First Aid Kit Challenges Rape Culture in a Powerful Asheville Performance
Arts Entertainment

First Aid Kit Challenges Rape Culture in a Powerful Asheville Performance

This Swedish folk band is known for empowering lyrics geared towards women. They are one of many bands supporting sexual assault victims through music. They strive to inspire other women to chase their dreams and achieve equality for all genders.

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First Aid Kit Challenges Rape Culture in a Powerful Asheville Performance
Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NC // Photo by Sophie Harris

Powerful, wealthy men in the entertainment business have been perpetrators of assault for decades. The growing popularity of the #MeToo Movement began to give people like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer the consequences they deserve for the multiple sexual misconduct allegations against them. However, our society still has a long way to go. First Aid Kit, a Swedish folk band known for empowering lyrics geared towards women, is one of many bands supporting sexual assault victims through music. They strive to inspire other women to chase their dreams and achieve equality for all genders.

Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NCSophie Harris

Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg quickly gained international attention with their YouTube cover of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song," which received over 5 million views. Since that YouTube release in 2008, the duo has released 4 albums and 2 EPs under the name First Aid Kit. These releases have shown their harmonious growth as musicians and as activists for women's rights. First Aid Kit stopped at Asheville's Highland Brewing Company on September 14 to perform amongst lush mountains, an array of food trucks, and a vastly diverse crowd. They are currently touring to promote their latest album, Ruins, and their latest EP, Tender Offerings, which also released on September 14.

Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NCSophie Harris

The show's first few songs were upbeat and lighthearted, showing Johanna and Klara's unique but harmonious energies. The audience ranged in demographics - many families brought their children, knowing it was especially important for young girls to hear the empowering lyrics that were to come.

A young fan of First Aid Kit in the audience in Asheville, NC.Sophie Harris

But after First Aid Kit had warmed the audience up with their upbeat and lighthearted songs, their energies instantly changed in preparation for their most serious and most relevant ballad, "You Are the Problem Here," which honors sexual assault victims who came forward during the #MeToo movement. Klara's voice was raw and filled with emotion and vulnerability as she sang,

"When did you come to think refusal was sexy? Can't you see the tears in her eyes? How did you ever think you had the right to put your entitled hands up her thighs?"

Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NCSophie Harris

"You live long enough in this world as a woman, and you get frustrated of being told that you have to be afraid all the time," Klara explained after performing the song. "You can't walk at night, you can't wear headphones at night...but you also can't stay in your own home, because that's where most women are sexually assaulted."

"So, we wanted to write a song where we asked questions to perpetrators of rape crime. 'Did you do this to another human being?' 'What was it in your mind that made you think that that was something you wanted to do?' We don't think rape victims should have to be asked, 'What were you wearing?' Or, 'Had you been drinking?' Because when you ask those questions, you are telling the victim that really, it's their fault. And it's never, ever, the victim's fault."

"The blame and the shame always belongs to the perpetrators. Always. And there's one thing that men really should stop doing. Instead of [saying] women should stop walking around at night, men should stop raping us."

Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NCSophie Harris

First Aid Kit's empowerment didn't stop after "You Are The Problem Here." Immediately following Klara's speech, they continued with "Ugly," from Tender Offerings - EP. The lyrics fight the urge that we naturally have to base our self-esteem on opinions of others and instead urges us to be our most authentic selves, for ourselves. The song began on a discouraged note, with "I thought that being skinny was the answer to all my problems...I thought that being smart meant impressing others," but as the song ended, the audience remembered the people who empowered them - but most importantly, the positive voices in their own souls. "So what if I'm ugly?" they sang. "I'm so much more than that, I'm so much more than you'll ever know."

Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NCSophie Harris

First Aid Kit's performance continued to teach the audience that women can be powerful and independent while overcoming a hardship like sexual assault. Following "Ugly," they performed "King of the World," a fan favorite from their sophomore album, The Lion's Roar. The lyrics "I'm nobody's baby, I'm everybody's girl; I'm queen of nothing, I'm king of the world" told the audience that we can't let heartbreak or gender norms hinder our pursuit for success.

Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NCSophie Harris

As the show closed, First Aid Kit's music became more warmhearted, showing the audience that we should feel comfortable and at home surrounded by inspiring music and like-minded people, who were all in the audience for the same reason. "Nothing Has to be True," the final song of Ruins, featured warm lights all over the stage as symbolism for the audience feeling comforted and at home with First Aid Kit's music. The background lights were blue and cooler-toned, but they progressively became warmer close to the front of the stage so the warm lights reflected off the crowd's faces. The sisters exited the stage as the background lights and noise slowly turned to static until the crowd influenced them to return for an encore, which began with a steady bass drum beat and a red light that was synced to it. Once they started singing, the red light turned into a heart that kept beating with the drum. They closed with "My Silver Lining" - their most popular song to date, with over 93 million streams on Spotify. During this song, when First Aid Kit encouraged the audience to clap together, the magnitude of the children in the audience became powerful. They all sang "try to keep on keepin' on" in unison with their families, without a fake smile to be seen.

Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit performing in Asheville, NC

First Aid Kit's music will continue to inspire people of all ages and genders - specifically young women who have been through trauma and/or sexual assault. Their mix of comforting and empowering lyrics send messages that women are strong and nothing - not perpetrators, not stereotypes, nothing - can stop us from succeeding in life.

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