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Masterton’s muse: Ladyhawke

Phillipa [Pip] Brown performs under the stage name ‘Ladyhawke’. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

In honour of International Women’s Day [March 8], SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI talks to some of Wairarapa’s inspiring women. Musician Ladyhawke talks about feminism and finding herself.

Phillipa Brown, better known as Ladyhawke, has been a feminist from a young age.

“I always felt angry about how the boys got treated differently. I just knew it wasn’t right.”

Brown railed at having to wear dresses and skirts. She would often speak about the unfair expectations placed upon girls with her mum.

“I really would like to think it’s different now,” she said.

“You feel like you have to fit in somehow, and I felt like I didn’t.

“I knew I was queer, and I didn’t exactly know what that meant.”

Having left Masterton to study design in Wellington, Brown soon found her place in music instead.

“I left when I was 18, I couldn’t wait,” she said, “It wasn’t the town, I wanted to see the world.”

The expectations did not lessen once she left school, however, and Brown soon discovered the challenges faced by many women in the music industry.

“When I first started doing my Ladyhawke stuff,” she said, “People expected me to be a puppet that would obey.”

She struggled with being told to dress in a certain way as a female pop star [“The image thing has been huge for me,”] but said this seemed to be an issue for women in many industries.

“The main sort of challenges I’ve had is people not taking me seriously and treating me like I’m stupid. People assuming that someone else writes my music.

“I always felt like I was that annoying person in interviews saying, no, I wrote that.

“I just always felt like I was being difficult, when I was just being myself.”

Brown liked to think the music industry had become a better place for women.

“You just can’t get away with the crap that you used to get away with,” she said, “I think a lot has changed, but I think there still such a long way to go.”

She described herself as a feminist and said people should not be afraid to use the word.

“Feminism is the feeling that women aren’t treated the same … That balance inequality,” she said.

“I felt like a feminist before I even knew what that word was.”

Her latest single, ‘Guilty Love’, featuring fellow Kiwi musicians Broods, was released last week. The song was inspired by feelings of shame and guilt, Brown said.

In the music video, a teacher writes “virtues of a woman” and “knows her place” on a chalkboard.

“It sucks that feminism has become a dirty word. It shouldn’t be,” Brown said.

She and producer Tommy English had met Georgia Nott [of Broods] to talk about lyrics for another song. Instead, the trio ended up discussing their shared experiences of feeling judged while at school.

“We didn’t even get around to listening to the track. We were just talking, sharing heart-to-hearts.”

However, Brown was careful to say she had “great teachers” at high school. She regularly returned to Masterton, where her family still lived.

“I go back all the time,” Brown said, “I’m always drawn back to Masterton. It’s a special place to me.”

If she could give any advice to young people, it would be not to worry about having a concrete life plan.

“Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know what to do,” Brown said.

“I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on teens. There are all these life things that get thrust on you.

“You have to find yourself, really. You have to figure out who you are.”

Brown’s hope for her daughter, whom she raises with wife Madeleine Sami, was that she would grow up to live in a world where gender was a non-issue.

“I would just love for her to grow up and not ever feel like there’s any difference,” Brown said, “To get to the point where it’s not assumed that you’ve got a dad and a mum.

“I don’t even want it to register on her radar.”

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