Vancouver women's groups up for Lilith Fair Money

Photo courtesy of the Lilith Fair Facebook page

I was 13 years old when I first went to Lilith Fair at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver. I was a huge fan of its founder, Vancouverite Sarah McLachlan, and I remember feeling so cool to be coming down from the Island to the city to celebrate women in music. Somewhere I think I still have the tour album and an autograph from Lisa Loeb.

So I was interested to see the announcement last fall about the new Lilith Fair tour scheduled for 2010. Yes, eleven years afterthe last tour in 1999, Lilith will roll into the Vancouver area this Canada Day for a show at Pitt Meadows airport with a lineup including McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Erykah Badu, and local artist Frazey Ford of the Be Good Tanyas.

Though it arguably targets feminists, Lilith Fair doesn't claim to be a feminist festival, just a women's festival. during the original tour Lilith Fair raised over $10 million for national and local women's charities. But many feminists have dismissed the original  Lilith Tour and its comeback for reinforcing a stereotype of women's music as a bunch of angsty earth-mother singer-songwriter types. BitchMedia blogger SadyDoyle recalls of her Lilith experience: "My general memory of the event is of a bunch of good intentions and acoustic guitars and tattoos of dolphins jumping over yin-yang symbols." Kate Harding at Broadsheet also notes the lack of racially diverse artists in the original tour, saying: "its overall image was still a bunch of broomstick-skirted college students who talked about their periods too much going to see a bunch of white ladies you could hear in your dentist's office."

I see Lilith Fair more as a project started with good intentions but which, in practice, has seen uneven implementation of a very vague set of principles.

For example, for the 2010 tour they're allowing local residents to participate in a "Choose Your Charity" campaign on Facebook, where fans can choose their city and vote for which women's group they'd like to see receiving concert proceeds. Unfortunately, Lilith drew heavy fire from feminists after poor research and consultation led to them including anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) on the charity lists for many US locations. After a Facebook campaign started, Lilith organizers dropped the CPCs, along with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina from their lists, but released no statement about the change. It would've been nice if they would've thought out the principles they were using to select the groups for the US tour stops, rather than just compiling hasty lists of women's organizations as found on Google.

And can a festival really be celebrating women in music when the majority of the headliners are white pop singers? The issue around the ethnic diversity of the artists, as well as the limited music genres could still be seen as an issue in the 2010 tour lineup.

But even with all that I'm glad Lilith Fair is coming back. Even though I didn't have any sort of "feminist awakening" from attending in the 90s, some people do credit the festival with consciousness-changing experiences, and others point out the significant number of "lesbian and lesbian-friendly" artists on the bill.

And luckily the list of organizations Vancouverites can vote for to receive Lilith Fair money includes some amazing groups such as the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre, Battered Women's Support Services, the BC Women's Health Collective, the WISH drop-in Centre, and 8 more great groups. Most of these are groups that have been facing funding issues due to the recession and government cutbacks. So no matter what you think of Lilith Fair, and even though it's really tough to choose just one organization, I hope Vancouverites check out the Facebook page and vote!



More in The Gender Files

Ghosts of Violence Ballet Comes to Vancouver

The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada is bringing its Ghosts of Violence ballet to Vancouver in early December.

Designer Lisa Bohn shares tips on success and on giving to community

Bring your sketchbook everywhere. Catalogue anything and everything that inspires you. Write down your ideas and never think that just because you are done school means you stop learning.

Book review: Feminism For Real

This year's must-read is Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Copy of Feminism, edited by Jessica Yee, founder of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.