So I saw Kate Nash play her final show of her US tour last night, at the Echoplex here in LA, and there was a moment I can’t stop thinking about. If you’re not familiar with Nash, google can probably help you pretty well as frankly this isn’t about what kind of music she plays (but I do highly recommend her).
Anyway, the moment I can’t stop thinking about. In between songs towards the end of the show, Nash started talking about women in music. She talked about how she learned that men are responsible for the majority of musical compositions in the world and how she thinks women should be creating more music but that women and girls are often scared or don’t feel good enough. She talked about bursting into tears once while listening to the Ramones, even though she loves them, because she hated the unfairness of a world that lifted up men and oppressed women and she couldn’t wrap her head around loving male musicians when she wanted to support women. She talked about creating a program in her home country (the UK) to get teen girls into music as a form of expression, and working with one angry teen in particular who went from angry and closed in on herself to channeling her anger into performance and how amazing this was to witness. She talked about how women worry about their looks and weight being criticized if they put themselves in a spotlight and how that’s entirely valid to worry about because people do tear women apart for their looks and how that’s bullshit and we shouldn’t have to live that way. But she pointed out people do that to us anyway, and we can’t let some people’s desire to focus on our looks silence us. She encouraged any women in the audience who might want to create music to stop being scared and start trying, because that’s how we win.
I personally was totally fascinated by what she was saying, but the longer she spoke, the louder the hum in the venue became as people just lost interest and started carrying on their own conversations. People left their spots in the crowd and hit the bar, or decided that was a good time to catch up with the friend they came with. Trying to hear her over the crowd and realizing that she probably knew that she was losing the crowd’s interest but valiantly carried on because it was important to say broke my heart. What she was saying IS important. It needs to be said. But the reaction of that crowd is par for the course. It wasn’t just men talking, either. There were some, like myself, who stayed silent and listened to her and it wasn’t just women who were silent and listened, either. The people talking probably thought to themselves, I came to be entertained and hear music and this isn’t music so why should I pay attention? These same people sat in rapt silence earlier in the show as Nash told a story about her childhood where she threw a tantrum and kicked her mom in the face. How was that more deserving than her talking about the need for more women in music? She’s a musician and a performer and she obviously knows people are coming to see her to hear music, but she thought that this was important enough to take time out of her music to talk about it. That crowd just got louder and louder until she eventually stopped talking and went back to music, but to her credit she didn’t let them rush her – she said what she wanted to say, finished her talk, and then played her music.
The thing about a scene like that is that I feel it’s indicative of what it’s like to be a feminist. That crowded room full of people talking over someone who was speaking from her heart about how women need to feel empowered to create could just as easily have been a room in comics or television or movies or journalism or video games. Every day women are told that their causes aren’t important enough or their views aren’t good enough. We’re told that what we’re passionate about doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because men still run the world and there are lots of women who don’t care if they do. We’re told that this fight doesn’t matter and why are we trying to single our gender out because shouldn’t gender be a moot point if we want to prove ourselves as equals to men? We’re told, over and over again, that this is the way of the world and if it should be different, it would be.
I think that moment hit me so strongly because I feel like I’m stuck in that room right now. I spoke to a friend recently about the high percentage of burnout in women who champion the cause of women in comics and increasing the numbers of female creators and/or readers and wondering why so many of us just stop speaking so loudly or even outright leave the industry. It’s an exhausting fight. After a while, it feels like you’re shouting into a crowd that cares less about what’s coming out of your mouth than they care about what they’re drinking or where they’re eating dinner tomorrow. This cause that makes your heart beat faster and makes you want to scream until you rattle the walls, that makes you cry with the injustice of it all and doubt yourself if you enjoy something a man has created because you know how many women have been oppressed or ignored, this cause means nothing to most of those people. And sometimes it’s hard to hope you’re reaching even one person because that crowd just keeps talking and ignoring you. What you have to say is only of interest to them if it’s entertaining and you look cute while you say it or sing it or write it but the moment you try to change the world, you don’t matter anymore. Standing in that crowd, I felt so damn angry at the world. I felt angry at the crowds of people inside and outside of comics that don’t think the amount of female creators in every genre matters, that don’t think that women would read comics if the industry was more welcoming, that don’t think the medium has anything to offer women. I felt angry at a world that wanted to tell Kate Nash that her encouragement for women interested in music meant nothing. Because does mean something. We do need more women creating everything and anything. I hope she doesn’t stop shouting, but I can’t help but feel really angry and sad about the number of women who have been silenced by that loud and uncaring crowd. I can’t help but feel so tired of shouting and want to give up the fight. We can be silenced by apathy in a way that hatred could never silence us and we can’t let that continue.
In the words of Kate Nash, “I’m a feminist / and if that offends you / then fuck you.”