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Students petition for female Spring Fling headliner

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 22:02

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Justin McCallum / The Tufts Daily

 

After 18 years without a solo female performer at the annual Spring Fling concert, two students have started an online petition to urge Concert Board to bring a female artist to campus.

The Change.org petition, created by senior Amy Wipfler and junior Julia Rodgers on Feb. 1, has received 268 signatures as of press time. 

“It’s something we put together to try and encourage the Concert Board to notice that students are actually interested in having a female performer this year at Spring Fling,” Wipfler said. 

The last female artist to perform solo at Spring Fling was Queen Latifah in 1994, according to the petition. The petition also suggests that she was the headliner, but Tufts Daily articles published at the time identify the band Fishbone as the headliner that year — the Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History lists Evelyn “Champagne” King as the only female headliner, in 1983. The last female artist to perform at all was Jenny Conlee, as part of 2009 opener The Decemberists.

The message conveyed by the performer’s music is as important to Rodgers and Wipfler as the artist’s gender, Wipfler said.

“Julia and I are really interested in having someone that has a more mindful message,” she said. “There are some artists who don’t use language that is necessarily empowering for women at all, but are still women. It’s not necessarily that having a woman onstage is going to make the message better.”

Concert Board began the process of choosing artists to perform at Spring Fling before winter break, according to Concert Board Co-Chairs Julia Stein and Mark Bernardo.

The process of selecting artists for Spring Fling is a long and complex one, according to Stein, a sophomore. First, an agent investigates the availability and cost of several performers Concert Board is interested in bringing to campus.

“If we find someone we really like, we will put a bid in with a base and a cap,” Stein said. “The process takes a while; you can put a bid in and not hear about it.”

Bernardo, a sophomore, noted that Concert Board’s discretion in selecting an artist is limited by cost and dates, as well as an additional factor this year: genre. Before winter break, students voted on bringing a hip-hop artist to campus this spring in an online poll.

“You want an artist that will be fun with good music, you can recognize the name of and will enjoy, but we have to remember we have a budget,” Stein said.

Wipfler said she and Rodgers provided Concert Board with a list of 65 female hip-hop artists, including M.I.A., Robyn and Santigold, who they believe would be suitable for Spring Fling.

While Bernardo believes the suggestions Rodgers and Wipfler provided are good, he said most of the artists were out of the price range or unavailable.

“It’s not like we are excluding female artists from the list entirely,” Bernardo explained. “We actually talked about getting M.I.A. for Spring Fling, but the thing is she’s out of the country.”

There are fewer female hip-hop artists from whom to choose, according to Stein, who attributes the lack of options to the male-dominated music industry.

“It’s a little frustrating that people are getting mad at us when it’s the industry,” she said. “It’s the record companies and the production companies. There are more male rappers than female rappers that we at least know about.”

Wipfler agreed that the music industry, rather than lack of talent among female artists, was primarily to blame for the small number of women brought to campus over the past several decades.

“There is definitely institutionalized sexism,” she said. “It’s hard for women, number one, to get ahead in this industry and, number two, be seen as the kind of performers who can handle a show like Spring Fling.”

While Stein noted that she and Bernardo support women’s equality in the music industry, she said that choosing a female artist just in order to make a social statement may not truly satisfy the desires of the student body.

“Our goal is to please as many people as possible,” she said. “It just so happens that the music that is most pleasing to most people and has the most name recognition ... is a male performer.”

Even if Concert Board fails to sign a female headliner this year, Wipfler believes the petition will have served to raise student awareness.

“I think people are going to be more aware of who is chosen,” she said. “People are going to think about the background of the artist, what race are they, what class do they come from, what is the message of their music.”

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