International Women's Day 2014 - Inspiring Change

An Xtra Mile perspective

- 08.03.14 -

Valerie Gritsch (Xtra Mile Recordings)

William Miller and Penny Lane, Almost Famous

William Miller and Penny Lane, Almost Famous

This past November, I was at an in-store performance for Frank Turner in Philadelphia, ahead of his proper gig that night. It’s no secret I am a massive fan of Frank’s and have always travelled to see him perform. At this in-store, I got chatting to a guy outside who had also travelled a bit for Frank and we swapped stories in friendly conversation before saying goodbye. After the main show of that night, as I was walking out of the venue, the same guy saw me and came back up to me. He had seen my pass for that evening's show, asked about it, and without thinking much of it I told him in passing I worked for Frank’s label Xtra Mile. The guy didn’t believe me and said after me “ohh you’re like Penny Lane!” I whipped around, infuriated and disgusted, and stormed back over to him shouting that I was William Miller.

If you are a mega fan of music and films, it’s very likely you’ve seen Almost Famous and were able to relate to some part of that story. Even though I didn’t see the film right way I knew the beloved quotes well enough. I knew the “We are Band Aids” one, the “they don’t even know what it is to be a fan” one, and I thought: Finally! Someone gets it! But then I actually saw the film and my heart dropped just a little bit.

I have always been a die-hard enthusiastic fan of music, and I am a girl, so my “motives” have always been questioned. Things like: “Why do you have to go to more than one date of a tour? Why do you have to wait around to try and meet your favorite band?” Because loving the band and what they created, and wanting to thank them for their art, aren’t good enough reasons apparently.

At an early age, after being told time and time again that you should work with something you’re passionate about, I decided I needed to work with music. This proved tricky, again, because I was a young girl. No matter how many street teams I was part of, no matter what company I was interning or working with, I would still need to explain myself to be taken seriously, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed I would be. I had friends who wanted to be Penny Lane and I couldn’t understand it. Her “we are not groupies” line was hypocritical, and in my mind, part of the problem. I could have very well been a “Band Aid” because I didn’t want to sleep with anyone, I just wanted to sing along to my favorite songs. Yet because Penny betrayed that line at the first chance she got, it was somehow okay to call female fans “Band Aids” and have it be interchangeable for “groupie”. It’s generally understood that a “groupie” is a female fan who follows a tour to try and have relationships with rock stars - and this is something I am not about.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Photo by Valerie Gritsch.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Photo by Valerie Gritsch.

Don’t get me wrong I love Almost Famous, and Penny Lane is a lovable, real and flawed character, but I did not want to be her. I saw myself more as William Miller, a young kid who found himself in a surreal situation, working with a band he loved. He also struggled with being taken seriously, but that’s because of his age and his adoration of the bands - not because of his gender. After years of being questioned about ulterior motives, or who in the band I was “with” at events I was working at, and working extra hard to “prove myself” - in Philadelphia that night I had had it. It was 2013 and somehow, to that guy, it was still unheard of that a young woman can be an avid fan of the music she happens to also work with. Even though he was just a random person who I will probably never see again, it hurt and reminded me of every similar instance.

I am so fortunate to work with Xtra Mile, not just because I get to support artists I love but because I am surrounded by strong and inspiring women. They show me it’s okay, encouraged even, to still be a fan. I’ve seen female fans think if they want to work with music, they need to act jaded and aloof. That being taken seriously means you actually can’t act like a fan any more. I think that’s bull; and the ladies involved with Xtra Mile prove it is to me. They remind me to be genuine and excited and true to myself. It’s all happening.

Dani Cotter (Xtra Mile Recordings)

As INSPIRING CHANGE is the theme this year – here’s some links to things that have got me going as of late.

1)    Towards the end of last year a friend sent me this:

How the Media Failed Women in 2013 - there was a lot to celebrate this year for women in the media. But some things aren't changing fast enough. Join the campaign: ChangeMedia

For me, this is a beautiful snapshot of modern day feminism, highlighting some of our successes alongside the seemingly insurmountable challenges we still need to face. The video is so good and so inspiring that I have stuck it under the nose of practicably everyone I know shouting: “SEE – IT’S THIS! This is what I’ve been banging on about all this time!”

The most stand out bit for me is the guy who when talking about a rape case on Fox News said – “I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but…”

2)    I fucking hate – with a passion – the overt AND surreptitious way toys are marketed towards girls and boys based on near archaic gender roles. Lego, I’m looking at you! This is a wonderful piece on that, featuring the beautifully ginger scuffy kid in the 1981 ad and where she is now. “"In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.” 

Lego then and now

3)    OK so I’m biased as my best friend worked on this play BUT that aside – Blurred Lines by Carrie Cracknell and Nick Payne at The Shed at Southbank’s National Theatre struck a chord deep within my belly. Powerful stuff go SEE IT!

