LOUD WOMEN X-Mas Grotto: The Nyx, Baby Seals, I.V. + GUTTFUL – 02/12/16

Stepping into the basement of Vegbar in Brixton you are immediately greeted with the sound of swelling guitars and golden streamers entangling with your appendages. This set the scene for the rest of the evening with loud punky feminist glitterbomb vibes. 

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Opening the night were Guttfull with an incredibly strong debut gig. The guitar sound was full and swelled into energetic numbers reminiscent of Bikini Kill if they had a baby with the Undertones, and adopted a saxophone player. Apparent in their lyrics is a strong awareness of feminist interactions online with songs such as “Not All Men” and “Keyboard Warrior”, with Moe’s delivery of these showing incredible promise for what is a very young band. The highlight of their set was their closing number called Mafu, a Samoan word meaning grotty or unpleasant. 

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Next up came a change of pace, delivered by poet Nadia Drews. Drawing on her own background she spoke of moving from San Francisco to Lancashire and falling in love with the Punk subculture in her new home the same way she had the underground scene in SF. Her poems came heavily tinged with a sense of nostalgia, love, and anger, making for a meaningful and enjoyable set. A stand-out for me was her poem “Signed Saz” recounting a gift of an autograph book which had been made all the more valuable by the contribution from someone close to her. Another highlight was “The Things She Did Not Say”.

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Following Nadia came I.V, a band formed of beautifully dressed young people bringing a whole new sense of fun and flirtiness to the evening. Vicky, the frontperson, took to the stage wearing a hat with devil horns and a fur coat, which was soon shed to reveal a red sequinned bodysuit adorned with a crotch full of fairy lights, like a slightly more festive Electric Six. Their sound was tight and reminded me of the music of Mars Argo or Honeyblood, with Vicky’s vocals really adding a great dimension to their set. The band have great chemistry and played up this aspect to great effect, with the set descending into a raucous celebration of noise. 

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A change of pace followed with The Baby Seals, a band from Cambridge who brought a beachy sound and catchy lyrics to the table, reminding me of the Southsea band Personal Best. Their incredibly tight harmonies added a 60s feel to the set, with their lyrics juxtaposing this in a fresh way. Occasionally touching on a Wolf Alice-esque sound, especially in their last song (It’s Not About The Money, Honey), The Baby Seals performed a very enjoyable set. Another highlight for me was the song “Yawn Porn” which played with the idea of the standard boring porn plot. 

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Closing the night, The Nyx burst onto stage with a late soundcheck and a classic rock sound, with incredibly energy levels. A band of brilliant performers, with clear band chemistry and effective use of different parts to create a coherent whole. At times reminded me of the music which was popular in the mid 2000s, such as Paramore and Muse, though with their own twist. Though not my personal favourite genre of music, it’s easy to appreciate the musicianship and talent present, and they brought the night to a climactic close. 

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Overall the energy levels were only matched by the levels of fun at the Loud Women Xmas Grotto, a great event championing women in music through putting on great gigs with great people. I felt at home here, and you can be sure I’ll do my best to be at the next one.

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All words and photos by Honor Ash.

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FEM.ALE Brewster Beer Festival

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2 years ago, the first FEM.ALE festival launched in Norwich. This year, they’re back, with not one but TWO festivals – the first in Brighton, and the second in Norwich. It’s a 3-day event that focuses on female brewers and the women who love to drink beer, and will include beer tastings, live music, and female-brewed beer available. We’ve interviewed Erica Horton, the brains behind the event, for the next issue of Parallel – but ahead of their Brighton event, here’s a throwback to editor Sophie’s first interview with her 2 years ago.

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The beer industry is quite possibly one of the most male-orientated industries out there, with women mainly making their appearances in the advertisements, on the logos, or behind the bar pulling the pints. And when beer companies do decide to attempt to target women, they do so with fruity flavours or low-calorie drinks, with one company even developing a “less gassy” brand specifically for women. I talked to Erica, who is a member of the Norwich Feminist Network, about why a female-focused beer event is so important, and what her feelings are about the beer industry as a whole.


Sophie Elliott: How did the idea of FEM.ALE come about?

