Women have made a lot of noise in 2017. The protest marches against the inauguration of Donald Trump that took place all over the U.S proved that feminism both had come a long way, yet but still had a long way to go.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of another seminal moment in feminist history.
Lilith Fair, the famous all- female music festival, commenced in the summer of 1997. Named after Lilith, the tale of Adam’s first wife who refused to submit to him, the festival was orchestrated by Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan. According to a 1998 interview with CNN, McLachlan said the genesis of the female festival came about when concert promoters and radio stations refused to play female musicians back to back.
This was not unheard of. Fellow female musician Melissa Etheridge mentioned in a 1999 interview with Intimate Portarait that even in the 1980’s, female musicians were not given the same amount of exposure that male musicians were, especially in rock music.
Despite this, McLachlan managed to orchestrate a successful line up of some of the most talented and successful female musicians that included Paula Cole, Fiona Apple, Meredith Brooks, Missy Elliott, and Tracy Chapman, among more. The first wave of Lilith Fair lasted from 1997 to 1999, playing in venues all over the country.
Some could even credit Lilith Fair for paving the way for successful female rock musicians and female-fronted bands that came to be in the 2000’s such as Michelle Branch, Dido, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson, Paramore, and more. However, Lilith Fair hit a different note when it was revived in 2010.
Once again spearheaded by the Canadian siren, both McLachlan and the revived festival faced criticism with many even questioning the relevance of the festival.
According to a 2010 NPR article, the 2010 revival of Lilith Fair faced several problems such as low ticket sales and cancelled concerts. McLachlan continued to remain optimistic and insisted Lilith Fair was more about community and less about money.
The revival proved to be less successful than its predecessor but there’s something to be looked at approaching the dawn of the 20th anniversary. The question at hand is what made the revival less successful than its predecessor despite the age-old problem of sexism in the music industry still be very much relevant. Referring to the NPR article in 2010, many of the female critics felt at that moment, the festival did anything for female artists.
It is no secret that contemporary feminism has taken on a different connotation with many millennial women denouncing the word. Could it be what Arlie Hochschild, sociologist and author of the 1988 bestseller The Second Shift, said in the 2010 documentary Makers: Women who Make America that many young women felt that feminism was no longer needed? With the election of Donald Trump, the jury is still out.
There is no talk about reviving Lilith Fair this year but the potential in the age of Trump- drenched sexism could be present. One thing that was learned from the protest marches was that women still had the ability to come together to impact change and make a lot of noise. That hasn’t changed before or since 1997 and it doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.