Words: Ciarán Howley
Images: Getty, Unsplash, NME.
Last weekend saw the return of one of the biggest festivals on the planet. However, the celebrations saw many artists speaking out in light of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe Vs. Wade, making for one of the most political Glastonbury’s in recent memory.
It’s said that music brings people together. The same can be said, quite literally, for music festivals. Usually held in the summer months with warm weather, lots of booze and your favourite musicians, festival-going can be incredibly joyous. But with its emphasis on unity and creativity, music festivals can offer a ripe setting for activism in times of political turbulence.
But like the family dinner table, some might argue festivals are “no place for politics.” It’s a time for all to bury the hatchet, unleash our inner feral club-rat and just go wild.
That, some would say, is privileged waffle.
As American author Rebecca Solnit once put it, “Politics is pervasive. Everything is political and the choice to be “apolitical” is usually just an endorsement of the status quo and the unexamined life.”
The restrictions on the rights and freedoms of marginalized identities are not private issues. These decisions have lasting, negative impacts on health, education and social mobility, and to be impartial about them is a privilege held by those the society around us is molded by; white male heterosexuals.
Let’s not forget that music and politics are rarely opposing; genres like punk or house are rallying cries against working class, female and queer oppression. And at a festival like Glastonbury, with nearly 200,000 attendees, musicians have ample opportunity to speak out on political issues.
Indeed, the weekend of the 24th was anything but apolitical.
A sense of urgency prevailed throughout Glastonbury as the Supreme Court of the United States turned the clock back fifty years on women’s reproductive rights. With documents suggesting as much leaking in May, the Supreme Court affirmed that the constitutional right to abortion no longer existed.
In a 5-4 ruling, the court retracted abortion access on a federal level and gave individual states the power to determine their own abortion laws. It’s expected that nearly half of U.S. States will restrict access entirely, a move that will impact millions of women and will see many crossing borders to avail of the procedure.
This took place on the 24th of June. It was also the first day of Glastonbury.
Rapper Kendrick Lamar made himself an ally to the cause of women’s reproductive rights at the Pyramid Stage on Sunday, following the Supreme Court ruling on Friday.
Adorned in an all-white crown of thorns, the emcee concluded his set on a dramatic note. “They judge, they judge Jesus Christ. God speed for women’s rights.” He repeatedly chanted this as the show came to a close.
Lamar was the target of criticism earlier this month for the language used in his song ‘Auntie Diaries’ to describe transgender members of his family. A cut from his new album ‘Mr Morales and the Big Steppers,’ Lamar used homophobic and transphobic language, despite the song having positive themes of acceptance.
Lamar was unambiguous at his set and closed out the festival on a powerful note.
Pop-punk rocker performed on the first day of the festival, with large crowds expected in light of her chart-topping album ‘Sour’ and singles ‘Good 4 U’ and ‘Driver’s License.’
Rodrigo did not hold back and not only spoke about the decision but named the Supreme Court judges responsible for overturning Roe V Wade.
“I’m devastated and terrified. So many women are going to die because of this. I wanted to dedicate this next song to the five members of the Supreme Court who have shown us that at the end of the day, they don’t give a shit about freedom. This song is for the justices: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorusch, Amy Coney Barratt, and Brett Kauvanaugh.”
“We hate you. We hate you,” she added.
Rodrigo dedicated a rendition of Lily Allen’s ‘Fuck You’, joined alongside the British singer herself. The crowd’s chanted along with her, in undeniable agreement.
Texan-born rapper Meghan Thee Stallion, known for hits like ‘Savage’ and ‘WAP’ was vocal about the decision during her set at the festival. She halted the set to speak out against her home state, which enacted an already restrictive policy on fetal termination.
“You guys know it wouldn’t be me if I don’t take a second to call out these stupid damn men, I mean God damn, what else do you want? Texas is really embarrassing me right now. That’s my home state, and I want to have it on record that the muthafuckin’ hot boys and girls do not support this bullshit that you’re campaigning for,” Meghan declared.
In September 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed in the ‘Texas Heartbeat Act’ which bans all abortion if cardiac activity is detected within an embryo. It is now expected the state will move to restrict abortion entirely. Meghan rallied the crowd in opposition against the ruling.
She led the crowd to raise their middle fingers, chanting: “my body, my muthafucking choice.”
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