In a recent instagram Between Two Books (a book club run by fans of Florence + the Machine) announced their participation in Elle Magazine UK’s Elle Feminism campaign— a promotion for their ‘feminism issue’ featuring Carey Mulligan of the upcoming film Suffragette. A discussion quickly arose in the comments, with followers declaring that #FlowsForFeminism “needs to be a thing.”
I am 100% behind #FlowsForFeminism. Whether or not feminism is a conscious, central part of the project and work of Florence and Florence + the Machine, I do count Florence as one of the contemporary figures who have influenced my evolution as a feminist and a person. Namely, she introduced to me the idea that women can be loud if they want.
Florence + the Machine’s music is full of big sounds. Florence’s voice is infamous for being particularly distinctive— big and full, declarative, “witchy,” full of octave jumps, shrieks, howls, and endless, drawn-out notes. Layers of choirs and drums build the dramatic songs. All together the sounds are noisy, loud, declarative, full— there is no hiding them, and there is no hiding from them.
Women are so often expected to be seen and not heard, to speak only when spoken to, to hold their tongues, to let things go, to suffer in silence. If they must make themselves heard and visible, they should do it in a way that pleases others, in which they are cute, sexy, pretty, or attractive. Listening to Florence I realized that things could be different.
Florence + the Machine march out into the open, declaring their existence and taking up the (auditory) space they require and desire. They create a sound that never questions whether it should be under a bushel. And they don’t discriminate between what deserves that space— whether it’s expression of love, confusion, brokenness, rapture, loss, anger, gratitude, wholehearted weirdness . . . or even one’s unique artistic vision. They don’t subscribe to a system in which everything emotional, introspective, or relational (outside of the most simplistic representations of these things) must be carefully guarded or secreted away. By refusing to do so, they remove the power of a system that capitalizes on vulnerabilities and internal lives (especially of women).
On top of this, there is nothing about their expression and music that is mean to be pretty or cutesy, rather it just seems truthful and indulgent (in a radical way). It is not about catering to the expectations of others, it is about making they music they want and need.
Watching a woman enthusiastically and passionately living and expressing herself without stopping to worry about how it will appear to others, about what others want, without a hint that she thinks this is unacceptable reminds me that it ok for women to take up space, to raise their voices, to live fully, to live artistically and expressively, and to be loud and proud.