Being a woman in the music and arts scene has never been easy. Even today, despite advancements towards gender equality, countless barriers to female empowerment exist. In honor of Ladyfest Philly—hitting our city this Friday through Sunday—we talked to Ladyfest organizers and musicians about specific challenges they’ve encountered—and how Ladyfest aims to chip away at the prejudice.
“When I first began to play [guitar], I found boys to be effortlessly intimidating,” writes Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster over email. “I had no confidence in my playing because I didn’t have quite as many strong reference models. It took me a long time and a lot of sweat to get past those feelings of inadequacy. If I didn’t actually enjoy playing so much, I probably would have quit.”
It’s hard to imagine a guitarist as skilled as Paternoster (who was named the 77th greatest of all time by Spin magazine) feeling anything but confident in her abilities. Yet the New Brunswick, NJ shredder—whose band headlines Sunday night at Ladyfest—is but one of thousands who’s overcome cultural and structural challenges to find her place in the scene. Ladyfest aims to combat these challenges by fostering a positive environment for lady rockers and fans—through music, arts, and workshops—and will hit Philly this Friday through Sunday, June 7 through 9.
A grassroots organization formed in 2000 in Olympia, WA, the first Philly edition of Ladyfest took place in 2003. Ten years later, a new group of organizers (with some old faces) decided to bring it back.
“While living abroad, I watched from afar as many of my friends played, attended, and organized Ladyfest Boston,” says Grace Ambrose, a Ladyfest Philly Committee member, and DIY booker for various Philly spaces, who was inspired to bring the celebration to her city.
“I had met Bryony Beynon, an amazing feminist punk organizer in London (who is reading at Ladyfest!) and she made me think about my own network of rad ladies making rad things happen back in Philadelphia,” Ambrose says. ” I wanted a way to activate that network, in one massive way, to make people sit up and pay attention. Shortly after I moved back to Philly, I called the first meeting and was amazed by the response. Most of the women who participated from the very first meeting are still involved.” Continue reading