Alice Bag (former frontwoman of first-wave L.A. punk pioneers the Bags), Garbage singer Shirley Manson, and Allison Wolfe (co-founder of ’90s Riot Grrrl band Bratmobile) might come from totally different eras and/or scenes — however in some ways, they’re kindred spirits. And their bond is clear in Bag’s hilarious new “77” music video, impressed by the 1980 feminist comedy basic 9 to five. Bag and Wolfe star as tie-bloused company rebels alongside the fiercely power-suited Manson and Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna as they protest the gender wage hole in probably the most punk approach potential.
Bag was impressed to write down “77” after studying an interview with the founding father of Olivia Records that famous “women still make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. That pissed me off, and things that piss me off have a way of becoming songs. I wrote the first line, ‘I make 77 cents on the dollar / It’s not fair and it makes me want to holler,’ and the rest of the song just flowed from there,” she explains.
Bag and her friends’ voices are wanted greater than ever, so we rounded up Bag, Wolfe, and Manson to debate being a lady in a male-dominated music office, utilizing music to protest social injustice and inform private tales, and why it’s essential for feminine artists to grab management of their very own narratives. Let’s get to work.
Yahoo Entertainment: “Feminism” continues to be a phrase that evokes debate and provokes such robust feelings. And there are nonetheless some women who shun the time period. How do you are feeling about that?
Allison Wolfe: It’s annoying. I simply really feel like for women, feminism is survival. Whether you need to embrace the phrase or not, I really feel the idea is about our survival — psychically, bodily, emotionally, no matter. I additionally really feel that so long as sexism stays in trend, then feminism has to stay round as a response as nicely. This continues to be a sexist world we stay in, so feminism is important.
Alice Bag: I feel the individuals who say that they’re not feminist are responding to all of the dangerous representations which were put on the market of what a feminist is, the clichés: the concept feminists hate males, or that they’re making an attempt to be like males. There is a failure to know that feminism at its core is simply preventing for equality. It’s very primary: Do you consider that folks must be equal? Then you’re in all probability a feminist. You’re simply shying away from one thing that has been maligned.
Wolfe: And shopping for into that.
Bag: Yes. Buying right into a misrepresentation of what the phrase actually means.
How do you are feeling when main pop figures like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and even Kim Kardashian use the time period “feminism”?
Wolfe: It’s type of arduous for me to get an excessive amount of into the mainstream interpretations of feminism, to be trustworthy. But on the similar time, it’s highly effective that Beyoncé had that huge flashing “FEMINIST” sign onstage. And if that does have an effect on extra individuals than I ever might — cool! But on the similar time, it’s exhausting for me to purchase into any company, capitalist stuff.
I do know you two had very totally different upbringings. I need to understand how your childhoods formed your music.
Wolfe: I had a mixture of stuff occur to me that was actually troublesome, but in addition my mother getting us away from that stuff and beginning her life over once more. Numerous the extra radical stuff occurred once I was like eight or so. My mom left my father and took her three daughters together with her, and actually began her life over once more. She got here out as a lesbian, feminist, vegetarian, no-nukes protesting, simply all of these items abruptly. It was an actual abrupt change, however it was undoubtedly for the higher. She additionally moved us to Olympia, the place she began the primary women’s health clinic there. It was a wrestle at first. She was performing rape kits for women earlier than hospitals did them routinely, and offering abortions – the one one within the county on the time. She obtained protested and harassed so much. The entire household received harassed, and we needed to be robust to cope with that. People would ship her demise threats, throw rocks at our home. One time they poisoned all of the pets of the individuals within the clinic. That did have an enormous affect on me. At the identical time, I felt like I wanted to seek out my very own approach, and my very own type of feminism. That’s why Riot Grrrl and Bratmobile caused a 3rd wave of feminism. It wasn’t reacting towards my mother, however making it one thing that spoke to me.
