The War On Women: How Musicians Can Help
“They want to control how we dress, they want to control how we act, they even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.” — Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton at the Women in the World Summit, on how women are inexplicably the focus of attacks from “extremists” around the world.
The status of women’s rights in America is discouragingly similar to what is happening in other countries. In 2011, the rights of women in America continued its decade long decline after facing attacks on everything from access to health care to equal pay. Unfortunately, 2012 has brought more of the same as conservative pundits and lawmakers push to eliminate laws protecting battered women, outlaw birth control coverage, and gut public funding for public health organizations that are affiliated with abortion clinics (such as Planned Parenthood).
US legislation against access to birth control has been on the rise since 1995 and the number of states that are “hostile” to abortion rights has more than doubled in the past decade. Much of the language in these bills across states is similar, indicating that this is a coordinated effort.
In February of 2012 came the Komen Foundation’s politicized decision to de-fund its support for Planned Parenthood’s cancer screening because of their policy to provide abortions. (Komen eventually apologized and re-instated the funding). In the midst of all of this, Congress called special hearings on access to birth control. And, invited all men to speak on it.
The need for action to protect and expand the rights of women is impetrative. While the upcoming election is vital to the outcomes of many of these attacks, much should be—and can be—done in the months until then, and musicians have a unique platform from which to help. Here are some recent examples of the ways that musicians are speaking out on the behalf of women’s rights:
- After Rush Limbaugh called birth control advocate Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” several musicians whose music had been used on Limbaugh’s program took to the media to voice their concerns. Tom Morello tweeted, “Hey Jackass, stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right wing clown show.” Peter Gabriel and Rush also spoke out, issuing cease and desist letters to the show, stating Limbaugh had used their material without their permission. Musicians who find their music being used by individuals or groups they disagree with are put in a unique and powerful position where they are able to voice their disapproval and bring national attention to an issue they care about in a natural and very visible way.
- When Susan G Komen for the Cure announced they were not planning on re-granting their annual $600k grant to Planned Parenthood, the Decembrists, who have been actively fundraising for breast cancer since band member Jenny Conlee struggled with her own bout of breast cancer last year, quickly changed the beneficiary of their Team Jenny fundraiser from Komen to directly fund Planned Parenthood’s Breast Health Emergency Fund. A move that speaks to the importance of vetting the organizations artists work with (ATC can help) and often looking for ways to give money to a direct service provider instead.
- Other artists took to their social media accounts after the Komen decision: The Mountain Goats warned their Twitter followers that “Pro-choice musicians, know that Komen for the Cure is now on the side of the bad guys.”
- Betheny Consentino of Best Coast has been working over the last year to bring awareness to the issues Planned Parenthood is facing, putting together a benefit show in NYC last summer for Planned Parenthood of New York City Action Fund, encouraging a crowd in Texas to donate via text message and to, “Keep your rights as Texas women!” and taking to her Facebook page with support after Komen pulled funding for Planned Parenthood.
What Musicians (you!) Can Do:
- Talk about the issue. Use whatever methods you are comfortable with (public appearances, interviews, shows, social media) to call attention to aspects of this issue that speak to you. If a group or organization you oppose uses one of your songs, don’t back down! Use it as an opportunity to voice your opposition, and to hold them accountable. Our recent blog post on this topic can help.
- If you’re touring, pay attention to local aspects of the War on Women. For instance, Wisconsin is passing some of the worst laws for women. If you are going there, speak out on it. ATC can help you understand the geography of these laws and also help you partner with local organizations.
- Register your fans to vote. You can do this in many ways: remind people to register at your shows, on your website or via social media, team up with voter registration organizations for voter reg at your shows (but be sure to mention their presence from the stage) or produce content encouraging voter registration to put in your fan newsletters. More about voter registration issues (voter ID laws, voter intimidation, etc.) dates, deadlines and strategy can be found on ATC’s Election page.
- Stay in touch. Join our network and follow ATC on Twitter for access to social media-ready “calls to action,” highlighting events or organizations you can share with your followers and fans.
- Contact us. We can help you put you in touch with effective local or national organizations, help set up a ticket add-on campaign to raise money for this issue, help you produce “calls to action” and other social media content to distribute, and help you think through any other ideas you may have.