Erica Horton: I’m part of the Norwich feminist network, who have meeting regularly to discuss local and international feminist issues. We wanted to have more of a casual meeting and go for drinks and stuff, and the more we talked about it the more we realised that a lot of the women enjoy drinking beer, so we thought we’d have a beer event but make it a bit more female orientated.

S.E: Why did you want to have an alternative festival to specifically celebrate female brewers?

E.H: The beer industry itself has lots of problems with reaching women, in terms of acknowledging that women are doing some really amazing things with beer. There are women brewing some really interesting things and there are some really great networks set up at the moment for women and female brewers – such as Project Venus, which is a network of women dedicated to educating women about beer, and who brew together every couple of months – so there was a great opportunity to draw attention to that and to celebrate it. Norwich is a city that loves beer and ale and quite a lot of women do like to drink it here, but elsewhere there are lots of problems with how women are represented within the production, distribution and serving, and consuming of beers. I’ve always noticed that quite often the beer taps will have a picture of a woman on it and the beer itself will be named after a woman, and I find that deeply upsetting because it is a form of commodifying women.

S.E: Let’s talk about advertising for beer companies. Do you think the degrading images of women mean it’s difficult for female brewers to be taken seriously? And do you think the male-orientated marketing puts off potential female beer drinkers?

E.H: I think that advertisements like that misrepresent women, and use them as a form of selling beer as opposed to depicting them making or buying it. Someone tweeted me the other day saying that beer is marketed towards men because that’s the bigger market, but by what definition is that a bigger market? There are more women in the world so surely that’s the bigger market? We’d like to change the idea that it is all for men. I’ve had tweets from people asking me if there are going to be women at the event wearing t-shirts soaked in beer, and stuff like that, and it’s horrible. Consistently it’s the bigger breweries that are encouraging this culture, like Fosters, and Stella, who are trying to make their advertisements more sophisticated but are still degrading women, and Budweiser, whose advertisements are absolutely ridiculous. So yes, advertising is definitely a big problem in how women are represented as brewers, beer makers and professionals.

S.E: Why do you think it’s important for women to get into beer brewing? Do you think your event will influence or inspire people to get into it?

E.H: That was one of the things I was interested in, for example getting women into the idea of home brewing. It’s a very different process to industrial or commercial brewing, which I didn’t know until I spoke to Jo C, a Norfolk Brewster who’s going to be doing a beer tasting at the event. She was saying how she can’t really recommend any tips for home brewing because she doesn’t know anything about it, because she makes big industrial tanks of beer. We hope to make women more visible in this industry, and to get more women together to talk about their experience and knowledge as professionals who know what they’re doing. I think it’s important to celebrate women striving in male-orientated industries, and to get all these women together in one place to mobilise their understanding and encourage other people.

S.E: What do you hope to get out of FEM.ALE? What’s the message you want people to take away with them?

E.H: It’s a great opportunity to celebrate women who are in the beer industry, and to create a nice women-friendly space. Obviously it’s inclusive and men should definitely come along as well, but to create one space in this city of ale beer festival where it’s particularly female-orientated would be really nice. It’s something that the feminist network was very interested in. Big groups of women, drinking beer? Brilliant.

 


The FEM.ALE 3-day event takes place on the 6th-8th of May in Brighton, and the 3rd-5th of June in Norwich. You can catch our updated interview with Erica, about the last 2 years of FEM.ALE, in the next issue of Parallel, due out in May!

Formation: Beyoncé’s Unadulterated Self-Hood & Who Can Claim It

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Put simply, Beyoncé’s Formation is an ode to her identity and those who share it with her. The song and video function as a bold, artistic political statement, not unlike Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance. If you’ve been living under a rock and somehow missed Beyoncé bringing all this to the Super Bowl, you won’t have seen her and her dancers (all black, afro-toting women) decked out in outfits paying tribute to the legendary Black Panther activist group. You will have missed arguably one of the most eminent musical voices in the industry today presenting, to America’s most-widely watched televised event, some sorely needed racial truths. Of course it may have been the large amount of controversy Beyoncé drew when she did this that brought you to watch her performance; this is criticism that many have highlighted as indicative of social misogynoir, due to the disparity in negative responses between Kendrick Lamar’s aforementioned performance and Beyoncé’s.

