Fighting for gender equality is an ongoing battle here in the United States, so I was curious to chat with Julie Hawk from the Irish bank HAWK about her feminism, and learn more about her new single Below “inspired by Irish history, the Catholic church and its mistreatment of women”.
Listen to the track below and dive into our inspiring interview with Julie about all things activism, reproductive rights, burnout as a feminist and much more.
What inspired you to write Below?
‘Below’ is the second track we’ve written about reproductive rights in Ireland. It was a huge moment for us as a band when we wrote the first track, ‘Once Told’. When I suggested the topic, the reaction from the guys was amazing – I don’t know what I was expecting. After years of seeing abortion as an untouchable subject, I think it’s reasonable to manage your hopes, but they were extremely keen to talk about it and to know more about the situation in Ireland. ‘Once Told’ was about the awakening I went through when I really put into perspective the situation faced by Irish women. Abortion remains illegal (although we are expecting a referendum next year) and an average of 11 women a day will leave Ireland to obtain one.
‘Once Told’ was about the situation itself. Two years later, ‘Below’ is about the frustrating lack of response from so many political names. Earlier this year there was a meeting at our parliament to discuss the historical injustices placed against women in Ireland – too few representatives turned up and the meeting had to be postponed. There are lots of people fighting for change in Ireland but watching things like that happen in the news makes me feel like we’re not being listened to or taken seriously.
You have said that you feel “betrayed by my country. We’re still fighting for basic reproductive rights for women and seeing an embracing response from our government.” As an American woman that resonates with me deeply – can you speak a little bit about making your work political. Has your craft and music always had a political edge or has it evolved with your feminism?
It has definitely evolved. I think it stems from two places. First of all, it comes from my own feminist values solidifying over time. Over the years, I’ve gone from believing in the theory that men and women should be equal but not recognising my own foothold in that change, to seeing how even tiny decisions can make an impact.
It took a long time for me to understand that I could turn belief and art into action and the more I questioned and practised equality in my day-to-day life, the more it naturally became a focus of our music. It probably also comes from our change in sound. When I was performing solo and acoustically, I felt more like a story-teller singing about my personal experiences and thoughts. With the bigger, darker sound, I’ve felt like we have a really strong canvas to make a statement.
How do you stay grounded or optimistic about cultural change despite feeling overwhelmed by it? Do you have any advice for our readers who might be feeling burnout by their activism?
There is always someone in the world who doesn’t have the privilege to get burned out. So I’m loathe to let myself get too bogged down by any lack of progress I experience. But of course, it happens. I think it’s good if you can check in with yourself and recognise when you need to reassess and give yourself a little space to get back on course. Making time for self-care is important. There are lots of ways to practise feminism and valuing your own health and needs as a woman or non-binary individual is super important. With that, I would also say that reading about other people’s experiences is vital – our privileges differ massively in the world. Sometimes taking a break can involve reflecting on someone else’s situation instead of dwelling on your own.
Have you always identified as a feminist? What was your feminist coming out moment?
I think I have had to unlearn an awful lot over the last few years and one of those things was the definition of feminism itself. Once I discovered it for what it really is, the pursuit of equal rights, it was a no-brainer. I don’t know when exactly that was, but I remember the feeling. I think the second phase of that was my first experience of seeing action having an effect. The marriage referendum in Ireland played a massive role for me, personally.
How can our beaverettes support and follow your work?
You can follow the band in the usual social media haunts and hear out music on Spotify. I also have an ongoing illustration project on my Instagram (julie_hawk_) called Female Fronted Drawn Together. Some of the work will be available to buy online soon – feminist holiday gifts, yay!
Honestly, the best support I want right now is for people to talk about the Irish referendum next year. We have a chance to make a massive difference to women’s lives but it’s by no means in the bag yet.