At the time of writing this song, I was inspired by Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg and The Squad, (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar) American congresswomen who banded together with shared values on inclusivity and not being afraid of Donald Trump.
At the time I also began reading bell hooks‘ book Feminism is for Everybody. I was raised by a community leader (she would say ‘no’ but I think it’s the right phrase): my mum, founded a playgroup and looked after my brother and I with the kind of love that brings tears to my eyes when I think of it here. We grew up in the era of the Gulf War, and reflecting on that period of my life, I was aware then even at a young age that, I didn’t see any women there… I wonder if other children of that age remember that time?
There is a power in the idea of man, of patriarchy, that I do believe will continue tear us apart without deep reflection. Men killed by men in conflict is millions through history. World War 2 alone is estimated at 60-100 million.
The song – was put together with musician friends (below) and the few nights of bringing it together in my headphones were the few days before the story of Sarah Everard came to light.
To the 118 women who were killed in the last year by men in the UK, read here. by MP Jess Philipps I have a few words I put at the Sarah Everard memorial drawn out below.
In this sharing space, I would like to do just what the song is asking for, brothers, a moment to listen- I’ll stop after this intro!
Could be audio recorded or written I suppose a question starter would be what does equality for women and feminism mean to you? If you did want to write something you can contact me and I’ll post it there.
Thanks musicians and women friends who helped me shape the lyrics
Piano: Monica Max West/ Clarinet: Martha Wright/ Cello: Naomi Haigh/ Drums: Tim Monkey/ Women’s voices: Karen Davies. Kasia Stephens, Melissa James, Monica Max West, Lizhuo Zhang, Manu Farenzena – Men’s voices: Dave Vered, Robbie Campbell, Josh Donaldson, Jonathan Ryan, Doran Amaos and Sebastian Shustler.
Please let me know if there are songs you think would go well in this playlist…
after some thoughts from friends on the chorus lyrics I will make a re write and post more about that (that’s in progress – see post from me below…)
After some thoughts from a few friends I will re write the chorus, I’ll write more about this but yes the line ‘rooted, oppressed life on its knees’ was felt as focussing on the negative and less empowering-unintentionally reaffirming something I want reverse (some male conditioning to dissolve there); I wanted to raise the issue of continuing violence and oppression and that lead me to that line and at the same time, I’ve come to feel yes, the song is about a new story emerging and I want to contribute to that more- I’m so grateful to those friends and when the re record is done I’ll post it here and also write a more thoughtful piece about this …
Feminism is For Everybody by bell hooks
“Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. This was a definition of feminism I offered in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center more than 10 years ago. It was my hope at the time that it would become a common definition everyone would use. I liked this definition because it did not imply that men were the enemy. By naming sexism as the problem it went directly to the heart of the matter. Practically, it is a definition which implies that all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult. It is also broad enough to include an understanding of systemic institutionalized sexism. As a definition it is open-ended. To understand feminism it implies one has to necessarily understand sexism.”
My partner and I sat in the ice cream parlour in Bristol, having just found out that we were having a girl at the scan. The crushing realisation of the responsibility this entailed and fear for her future weighing heavily on both of us for very different reasons. I suppose this could have been the same for a boy – the responsibility to raise a kind, empathic, loving boy, immune to toxic masculinity but somehow it felt bigger knowing that the person I was growing inside my tummy could one day experience all the shit that I had gone through. Sexual assault, being treated like a piece of meat, being patronised, not taken seriously, groped. To be put down, subtly or overtly with every idea and show of confidence and competence. God, this was just too much. Suddenly the reality of bringing a baby into this world felt like the worst decision we had ever made. And now, 7 years later, we are raising a fierce, wise, kind, strong-willed, loving and challenging little girl who has her own ideas, understands that her body is her own, speaks her mind and is so so loved. I still fear what the world will hold for her, but I intend to do everything I can to make it a better place for her (and her little brother) to grow up in and change in their own ways as they grow.
To be a woman
The womb man
Is to be lunar rainbow
At one with her cycle
In Natures embrace
Breathing the ins and outs of it With shining grace.
To be a woman is to be fruitful
Mark the miracle of motherhood,
Growing a new being,
A magical happening
With a happy ending.