Shirley Manson: Let’s face it, I’ve a greater life than my mum did. My mum didn’t get to decide on what she did for a dwelling. My mum principally would hold home, and get a f***ing allowance from my father. I grew up in a really conservative family, and my granny additionally didn’t have freedom. And neither did her mom earlier than her. I do consider within the idea of evolution actually strongly. When I speak to younger women now, they’re approach smarter than I ever was. So, I simply need to consider that the subsequent era are going to proceed that. Human nature goes to proceed to evolve, and the whole lot’s going to be OK in the long run.
Bag: Lots of my affect got here from my dad, truly. My dad was actually abusive to my mother. As a toddler witnessing this, I felt fairly helpless. I really feel if you’re in an abusive family, everybody in the home is a sufferer. For me it was fairly traumatic, despite the fact that the abuse wasn’t directed at me. I felt very very similar to somebody who didn’t have a voice. So once I received in a punk band and began singing, I felt for the primary time like individuals have been listening to me and I mattered. I felt supported, that there have been all these people who have been on my aspect. I felt empathy once I was onstage. For me, punk rock was actually therapeutic. It helped me cope with issues of rage stemming from the abuse I witnessed rising up — my father beating up my mom in entrance of me.
And then in your debut album, you had a track about escaping an abusive relationship, “He’s So Sorry.”
Bag: I keep in mind having a dialog with my mom about how she needed to get out of her state of affairs. She knew it, and I knew it, however she couldn’t think about a option to get out of it. She was by no means capable of get to that time. So my purpose for scripting this track was to create a way of urgency to only depart. The factor that basically affected me again then was my mother advised me that the rationale she stayed with my dad was as a result of I wanted a father. That she stayed with him to maintain our household collectively for me. It actually made me really feel like, “My mother is taking these beatings for me.” [Tears up] Even desirous about it now makes me actually upset.
The one constructive factor about such a tragic state of affairs, I think about, can be that songs like “He’s So Sorry” assist different individuals. Do you get any suggestions from followers about how your music has helped them?
Bag: I truly performed a present in San Francisco, and as I used to be coming off the stage, I had a lady cease me and inform me she was a rape survivor, and she thanked me for enjoying [the anti-rape song] “No Means No.” Then I walked a couple of steps additional and one other lady thanked me for enjoying “He’s So Sorry,” saying, “I am a domestic abuse survivor.” When I write these songs and carry out them, I by no means cease to assume that there are individuals within the viewers, proper there, which might be going to really feel like I’m speaking to them instantly. It was very highly effective and emotional, as a result of I didn’t know fairly what to say to them besides to provide them a hug. I didn’t even know if it was essential to say something. I felt at that time I used to be glad I introduced it up, however I want I had another type of comforting recommendation that I might give or one thing extra I might do. Sometimes as an artist you deliver up subjects that have to be addressed, however you would like you may do extra than simply deliver it up for dialogue. You want you might finish it.
Wolfe: But I feel it’s so necessary to only bear witness, and to convey it up so individuals can discover one another and not really feel alone. There’s lots of disgrace that goes with home violence and rape, so simply having it’s an open matter, with music, is essential for women to determine and go, “OK, this didn’t just happen to me” or “This isn’t my fault.”
Manson: Above all issues, we should encourage individuals to talk out, and proceed to talk out. It’s about utilizing your voice. If you don’t use your voice, you’re eradicated by historical past. That’s simply the way it’s all the time been. You have to be a witness to your personal expertise.
Wolfe: I feel my music or lyrics I’ve written, a whole lot of it targeted on issues of vanity in women and younger women. I feel vanity is one thing I’ve all the time battled with. Sometimes at first when women and women come as much as me and say, “I was inspired by you” or “Your songs helped me during a hard time” and stuff like that, I’m stunned. I’m like, actually? But then I feel, properly, it helped me too, to write down that music. So that makes me actually comfortable, and it makes me really feel that my work has been value it, but in addition as a result of I can completely relate.
Bag: Lots of it has to do with therapeutic your self. When different individuals hear your music later, they will type of take that therapeutic journey with you.
Let’s return to the beginnings of your musical journeys. What feminine artists impressed you whenever you have been beginning out?
