Feminist thoughts: Women in music

I was 12 years old when I first discovered music. I mean really discovered music.
The kind of discovery that had me madly devouring everything I could listen to with passion. The catalyst was getting my first radio. It had been my brothers and when it came to me I discovered top 40 radio. Then I started pestering mum and dad to buy me CDs for presents. Can you imagine my excitement when I unwrapped Fearless for my birthday that year? I took over the family stereo each afternoon when I got home from school and sang along with Taylor until I knew every note. At night I would listen to the radio with it hidden under my doona so mum wouldn’t know. There was just so much exciting music out there – Rihanna, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry! The list goes on.

But then I gradually began to realise something more. I felt like for each one of my favourite female singers there was at least a dozen songs by men. Sometimes I would listen for an entire hour and not hear any female singers. This just felt so wrong to my young ears.

In 2008 the top 100 Billboard hits in the United States featured 37 female performers. In 2017 there were only 26!! What has happened that the number of female performers releasing hit songs has actually declined over the past 10 years?

A google search on ‘sexism in the music industry’ brought up 1.32 million results. The top search results were mainly magazine articles. GQ, Glamour, Marie Claire along with other media outlets have all run articles talking about sexism in the music industry.

Despite all this talk, it is still the consumers of music that are contributing to the overt sexism in the industry. It is about the music we seek to listen to, the songs we buy, the performers we vote for in Triple J’s Hottest 100 each year.

In January 2018, 51 songs in the Hottest 100 were from male artists or groups, 25 from female solo artists and all female groups, and 24 were from acts including both male and female artists. What distorts this last figure is that many of these combined acts were actually male artists ‘featuring’ a female singer. In other words, all the royalties and most of the accolades goes to the male performer.

How can you do your bit? It’s up to you what music you listen to but maybe it is a time to broaden your tastes. We become so conditioned to listen to a particular style that we don’t open our ears and minds to new music. So my challenge to you is try having all-female performer days. Demand the radio plays more women, listen to more women, hear more women. How else will we see any change?

Have a great feminist week!

Molly xx

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Molly #35

A few weeks later Ellen and I were sitting on my bed reading books. I was laughing at a funny passage in my novel and Ellen was smiling at me because I kept making her laugh. Sometimes we went on like that for what seemed like hours, but Ellen was always the first one to get bored with reading. This day she seemed a bit restless and her smiles looked a little sad. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I didn’t want to ask and upset her again so I just tried to find funny parts of my book to read out so that she would laugh with me.

“Mum and I are going to Melbourne for Christmas,” Ellen suddenly blurted out.

I looked up from my book. “What?”

“I said, Mum and I are going to Melbourne for Christmas. I wanted to tell you earlier but I couldn’t.”

“When… when do you go?” I wasn’t smiling anymore. I had thought we were going to be together for the whole summer holidays. I didn’t know whether to feel happy for her or not but I knew I felt unhappy for myself.

“We catch the train after school on Friday. Mum said that she wanted to visit her sister. I haven’t seen Aunty Vicky for years… I’ll write to you every day, Molly.”

“I’ll write to you as well, but I’m really going to miss you, Ellen.”

“I’ll miss you too, Molly, but you have to promise not to tell anyone, at least until after we’ve gone.” I looked at her face closely. I felt like there was something she wasn’t telling me. How come she had never mentioned going to Melbourne before, and why the secret?

“I won’t tell anyone,” I said, “I promise.”

She looked happy; no, more relieved than happy, and gave me a hug.

“It’s going to be all right,” she said. “Mum and I will be safe. Aunty Vicky lives on the beach just south of Melbourne.” She had become chatty now, but I was still worried.

“I remember going there a few years ago,” said Ellen, “It was when I was little and it was really pretty and colourful. These little wooden houses were on the edge of the beach and we walked on the sand every day.” Ellen stopped and looked at me thoughtfully. “You’ve gone quiet, Molly.” She kissed me and I put my arms around her neck and she leaned her head against the curve of my arm. There was so much I wanted to say to her but I just couldn’t think of the words. I closed my eyes to stop the tears from falling.

As we sat there silently for a moment, I tried to think of myself in Ellen’s place. There were no secrets between us and my mind ran with thoughts of rabbits and bruises as I tried to understand Ellen’s struggle. We sat there clinging to each other for ages until Mum called out from the kitchen,

“Molly, Ellen – it’s time for dinner.”

“You mustn’t tell anyone,” Ellen whispered as we walked out of the bedroom.

Richmond and Windsor

It was never a place a had really visited before. As a child I passed through Richmond and Windsor countless times on family holidays to the coast but we rarely stopped. To me it was just the place at the foot of the Blue Mountains. I was usually feeling pretty car sick by then, after the winding mountain road, so I never paid much attention to the old sandstone buildings or green river flats.

