Lauren Mayberry is not your average lead singer of a wildy successful electro pop group. In fact, she’s not your average in any way. Besides having a master’s degree in journalism and a four-year law degree, she is an outspoken advocate for quelling online misogyny in the music industry.
So many people in entertainment fields accept gender disparity and, as Lauren says, this “casual objectification” of women. Instead of ignoring the way she was treated, she decided to take a stand, and when someone of her prominence chooses to be an advocate for equality she should be celebrated.
Hopefully other artists will look to Lauren as an example of how to react to inappropriate and dangerous behavior, and eventually we may live in a world where women are respected and treated as equals.
Why was a higher education so important to you? How has it impacted your music career?
I think my main reason for pursuing that path was because I never believed that music would work out as a career option for me. What is the likelihood of that happening?! I have played in bands since I was 15 but always had other day jobs, as all unsigned musicians do, and by the time CHVRCHES began to become more well known, I was lucky enough to be working jobs I liked, freelance for magazines and as a production assistant for film / TV. I think my media knowledge has been helpful to us in this band, in terms of knowing what to look out for. You need to have strong convictions about how you are represented because a lot of media outlets will try to manipulate what you stand for to suit their own agenda. And the legal background certainly helped when it came to reading through label contracts as well..
Many women deal with “casual objectification,” especially women in the entertainment industry or media spotlight. Why was it important for you to speak out?
I think we had just come to a point where that aspect of the industry – and the parts of it that we had direct access to on the social networks – was really starting to get me down and I couldn’t see any reason not to speak about something like that in our online community that we worked to create. A casual glance on the social networks of almost any band with a female musician in it would show up similar content, so it seemed ridiculous to have a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about it. The response we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive – from fans, other musicians, media – and it means an incredible amount to us when someone says to us after a show that they believe in what we do, because I suppose the easier option might be to swallow it. But I think that the only way you can do a job like ours and manage to stay sane is to be the truest version of yourself, and that is what we are trying to do.
How has feminism played a role in your life?
It has changed the way I view many things, and for that I am forever grateful. It has taught we to question what it is thought to be ‘a given’. When I was a teenager, I discovered The Singles by Bikini Kill in a second hand record store and it truly changed my life. I started reading about Kathleen Hanna, then Kathy Acker, then carried on to feminist classics like Naomi Wolf and Gloria Steinem – and I am still learning, every day, by meeting new people and hearing their thoughts, and my definition of feminism, as with all political things, is constantly evolving.
What do you think is the biggest challenge women face?
There are so many, depending on who you are and where you are, but there are common struggles for all women – and all minorities. I think the most important thing now is intersectionality, being aware of what feminist issues affect women who aren’t you and showing that feminism isn’t just about women. It’s about creating equality between all people, regardless of gender, orientation, ethnicity or anything else. It is about the elimination of prejudice and equal provision of opportunities.
What can women do to be more supportive of one another?
Unhealthy competitiveness between women makes me incredibly sad. The idea that, since there is only enough room for a few women in any given industry, we need to fight within ourselves to be that one woman is bullshit. I definitely encountered that as a woman in a band within Glasgow, and that was always completely contrary to what I was thinking. Why not celebrate each other’s skill and achievement, rather than being critical? As I have gotten older, I have been lucky to meet more women, and men, who share my outlook on those things.
What women inspire you?
So many. Kathleen Hanna, Jessica Valenti, Lena Dunham, bell hooks, Tavi Gevinson, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Laura Bates, any of the women behind Hollaback!… And on a less public level, the women (and men) who staff at organisations like Rape Crisis, Refuge, Women’s Aid, Women For Refugee Women, Orchid Project.
What’s your favorite thing about yourself?
I’ve been told I am very empathetic, and I am pretty organised. And I can do a mean Alanis Morissette impression.