Bag: I keep in mind once I was rising up, I used to be actually into Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, however at a sure level I received into rock ’n’ roll and I needed to type a rock band, and for some unknown cause I actually needed to type an all-girl band. I talked to individuals about it and they informed me about this band [from the early ’70s] referred to as Fanny. But I’d take a look at my native document retailer, and there was no Fanny document. All I knew was that it existed. In some ways, the legacy of Fanny was a fable to me: “Wow! There was once an all-female rock band that was on a major label!” Finally once I heard it, I keep in mind feeling so excited that one thing like that had occurred. Just final yr I acquired to satisfy [Fanny co-founder/guitarist] June Millington, and I used to be simply blown away by this lady who continues to be rocking. She runs a rock camp out of her home. She’s nonetheless giving again to younger women.
Wolfe: For me, once I was youthful, I simply listened to what my mother had round the home. She had loads of Olivia Records stuff, numerous lesbian music, sort of folksy stuff. She additionally had loads of bluegrass stuff, and Emmylou Harris, and I additionally listened to lots of Ella Fitzgerald and Patsy Cline; I liked their voices. Later once I began stepping into music alone, it was stuff like Bow Wow Wow, the Go-Go’s, the B-52’s, Missing Persons, extra new wave stuff. That was actually influential to me. But it took some time earlier than I assumed I might truly do stuff like this alone. Then it was seeing Exene from X or Alice in Decline. I used to be additionally fortunate, rising up in Olympia, the place there was a historical past of women doing plenty of stuff — Heather Lewis from Beat Happening, and Tobi Vail who was within the Go Team, this band Doris, this band Calamity Jane. And then Kathleen Hanna moved to Olympia, and she was in a band referred to as Viva Knievel and was operating an artwork gallery and placing on exhibits. All that stuff influenced me slowly to the purpose the place I used to be lastly like, “Oh, maybe I can do this too.” And then Bikini Kill was big. I imply, they began simply earlier than us, however they have been like our huge sisters and inspired Bratmobile so much.
It’s fascinating to me that your respective native music scenes appeared to be very welcoming to women, since each the ’90s Northwest and late-’70s Hollywood scenes had a whole lot of white male power. Los Angeles punk particularly appeared very masculine and aggressive.
Bag: Actually, I feel the L.A. punk scene, when it first began, did not have a dominant white male power. That occurred later. In the very early levels of the L.A./Hollywood scene, it was a wide-open subject the place individuals felt like they might go in and outline it for themselves. It was very inclusive, as a result of, you recognize, it was a bunch of weirdos coming from totally different backgrounds who didn’t slot in in their very own hometowns and discovered salvation in “Hollyweird.” That was the place the place your weirdness was truly valued. That was my expertise. I felt like, “This is my tribe. This is where I can be myself.” So there have been a variety of women in bands, or being roadies or photographers. [L.A. punk club] the Masque itself — one of many co-signers for the lease was a lady within the band Backstage Pass. What occurred was because the scene grew and acquired extra in style, individuals began writing concerning the male points of it, the male members of the bands.
Wolfe: That’s the factor, Alice, from speaking with you and going into that historical past with you, it was actually shocking to me [that the L.A. punk scene was inclusive]. Because that’s not the best way it’s introduced. We all have to take a look at the truth that although issues have been rather more numerous in actuality, the best way that it’s documented traditionally, or if we don’t doc it ourselves, is in a sexist, racist approach. It’s like erasure — erasing the women and individuals of shade who helped construct this. Why don’t we hear extra about them? Why aren’t there documentaries about them? Because once we began doing Riot Grrrl, a number of it was in response to a scarcity of women in music and the scene. It was pre-Internet, and we didn’t have a lot entry to all the women who got here earlier than us. So we did sort of really feel like, “Hey, we’re doing this new thing!” But we would have liked to comprehend that we’re constructing upon others, and we aren’t truly doing one thing brand-new. But additionally, why was Riot Grrrl crucial? I assume as a result of the white guys from Huntington Beach got here in and destroyed all of it, and then you must begin over once more.