The Hawkesbury River forms where the Grose and Nepean Rivers join just to the west of Richmond. It then meanders to the north before turning a big bend at Wiseman’s Ferry and heading toward the sea. Because the early European settlers were a maritime people it the was the deep waters of the Hawkesbury River that allowed early settlement of this fertile area. The first settlers called this place Green Hills and it later became the major regional centre of a mixed farming district that saved the early colony from starvation.

But the idyllic pastures that surround this district today hide the ugly truth of Australia’s colonial past. Settlement of this area came at a huge cost for the Aboriginal people and was one of the first sites open conflict against the European invaders. European farms interrupted the open landscape and regular hunting and foraging the Aboriginals were familiar with. They took to attacking livestock and sometimes, when confronted, the settlers themselves. In reprisal the military hunted and arrested as many as they could round up.

It’s a Saturday morning and the shopping crowd bustles around me as I sit in a cafe sipping on a hot Chai latte. I’m reading The Colony: A history of Early Sydney  by Grace Karskens. I feel like it brings the history alive to read this in the same place where so much happened. Our past saddens me. As a nation we have done so little to repair what was done by earlier generations. I feel guilty because I’m part of that, a white girl that can never really understand what it is like to know your ancestors were hunted and pushed out of their country.

I finish my Chai and take five dollars from my bag. The old Aboriginal guy that is busking in the mall nods and says ‘thank you’ as I drop the note into his guitar case. There has to be more I can do.

search for a heart dream

awkward adolescent conflict
I thought I would always love her
but this night circus turned into a beautiful disaster,
it was crazy―dancing with dragons—like a fable
if I only knew what the moral was
shaken like a fallen angel, collapsed
where I couldn’t follow, into the silence
on the wind―for what it could have been
I still need a place to go
In my search for a heart dream

truth—I knew she lied

truth—I knew she lied
an answer that was not an answer
no matter how many times we lay together
when it’s not love but a need
to feel another’s skin against my own
to tremble when I realised she lied
despite how close her lips were to mine
I told her I won’t leave—until I have her answer
she rolled over in bed—toward the open window
I wonder if she thinks about flying away like I do
answer me, I say—answer me, answer me, answer me

Central Coast

The Central Coast of New South Wales is an area of contrasts that lies between Sydney and Newcastle. Golden beaches, sparkling lakes and endless hinterland feature in this region of rich history. The Hawkesbury River borders the southern part of the coast, spreading out into the vast Brisbane Waters estuary that fills the ancient sandstone valley. I spent many childhood holidays in this region and because my sister Jasmine now lives here I get an excuse to visit every so often.

Avoca Beach, Bateau Bay, Budgewoi, Copacabana, Ettalong, Kincumber, Macmasters Beach, Pearl Beach, Terrigal, The Entrance, Toukley, Umina, Woy Woy. There are so many beaches along this stretch of coastline that buzz throughout the year because of the temperate climate.

One moment you can be on a beach, the next wondering through the bush. The wild national parks of Yengo, Dharug, Brisbane Waters and Bouddi preserve so much of this region’s natural history and Aboriginal heritage.

Short walks, relaxation, swimming, picnics, cafes, surfing and peacefulness amongst one of the busiest parts of Australia.

Happy travels

Molly xx

Molly #34

As the hot summer weather came along, streaky white clouds started to float in the wide blue sky each day. Every morning I would look out my bedroom window and wonder if it was ever going to rain again, because I hadn’t even seen a drop of rain in the whole time since we had moved here from the north coast.

I hadn’t been invited to stay at Ellen’s farm again, but Ellen often stayed with me for the weekend so that we could play together. In the warmer weather we spent most of the time on the weekends at the swimming pool.

“Come on you two, hurry up,” Samantha called from outside. She was always in a rush to get to the pool. I just liked to take my time and enjoy the walk with Ellen. We walked holding hands and Ellen never stopped talking.

“We’re coming,” I called out from the kitchen. I was dressed in pink swimmers and a white tee shirt and Mum was busy covering my face in sunscreen. She always said she was terrified of me getting sunburnt and so she slopped extra layers of sunscreen all over my nose. I had to close my eyes tight so that I didn’t get any sunscreen in them because it really made my eyes sting. As soon as she finished I put my hat on my head and tucked my towel under my arm then raced outside to catch up with the others. The girls had already set off, so I climbed through a hole in the fence next to the rusty iron shed in the backyard and hurried after them. Ellen climbed through the hole behind me and our sandals raised little clouds of dust as we moved quickly across the dry ground, skipping to catch up with Samantha, Catherine and Jasmine.

Samantha took her hat off as soon as we are out of sight of the house and I watched her straight black hair bouncing against the back of her white tank top as her long brown legs strode along the footpath. I thought she should have kept her hat on or she would get sunburnt.