Like seasoning through seasons
We see the reasons
For feelings and freedoms
Glass ceilings and bleeding
Sometimes one half of a whole
Or one whole on a path
We were there before
And dwell in the aftermath
We were here in lore
And in history
Her story lost at a cost
Silenced by most boss’
So her voice now needs an equal place
As part of the human race xxx
I am 67 years old. I suppose I must have, on the whole, touch wood, learned to be safe. I am afraid it did involve having to be a bit wary of men. Strangers, and people I knew. As a quite young woman I decided that flat shoes and long jackets were safer. I learned to carry a shoulder bag, never a handbag, to be ready to wind the strap of my bag round my wrist so that I could swing it at somebody’s face. I learned to hold my keys between my knuckles, how to choose where to sit on a bus, or a train. I learned all the alternative routes from the station or bus stop to my home. I discovered those tactics enabled me to go to more places and to get home after working late without being followed, groped or chased. I learned these things from other women, both older ones and my contemporaries. Other women I knew, also wary, accepted more restrictions on where and when they went, for the trade off of wearing heels, and short skirts. Should we have had to learn these things? Should it have been necessary for us to make those choices? Should anyone feel a need to impose a curfew on themselves because of the way other people behave? I do not think a curfew is the answer but I do think if anybody’s liberty is to be restricted, it is the potential perpetrators, not the victims. Forensic statistics are pretty clear. Most victims of violent crime are men, but perpetrators of violence against men or women are predominantly men.
I would advise my council to keep streets well lit. I would advise the police to use their powers to make the streets safer. I would advise parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents, teachers, to show and tell boys and young men how to treat women and men with respect and that this does not need to involve violence. I would advise people not to watch violent porn. I would advise them to think before buying yet another thriller about serial killing or stalkers. I would advise politicians, whatever their gender, to think before assuming that women’s pay is unimportant because men are the main earners.
Thank you/Merci you Lilli for sending these films about the French explorer Alexandra David-Néel.
From online biography: Alexandra David-Néel (born Louise Eugénie Alexandrine Marie David; 24 October 1868 – 8 September 1969) was a Belgian–French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, anarchist and writer. She is most known for her 1924 visit to Lhasa, Tibet, when it was forbidden to foreigners. David-Néel wrote over 30 books about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels, including Magic and Mystery in Tibet, which was published in 1929. Her teachings influenced the beat writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg
I am looking from the through the window of my work over many years with young people and their families. I have seen the havoc wreaked upon families by controlling and violent partners/fathers who hold financial power over women trying to do their best for a family in crisis. Many of these women have been worn down through violence, deprivation and emotional abuse and doubt their own ability to fuction independantly and fear they will lose their children if they leave or dare incomplience, “Go on, walk out, there’s the door but you’ll not get a penny, you’ll be on the streets and you’ll never see the kids again”. Hear this too many times and you begin to believe it. It is only recently that domestic violence began to be investigated as a crime. It was “a domestic incident, none of our business if he gives her a wallop”. I am aware that domestic violence and coercion goes two ways but the scales are weighed in favour of men in most cases
In my working experience I sometimes encountered whole communities where unequal power in favour of men was the norm. The women who did manage to get out were also disadvantaged and often thought of as “lesser”. Male dominence was part of the “culture” and a “quick slap to keep her in line” no more than his right! Girls learned to cook and clean and be aware of the male position in the home. Boys learned male persuits and went for their “first pint” with their dad, encouraged to “”sow their wild oats” and “marry a velirgin”. Their own girls, of course, were told “not to bring trouble home” and that girls who did were “sluts and whores and no girl of his….etc”. Many of these familieswere under the radar so to speak. It was so part of the culture. That is where statistics become problematic. Lived experiences only come to light when something out of the “ordinary” happens or help is sought. You cannot blame women for not seeking help when they feel they are pushing against everything they know. Then there is the rest of us. While our male counterparts have a culture of freedom, we have to plan where we go alone with utmost precision. My other half will take a map and walk 16 miles alone, only considering his ability to get back. I on the other hand would have many other considerations. I love wild places but I rarely venture far alone x