Girls to the front ...but never in row zero

Katja Brunkhorst June 21, 2023

Take a look at the two middle-aged women below.

It’s me and my friend Yanaika, the poet.

…an actual “stadsdichter” of Den Helder, a fellow fierce feminist and old soul about to release the first volume of her poems with a prestigious publisher and making a splash winning prizes all across the Netherlands. A fitting guest star in this month’s brandbrief, which is a decidedly feminist edition! In this pic, she’d just gotten off the stage at my 50 and fabulous party, having made me cry with a poem she had performed. (You can still tell from my face a little bit!)

Those tears were hella confusing to me at first, and then I started to realize why…and how this is absolutely crucial, especially to women, in the context of the current allegations against Rammstein singer Till Lindemann*.

*Long, ugly story short: loads of young women, often fans of the band, are sharing how they were cast for “row zero” directly in front of the stage, to then get dr*gged and used for s*x at their shows. All the while, Lindemann had been openly celebrating his sick fetish for sleeping with unconscious, almost underage girls in his so-called poems…published an’ all. 🤢

Why is it so hard for us to step into the limelight and endure being the centre of attention?

I dunno about you, but if you’re a woman / identify as or feel with the female, AND are of a certain age, chances are you know the feeling.

That’s why, at said party, I consciously did two things that I was afraid of – in order to do my bit to change that status quo. According to the motto: “It’s my party and I’ll embarrass myself if I want to!”

So we stop being objects and get back our agency.

For our daughters so they can visit rock shows without running the danger of being reduced to passive dolls to be r*aped at old men’s leisure.

Let’s normalize celebrating women, and OURSELVES.

Girls to the front, as Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna used to shout at her gigs! But not in row zero.

 

So first, I took to the stage myself

– and addressed my audience with the following words, before proceeding to “sing” no less than six songs in unrehearsed cover versions with a spontaneously assembled live band consisting of Hans on the drums and friends and family on bass and guitar:

“I just turned fifty and women my age are supposed to be in a supporting role, melting into the background rather than making themselves seen and heard. Which is why, in front of a room full of people who mean the most to me, I am stepping out of my comfort zone right now. Because we need more girls and women on stage still!”


Spoiler: Most of the tracks went OK, mostly thanks to our awesome rhythm section of Hans and Jeremy on bass, except for Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of you”. My brother took me to the side after and said I shouldn’t have done that. – Which songs would YOU love to do at Karaoke, but don’t quite dare? I recommend doing it anyway, it’s quite liberating.

 

Secondly, I sat with the discomfort of deep patterns that tried to tell me:

“It is not OK to accept this much praise!”

“What are people gonna think?”

“They’ll think ‘who does she think she is?’, and that I’m arrogant and full of myself!”,

as my poet friend recited – loudly and amplified by a mic – the following poem which she had WRITTEN ABOUT ME (gulp), to said whole room full of folk who mean shit tons to me:

“Katlady – by Yanaika Zomer.

You are a granddaughter of the witches they failed to burn.

You turn yourself from a philosopher into a musician,

like a magician into an awesome mom, a loving spouse,

into a motherfucking powerhouse, a writer and a bombshell,

you went to hell and back for the ones you love

and above all that you shapeshift yourself into

a smiling Kat, even when you cry inside. Because sometimes

you might die inside but you hide your tears, your fears,

because you feel the need to comfort others.

You can be a mother and a child simultaneously,

you can be honourable while being vulnerable

and actually see that they are the same thing.

You came into all of our lives and made a change.

No wonder women like you used to be burned

at the stakes. It takes superhuman strength

and a whole lot of magic to be you.

And I’ve seen you do it. You kill with kindness,

you can light any room with your brightness

and you melt people’s hearts in the blink of an eye.

You try to be everywhere all at once and even succeed.

If anyone needs you, you are there. You care.

And most of all you have the ability

to lift people up with the most powerful spells:

‘You got this, I believe in you. Please,

do what you are meant to do.’

(Oh, I know it. You enchanted me into a poet.)

And you tell them that they’re going to be okay.

So today we celebrate the witches they failed to burn,

everything we’ve learned from them

and the Katlady that descends from them.

Here’s a toast to one of the most

fabulous creatures, not to mention the most heavenly features,

I have ever seen in my waking life.

She thrives on other people’s bliss.

So this is it. This is our chance,

to sing and drink and love and dance

for the wondrous woman that she is.”

I cannot begin to tell you how healing it was for me to just stand there and take that.

To not let those imprinted old feelings of unworthiness win.

As she read, witnessed by many of my nearest and dearest, something began to shift in me, gave way, melted.

By the end of her recital, I was in absolute bits, because someone had so completely seen me. And given words to that!

It was the best birthday gift ever, absolutely priceless. Because it will carry through to the next generation, breaking centuries’ worth of female trauma.

Remember.

Words are powerful like that, innit.

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