Women's Worlds 2011 interview: Kinnie Starr

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Women's Worlds 2011 is a major international conference taking place in Ottawa-Gatineau from July 3 to 7, 2011. It is 'a global convergence to advance women's equality through research, exchange, leadership, and action' with speakers and performers from a diversity of backgrounds and countries. In the weeks before WW2011, interviews of some of the main participants will be published in rabble.ca. We are proud to be the exclusive online media sponsor.

"I'm not comfortable being a flag. I can hold up the flag but I don't want to be a flag."

Alida Kinnie Starr has been called a lot of things: female rapper, aboriginal performer, bisexual, Juno Award-winning producer, pop rock singer, youth educator, spoken word artist and more. With all these labels it is easy to see how Starr may be uncomfortable with being pegged as a figurehead.

Many other musicians have used minority statuses (whether real or staged) as a ticket to ride whatever fad happens to be of the moment. Think Lady Gaga dressing as a "geisha girl" or Ke$ha sporting a native headdress (not that anyone who uses a dollar sign in their name should be expected to use any tact). What sets Starr leagues above her mainstream contemporaries is her obvious concern and thoughtfulness for what it means to represent a multiplicity of identities.

Kinnie Starr inherited a darker complexion from her father, a descendant of the Mohawks. In her childhood, she says, her mother nick named her "Little Black Berry." Later, as Starr entered high school, she decided to be "white" and avoided answering questions about her father's background. Currently, she admits, "I still have days when I feel like I have no right to talk about being brown because I'm so white ... I've had so many opportunities that my native peers haven't had."

Dealing with these complex contradictions led Starr into the world of music, specifically the world of hip-hop of the early 90s. It was a time when the female emcee was less present at the local rap events but more free to be a poet and not a commodity. Starr laments that we don't get to see this kind of poetry in mainstream hip-hop today. What she notices is a lot of nearly naked women in front of the camera. She continues, "I don't see enough diversity in the female expression anymore ... there's more to choreography than shaking your ass."

Starr has some direct experience with the consequences of this type of message being constantly shown to young girls. She often has audience members come dance on the stage during her set and what she has noticed is that many girls, as young as five, know all the bootylicious moves that are fed to them on a daily basis. That is, they know how to dance sexy before they have any concept of what sex is.

When asked about her thoughts on what the next several years may look like for the feminist movement, Starr does not hide the fact that she has a hard time feeling optimistic, "I think we're in trouble right now." Top on her list of disturbing trends is the pervasiveness of pornography and what that has done to the relationship that women and young girls have to their sexuality. What do we have to look forward to? The Women's Worlds conference held in Ottawa-Gatineau from July 3-7. Starr claims it's going to be the highlight of her year -- she will be performing alongside her friend and accomplished throat singer Tanya Tagaq.

Kinnie Starr, and the rest of us, are excited to witness the multigenerational gathering of so many top thinkers and doers in the feminist movement. Starr further simplifies her anticipation in her charming and candid way, "I need to be around other women -- the music business is such a fucking boys club."

Straight up.

For more information on Women's Worlds 2011, click here for the website, and here for the Facebook page.

Ellie Gordon-Moershel is an intern with the rabble podcast network and is a regular contributor to rabble's F Word podcasts and The F Word Media Collective blog.

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