ESSENTIAL CONVOS: Five Artists On How We’re All Responsible For Building A More Equal Future

SERWAH ATTAFUAH by Paigge Frankie.

SERWAH ATTAFUAH by Paigge Frankie.

PHOTOGRAPHY: PAIGGE FRANKIE

WORDS: KYLIE O’CONNELL

Conversations around equality can be difficult. For those who experience inequality, these conversations can trigger a whole range of emotions, and those who experience privilege can often become defensive or dismissive. Yet it’s these difficult conversations that we need to have the most if we intend on stimulating change.  

We asked five very talented musicians about the fundamental problems facing women and non-binary individuals in 2019, both on and off the stage – only to learn that today should in fact be a day where we recognise and discuss inequality in all its forms. Some of the below artists have offered us invaluable perspectives on their experience with inequality, while others have recognised their positon of privilege. Balance to us means a balanced opinion, one that has been informed by various perspectives. We can’t begin to know another person’s individual experience, but we can start by listening deeply, with an active and open mind.

So, as well as celebrating the powerful force of women and non-binary individuals today, let’s all commit to listening to the complex layers of inequality in all its forms, and work together to build a more equal future.

SERWAH ATTAFUAH // DISPOSSESSED // NASHO

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This year’s focus for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What does that mean to you?

To me Balance for Better means more of an emphasis on equality for progress. To me equality covers race, gender, sex, age and ability. 

What do you think some of the fundamental issues are when it comes to equality for all women and people who identify as non-binary? (And/or equality in general.)

Feminism is great for sure but WHITE feminism doesn’t help people like me and its detrimental. We need to work on decolonising feminism and our rights and the way we fight against the cisheteropatriarchy. There needs to be equal rights for black and indigenous women, that live in third world countries, for people who identify as non-binary, for people who are trans, for sex workers, those living with trauma, for people with different abilities. The way that feminism has been for a while is that it has excluded certain women like us because we don’t fit into their mould because our issues can be more complex and difficult. 

People often talk about ‘equality for women & non-binary individuals’, so the dialogue is now something you hear often. Whilst prevalent in conversation, do you think people are doing enough to stimulate change? 

I don’t think people, mostly cis-men, are doing enough to better women and non-binary people. It’s a hot topic right now and that’s because of OUR fight. A lot of women and non-binary folks especially those who are indigenous and black, trans and sex workers have died in the process. It should be a constant fight, but I feel like people are still doing the bare minimum until someone gets hurt and even then, it can just be a fleeting topic. Almost everything I’ve witnessed that has stimulated change has been the doing of a woman/non-binary person - that has to change, we cannot be doing all the work. 

Where do you think we’re at in terms of the changing perceptions of all women and people who identify as non-binary in music? What can be done to ensure we continue to make progress?

I’m seeing a positive change to when I started playing music, it’s once again all due to the hard work of women and non-binary individuals. There was, and still are plenty of times where I’m the only non cis-male on a lineup and that’s obviously not good enough. I feel like we are at a point where people are only starting to realise that we should be included and championed. It’s hectic that it’s starting to come together but unfortunately it can sometimes lead to tokenism which isn’t a step forward. We should be at a point where I shouldn’t be deemed as a ‘female artist’ instead of an artist. To stick the prefix on it suggests that there is a lesser percentage of artists who happen to be female, and it makes it seem like the norm is to be a male artist (both of those, not true!). To have progress in the music industry would be to have safer venues, access to more music programs and facilities especially in low socioeconomic areas, make an effort to support the music they release and the shows they play. Oh, and can we fuck off all the patronising and belittling sound tech guys?

In 2020 I hope that all women and non-binary individuals are…

Supported, included, safe, uplifted and celebrated. 

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 KIRSTY TICKLE // EXHIBITIONIST // PARTY DOZEN

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This year’s focus for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What does that mean to you?

It’s pretty clear that we all benefit when there’s gender balance in our industries and in our communities, with equal opportunities provided for everyone irrespective of gender identity. Balance for Better means we need to all pitch in, we need to assess our own privilege and work really hard in order to raise up people who don’t share the same privileges so that we can truly strive for equality. 