Bag: Also, individuals who have been making an attempt to return and write concerning the Hollywood punk scene who weren’t there, they’d name to interview me, however then they’d say, “Tell us what you thought of the Germs,” or “What did you think of the Weirdos?” It was that type of factor the place you don’t truly ask the lady what she remembers from the scene, however you ask her about how she remembers the guys from the scene. A number of time I used to be requested to help a story that was already in place, and they only needed anecdotes to fill within the colourful little tales concerning the [male bands], as an alternative of asking me to inform my very own story from my perspective. That occurs to me even now. It’s like, “Wait a minute, I’m greater than just a bit a part of this. I used to be there the entire time.” It’s type of upsetting if you do have an opportunity to talk, however you then’re given very restricted restrictions as to what you possibly can speak about.
That’s a standard grievance. In 2016, Viv Albertine of the Slits defaced a museum exhibit about British punk to protest its omission of feminine punk artists.
Wolfe: Yes, I noticed that on Facebook; it was superior. But, nicely, look who’s in cost. I’m guessing it’s wealthy straight white guys who run the museum, or are being given the grants or the funding for these anthologies and exhibitions. If you had the individuals who truly went by means of these experiences in cost, perhaps the narrative would look totally different. That’s why I feel it’s actually essential for us to be telling our personal tales.
It appears the ’90s, when Bratmobile have been round, was an excellent time for women in music. Besides the Riot Grrrl scene, in mainstream rock there have been lots of feminine and co-ed bands doing nicely, getting on the radio, profitable Grammys, touring with Lilith Fair.
Wolfe: I used to be in a way more underground scene, and within the ’90s I actually couldn’t have cared much less about mainstream something! But I do know we had a really robust community all throughout the nation, and perhaps in England too, of all these cool women in cool bands, and cool promoters, the place we thought, “This is really great! This is feminist and socially conscious!” And you’re proper, it was rather a lot simpler to maneuver inside that, particularly within the early ’90s. I feel by the top of the ’90s, lots of that had gone away. Like, the place have been all of the woman bands? They all broke up. Everything did appear to get extra sexist once more by the late ’90s.
But why did that occur?
Wolfe: I feel a variety of which will have been backlash — backlash to Riot Grrrl, backlash to Bikini Kill. But I additionally assume it’s a testomony, once more, to who’s actually in cost, who actually owns the assets, and who actually creates the narrative, even after you’ve had your say. It exhibits how a lot issues want to vary structurally and institutionally.
Manson: I’ve been saying this for years now. I feel when Sept. 11 occurred, it not solely was a horrendous tragedy, nevertheless it affected the tradition and it affected American radio programming. All of a sudden everyone on the earth felt actually unsafe in ways in which we had by no means ever felt earlier than. As a end result, humanity will get conservative. When humanity feels underneath assault, when it feels threatened, it will get conservative, and no one needs a lady with opinions, or an aggressive lady, or a strong lady, at occasions when white males are feeling beneath menace. It’s oversimplifying it to place it like that, however I do primarily consider that that’s what was at play. Like you say, every little thing was on this superb trajectory, and then hastily it was just like the automotive rotated and headed again down the street. It’s by no means modified path since. It’s actually somewhat scary and actually disheartening as a result of once we emerged within the ’90s, it actually felt like women have been piercing by way of the glass ceiling. In some methods we undoubtedly have been, however sadly, that change has not continued.
Bag: I feel it’s good to note that if you make features, you’ll be able to’t assume that these good points will proceed all through the years. You should be continually wanting in the direction of creating alternatives for women. You can’t simply say, “OK, that was great; there’s female representation in music now, so now we can relax and we don’t have to fight so hard!” I really feel like we all the time need to be defending no matter progress we’ve made, or else another person will come alongside and write us out of it once more. You can see this in so many different areas of feminism too. You can see that we’re nonetheless preventing for reproductive rights, for Roe v. Wade. There’s all the time going to be individuals that may attempt to take this stuff away from us, so we now have to remain on prime of it. We can benefit from the progress we’ve got made, however we have now to recollect to speak to our daughters, our sisters. We have to remain vigilant.
