Jennifer Nettles Rips Into Patriarchy, Talks That ‘Equal Play’ Pantsuit & Using Fashion for Good

Late last year, country star Jennifer Nettles walked on the red carpet for the 2019 Country Music Awards, wearing a Christian Siriano pantsuit with the words “Play our f*@#in records please and thank you.” The saying couldn’t be missed as it was written by artist Alice Mizrachi in bold black letters on the inside of a hot pink cape in order to bring attention to a purported lack of support for female artists on country radio.

“I love using fashion to make statements, literally,” Nettles told FN at Rolling Stone’s Women Shaping the Future event in New York this week. “It’s important. And as women, it’s such a beautiful usage of fashion to turn the weapon on its head in the sense that, oftentimes, we are valued most or valued only for what is on the outside. This is a way to take not only art, but to take what can sometimes be used against us and use it as a tool for our own empowerment and expression.”

Jennifer Nettles53rd Annual CMA Awards, Arrivals, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, USA - 13 Nov 2019
Jennifer Nettles at the 2019 CMAs.
CREDIT: Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Nettles also highlighted other celebrities, including Natalie Portman, Lady Gaga and Billy Porter, who have been using fashion as a platform and powerful tool to stand up for other social and political causes.

As for her own personal cause, Nettles has remained steadfast in her fight for equality in country music.

“Artists and women within the industry have just finally realized that we can’t depend on the industry to self-correct. We are going to have to step up and make our voices heard and let it be known that this is unacceptable,” she said.

Later, Nettles took the stage as a speaker during the event to discuss disparities in the treatment of men and women in the country music industry. During her address, the singer cited data from a recent study — done in partnership with CMT’s Equal Play Campaign — which indicated that last year only 10% of music by women was played on radio or streaming services. Nettles further suggest that Spotify’s recommendation engine recommends women only about 9% of the time. “They are [9%] away from erasing women from their recommendation engines. This is not what my world looks like when I look around me. I see a diverse world and I definitely see women represented there,” she said.

(In January, CMT announced that it was implementing 50/50 gender parity for video airplay across its platforms.)

Jennifer Nettles at Rolling Stone’s Women Shaping the Future event, the first event at EDGE and Peak in Hudson Yards, sponsored by CAN-AM, Splat Hair Dye, and Prospero TequilaRolling Stone's 'Women Shaping the Future' event, EDGE and Peak, New York, USA - 04 Mar 2020
Jennifer Nettles at Rolling Stone’s Women Shaping the Future event in New York.
CREDIT: Adela Loconte/Rolling Stone/Shutterstock

Nettles went on to discuss other systemic challenges experienced by working mothers as well as those with creative aspirations who may not have the resources or support to pursue their artistry.

“The patriarchy loves this. They love this,” she said. “They love to keep your purpose as your offspring. And I see my male peers stroll out on the road with all their babies at home with their moms.”

“This [patriarchal injustice] is personal,” she continued, on why it’s been important to lead as an example. “It’s about how I value myself in the world and how I look at my legacy — not only of my music, but of the music of the women who are coming behind me.”

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