Throughout the modern age we have been bombarded with band after band, some become iconic and leave a lasting impact on the world and music and others falling into insignificance after their initial success has faded. To me, far too many girl-groups fall into the latter category – they find success but it is short-lived and then they are all but forgotten. However, there is one girl group in particular whose legacy and importance is just as large as it was when they were originally about; the group is TLC.
TLC changed the game in a big big way, even their critics cannot ignore the fact that they sold a huge amount of records in the 1990’s and paved the way for many female artists to come. Their debut album is fifteen tracks of solid gold, covering a multitude of topics, rather than the usual boy orientated songs that are churned out so regularly. “Oooooooh…… On the TLC Tip” is proof that T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli weren’t about generic songs and vague lyrics – they arrived on the scene with a bang and continued to excel. It is songs such as What About Your Friends that highlight their value as female role models and as an alternative source of information on what it means to be a girl. The track is all about having a strong, dependable group of friends that you can depend on through anything and how those relationships are one of the most important things you can have in life.
I first fell in love with them after hearing the now iconic track Waterfalls. The song is nothing short of perfection in my eyes, once again managing to open up discussions on topics that most artists shy away from – such as death and illnesses like AIDS and the devastating consequences it has. The combination of such subjects with Left Eye’s heart-breaking yet also hopeful rap about finding yourself and not giving up makes it, in my opinion, one of the best songs ever written and is monumental in regards to teaching young people about growing up and the obstacles that they may face. On a different note to Waterfalls the group have a large catalogue of tracks all about empowerment and female independence – topics that are still desperately important to talk about. What makes them so great to me is that their unique sense of style and big personalities really make you warm to them and in a way, when listening to their songs and what they have to say about all of these issues it’s more like a big sister telling you rather than a seemingly distant pop group.
The group’s third album FanMail continued in the same vein as their previous offerings, discussing issues such as self-esteem and learning to love yourself. One song stands out to me as being of great importance to young women and that is Unpretty. Society constantly bombards us with strict expectations on how we should dress, look, behave and love – things that are sadly often brought into relationships too, where women can often be made to lose the confidence they had previously due to these expectations being placed upon them by their partner. This is what the band is singing about in the track – how, sometimes even if on the outside a person projects an image of happiness and confidence, underneath they can be lonely and think very little of themselves.
It is TLC’s attention-to-detail with their lyrics and their desire to educate their young audience on the importance of safe-sex that elevates them to true greatness in the field. They managed to create an image of female independence and still show young girls that being feminist is not only important but also nothing to be ashamed of – even in a society that more often that not tells us it is, all while being uber cool, super stylish and making brilliant music. Although Lisa’s tragic death meant we were only blessed with four albums – their legacy lives on and I hope that many more young people like myself will continue to discover TLC and their message.
During nights out with my friends it has been brought to my attention through talking to them and from two first-hand experiences that going to a nightclub and being a woman equals getting sexually harassed. The way many young women at university who I have bumped into in the toilet, or spoken to in the bar queue discuss this issue is with a sense of resignation, it is to be expected, and is therefore ‘old news’, of course this totally wrong. We should be indignant, up in arms and certainly not complacent! But this is where it gets tricky, as the only real thing you can do in a club if you are groped or smacked on the bottom etc. is report it to the bouncer, who depending on how they feel either kicks the offender out, or does nothing. Leaving us with little option other than telling said person where to go and carrying on with the night.
My first experience of harassment in a club was when a man came up behind me and put his hand under my dress and in between my legs. I was horrified. I felt dirty, violated and mortified. However as the night went on my feelings changed to anger, “how dare he touch me like that without any consent.” With my anger slowly reaching a boiling point I left the club to get some air. As soon as I saw my friends I remember squawking indignantly at them about what had just happened. A few minutes later I had received information that the same man had grabbed one of my friends bums and then just laughed. It was after this night that I decided to find out more.