What do you think some of the fundamental issues are when it comes to equality for all women and people who identify as non-binary? (And/or equality in general.)

I think that bringing more awareness to intersectional discrimination is a really vital issue to ensure all women and non-binary people are supported and given equal rights in our community. I can speak about my own experiences of womanhood, and the difficulties I have faced in my own industry, but at the end of the day I can also acknowledge my privilege as a white, straight woman. This is really important because my experiences and day-to-day are going to be very different from someone who identifies as non-binary or has experienced racial prejudice on top of misogyny. These people need to be listened to by all of us, and we really need to hear them and acknowledge their experiences and work together to change the social narrative. 

People often talk about ‘equality for women & non-binary individuals’, so the dialogue is now something you hear often. Whilst prevalent in conversation, do you think people are doing enough to stimulate change? 

One of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had way too many times is “we’re far better off now than x-era/x-country”. For me, that’s not good enough. It doesn’t stop just because things are better than they were 50 years ago. We still earn less, we still have to fight to have control over our own bodies and reproductive systems, we still are at far greater risk of sexual assault… I could go on and on. There’s always more to do to stimulate change, it can't just be an Instagram post to make you feel like you’re making a difference. We all need to strive for equality daily and live lives that support that goal by being open to meaningful conversations, by listening to the experiences of others, by displaying positive attitudes and expectations in our workplaces and by saying no to all forms of discrimination.

Where do you think we’re at in terms of the changing perceptions of all women and people who identify as non-binary in music? What can be done to ensure we continue to make progress?

It’s getting better. Bookers and promoters are being held to account when they don’t have gender-balanced lineups. But it’s still a slog. I think organisations like Girls Rock are doing really important work to try and encourage young girls and non-binary youth that they can have a career in music. That they can play instruments and perform in any genre. In my opinion, it has to start there, we need to get more women on stage and more women writing music. The statistics show that it’s incredibly imbalanced at the moment and I for one would like to see that changed for the next generation.

In 2020 I hope that all women and non-binary individuals are…

Bright and brilliant. 

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RACHEL MARIA COX

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This year’s focus for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What does that mean to you?

I think it is important to focus on how gender diversity can benefit everyone. I know that as a musician, having gender diverse line ups makes shows more interesting, more welcoming, and generally better environments to be in for everyone. Like how challenging toxic masculinity is good for everyone, men included, I think aiming for more diversity and balanced representation is better for everyone is most industries. 

What do you think some of the fundamental issues are when it comes to equality for all women and people who identify as non-binary? (And/or equality in general.)

I think the fundamental issues are all related to intersectionality - looking at how gender can intersect with race, class, ability, size, education - and how we can look at creating equality in a way that takes into account all the different barriers that people face. So for instance, looking at how we can make our activism conscious of the fact that issues that are important to Cis women might be different to those that are pertinent to Trans women or non-binary people, or that issues that face white women will be different to those that women of colour face. 

 

People often talk about ‘equality for women & non-binary individuals’, so the dialogue is now something you hear often. Whilst prevalent in conversation, do you think people are doing enough to stimulate change? 

In my personal experience I think a lot of people pay lip service to ‘equality for women & non binary people’ without actually thinking about what that means. Non-binary people aren’t women and our needs and the barriers we face to equality are very different to those that are faced by women (particularly cis women) and it’s hard not to feel like we sometimes just get lumped in with women because people think that non-binary people are just cis women, which is a form of erasure. It’s really important if you are going to talk about equality for women and non-binary people to consult with non-binary people, be specific to them, and be specific about what issues you are talking about. For instance, a tax on menstrual products, or access to safe contraception and abortion, are issues that can affect women, non-binary people, or trans men - it’s an issue for people who have uteruses, regardless of gender. The language people use reflects and shapes how we think, so I think that is a really important thing to always keep in mind. 