It isn’t difficult to discern why Formation garnered the disapproval that it did. It’s the impetus behind the #AllLivesMatter response. It’s white privilege and ignorance paired. It’s entitlement.

Saturday Night Live’s satirisation of the indignant response of listeners

Kate Forristall writes in her Formation thinkpiece, “I’m here to say […] if you check the ‘caucasian’ box on a job application, your place is in the bleachers for this dance”, teaching us all a lesson about allyship. It is also important to note that non-black POC, such as myself, should not insert themselves and their problems into the discourse Beyoncé has opened up with Formation. Blackness is a specific experience, and should be treated as such: this is what Beyoncé has done here, she’s made Formation personal, specialised it with references to be enjoyed by those who understand them. And Formation really is personal above all. A notable illustration of this is Beyoncé’s confrontation of the Eurocentric disdain for black features, frequently inflicted upon her family members by the media. The ambiguous language she uses here exemplifies the concept of ‘the personal is political’:

“I like my baby hair with baby hair and afro/I like my Negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils/”

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Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy

With the video’s imagery, Beyoncé (aided by Melina Matsoukas, the director of multiple Beyoncé videos, including Pretty Hurts) takes it upon herself to fill a cultural chasm in mainstream media. She draws attention to the racially disproportionate devastation left by Katrina in 2005, sprawling herself across an abandoned cop car in a flooded wasteland. She certainly doesn’t neglect to cast a spotlight on the very current reality of modern police brutality. One scene featuring a small black boy standing against a dark fence of policemen, fully equipped with riot gear: this is the ugly actuality, an exaggerated, violent police response to something only perceived as a threat through a severely warped set of prejudices. She provides the gaps in colonial history with striking visuals that emphasise its fantastic intricacy. Of course these empty spaces are the consequence of it being white men who write the history, leaving these blanks due to a mix of shame and self-righteousness. While one does hear about things like black slavery and poverty (we have Black History Month of course), rarely do people delve much deeper into these things or give them the attention and representation white history seems to merit. I mean, how many black period pieces can you name?

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Beyoncé claims her place in black history throughout Formation: she won’t forget her roots by any means, nor the unexceptional black citizen she could have been. This is perhaps most powerfully exemplified by the video’s conclusion, in which Beyoncé lays spread across a police cruiser that sinks, burbling into the murky floodwaters of New Orleans. However, Wesley Morris notes that it is unclear whether “the shots constitute a baptism or a drowning”. I believe this duality represents both her solidarity with her black brothers and sisters as well as her power to incite change.

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“You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation”.

Columnist Jenna Wortham calls Beyoncé’s use of the phrase ‘Texas bama’ an “ultimate power move” as it is the reclamation of a term used to describe someone from the country who is uncivilised. Author Jesmyn Ward, someone previously subject to the insult, writes that she was occasionally made to feel like all the things the phrase carried; she was made to feel like an “under-educated, ignorant, foolish rube”. Beyoncé pays homage to her heritage in many ways during Formation, one manifestation being her statement that the country will never been taken out of her and her black identity. The reference to the Southern chain Red Lobster is another allusion to her former class, being a sit-down restaurant it would be seen as a place for special occasions to the area’s residents but ‘red-neck’ and trashy to onlookers.

She owns her image and her sexuality completely and, as Jon Caramanica writes, “upends gender roles easily […] giddily reducing men to accessories”. The subversion of rewarding her male partner for sex isn’t really revolutionary more than it is simply enjoyable from a feminist standpoint. Caramanica underlines the parallel that Beyoncé is addressing here is male rappers allowing their girlfriends to purchase in exchange for their sexual agency.

And Beyoncé has proven herself time and time again to be that independent woman she’s encouraged us to become since the onset of the millennium. She’s scorning those who insinuate she hasn’t been instrumental in the creation of every piece of her empire, even with claims as ridiculous as the Illuminati’s aid.