Having talked about this topic a lot with my flatmates and friends, there is no doubt that a harassment culture exists in Britain’s nightclubs, be it Exeter, London or Manchester, women everywhere are subjected to unwanted advances and verbal abuse. Whilst at home in London one friend had a man try and place his hand into her underwear twice, even after she had yelled at him and another got hit in the face by the man she had just asked to stop grinding on her. The fact that these types of experiences occur regularly and across the country is totally unacceptable, there needs to be a huge drive by club security and police to drive this culture out of clubs and make them spaces that women can enjoy without constantly being in fear of harassment. Sadly until then clubs will continue to be predatory environments, where men can seemingly do as they please and women will continue to feel intimidated and on edge.
Last week my university had a march down one of the main roads in Manchester city centre called Reclaim the Night. The point of it was to raise awareness about rape culture and show the government that us women will not stand for it. The march had particular relevance as sadly the area of Manchester most students live in, including myself has had a record number of sexual attacks on female students in the last few months. Between September and November alone there were 30 attacks and since the beginning of this semester I have heard of at least two more; one of which occurred at eleven thirty in the morning. Shattering the argument of the ignorant that women shouldn’t travel alone at night. This means within the last year the number has doubled and something clearly needs to be done about it.
This is why Reclaim the Night was so important. With over 2000 people marching, armed with glow sticks, placards and yelling feminist chants, the people of Manchester were made well and truly aware that all of womenkind (and the men that attended) wanted their streets to be safe to walk along at all times of day. And that being a women should not increase your likeliness of being raped. My university’s women’s officer rightly described the march as being “like a battleground” and she is right, just saying you are a feminist is unfortunately no longer that effective, we have to harness that and go out there and make a change. All around the world women are being persecuted and we need to be louder about it. For too long women have been cast aside and not listened to, but Manchester’s Reclaim the Night proved this idea wrong. We are here, we exist, we have rights and we will not tolerate being under threat.
I hope that due to the success of this march that there be others that follow to raise awareness on other feminist issues occurring around the world, such as the practice of FGM, young girls being forced into marriages and the lack of rights for trans women. I am incredibly proud of my city and university and I hope it has shown the men who committed these terrible crimes that they are not wanted in society and are a disgrace to their gender. I also hope by writing this piece, women from other countries will gain inspiration to hold similar marches at their university or college to show the world that we are strong and want change now.
I have just finished reading the written version of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s acclaimed and famous speech “We Should All Be Feminists” which she gave at a conference two years ago. Now of course being a Beyonce fan I had heard the excerpts used in “Flawless” and found them not only scarily accurate but also incredibly powerful. It is however only now that I have read the entire thing. Something I am rather ashamed of, as I should have read or watched it last year at least. Not only because I regard myself as an intersectional feminist but also as I am a young woman. Now that I have though I can say that I have never read something so truly powerful and inspiring and my one wish is for as many people as possible to read or watch it, so that Adichie’s wisdom and hopes for society will be heard all over the world.
After finishing the book I sat at my desk for a while mulling over what I had just taken in. Nothing before this has had such a profound effect on me, and it will probably take a while for it to happen again. If it does. Now as a young, white woman I am very aware of the fact that the issues and discriminations I face are not only very different to those of women from other cultures, ethnicities, religions etc, but also not as extreme either. However when reading this I felt that Adichie seamlessly managed to address problems faced by women from all over the globe, discussing them and giving suggestions as to how society could be improved. Rather than, like many more well known feminist writers do, white-wash their piece of work by ignoring the plights of non-white women.
This is why in my opinion everyone, both women and men should read this book. It is a 50 page or so piece of enlightenment, which teaches you things about gender inequality you did not know before, highlights the issues and normalities that occur culturally which oppress women and also gives a message of positivity. I felt as though Adichie was talking to me personally, telling me that being a woman is nothing to be ashamed of, that I am not a lesser being for being female and that empowerment is the way forward. This is something that I believe all, especially young women need to hear and if I could send a copy of this book to every person on the planet. I honestly would.