In terms of whether or not people are actually doing enough to stimulate change, it’s hard to say. I know a lot of people get burnt out on activism, it’s really hard to pick your battles particularly when you’re limited in time and resources. I think every little bit helps, but the most important thing to do to stimulate change is to have real, meaningful conversations with the people around you. Talk about things you might be able to do to help create the changes that you want to see, and what those goals are. 

 

Where do you think we’re at in terms of the changing perceptions of all women and non-binary people in music? What can be done to ensure we continue to make progress?

I think there are a lot of improvements happening, but there’s still a long way to go. There’s finally talk of intersectionality in music, looking beyond representation just of women and looking into how line ups are also very white and cis dominated at the moment. I think we just need to continue to look at how we might be able to do better - no one is born perfect, but I think just trying to never get complacent with line ups is important, as well as always trying to better put into practice ways to make people safe and comfortable at gigs. It’s not enough to just say your event is a ‘safe space’ without always trying to do your best to make that a reality for everyone. No event can be 100% perfect or safe for everyone at all times but trying to constantly improve that is the most anyone can do.

 

In 2020 I hope that all women and non-binary individuals are…

Happy, safe and killing it at life.

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GEORGIA MULLIGAN

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This year’s focus for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What does that mean to you?

What comes to mind for me would be about making an effort to provide an even playing field, whether that is in a creative, professional or social context. 

 

What do you think some of the fundamental issues are when it comes to equality for all women and people who identify as non-binary? (And/or equality in general.)

Big question! First, I would acknowledge that I am coming from a pretty privileged point of view. I think representation is a fundamental issue in itself - there is still a need for so many of the issues, that affect women and non-binary people, to be spoken about by members of these communities themselves. Yes, I identify as a woman; and yes, I have certainly come up against some prejudice in my chosen creative field, but that small slice of experience is really all I would feel comfortable talking about. I suppose that is an idea of equality - ideally all voices could be heard and acknowledged, and most importantly, coming from a place of autonomy. 

 

People often talk about ‘equality for women’, so the dialogue is now something you hear often. Whilst prevalent in conversation, do you think people are doing enough to stimulate change?

While many battles are still being fought including equal pay and employment opportunities, I feel like the conversation is evolving beyond ‘equality for women’. True equality means that a society is consciously and continuously working toward expanding its definition of value, particularly in relation to identity and creative expression. 

 

Where do you think we’re at in terms of the changing perceptions of all women and people who identify as non-binary in music? What can be done to ensure we continue to make progress?

I think there are definitely a lot of exciting things happening in music in terms of more exposure for women and non-binary artists in the mainstream. Digital platforms and community radio are leading the charge in Sydney.  

 

In 2020 I hope that all women and non-binary individuals are…

Feeling supported to make work that they believe in.  

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MILAN RING

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This year’s focus for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. What does that mean to you?

In the world of music 2% of engineers & producers are women and non-binary. This is a heavily weighted scale that needs to find some balance.

 

What do you think some of the fundamental issues are when it comes to equality for all women and people who identify as non-binary? (And/or equality in general.)

There is an over shadowing of men, which can deter women & non-binary individuals from taking on these male dominated jobs. There also hasn’t been enough visibility of women who are working in these positions, so instead we associate jobs like music engineering as male. We need to show that the path has already been laid and the opportunities will open up.

 

People often talk about ‘equality for women & non-binary individuals’, so the dialogue is now something you hear often. Whilst prevalent in conversation, do you think people are doing enough to stimulate change? 

I think dialogue and conversation is super important. However, we do need to action some more initiatives, such as re-shaping our approach on how we teach the future generations and creating more mentorship opportunities.

 

Where do you think we’re at in terms of the changing perceptions of all women and people who identify as non-binary in music? What can be done to ensure we continue to make progress?

We are only in the early stages, but the future is looking so positive. For example, some of the primary school workshops I do, there are girls producing, playing all types of instruments and feeling it is the norm. They don’t look at me and think ‘strange she’s part of a 2% statistic’, they just think ‘Hey its Milan, what are we recording today.

 

In 2020 I hope that all women and non-binary individuals are...

Valued & visible.

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