Friday, 13 May 2011

Sound Check

- As published in the Spring 2011 issue of Artemis, the Women's Network magazine. -


Doesn’t it just sound awful when you’re at a gig and the bass is ridiculously loud and the lyrics are incomprehensible?  Or when the guitar riff is so distorted that the melody is completely lost?  Or maybe I’ve just been to too many bad gigs…  The same problem rings true in our day-to-day lives and the music we make.  How loud are we projecting our voices as women?  And in comparison, how do we fit this together with the other instruments in our lives?  It’s time we had our own sound check.

Myself, and others I have spoken to, have found that slapping the ‘feminist’ sticker onto yourself isn’t an easy task to undertake.  It comes with baggage.  Our lives, and identities for that matter, are made up of various different things, and it can often be difficult to fit our feminism into this overall picture.  Our race, our class, our sexuality, our politics, our faith and even our minute personal interests, can conflict with our gender issues.  So which do we prioritise?

When we use our voices for change, we tend to concentrate too much or too little on the fact that we are women.  It is a distinguishing factor of life that needs to be addressed, but our gender isn’t our ‘everything’.  Take this into account: there is more than one type of woman.  As postmodern feminist Bell Hooks puts it; ‘since men are not equal in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?’  What about black women, working class women, lesbian women, liberal women, women of faith?  We all face different kinds of discrimination and we need to accommodate for each aspect of our identities. 

I myself am a Christian.  I often face criticisms from both sides.  Some feminists accuse that ‘surely religion is a patriarchal tool of oppression’, and some Christians accuse that ‘feminism is a radical turn away from biblical teaching’.  Both are wrong.  As difficult as it may be to create a balance, it is certainly possible to integrate my faith and my feminism, fighting for gender equality whilst sharing my faith with others.

So how loud do I sing of my faith? How loud do I sing as a woman looking for change? And how exactly do we balance these voices without breaking the sound barrier?  Sing too loudly about one and the other easily fades into the background.  Break this sound barrier and your identity is broken, consumed entirely by this single aspect.  For me my faith is central to my life, the very essence of my truth and being, but born from this faith comes the search for liberation, and that includes the liberation of women.  I have a biblical base upon which I can build my case for equality.  But from this base I also build my politics, my philosophy, my identity, my relationships, and my lifestyle.  The echoing voice of feminism may be an important aspect to life, but we need the rest of the band to bring body to the music that is our being.  A perfect balance is impossible, but it’s time we stepped back and evaluated the value we slap on with our ‘feminist stickers’.  So keep one hand on the sound desk, but let the show go on…

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