“Blurred Lines is a blistering journey through contemporary gender politics. An all female cast dissect what it means to be a woman today: in the workplace, in cyberspace, on screen, on stage and in relationships.”

4)    Blurred Lines (the play) was inspired by this book: ‘The Equality Illusion’ by Kat Banyard.

Carrie Cracknell declared this book gave her a “re-awakening” to the subject of sexism and feminism in all aspects of society. And I couldn’t agree more. “But what about the fact that today women working full-time in the UK are paid on average 17% less an hour than men? That one-in-three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused because of her gender? Or that there is a huge disparity in both government and corporate power (of parliamentary seats across the globe only 15% are held by women, fewer than 20% of UK MPs are women, and 96% of executive directors of the UK's top hundred companies are men)?”

5)    A fascinating often hilarious yet naturally depressing read into the daily lives of everyday women - Everyday Sexism

6) The film, Bridesmaids. Utterly hilarious and clever. A near all female cast, centred on the collapse of a tight friendship brought on by the introduction of a new friend. Timeless. Strong characters who are funny, embarrassing, gross, absurd, witty, and beautiful. A celebration of all that women are - good and bad.

Bridesmaids trailer

Laila Khan (Sonic Boom Six)

Refuge - an excellent organisation that helps victims of domestic violence.

Refuge - an excellent organisation that helps victims of domestic violence.

Action Speaks Louder Than Thoughts

I was recently asked the question if I was a Feminist. My instinct was to think that it was a bit of a ridiculous question and that of course I was a Feminist. I was then asked what positive actions I took as a Feminist to address the issues that women faced every day and shamefully I did not have an answer to this question. In no way was the interviewer trying to catch me out - she wanted to highlight that lots of women believed that they were Feminists but lots of women were not active when it came to addressing inequalities in the world today that are based on gender.

It really got me thinking about what I could actually do. Action speaks louder than thoughts. I was the Feminist that was proud of being strong, independent, opinionated and forging my own way in the world and for me that was the limit of what I did, which in my opinion, is not enough. Often, it's so easy to make yourself think that you are doing so much good for a cause, that you stand for equality and women's rights because you believe in it but the truth is, I wasn't doing anything at all.

Sonic Boom Six - aiming high

Sonic Boom Six - aiming high

All over the world, horrendous atrocities are being committed and women are being persecuted for being born female. I've been aware of this, as well as the daily struggles women face in every day life but I did nothing about it. I know lots of people who are active but after talking to a few of my friends who also consider themselves to be Feminists, they too realised that they thought about how bad things were but never actually took action. There's so much that we can do to help and make a difference rather than making ourselves believe that by saying we're Feminists, that is enough.

I realised that getting involved is easy. There are hundreds of campaigns and charities to be involved with. Even writing about women's issues and highlighting the problems that we still face is getting involved. Anything that raises awareness of the inequality that still exists between men and women is good - tweeting, blogging, reading, setting up your own campaign, helping run fund raisers, volunteering at your local women's group. All of these help, as there is a hell of a long way to go before such inequalities are eradicated.

Let's get involved and make a difference. Just saying we're Feminists is no longer an option.

Some links for charities to get involved.

Billy Pettinger (AKA Billy the Kid)

Today is International Women's Day.

When I was growing up I looked up to bands like Babes In Toyland, L7, Bikini Kill, Hole, and Cub. For the life of me, I can't figure out who little girls would look up to these days when they go to start a band. I think about the potential candidates and I get really worried. 

Maybe that's why there aren't so many girls playing music these days. Even when I started my first band, there seemed to be way more ladies making up songs and playing shows. Vancouver had so many local bands with girls playing in them that I never really felt like I was any different or like my gender was an issue. Vancouver bands like Submission Hold, Operation Makeout, Black Rice and the Riff Randells were always very supportive and hugely inspirational.

It wasn't until I started touring that I realized the way people can really be sometimes. Maybe it's cause boys in bands sometimes don't treat girls so great. 

If I could change one thing about this world I would make gender roles in society truly equal. Especially in music. 

Now...who wants to start a band?

Jessica Hall (co-owner of Radioactive Promotions)


Ladies - be confident in yourself and try to help other women feel the same about themselves. 

Being a bitch is easy, and seemingly encouraged everywhere you look. But, actually, being nice makes life a whole lot better for everyone. Oddly I learnt my feminism from Bill and Ted. So be excellent to each other - and remember, in a utopian future they play rock & roll.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - we can all learn from such awesome dudes.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure - we can all learn from such awesome dudes.

Let us know how you are helping to inspire change for International Women's Day via Facebook or Twitter.

And remember, be excellent to each other.