It’s a Tuesday afternoon in Glasgow. The sun is setting. The sky is a baby pink as the golden hour sun reflects against the gentrified industrial buildings of days gone, haunted by the ghosts of men with a trade. When people were pigeonholed into gendered roles and expected to act a certain way. I am here with my partner to see the pop singer Self Esteem, we check into a city centre hotel. As is custom when staying at any hotel, you inspect the TV to find out what channels lurk beyond ITV 2. While channel surfing, we come across a gem, The Christian Wives show. They are discussing the roles husbands play in a marriage. I jump the gun and joke they will all push a traditional marriage agenda. To my surprise, it’s a bit more complicated than that. They discuss the strong man and weak women dynamic, but with respect for men who actively help in interior decoration. However, the discussion is coated with the surprise their friends have when their husband takes interest in visual things that are traditionally perceived as “womanly”.
Later that night, we're at the Queen Margaret Union, waiting for Self Esteem to begin. She is late, as all pop stars are. We successfully weave our way to the barrier. Everyone is packed into the venue; excited to be there. Suddenly, two figures appear on stage and begin to bash drums in sync with each other. Then she appears, dressed like a cross between 1976 Bowie and Marilyn Monroe. She commands the stage with grandiose wit and self-effacing humour. Her performance is strong, fun and feminine, with lyrics that raise questions about gender roles, social justice and romantic relationships in contemporary times. Each song is laced with references to mental health and affirmations. It is an electric night, the crowd erupts with an ecstatic recognition of shared experiences at the end of every song; the band responds and builds on the energy culminating in a celebration of what it means to be a woman in 2022.
Music and art overall can be a tool for social change. It can push the dialogue about themes and issues screaming to be discussed. Listening to different perspectives allows us to open our eyes to other experiences and opinions. Self Esteem is the tip of the iceberg regarding female artists to listen to, but this International Women's Day, start there and question the roles you play within her songs.