Breaking down gender stereotypes with Anna Calvi

Words by Bianca O’Neill

Turn the tide.

Anna Calvi’s new album, Hunter, is just the kind of statement we need in today’s world of social media division.

As a commentary on gender politics, Calvi is sure to make the point that this isn’t about taking sides – it’s about not having to choose one at all.

Although the statement here is about power –who has it, why they have it, how one can break away from being overpowered – Calvi knows that on the topic of gendered power, it’s not exactly black and white.

“The kind of women I see portrayed in films, I don’t find to be an accurate depiction of what a woman can be… I don’t want to be fed false news about what women really are – I don’t find it helpful. “I wanted to have a depiction of a woman being a hunter rather than being hunted… I [now] feel more awake to moments where I am being pushed into a box, even though I don’t want to be. It’s this idea of whether I’m meant to be, or decide to be.”

It’s in that tiny space, as a woman – that space between actively choosing, and not being aware that society has chosen for you – that gender politics resides.

Over the years, Calvi has slowly broken down the gender dichotomy through her music, always presenting an alternative vision for womanhood that doesn’t need to be defined in the traditional binary system. “I do feel that I identify as a woman, if I have to choose between the two ‘names’ but, at the same time, I do feel like my music has been quite genderless… I wanted to explore that further.

“I guess traditionally, it’s men who have the economic and sexual power – that’s part of the good thing about breaking down this binary model. I don’t think that anybody’s empowerment should come at the expense of someone else.”

There has been a rise in the discussion of gender diversity in music of late – we’ve seen Troye Sivan proudly release his ode to male same-sex intimacy, ‘Bloom’, while at the same time straight performers Pink and Channing Tatum swap gender roles in Pink’s recent video for ‘Beautiful Trauma’. And while this isn’t new (Queen has been cross-dressing since the 1984 video ‘I Want To Break Free’), it does feel less charged than it has in the past.

The public acceptance of this binary breakdown has fuelled a safer space for this kind of straight-gay-everything-else-who-cares expression.

“The more people talk about it, the more safe they feel – and it’s the same with music. I think it’s always been there – but now it’s more out in the open which I think is a great thing.” There is one downside, however.

With freedom of expression always comes those who would restrict it. Social media has ignited a renewed and widespread debate about gender, allowing for a ‘them vs us’ mentality to grow online – particularly in terms of feminism.

The mounting pressure on cis men to ‘fix’ what is wrong with the world, when often it isn’t personally their own fault, has pushed gender relations to the brink – so how do we come back from the precipice?

“The pressures on both men and women… is counter to what being a human is. It isn’t what feminism should be. [We] should be wanting a world that is benefiting both men and women,” Calvi reflects.

True gender equality? Perhaps we can achieve it, if we shift our focus from gender wars to finding common ground. Or perhaps it’s only a dream.

Hunter is out now via Domino Records.

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 183. You can read it here.

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