So while I’ve been writing about the fake empowerment feminism of Eurovision songs, I’ve been asked when I’d get around to Germany’s entry – Sister from S!sters (my god the exclamation point is so annoying.)
There are a lot of reasons not to like this song – the childish lullaby chimes that occur at the beginning, the slight discordance of the minor key, worries about one of the singers being slowly choked to death by her super tight leggings. (Feminism is about supporting choice, but boy, those cannot be comfortable to perform in! Someone get her a new stylist, stat!)
I also know that there have been some concerns about this song and what some have pegged as a patronising message written by men*:
But I’m inclined to give this a little bit more slack, and posit that this might actually be the most feminist song we’ve had in the contest this year. Why?
Unlike Walking Out, which is delivering an unrealistic and dangerous message about women in abusive situations, and Proud, which is basically corporate feminist ear treacle that will do nothing, Sister is a song with a message that’s easy to incorporate into our lives – namely, don’t tear other women down.
For those who have been fighting to tamp down the stereotype of competitive cat-fighty women out of media, this might seem a little reductive. After all, we now celebrate Galentine’s Day. We’ve had the ‘cool girl’ trope deconstructed in Gone Girl. And on Twitter and other social media platforms, you’ll see women amplifying the voices of other women. In fact, I’ve found it particularly exciting to see in Eurovision land.
But in the real world, there’s still the sense of tokenism – the sense that if you’ve got one woman, you’ve got women covered. That leads to situations where we see a single woman at a director’s meeting, or a lone woman in a boardroom, or a single women in your Eurovision reaction videos, all there to provide balance. But we’ve got this generation of women who were brought up thinking that they could and should do anything – a generation of women who are overachievers, busting barriers, doing amazing things.
These women are running straight up against the tokenism that limits their opportunities. So while 50% of the population gets 80%-90% of the opportunity, the other 50% are channelled into competing for that remaining 10-20% of opportunities – often while being expected to raise families and care give and otherwise ‘have it all.’ (Oh! And also mentor other women, because that’s apparently something men can’t be bothered to do.)
All of this is considered normal. Women are expected to cheer when they manage to get one of these posts, without pushing to ask – wait, am I the only qualified woman you could find? The answer is always no.
So I do like the song Sister because it calls out, in a Eurovisiony way, this culture of minimised expectations, the culture where women are expected to be happy with a slim percentage of what’s on offer, the culture where a woman’s presence is seen as a win and a sign we’ve fixed sexism, the culture that forces women into competition simply because we’re given fewer opportunities than men.
And as a message song, Sister is about changing our own attitudes – how do we make sure that we’re celebrating the achievements of other women and pushing for more equality, rather than hoarding all the opporutnities for ourselves, and seeing another’s success as a threat to our own?
So hate S!sters for the ridiculous exclamation point in their name, but recognise the message that’s not perfectly communicated on that spinning platform.
*As a side note, this song was written by two men and two women.