In our newest issue, Affinity, We caught up with the talented Naomi Kliewer (of The Mothers) and Ariel Hartley (of Pearl Earl, Mink Coats and GROSS BITCH). Being two women in music in Denton, it’s no doubt their personal playlists are filled with gems and jams. Check out what they’re listening to while you’re here, then go read our conversation on how women are portrayed in male-dominated industries, their thoughts on feminism, and more below.
How did you get into music? Naomi: My mom played guitar when I was little, so I guess my earliest would be church because I sang with my mom. Then when I was in 6th grade I got into marching band, which is like the love of my life still. Then I got my guitar when I was 16 and played with my best friend. Ariel: I did choir in elementary school. Then when I was 19, I met Julia Blake who taught me some chords on the guitar, then I took that and ran with it. I just started playing and writing songs. But I always had kind of written poetry, bad poetry, so I always felt like I was writings songs without knowing it. Without the instruments.
How did you perceive women in music growing up? Ariel: They were these beautiful goddess pop stars, with revealing glamorous clothes, always being sexy.
Naomi: For me it was a little different because my mom listened to a lot of Tracy Chapman, Jewel, and Alanis Morissette. So I was more into the coffee shop, acoustic, songwriting type of women.
How has your perception changed? How does it feel to be a woman in music now? Ariel: It’s kind of bothering me a little bit. I notice people take you less seriously because you’re a female. We think a lot of girls aren’t playing but they’ve always been playing, they’ve just been overlooked.
Naomi: I definitely feel the need to work harder so that people take me seriously. I’ve been playing shows since I was around 18 or 19. I can’t tell you how many times we would go play a show and get on stage and no one would take us seriously. And they would set the bar so low that after we were done they were like ‘oh shit you guys were great’. Yeah, but you were being an asshole about it. I don’t know why you don’t expect us to be just as good as anyone else who gets on the stage.
Ariel: But then again it’s a good thing and a bad thing because people ARE paying attention to girls. They’re like ‘oh shit there’s girls that can play music’.
Do you think our ability to sell sex is a negative or positive thing? Naomi: It’s a double-bind because there’s something very empowering and rebellious about owning female sexuality, because society tells you you’re not suppose to have it. But at the same time you can get a lot of flack, because it’s another thing society says it’s too sexy. Ariel: I agree. I find a lot of female musicians posing for the camera, cleavage out and pointing out of the fact that they’re beautiful. And that kind of makes me uncomfortable because music for me is about just making music.
What are your thoughts on feminism? Naomi: I love it! I love it! I just switched my minor to women in gender studies so I’ve been getting a lot of feminist theory and I just want to be more political. I want my position as a musician to be more political and change things, because there’s a lot of stuff that’s fucked up that doesn’t need to be. Like asking someone their pronoun preference or creating safe spaces for people or having a song that might be triggering to some people and speaking on it. To me it’s just about creating safe spaces for people and using my music to speak to that and create social change. Ariel: I definitely get feminism, I like it and I understand it, I’ve taken a few classes on feminist studies. The only problem I have with it is, I don’t like the word feminist because it automatically puts the direction towards me as a female only.
The feminism with our generation is more introspective and it’s whatever feminism is to you as a feminist. I do agree that there have been major strides in society as far as equality goes. But I still can’t get married in the state of Texas.
With all the mixed views being thrown out, do you feel it is creating a stigma around what feminism really means? Naomi: I have mixed feelings about it, especially from a feminist standpoint. With the past movements there’s been a goal that they were trying to accomplish. The feminism with our generation is more introspective and it’s whatever feminism is to you as a feminist. I do agree that there have been major strides in society as far as equality goes. But I still can’t get married in the state of Texas. I’m very active in the queer and trans community and I have friends who still can’t go to the bathroom of their choice, they can’t identify as who they are. I went to a waffle house on Saturday with my partner and someone sat down next to us and stared for like three minutes not saying a word and just walked away. We got skipped ahead of in line. So yes, there has been strides. I can be out and black and in an interracial couple, but it’s very real for me that there are things still wrong. Which is why is is important to create safe spaces and use my position as a musician and a burlesque performer to speak to those things and make people aware that oppression is still very real to a lot of people. Ariel: I think us being in the bible belt of Texas, some people like yourself get treated way differently than me. The thing is people like us don’t choose to associate with people like that anymore, but it’s still very present. Naomi: That shit happens all the time. I benefit in my community because I am femme and I present as a female and I look like a female, but my partner is trans and they don’t get the same benefits or get treated the same as I do. The rest of Texas is not Denton and it feels like a safe bubble so when you get out of it, it’s awful.
Our conversation continued with racism, Hillary Clinton, tripping balls on your period and the perception of women before capitalism. Check out Naomi and Ariel in Austere Affinity.
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