.
In honor of female musicians who’ve stood firmly against sexism in the music industry, and to commemorate the release of Love Your Rebellion’s 7th zine release party LYR Babefest 2016, the LYR Spring 2016 staff took on the roles of their favorite female musicians for their biannual photo shoot. Last Saturday, the LYR 2016 staff and local SWFL photographer Jesi Cason of Seeker Photography spent the evening channeling music queens of the industry at Howl Gallery Tattoo in Fort Myers, Florida.
This Spring, six phenomenal women make up the LYR staff: Angela (me), Michelle, Kyle Anne, Shelby, Neece, and Carmen. Each staff member chose a female musician who speaks to her in terms of attitude, perspective, performance, and of course, sound. As the founder of LYR, it was important to me that each member picked someone who embodies empowerment to them because empowerment comes in different forms for different women. Each woman on my staff should have the opportunity to define her inspiration for empowerment.
For Marketing Coordinator Shelby Elmore, inspiration comes in the form of teased blonde hair and twangy folk songs. Shelby chose to channel none other than the illustrious Dolly Parton. As you can see, she nailed an early Dolly.
For Shelby, becoming Dolly actually hit close to home. Her family is from Dolly’s hometown in Sevier County, Tennessee. “She used her fame to be a humanitarian and activist in her hometown of Sevier County,” Shelby stated. “She gave her rundown hometown a second breath of life.” Shelby further discussed Dolly’s influence in music and activism, and how it impacted the industry. “Dolly Parton was one of the first women to earn and maintain respect during a time when country was considered exclusively a boys’ club. She spoke publicly about homelessness and civil rights since the moment she reached significance, when no one else was talking about these issues. She wrote all of her music which had a consistent theme of female empowerment and gave enlightened women of the south a voice in the face of national stereotype.”
Many women are empowered by fearless female musicians. To LYR zine Art Editor, Carmen Guerrero, Brody Dalle fits that description. Brody’s attitude, swagger, and overall badassery were aptly represented in Carmen’s photos.
Carmen told me, “Brody Dalle has always been one of my favorite punk icons, but she specifically stands out as one of my favorite feminist female music icons. Having been married to Tim Armstrong of Rancid, people always associate her with him, and accuse her of being a rip off of Rancid’s sound. To me she’s proven that a woman can make a name for herself without riding on the coat tails of the man in your life.” Carmen went on to say that Brody’s survival after drug addiction and domestic abuse has helped her become a strong woman who really knows who she is.
Girls and women need modern female musicians they can look up to. Thankfully, there are quite a few in the industry. LYR Community Coordinator Neece McCoy chose to become someone who’s just getting the fame she deserves: Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. Brittany’s talent is once-in-a-lifetime level, and Neece wanted to celebrate the work Brittany is putting in.
Neece had some words of praise about Brittany: “She shows that representation matters. In a world where folks still try to stereotype artists into genres, hearing and seeing her perform inspires me to not be afraid to explore musically. She is a great symbol of empowerment to me. Just by being true to herself she encourages me to do the same.”
Then again, so many women from music’s past have provided the foundation on which today’s female musicians stand. Stevie Nicks is one such super star female musician who forced rock n roll to accept her as is. LYR Issue #7 Poetry Editor Kyle Anne Duggan chose to pay tribute to the first witch of rock n roll.
Kyle recognizes Stevie as a woman who made her mark on rock n roll when it was a very exclusive men-only club. Stevie broke a lot of boundaries about what a woman could bring to rock n roll band. Women were thought to soften a rock n roll band’s image in the 70s, but Stevie became known for her powerful vocals and other-worldly songwriting in Fleetwood Mac, and ultimately propelled them to stardom.
It’s impossible to talk about feminism and music without mentioning Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. That’s probably why LYR Issue #7 Production Editor Michelle Caraway decided to reproduce one of Kathleen’s most iconic images. That and Michelle is inspired by Kathleen’s brazen attitude and unpolished sound.
Michelle’s also a fan of Kathleen’s on stage activism, like girls to the front and her famous KILL ME dress. “Kathleen Hanna wore the KILL ME dress during the Rock for Choice show in ’93. The message is basically to point out the questionable logic of those who blame the victim when it comes to rape (or any other forms of violence, really). In her words, ‘The idea is: What constitutes asking for it? … If you wear a dress that says ‘kill me’ on it, does that mean you’re asking for it?'”
And as for me, I picked probably the most controversial woman in rock n roll. She’s not a role model to some, and for others she helped define the meaning of rock n roll goddess. She’s wild, she’s relentless, she’s the tiara wearing bitch from hell, Courtney Love.
I realize that Courtney’s a polarizing figure. That’s sort of the point though, right? She points out so many of rock n roll’s double standards for women–and likewise society’s double standards for women. Courtney and Kurt went through similar things in their lives and while he is revered and venerated for his onstage and backstage antics, Courtney is ridiculed, ostracized, and exploited. She’s a true survivor of the music industry, and her survival makes me feel like my survival is possible.
Paying respect to these fine female musicians means more than just looking the part, though. That’s why LYR has put together a local SWFL event to celebrate original female artists in the region. Babefest will take place on May 7, 2016 at Nice Guys Pizza in Cape Coral, Florida. It will feature several female musicians and bands with female members local to the region like The Young Dead, Claire Liparulo, Kyle Anne, TerryLynn Melody, the Good Bad Kids, and Psychic Dose. In conjunction with Babefest and Issue #7, LYR will be releasing the Babefest Compilation featuring original tracks by several of the female musicians performing, available for only $5.
In celebration of LYR’s 7th zine release, LYR will be hosting Babefest alongside Orlando based zine makers Tittie Thyme and Phosphene Girl. Come for the bands, but be sure to get a delicious glass of the specialty strawberry pomegranate blonde ale, Babia Majora, made especially for Babefest by Bury Me Brewing. LYR will also be raffling off an Ibanez practice amp for just one $1 per ticket. On May 7th, come meet the staff who reinvented some of your favorite female musicians and made Babefest possible. Join the Facebook event here. And be sure to pick up the LYR Babefest Compilation before you leave!