She flouts her power completely, nonchalantly mentioning her absolute influence over the radio. CEOs and billionaires today are still almost exclusively white, and so the claim she is “black Bill Gates in the making” is a powerful comment on how far Beyoncé has risen from her social standing, in addition the benevolence she has brought to that position of power: her recent donation of $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter is one of innumerable examples of this.

The final line, in which Beyoncé tells her listeners the “best revenge is your paper”, is undeniably capitalistic. This is something that Beyoncé has received criticism for before, most notably by lauded feminist Dr. bell hooks. Despite this, her words also comprise a very pointed comment on black excellence. Beyoncé encourages her black listeners to transcend the barriers put up by oppressors just as she has done, to take after her example. By asking her companions to get in formation, what she’s doing is telling people to mobilise — this is the root of the success of the Black Lives Matter movement.

 

Words by Jenna Mahale

 


 

Sources & References:

Okay, I’ll slay: Beyoncé and the lessons learned from Formation | gal-dem | http://www.gal-dem.com/beyonce-lessons-learned-formation/

Formation doesn’t include me— and that’s just fine | Medium | https://medium.com/@KateCForristall/formation-doesn-t-include-me-and-that-s-just-fine-5db8055f8b75#.aolc4ni2k

Beyoncé’s Formation reclaims black America’s narrative from the margins | Syreeta McFadden | Opinion | The Guardian | http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/08/beyonce-formation-black-american-narrative-the-margins?CMP=share_btn_fb

Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both? | The New York Times | http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/arts/music/beyonce-formation-super-bowl-video.html?smid=tw-nytsports&smtyp=cur&_r=0

We Slay, Part I | http://newsouthnegress.com/southernslayings/

Beyoncé – Formation Lyrics | Genius | http://genius.com/8640068

Beyonce’s “Formation” vs. Monolithic Blackness | Scott Woods Makes Lists | https://scottwoodsmakeslists.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/beyonces-formation-vs-monolithic-blackness/

In Beyoncé’s ‘Formation,’ A Glorification Of ‘Bama’ Blackness : Code Switch : NPR | http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2016/02/10/466178725/in-beyonc-s-formation-a-song-for-the-bama?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social

Images: Beyonce’s little Bee | http://inspiredbeyhive.tumblr.com/post/138843604172

An interview with… Molasses

Ahead of the release of issue 5, we interviewed one of our launch party bands, Molasses. Alessia, on guitar and vocals, and Katie, on drums, are a two-piece who work together to create grunge indie music with a powerful sound. Their most recent EP, Slagheaps, was released in 2014 and they have been regulars on the UK DIY indie gig circuit since their inception, described as “”Raging two-woman malcontents, twisted AmReptiles from the off-kilter no-filter noise-rock wunderground” by Powerlunches. We caught up with them to talk about how they got started, how they’ve progressed, and whether they have any advice for budding musicians.

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Artwork by Erin Pixie Fletcher

How did you meet, and how did the band form? Where did the name come from? 

Alessia: We met in sixth form college. We formed the band a few years afterwards when I started university in London in 2011 and Katie was finishing her degree there. The name came from a list of ingredients on a box of breakfast cereal. We were both quite keen on sugar at the time.

Katie: Cereal and sugar still most definitely fuel our band.

 

If you could describe your sound in 3 words, what would they be? 

Alessia: erm… from what I’ve been told: offbeat, confounding, concise

 

Would you say your sound has progressed from when you first started?

Alessia: I’ve always tried to challenge myself with guitar, attempting things that perhaps were a little beyond my ability and that approach but I think that anyone who wants to improve any skill does that. Our sound has progressed quite noticeably but from my point of view it’s hard to describe how. Gradually developing as musicians over time might have caused us to become more adventurous, we’ve been trying to put more effort into writing more dynamic song trajectories rather than just stacking riffs.

Katie:  I think at the beginning we were both finding our way musically and to be honest we’re still learning.  I think it’s important to experiment and to not feel confined by one genre or one sound.

 

Do you play any other instruments at all? Why is music important to you/a part of your life?

