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Ladyfest promises punk music and plenty of feminism this weekend

Posted by Alex Pearlman  January 31, 2012 09:28 AM

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ladyfest.jpgBy Vanessa Formato

Boston, ready yourselves to rock: Friday, Feb. 3-Sunday, Feb. 5, Ladyfest Boston 2012 is turning the Cambridge YMCA into the city's best punk/indie venue, hands down. Ladyfest is all about taking amazing music to the next level and combining it with vegan doughnuts and a hearty helping of feminism, all to benefit a worthy local cause. You know what they say: If you want something done right, leave it to a lady (or something like that).

"We strongly feel that this is probably the strongest festival to happen in Boston this year, from just a musical standpoint," said Christopher Strunk, one of Ladyfest’s organizers. "These aren't just bands with women in them -- these are probably the best punk and indie pop bands to exist in the Eastern U.S. right now. Anyone who is just a music fan stands to get a lot out of this fest."

Ladyfest’s line-up features 27 bands, including This is My Fist!, Beautiful Weekend, Daylight Robbery, Girlfriends, and Pet Milk. Tickets will run you $15 per day or $35 for a three-day pass -- an absolute steal if there ever was one.

Though this will be Ladyfest's first time in Boston, the "community-based, not-for-profit global music and arts festival for female artists,” according to Ladyfest event sites, is already a tradition in many other places; dozens of these festivals take place annually across the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Each festival is a unique experience, as curated by its volunteers and tailored to its audience, though most feature some combination of music, art (including performance art, like slam poetry), lectures, and workshops. Boston's event will include a comic-making workshop with Liz Prince and a reading -- performed by the author -- from Violence Girl, the autobiography of "legendary L.A. punk rocker" Alice Bag.

"We're really excited to showcase women involvement in the arts, not just in terms of bands, but in a behind-the-scenes way," said Tali Stern, another Ladyfest organizer, "so in terms of booking shows, running record distros, doing sound for shows. These are all activities that are sometimes seen as things that guys do. That's not necessarily the case, but it can seem that way, so we wanted to have women doing as much work during the fest as possible."

Celebrating feminism and supporting women's rights is a big part of every Ladyfest, and Boston's in particular was inspired by some of the more disturbing trends in the political arena.

"As the GOP clamors for more and more control over reproductive rights, as Planned Parenthood faces threats to their existence as an institution that has provided aid to women for over 70 years, as sexual assault laws continue to work against the victim...well, the situation seems bleak," reads an introduction to the event on Facebook. Women's rights have indeed become one of the most contentious social and political issues in recent years, but feminists -- women and men -- have been pushing back against institutionalized efforts to scale back equal rights.

As such, proceeds "from the door," according to Ladyfest's website, will benefit the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, an organization that strives to make abortion accessible to women and girls in Eastern Massachusetts, helping them negotiate with insurance companies or obtain health insurance in the first place. EMA "view[s] access to abortion as social justice, human rights, and economic fairness," said Strunk.

"[A friend of the Ladyfest organizers] suggested that we do a benefit for [the] EMA Fund because it was local, funded entirely by donations, and since they only deal with abortions, they weren't even eligible for some of the sources of funding that Planned Parenthood was," he added. " In the end, we think [donating proceeds to the EMA Fund] sends a stronger message and makes more of a statement because it feels like we are 'throwing down the gauntlet' for women's reproductive rights."

Ladyfest Boston will promote women's rights not just through its donations and the more explicit events it has lined up -- for example, Sam Chaplin of Safe Passage will be holding a workshop on supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence -- but by throwing a great party that also feels safe, positive, and open. The first meeting of Permanent Wave Boston, a feminist outreach group, will follow Ladyfest’s final events.

"A lot of people are really excited about Ladyfest because of the bands that are playing, and curating a legitimately great bill was definitely a goal for us," said Stern. "A great side to that has been that a lot of people are naturally getting excited for the other Ladyfest activities that are directly related to our political message, like attending workshops and just generally hanging out in that kind of atmosphere. I think the feminist part of it has been rubbing off in a really natural way; that has been a huge bonus for me."

"Feminism" can be a dirty word to some young people, but perhaps spreading the movement's resurgence and the benefits that come along with a more equal society can start, at least in Boston, with a festival to remember.

Photo by Sterneck (Flickr)

About Vanessa -- Vanessa Formato is a 22-year-old Clark University graduate, freelance journalist, vegan cupcake enthusiast and video game aficionado. She blogs about body image and tweets about puppies. So awesome, even John Stamos is impressed.

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