Ellen and I caught up to the girls when they stopped to wait for the traffic at Hoskins Street, and then we all ran across the bubbles of melted bitumen to get to the park. The sun had started to get quite hot by then and the grass in the park was brown and spiky. There was a little bit of shade every now and then from a row of date palms that lined the footpath through the middle of the park. Each time we came to a tree, Ellen and I would stop in the shade to rest before racing each other to the next tree.

As we stood in the shade for a moment, I looked up and saw some high school boys watching us walking through the park. I hurried after the girls when I heard one of the boys say something and the other boys started laughing. I wasn’t game to look around again when another boy whistled loudly. Catherine and Samantha didn’t seem to notice though as they just kept on walking. Samantha was busy pushing some stray hair behind her ear, and when Catherine leaned toward Samantha and whispered something they both giggled. Samantha looked back over her shoulder to where the boys were standing. I started walking a bit quicker in case the boys followed us, but we were soon at the safety of the pool entrance.

It was cool in the shade of the little shop at the front of the pool, and I lined up behind Catherine as she paid the lady behind the counter. As soon as we went through the turnstile, the bigger girls disappeared into the change room and Ellen and I raced to put our towels down on the grass. The pool was surrounded by soft grassy lawns, and there was a big shady peppercorn tree in one corner.

“Last one in is a rotten egg!” yelled Ellen. She was already half-way to the pool so I just dropped my towel and raced after her, leaping into the cool clear water. At first the water was so cold it took my breath away, but then I bounced to the surface laughing and Ellen splashed water in my face.

“Ellen!” By the time I splashed back, she had already swum away from me like a little seal and I started chasing her. She swam much faster than I could but she eventually slowed down until I caught up to her. We spent the whole morning in the water like that, swimming around, playing games, and chasing each other until we eventually got tired and climbed out to lay on our towels for a rest. I lay there watching all the colourful bodies splashing around in the pool.

“I wonder where the girls have gotten to.” I looked around the pool from my towel but I couldn’t see them anywhere amongst all the rainbow coloured swimmers.

“I thought I saw them over there earlier,” Ellen said as she pointed toward the back fence. I looked over to where Ellen was pointing and saw a group of teenagers sitting around on their towels. There was Samantha was lying on her side, one tanned knee propped up in the air. She was talking to a boy and running her fingers through her hair. I thought he looked like one of the boys that had been outside in the park and he was lying on his side as well. They seemed to be leaning quite close toward each other.

Catherine was lying on her stomach with her eyes closed. Every now and then she lifted her head and said something to the others, then lay down and closed her eyes again.

I kept looking around until I found where Jasmine was. She was with a different group of girls, sitting on the edge of the pool with her feet splashing in the water and talking to her friends.

I turned back to Ellen, content now I knew I hadn’t been left behind. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could play here forever and never have to go back to school?”

“Except when your fingertips get all wrinkly from the water,” Ellen laughed. I smiled into her sparkling eyes and felt as happy as the sunny day.

“Ellen, what are those marks on your legs?” Suddenly Ellen’s eyes lost their sparkle and she looked down at the blue-grey bruises at the top of her thighs. They were normally covered by clothes, but I could see them clearly now she was in her bikini bottoms. There were four of them, shaped like fat sausages spread out in a fan.

“It’s nothing,” she said quietly, “I just bumped them.” She didn’t want to talk about it and I was sorry that I had brought a cloud across our sunny mood, but I couldn’t help myself.

“Ellen… I’m really sorry. Was it your Dad?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just swim.” Ellen leapt up from her towel and jumped in the pool. I sat there feeling helpless for a few moments until I thought of asking Catherine what I should do. I stood up and walked over toward her group.

As I got closer I could hear them talking.

“It seems Lauren is the flavor of the month,” said a girl in a strawberry-coloured bikini.

“I know, both Peter and John have asked her out.”

“Oh my gosh, what did she say?”

I tried to get Catherine’s attention but she had her back to me, so I stood there uncertainly for a moment.

“Hey Catherine, is that your little sister? How cute!” one big girl said. I felt my face blush bright red and the boy that was talking to Samantha looked up and grinned.

Catherine sat up and didn’t look very happy to see me standing there. “Molly, what do you want?”

“I wanted to talk to you, about Ellen.”

“Can’t you do this at home?”

“It’s just that she is sad. I made her sad about the bruises on her legs.”

Catherine stood up. “Okay Molly, let’s get an ice cream.”

As we walked toward the canteen I told Catherine about the bruises on Ellen’s legs, and how she wouldn’t talk to me about them. I told her that when I asked if it was Ellen’s Dad she ran off. Catherine gently put her hand on my head. “Why don’t you just go and play with her. I think she just needs you to be her friend and make her happy.”

Catherine bought two ice creams, and I took one over to where Ellen was sitting on the side of the pool. She was looking down at the water and slowly kicking her legs back and forth. I sat down next to her and gave her one of the ice creams. As we sat there eating together silently, I put my arm around her wet shoulder and she leant her head against mine.

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