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Sløtface’s Haley Shea: “My Whole Life Revolves Around An Issue That Most People Only Talk About On International Women’s Day”

Sløtface’s Haley Shea discusses the challenges of gender equality in music and why there’s still plenty of work to be done…

In my life I spend an abnormal amount of time talking about issues relating to gender equality. Alongside being in Sløtface, I also work for an organisation in Norway called AKKS, which works towards achieving gender equality in the music business. My whole life revolves around an issue that most people only talk about on International Women’s Day. In Norway, IWD is marked in a way that’s celebratory, but there’s also room for demonstrations and protesting – it’s important to use your voice to talk about what’s important to you.

As a band, we spend a lot of time talking about these sorts of issues, so this just feels like another day to us. But I love that International Women’s Day leads to people who don’t normally engage with this kind of thing coming out and supporting these good causes. To be honest, I wish we didn’t need to do it, but we still have quite a way to go when it comes to achieving gender equality. We’re constantly taking steps forwards and then back again, and things like restrictions on abortions remain a very backwards way of approaching women’s rights. In music, too, there remains a huge patriarchal system. Nothing is going to change overnight, but it’s important to keep going. The festival landscape in Norway is a great example of how there’s a solid gender balance when it comes to the names on the line-ups, but when you look at the amount of female musicians playing with those artists, the numbers still suck.

With AKKS, our aim is to help women who want to work in any area of the music industry get to where they want to be. Whether they want to be a producer, a musician or an events manager, we work to help get them there, and achieve gender balance wherever possible. We work with all gender identities and spend time helping those from poorer backgrounds too, but a lot of our recruitment is focused on helping women break into the industry. We want women to be able to try new things without being scared, and to provide a safe space for that to happen.

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Equality, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, is a state that, for me, will only be truly achieved when no-one is in any way limited in life, because of the gender they identify with. We should all be able to follow our hearts and achieve our dreams, regardless of gender – and we’re a long way from that right now. And this is something that affects men, too – there are so many things that men aren’t ‘supposed’ to do because of old ideas of what it means to be male. My utopia is a world where none of those factors come into play.

There are so many amazing women in the music industry who’ve inspired Sløtface to do what we do. In a grander sense, Patti Smith is someone I’ve always been really influenced by – she doesn’t see obstacles, and has a very positive outlook on creativity. The political way in which she writes has been a great inspiration on me. All over the world, with organisations like Girls Against and Girls Rock Camp Alliance, awesome things are being done with regards to promoting women in music.

It can be easy to become unmotivated when you consider that the Riot Grrrl movement was started 30 years ago and still things haven’t totally changed, but there’s plenty of positive steps being taken, so I try my best to focus on the good work that’s being done. When it comes to gender equality, great things can be done all year round, not just on one day.

Posted on March 8th 2020, 12:00pm
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