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How FemFest Is Helping Milwaukee Artists Take Control In Their Careers

Poster for the virtual FemFest 2021.
Poster for the virtual FemFest 2021.

While the music industry can appear to be a diverse landscape of artists, when you dig below the surface, the board rooms and behind-the-scenes offices are dominated by men.

To provide a more inclusive space for artists, FemFest was started in 2015. It’s a festival and fundraiser that takes place all over Milwaukee and raises money for organizations in the city that help and protect women.

Like most festivals, FemFest is virtual in 2021 with events are being hosted throughout the month of March.

“Sometimes women are taken for granted as musicians, I know worldwide musicians who are still second guessed by their skills just because they’re a woman,” says Ms. Lotus Fankh.

Fankh is a Milwaukee-based artist who is helping put together the festival this year. She says one major problem is that women are often not given control over their own careers and art, and it’s not just a problem for lesser-known artists.

Britney Spears is the most famous example of a pop star whose entire life was put in the hands of others, when in 2008 it was deemed she could not care for herself and her father was put in control of her career and finances.

Fankh says that loss of control can happen is smaller ways, like women being told they have to be more sexual or lie about their age in order to be deemed marketable.

“As a woman, I know there is more to our story than what people think other folks want to hear. When the reality is, there are so many women out here who would love to share in on each other’s experiences,” she says.

FemFest is not only a space for artists to perform but there are also workshops to help connect artists with each other, Fankh says.

“I’m really hoping, fingers crossed that, once you get people together, you never know what can come of it. I’m hoping that this could be the birth of a great new tradition or maybe a new connection, just to get people really connected to that network of folks supporting one another,” she says.

Ms. Lotus Fankh will be hosting a panel discussion around the topic of the impact and importance of women in music on March 25 at 6 p.m. on Facebook Live.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.