Alessia: I played bass for a while before switching to guitar though it’s similar enough. I’ve recently started trying to learn drums and that’s been fun so far. I also bought a synth during the summer. Music is just something I’ve always been compulsively drawn to. There have been times when I’ve tried to avoid it and take a break from it to concentrate on other things but in the end it always feels like there’s something missing.
Katie: I’m a bit of an instrument collector but to say I can “play” all of them might be a bit of a stretch. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and my family – I’m lucky enough to have parents who have always supported all of my musical tendencies. I think buying a primary school aged kid a drum kit was particularly brave of them! I’ve actually always felt self conscious and anxious performing in front of anyone so to feel as comfortable as I do playing with Alessia has always been a really big deal for me – I wouldn’t want to be doing what we are with anyone else.

 

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Your most recent EP came out in August 2014. What have you been up to since then, and when is the next EP due?

Alessia: Our next release is probably way overdue. I was in Finland last year as an exchange student so we took a break from writing. We’ve got material ready for the next one, it’s just a matter of coordinating ourselves and committing it to tape.

Katie:  We are desperate to record and write more.  We’ll either end up releasing something really soon or scrapping what we do have and writing an album.  We definitely want our next release to be the best we can make it and to not release something just because we have a collection of a few songs we could record.

 

Have you faced any difficulties in your scene, being two female musicians?

Alessia: More so in the beginning, less so now which is nice or maybe we now move in different circles or people aren’t so blatant about it anymore. Some sound technicians have been complete tossers with unfounded preconceptions while the majority have been pleasant and efficient and it hasn’t been an issue. If anyone comments directly on the fact that we’re female, it’s usually something like “there needs to be more female musicians doing what you do” which is fine and flattering. I think that in general though, since we started, there has been a subtle shift in attitudes towards female musicians that undermine the stereotypes being perceived as the norm (although we’re arguably not quite there yet).

Katie:  We’ve definitely had experiences.  I think mostly it’s a feeling that some people expect less from you because you’re female and that really offends me.

 

Would you consider yourselves feminists? Would you say this influences your music or musical career at all?

Alessia: I don’t think I could deny that I am a feminist. Unless you strongly support the gender binary, feel that you deserve to be subordinated or restricted because there are definitive roles, statuses and modes of behaviour meant for males and meant for for females, (or you are unconscious), then I don’t believe you can be a woman (or a person of any gender) who categorically refuses to be considered a feminist as I see it. I don’t generally write lyrics about it or use feminism as a gimmick for our band, or for any band I’ve been in but it does influence my life.

 

What is your favourite gig you’ve played and why? And the least favourite?

Alessia: Really tricky question. There have been many good ones, I have particularly fond memories of the couple of shows we did last January when I was back from Helsinki during the winter break. In Brighton with Sweet Williams, a band for which I have an enduring love and in London with Screen Wives, Nitkowski and Hate Fuck, all great bands, great people and vibes. Least favourite… maybe the shows we did when we were first starting out and put on pay to play gigs with unsuited acts.

Katie:  I always love playing in Brighton – some of our favourite bands hideout down there and it’s always a really nice scene.   As for my least favourite…certain crowds can make me anxious which always influences me.  Alessia and I are always about the music and as soon as a gig starts to become more image focussed I know I’m not going to like it.

 

Do you think a strong online presence is necessary for bands nowadays, or are you more about the IRL, DIY?

Alessia: An online presence helps, any artist can potentially go really far this way, we’re terrible at it though. If we were judged by our online presence alone, I don’t think we would exist. It also depends what you want to achieve, a combination of the three is probably good, but sparking interest about your music or any small successes always feel more genuine if they involve actual human interaction somewhere down the line.

Katie:  I always feel a bit torn here, I think an online presence can really help a lot of bands but I do worry that everything is becoming “online”.  We are a live band and music is our thing, everything else is secondary to me.

 

What are your upcoming plans?

Alessia: Recording hopefully. Also preparing for the gigs we have booked so far in March, on the 19th in London for Roundhouse Rising Festival and in Colchester on the 26th for Shallow Leisure.

 

Do you have any advice for budding musicians?

Alessia: Self-doubt will hold you back, commitment and enthusiasm are pretty important.

