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Healing and empowering women through music

by Virginie Ann September 24, 2019
Healing and empowering women through music

When it comes to violence against women, we might understand it, but how do we heal from it? On Sept. 17, Sandi Curtis revealed her research of more than 20 years on feminist music therapy, at Concordia’s 4th Space.

Through music links that support the writing, this E-book explores not only violence against women, but also the various underpinnings of culture, and how they affect women.

Understanding male violence requires examining the power inequalities between men and women, such as the economic and physical ones, but Curtis also looks at the role culture plays in setting norms on how we approach and deal with such a sensitive subject. According to the American Psychological Association, violence against women is a major cause of reduced quality of life, distress, injury, and death for women. It also has serious secondary effects for families, communities, and the economy. And while the physical aspect of violence is strongly present when we approach the subject, Curtis argues that there are many more levels to it than we consciously think of.

“The book is for everyone,” said Curtis. “Even though the title says Music for Women (Survivors of Violence), we are all impacted [by violence]. It is how we rearrange our lives when we go out at night to keep safe, who we talk to and who we don’t, how we respond, our self esteem in a culture that objectifies women, and then has this very narrow definition of beauty. It’s amazing that self esteem is an issue for all women because of this culture, so it really is for all women.”

In Music for Women (Survivors of Violence), Curtis combines her work experience with women’s shelters and her research to show how effective feminist music therapy can be. Therapy is usually kept behind closed doors to ensure the safety of abused women, but it also means that it can be less accessible. So an online and interactive book is a way for Curtis to offer this powerful tool to other women too, making it more inclusive.

With over 200 songs by artists like Lady Gaga, 4 Non Blondes, and Cher, Curtis visits various themes such as male entitlement, gender inequality, women’s self esteem, fat-shaming, and resilience. Using only female singers and songwriters actually allows the female readers to internalize the content in its entirety, Curtis said.

“The women can hear themselves through songs of others,” said Curtis. “They can look at a big, successful music rockstar and say, well they are singing, they had these experiences and they are successful. Maybe they didn’t deserve [the violence] so maybe I don’t.”

Arguably, the timing of such a publication is also ideal, coming alongside movements like #MeToo and with the growing popularity of diverse female singers. Where women used to freeze in fear of violence, they now stand up and strengthen their voice. Simply look at Lizzo’s latest performance at the VMAs and the empowering message for women of colour and curves behind it.

“I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 per cent that bitch. Even when I’m crying crazy. Yeah, I got boy problems, that’s the human in me. Bling bling, then I solve ’em, that’s the goddess in me.”  – Lizzo “Truth hurts”

Music for Women (Survivors of Violence) might just be the amalgam of auditory secrets, kept for years and silently used by women to understand and overcome male violence. But the change in society is coming at a time where women need to share empowering tools altogether. With Curtis’s E-book, conventional reading is then brought to another dimension where music and lyrics become feminist allies.

The book is available through Barcelonapublishers.com 


Feature photo by Laurence B.D.

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