Manson: You talked about Lilith Fair. I didn’t need to take part in Lilith Fair. By the time [Garbage] have been invited to go on that tour, I didn’t need to do a totally female-oriented pageant. It was towards every little thing I believed in. But now I really feel prefer it’s essential for me to place my weight behind women’s pursuits. I really feel like that as a result of the occasions have modified. The local weather’s totally different, and I feel it’s a matter of urgency for women to impress.
It’s disheartening how a lot progress nonetheless must be made. Like when journalist Jessica Hopper tweeted asking women in the music business to share their tales of sexism, discrimination, and abuse, it was virtually surprising what number of responses she obtained. Did you learn any of that?
Wolfe: I’ve to be trustworthy. When that got here out, I used to be stunned that folks have been stunned! Because that’s the sort of stuff that I hear about on a regular basis, and that I’ve skilled on a regular basis, and have been speaking about and singing about and writing songs about on a regular basis. So I assumed it was sort of bizarre that as quickly as Jessica Hopper tweets about it, it turns into a factor. It’s like, “No, no, no, this has all the time been occurring for women within the music business.” There’s nothing new in any respect about this. I nonetheless expertise it. I really feel like so many various exhibits that I’ve performed, people who find themselves working the membership don’t actually consider that I’m within the band! “Who are you? Why are you here?”
Bag: That simply occurred to you!
Wolfe: Yeah! Obviously that occurs extra within the bigger venues, not the podunk punk golf equipment. But once I play extra official venues, all of the handlers and gatekeepers concerned are like, “Wait, whose girlfriend are you? Why are you back here? Do you have the right kind of pass?” And then even after they’ve seen me onstage, they’re nonetheless asking me to point out one million credentials. It’s like, “Dude, I’m within the band.” Shannon from Shannon & the Clams will publish on Instagram about totally different bizarre issues which have occurred to her at gigs, issues sound individuals and door individuals say to her on tour. Being a feminine within the business, you need to continually assert your proper to be someplace or do one thing.
Manson: I really feel prefer it occurs to women day by day, in actually delicate methods. … Often you could be sluggish your self to detect it, to have a readability about what has occurred. You’re not all the time conscious of that when all of the male report execs are commenting in your coiffure. It’s just a few years later that I’m considering, “What the f***? What’s my hair obtained to do with you? You wouldn’t be speaking a few male artist on this method!” I used to be an object. I used to be too younger, and too naïve, and too useless to actually detect it on the time, however now wanting again, I’m like, “That was just ridiculous.” More than that, I feel in enterprise I’ve simply been utterly ignored a variety of the time by male legal professionals, and managers, and enterprise managers. Everything’s directed in the direction of my male counterparts. They would speak to me perhaps about what footwear I needed to put on. It continues to this present day.
Bag: I keep in mind in our home in Arizona I had a guitar hanging in our front room, and my neighbor got here in and stated, “Oh, what kind of music does your husband play?” It’s a small factor, simply barely annoying, nevertheless it’s simply the idea that it was my husband who performs the guitar. Another one of many issues that annoy me has to do with being a vocalist: how vocalists are handled as non-musicians. A variety of occasions in case you’re enjoying with guys, there’s a kind of talking-down to the vocalist, such as you’re simply an decoration adorning their music. That’s very infuriating. That type of stuff, I’m very swift to place an finish to that.
Manson: I’m very conscious that through the very first a part of my profession, I performed submissive canine on a regular basis. I wouldn’t come into a piece state of affairs and say, “This hi-hat doesn’t sound good to me.” I might fudge the margins and intentionally dumb myself down, use easy language and attempt to not be threatening. I might by no means take possession over any directive. I knew that if I didn’t act like a submissive canine, I wouldn’t get what I needed. Men don’t have to try this; women proceed to have to try this typically. You’ll see it in plenty of feminine execs. They’re very enjoyable, and energetic. I really feel that that’s methodology to get what they need, however males may be as grumpy and disagreeable as they want and no one has a phrase to say about it. If a lady acts that means, she’s a c***, actually. She’s a “bossy c***.”
