“In Order To Evolve, Feminism Must Be Inclusive Of Everyone” Says Annie Lennox

Annie-Lennox

It makes sense. Feminism certainly isn’t the same as it used to be back in the 1970s. Women can vote. We have much greater access to birth control and other female-related healthcare resources. But has is evolved for the better? In an interview with Radio.com to promote her new album Nostalgia, legendary singer and activist Annie Lennox talks about the evolution of the movement and why inclusivity is a must.

Her thoughts on the subject have been well-documented in the past, as well as her comments about Beyonce and certain female pop stars who choose to “bare all” as their only means of communicating to their audience. She has a very strong and specific point of view, and although it has angered many people, given that she has been in the music industry for such a long time and over the course of her career seen the many ways feminism has changed, her thoughts are worth listening to.

Her album, which is a collection of cover songs with a new edge to them, touches on important topics such as racism and violence in ‘Strange Fruit’.

“People are constantly at loggerheads with each other, [there’s] bigotry and hatred because you are different, you have a different skin color, you have a different religion, you come from a different social class. Whatever the reason that pits people against each other and makes us do hideous things, I find it deeply disturbing and find this constant, constant violence on our planet makes it a very strange place to exist on,” she says.

She talks about how her music career has enabled her to somewhat be a voice for the voiceless, which is something almost every celebrity is well-positioned to be. They have an elevated platform which can influence people greatly if used in the right matter. This is something President Obama mentioned in his awesome video message during the Grammys broadcast where he spoke against domestic violence.

One of the things Annie feels strongly about is elevating women in third world countries out of poverty and equipping them with an education.

“When I’ve traveled in developing countries, I’ve seen people living in the hole of poverty, and I know they’re not going to get out of it. Unless they get access to education and opportunity, and everybody wants that for their children. Being a mother made me wake up to understand like, oh, everybody who is a parent loves their children very much and wants the best thing for their children.”

Annie-Lennox-Nostalgia-Album

“My gender has given me the opportunity to sort of engage with women who are coming from a very different background from me. I feel that women in developing countries, particularly, and girls, are at the very bottom of the ladder. There’s not even a comparison to Western countries, and that is where I feel that feminism and empowerment of women needs to happen, and that just means as Malala [Yousafzai] has said, ‘Give girls education, get them books. Get them into school, and you’ll see the world start to transform.’ I believe in that.”

In a powerful essay written for the Guardian to mark International Women’s Day 2015, she outlines many facts about women around the world which shows we still have a long way to go, which is why feminism is still relevant, needed and needs to evolve.

Women make up 70% of the world’s poor, women aged 15-44 are more at risk for rape and and violence than cancer, malaria and other diseases, up to 3 million girls fie every year due to gender-related violence, women account for two thirds of the 780 million illiterate people in the world, 41 million girls worldwide are denied a primary education, and only one in 5 parliamentarians around the world are women.

“This appalling list of gender inequity and injustice could go on, but by now you might have read enough to be convinced that there are several compelling reasons to acknowledge and support the empowerment of women and girls,” she wrote.

“Imagine a world where every female can actually realize her right to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for equal work. For me, these are the essential goals of feminism,” she continued, while adding men and boys need to be a crucial part of the solution.

As for the way feminism is portrayed in western countries, Radio.com recalls a ‘Woman of the Year’ awards event in London a few years ago where Annie received an award and asked a very bold question from the podium. It highlighted to her how divisive feminism still is in our culture.

“During my acceptance speech, I said, with a sense of pride, ‘Well, I’m a feminist, everybody in the room who is a feminist please stand up.’ And half the room stood up while the rest stayed seated. And I was taken aback by that. But it taught me something: it really taught me that the term “feminist” is still very divisive and polarizing. And even women sometimes want to distance themselves from it for a variety of reasons, and that is a challenge. That, specifically, the the challenge that feminists, male and female, need to address.”

It used to be that feminism was associated with angry women (and for damn good cause!) and bra-burning, but that was important for that time in history. In the 21st century feminism needs to change its focus.

“in order for it to evolve, it must be inclusive of everyone. At the end of the day, if it’s divisive, then we really need to do something about it. Because then everyone gets fractionalized, and then we fight against each other.”

Once again the issue of women who use sexuality in music came up, but instead of re-hashing her ideas that she believes were taken out of context especially in relation to Beyonce, she gave a different example.

“I’m not censorial. It’s not that I think that women shouldn’t be sexual at all. It’s not about that. For me, what was specifically disturbing about this overt sexualization onstage, of so many artists, is that many of them have very young audiences. It’s just inappropriate when your fan base starts at [age] seven, and you’re synonymous with incredibly overt sexual moves, that are going into soft pornography, basically. It’s not appropriate,” she said.

Annie-Lennox-feminism

Annie believes it is a shame that sexuality is one of the biggest things associated with the most famous females in music, because they could be using their platform to shed light on important issues.

“When people are being extremely sexualized onstage, they’re selling records, because sex sells. Simple as that. But it’s a red herring: because when we should be talking about the serious issues of young girls getting education, access to sexual and reproductive health care, and all of these things, we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about twerking. It’s a total misnomer. And why? Because of that word—we know that word sells.”

So what is the solution to changing the system? Unfortunately it is not easy, and Annie admits both the overly-sexualized women as well as the loud-mouthed contrarians aren’t going to bring down this system any time soon, so we might as well focus on improving our individual lives rather than playing into a pre-determined role.

“Where do you get that maverick, where do you get that visionary, where do you get [to] where the authenticity lies? Are you looking for fashion, power, money, success, all of these glorious, tinselly things that are shining in front of you, or are you trying to find the meaning and purpose in your life? That’s the question. We’re all part of the system. Even if we stamp up and down and shout about it, we’re not going to bring it down. It is part of who we are. We still have to protect our humanity.”

If there is one woman present in pop culture who can give and intelligent, in-depth look at where feminism has come from, what its strong points are, and where it needs to get to in order to evolve, it’s Annie Lennox. But we love her just as much as Beyonce and all the other artist who do choose to use their platform to highlight greater issues.

Sing it loud sister!

annie-lennox

 

 

 

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