A feminist songwriter explained equality in a way 'even our president can understand.'

One night in late 2016, singer, songwriter, and satirist Rachel Lark was performing her song "Free the Nipple," just like she had many times before. But something just didn't feel right.

"I just had to stop and say to the audience, 'Wow, guys, I'm sorry. If we just elected Trump, we are clearly not advanced enough as a society to be having that debate right now,'" she explains in an email.


The conversation about censorship of female versus male nipples — while undoubtedly important — seemed moot in the wake of the United States electing to the highest office a man who has openly joked about committing sexual assault.

If she was going to really make a difference with her music, Lark knew was going to have to break things down into even more basic terms.

Image by Rachel Lark/YouTube.

It doesn't get much simpler than the title of her newest song, punctuated with an exclamation mark for emphasis: "Women Are People!"

"Lately I've been concerned that the type of debate I'm trying to have around feminism is a little too complicated for the world we're living in," she says at the beginning of the video.

"So I thought I'd bring it right back down to basics, to a first-grade reading level, so even our president can understand."

In the video, she gathers a group of small children — and, pointedly, some grown men — and asks them some basic questions:

"Do you guys that think frogs are people?"

"Noooooo!" the kids shout.

"Do you think that Popsicles are people?"

"Nooooo!"

"But do you think that women are people?"

"Yeeeeah!" they all say.

See. Kids get it.

The lyrics are both absurdly obvious and, apparently, completely necessary at the same time.

"Women are people / Women are people / They have thoughts and feelings," Lark sings.

"Your mom — she's a person! / And your teacher — she's a person! / And little girls are people too."

"Nurses — they're people! / Even strippers — they're people! / No matter what it is they do."

"The song is an anthem for those of us who are sick of breaking down really obvious feminist causes to people who want to reverse progress rather than build on it," Lark says.

She adds that explaining incredibly elementary things like "Sexual harassment is bad" and "Birth control is health care" gets exhausting.

Maybe, just maybe, by going back to basics and making sure the whole world understands that yes, women are indeed people, everything else will fall in line.

Lark was especially impressed by the smarts and thoughtfulness of the kids she featured in the video.

Now if only the grown-ups would catch on.

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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