Wolfe: Sometimes there’s plenty of mansplaining from males in bands, particularly in romantic relationships. I keep in mind this [musician] man [I dated] getting back from tour, and I questioned him about one thing, and he was like, “Look, you don’t know what it’s like after tour…” I used to be like, “Back up, dude. I don’t know what it’s like? You know who I’m and what I’ve achieved. I’m not just a few woman you’re going to s*** throughout. I f***ing know. In reality, I’m positive I’ve toured greater than you. I’m positive I’ve had higher exhibits than you! And I positive have skilled what you might have skilled on tour, 10 occasions extra. So simply shut up!” It’s bizarre to me that guys nonetheless do this; they nonetheless speak to me like that, once they know who I’m! But I don’t assume any lady must be talked to that approach.
So do you assume it’s more durable or simpler now for aspiring feminine musicians than it was once you two respectively began out?
Bag: I feel we’ve made some progress. I volunteer at this women’ rock camp referred to as Chicas Rockeras, the place younger women are given the chance to play devices, or they’ve acquired mentors displaying them methods to use the gear, write songs, and have a dialog with different band members. That’s one thing that we by no means had. I keep in mind watching anyone enjoying guitar and considering, “Wow, they probably went to school for a long time to learn to do that.” There was this entire fantasy about, “How do you use all that equipment? What do all those pedals do?” All of a sudden now, there are all these alternatives for younger women to experiment — to the touch these pedals, to twist these knobs.
Wolfe: Yeah, this can be a bizarre anecdote, however within the ’90s, I recall there was this rock ’n’ roll highschool for women in Melbourne, Australia, and by the 2000s, you possibly can see the direct results of that. There have been so many ladies in bands in Australia, and plenty of them stated they got here from that faculty.
Bag: So, we’re making progress. It’s a bit bit higher. And once more, we’ll in all probability have some backlash. But we simply maintain shifting ahead.
Manson: I really feel just like the dialog is being had and it’s a actually vital cultural second, and it’s on everyone’s lips. I feel that may have an effect on a era of males and women — or everybody on the spectrum, let’s say. I feel it’s by no means going to vary individuals who have critical sexual issues. There’s all the time going to be predators on the market, and they may prey on anybody. No quantity of dialogue and no quantity of study will ever change that; some individuals are sick within the head, and that’s simply the way it goes. But I do assume it’s going to give pause to the typical [man of] energy and privilege that thinks he can simply take what he needs, when he needs, with out consequence. I do assume that’s one of many biggest issues that we’ll take from this second in time.
What can be your parting phrases of recommendation to younger feminine artists?
Wolfe: I feel it’s actually necessary to be real and trustworthy. I like bands that lay it on the road and put it on the market, and say what they assume is necessary and converse in their very own voice. I feel there’s a lot strain on women within the public eye to be cute and fairly and good. And whereas I feel it may be highly effective to have sexual parts in no matter you’re doing, I feel it’s essential to do it for you, from a real place. Don’t ever attempt to match this picture that’s crafted by outdoors influences just like the mainstream or the male gaze.
Bag: Well stated. Exactly that.
Manson: I additionally really feel actually optimistic, and I really feel that there’s an entire new wave of actually provocative, sensible, knowledgeable women making music that’s rather more rebellious/provocative than the final 20, 15 years. I really feel like there’s an actual upswell from women who’ve one thing to say, who aren’t involved in placing on a leotard and singing pop music. Now, that may be a big shift, as a result of definitely 10 years in the past, that’s all you noticed: women eager to be fairly. They have been all sporting lengthy nails painted glamorously, they have been all very ladylike, and they have been all singing pop songs both about having a good time in a membership, falling in love, having their hearts damaged, or being eternally younger. Things have undoubtedly shifted.
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