In a Tumblr post that went viral on Tuesday (April 23) night, indie-electronic artist Grimes touched a nerve with her outline of the many challenges facing female artists. From the sexualization of female performers to the belittling of her talent and vision to the body/fashion/aesthetic shaming that women face, she laid it all on the line in a list of things she doesn’t want to put up with anymore. The free-form blog entry touched a nerve with many women on the Internet, generating messages of agreement across social media.
Grimes seems to have tapped into a sentiment that many women of her generation agree with, including British indie-pop singer-songwriter Kate Nash. In a recent interview with Radio.com, Nash candidly spoke about how being picked apart in the press lead her to want to be a role model for the next generation of girls and some reforms in culture she feels might go a long way towards changing the way we view female celebrities.
Nash says she was raised by a strong mom and grew up with two sisters in a female-centric and liberal home. For her, this crusade started because of her music career, where she found herself constantly surrounded by men — in business, in the studio and on the road.
“Yes, I am a feminist… I do remember, I think it was more ingrained, but I do remember a door being unlocked [on that realization]. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment but just like, I would walk into so many rooms that were just full of men all the time. And it was just an awareness that, ‘Oh, I’m the only girl in the room. Oh, I’m the only girl in the room. Oh, I’m the only girl in the room again.’ I think that started to get my brain tuned in to [being a feminist] a bit more.”
Nash admits these experiences angered and frustrated her, along with the lack of female songwriters, composers, bands and role models for women in general. She says the experience made her negative and bitter for awhile but that ultimately she decided to do something about it: she decided to start a series of afters chool clubs for girls where they could learn to write songs and play instruments, called Kate Nash’s Rock ‘N’ Roll For Girls After School Music Club.
Another problem Nash has faced is the gaze of the media. Whereas Grimes remarks she is “tired of being congratulated for being thin because [she] can more easily fit into sample sizes from the runway,” Nash has been forced to confront the other side of body snarking.
“I’ve had everything you can think of being said about a person, I’ve had it,” Nash said. “I’ve been called too fat, too ugly. I’ve had my spots highlighted and zoomed in on in magazines when I had acne as a teenager touring for the first time. I’ve had death threats on the Internet. I’ve had really mean stuff said about me. It makes you fearless, in a way. I’m not really worried about people saying horrible things about me anymore, because they’ve all been said.”
Nash suggested that not identifying female celebrities by age and weight in magazines would be a positive step away from objectifying them unnecessarily. As a woman who “always had a cause, something to fight for,” Nash hopes to parlay her own experiences away from being negative and instead used them to change it for the next generation.
“Rather than [being] personally offended when someone says something, I’m like, ‘How actually is what you’re saying, how is that going to effect youth?'” she explained. “If you’re saying I’m too fat and too ugly and a 14-year-old girl reads that, and she thinks that her body shape is like mine, you’re telling that girl that she’s too fat and too ugly. That’s what I care about. That’s why I think it’s wrong.”
From forming her own all-girl band (called Girl Gang) to working with young girls via her after school club, Nash’s experiences imbued her with a renewed sense of hope that change can be effected. That others were as dissatisfied as she was gave her the strength to fight against what she characterizes as an industry “celebrat[ing] a bullying culture.”
“I’m really hopeful about the future,” she said. “There was a time when I wasn’t, but I’m really hopeful because there are a lot of cool things that [are] doing well. Unique stuff that’s becoming successful… People don’t just want to be exposed to mainstream rubbish. I’m not saying that everything that is in the mainstream is rubbish, but… people are hungry for reality.”