Stevie Parker talks androgyny in music, individuality and “not playing by the rules of the world”

On Friday (May 19), Stevie Parker released her stunning debut album, ‘The Cure’. To celebrate, the Bristol musician has written a very personal essay about some of the topics that are found in her music an lyrics: androgyny, limitations and individuality.

“I think there is a general assumption that female androgyny has a lot to do with feminism, and even more so, sexuality – but in my eyes it’s neither. For me it’s about softening the edges that divide what it means to be masculine or feminine. It is not to just BE a masculine girl – yes, perhaps one could embody ‘masculine’ qualities in a way that is more immediate – but I think that it is a more inherent and attitude-based way of identifying yourself in the world, not just politically. It’s genderless, and rooted in expressionism.

When I think of my own androgynous ways, I view it more as a refusal of limitations, as opposed to an affinity with maleness/a dismissal of the archetypal feminine. I don’t particularly prioritise my more masculine traits – visual, emotional or otherwise – I just don’t believe that my gender has any bearing over the decisions I make, or how I should be perceived, treated, or how I emote. It’s not so much an adoption of gender specific traits that oppose what you’re born with – I feel as though it’s a disregarding of all gender, but in a more creative sense, resulting in a unique and often other-worldly freedom of expression, that inevitably expands into decision making, fashion and all other areas of life.

In my eyes, somebody like Grace Jones doesn’t feel to be either masculine or feminine, she’s somehow both, and neither. She is just Grace Jones –  but it exists to variable degrees. The same with Bowie, Patti Smith, Little Richard, MJ and Prince – all examples of artists who aren’t just butch, or camp, even in spite of the fact that they don’t adhere to the standard baselines of their sex. They’re above and beyond, and rightly revered for it.

I personally feel a strong affinity with my feminine side, but have always been influenced by those who seemingly neutralise the conventions of what it means to be female – gay, straight or otherwise. It’s something I get asked about a lot as an artist. The positioning of women in the music industry is a contentious topic. There is a huge emphasis on feminism, and although I totally agree with and understand everything that feminism stands for, it’s still ultimately the strong identification with being female and what that means, drawing attention to the equality chasm.

Music itself is surely ageless, faceless, and  transcends our worldly trappings. To really liberate yourself from the trappings of the world, one should not play by the rules of the world. It’s not just about being a ‘strong’ woman, or a man in touch with his ‘feminine side’, and I don’t think it’s just about equality because equality still promotes sameness. It’s ignoring all of those allocations, embracing the exciting differences between us all, the weird and the wonderful – and that gives what is now normality the opportunity to become individuality too. That is surely the realm in which music, of all things, should exist.

Creativity should endeavour to be the ultimate refusal of limitations. It is harder to describe what androgyny means to me in terms of songwriting or performance, but while writing my album ’The Cure’ the one thing I really wanted to convey was honesty. I guess to me it’s not about the experiences of ‘a young girl’ – I just wrote about what I felt at the time in the most candid way I could. For me it is hard to be so forthright in any other way.

So even though androgyny is something that is absolutely cornered by and attached to society’s perception of gender, ultimately I believe it is simply derivative of defiance, it’s an intangible freedom. A holistic and indistinct way of just expressing – words on a page, the clothes on your back – the extent of it is kind of irrelevant. Matters of the heart transcend everything, which is why I believe androgyny is far more commonplace in the arts, and for me those matters are both the easiest and most difficult to communicate. Either way, whatever it means – let’s try not to further define something that begs not to be defined.”

Stevie Parker’s debut album ‘The Cure’ is out now.