Katie: Just go for it. It really is frightfully easy to talk yourself out of starting a band, playing live or learning an instrument but if you want it and you love it don’t let anyone (including yourself!) stand in your way. (I didn’t mean to sound quite as much like an infomercial as I did there…)


You can find Molasses on their Facebook page [here] and their Bandcamp page [here]. They’ll be performing at Parallel’s issue 5 launch this Friday at The Birdcage Norwich – click [here] for the event page.

 

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Kesha and the “Commercially Reasonable Thing”

In the past week, pop music fans around the world have been given a glance into the ruthless mechanics of the industry. Last Friday, the singer Kesha (full name Kesha Rose Sebert) was denied her request to be released from a recording contract with ‘Dr Luke’, a man she has filed a lawsuit against, claiming that he both physically and sexually assaulted her. The denial of this request obliges Kesha to continue her contract with Dr Luke’s Kemosabe records, which is owned by Sony. Whilst the producer’s lawyers have stated that Kesha would not be under obligation to work with the man who assaulted her directly, her legal team argue that this would have a negative influence on Kesha’s career as Sony’s interests lie in promoting Dr Luke, whom they can make more money from. As this denial was announced, Kesha was seen to be openly weeping and needing comfort from her mother, who was in attendance with her. Outside the court, fans had gathered in support of the singer, who only interacted with them, offering no comment to reporters. Since Friday, the hashtag #FreeKesha has been launched, and several celebrities have openly added their support on social media. So why has this story so recently caught fire in the public eye, when the lawsuit against the producer was first filed in 2014? Because people cannot believe the brutality of the outcome.

Shirley Kornreich, the judge presiding over the case told the Hollywood Reporter that she didn’t understand “why I have to take an extraordinary measure of granting an injunction”. She also stated that she felt it was “the commercially reasonable thing” to do, given that Dr Luke’s lawyers have stated that Kesha need not work with him specifically. Kesha doesn’t have to work with the man, and she can still make money- what’s the big deal? Never mind that this stipulation that she will not have to work with her alleged attacker was made by the man himself. Kornreich can’t see why a young woman would want to make a decision so adverse to good business, so she does not allow her to. Simple!

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(Kesha leaving court, surrounded by fans).

What is so deeply disturbing about this case, and what has sparked the outrage of so many around the world, is not just in how quickly her producer’s lawyers fired back that her claims were a “campaign of publishing outrageous and untrue statements”. It is that this is an example of how society clearly values capital and cold hard money over the wellbeing of its individuals. This is sadly nothing new to millions of us: we know how the female body has been given worth only through commodification. But to see a company actively forcing a young artist working for them to extend her suffering by simply accusing her of lying frames the issue for 2016. Kesha is obliged to keep recording for a company who also employ the man who sexually abused her at age 18. Her health and her safety mean nothing in the face of what is “commercially reasonable”. As with women throughout the centuries, she is a vehicle to make money and a commodity to be sold. She is not a human being who deserves protection from harm, and cannot find this protection from a justice system whose eye is so squarely on the money.

The support that Kesha has received from other female musicians (Demi Lovato, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande to name a few) and fans is not only heartening, it is the next necessary step. If women cannot find the world they deserve through their justice systems or employment, then they must find it through each other. Though we may not be able to donate $250,000 to aid her as Taylor Swift has done, we can raise our voices and let these systems know that this is not OK. You cannot treat us as just a cog in your machines. We have the right to be free from abuse and suffering. Standing with Kesha lets the world know this.

Words By Sarah Vickery

Gallery

Parallel Issue 2

A4, 178 pages long, and with a glossy cover to rival any mainstream magazine, Parallel
Magazine is your alternative to misogynistic “women’s” periodicals.

Issue 2, “Taboo” features: interviews with Dr Marci Bowers, Annabel
Allum, The Petrol Girls, and Sarah Westgarth; pieces on comic book representation and women in music; articles about body hair, menstruation,
cultural appropriation, abusive relationships, sex, porn, pregnancy, and
disability; and work by our wonderful submitters as well as the
Parallel team themselves.

We talk about everything, from sex to shitting; from sexuality to gender.

Issue 2 is available here!