Kate ‘Babyshakes’ Dillon writes for LISTEN

When I got a perm, I was described as "a tall handsome girl, with curly brown hair." This complement lasted me all year.

Photo provided by Kate

When I got a perm, I was described as “a tall handsome girl, with curly brown hair.” This complement lasted me all year. The context of this complement is of great importance because, although I am not a celebrity, I do consider myself a public figure for feminism. My dear friend Arika Crotty who was studying film at the time, gave me this compliment one afternoon as she was directing someone to my office… the office of the ‘QUT Women’s Director.’ This was my first experience as a female authority figure. Emphasis on female authority figure; I couldn’t tell anybody my job description without mentioning my gender. The first event I curated in this role was called ‘Rap Reversal’. All the women involved took a sexist rap song and sang it, verbatim, as an acoustic cover. The response was overwhelming. It was empowering and liberating. I covered PIMP by 50 cent.

“Now Niki my bottom bitch, she always come up with my bread
The last man she was with put stitches in her head”

Sadly, due to my strong electromagnetic field, the hard drive where all these performances were stored was deleted. The videos were published online, but one by one the female performers featured in them would contact me saying, “Kate, wasn’t that night great! I have a teaching job now so could you please make that video of me private?”

I would just delete it; privacy settings were difficult back in 2011. The boys in my Uni music course also wanted to be involved. The thought was – because the message of feminism promoted gender equality – they wanted to have a pop reversal night, where boys would sing pop songs that highlighted the victimisation and helplessness featured in many female pop songs. It didn’t sit quite right with me.

Looking back, Rap Reversal’s biggest achievement wasn’t that it made people think about feminism, it was that it gave my friends and I some legitimate stage time. Something we all desperately wanted. The women’s collective made a huge profit the night of Rap Reversal (we couldn’t fit everyone in the venue).

I was in a boy band at the time, playing violin, keyboard and backing vocals. Then I started my own band, Ivy May Dillon. I played electric guitar and sang in a sort of punk rock way.

After university, I met the love of my life: an extraordinary Californian guitarist/producer. His music was incredible. Logically, I moved to the mountains and dedicated the next two years of my life to funding his inevitable success. (Note to budding entrepreneurs: 50/50 partnership agreements don’t mean anything unless you have the money to sue someone. Abbott has closed any free legal aid for small business and the women’s legal aid will tell you to go to the small claims court).

Now I run a record label called Dirty Power. Mainly as a means for licensing my own recordings and anyone else’s projects that I record. I surround myself with equally motivated women. Lots of them play in bands with boys. We used to say, “Wow it’s so amazing to be around other girls, I feel great.” Then we started living together. The other day we had a visitor to the studio and she said “Oh wow, it’s so nice to be around girls today!” and I was reminded of where a lot of women in the music industry still exist. I’m grateful because when I was in grade nine I Googled “women and guitar” and it explained that a lot of girls don’t play guitar because of the strength required to push the strings down on the fretboard. The article continued to explain that there were a lot of great female guitarists that I’ve just never heard of. Cool.

2016 is way better! I don’t feel crazy for trying to be a female rock musician, and I like to think that all the girls around me have a good plan.

Kate runs Dirty Power Studios: dirtypowerstudios.squarespace.com and is in Full Flower Moon Band: https://www.facebook.com/fullflowermoonband