Few people have made me question my reality more lately than Madame Gandhi, the former M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation musician I’m sure you weren’t aware of. A master at her craft, when she takes the stage at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago this weekend, people are going to be in awe. And that they should be, because they’ll be in the presence of a living legend.
Madame Gandhi is a wizard with the drums and MPC. Throw in a Harvard degree, and there’s no question as to how she got where she is today. But it’s not her music that made her an icon, it’s what happened in 2015.
She was gearing up to run the London Marathon when she got her period and realized it was the perfect opportunity to make a statement.
“I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist,” Gandhi wrote in her blog afterward. “I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.”
“Women from a young age are told that their main value to society is that they must look beautiful, consumable, f*ckable. A period doesn’t fit into this category, so it is made taboo… my marathon run was about reclaiming the fact that it is not my job to look sexy for others’ public consumption.”
To be honest, I was shocked when I heard about this. But after hearing her explanation, I realized that the truly shocking part was the fact that it shouldn’t be (think about it).
Now, you’re probably thinking, Anders, who are you to speak to this? You’re a male (yes), and white (yes), and you look like a total bro in your Magnetic Magazine photo (aghh, I know dammit). But this is precisely the point. Plenty of good articles have been written about how Madame Gandhi is empowering women. Less, if anything, has been written about the importance of her message to men.
It’s important for privileged people like me to take a look in the mirror and think about how we act, what we indirectly encourage, and how we can use our privilege to make a positive impact. And if anyone is holding up a mirror for us right now, it’s Madame Gandhi.
Look, we’d all like to pretend that we don’t have biases, that we treat everyone equally, and that we don’t see color. But this just isn't true. Movies, schools, news, commercials and even your wonderfully naive parents have programmed these things into you. It’s not your fault that you’ve been programmed, but it’s your fault if you do nothing about it.
To put in Gandhi’s words from an interview with Riddhi Chakraborty for Rolling Stone India, Gandhi wants “...those who have privilege to unpack and question it and be open to the fact that someone may not have what you have.”
Her marathon run led the Huffington Post to include her in their “35 Inspiring Feminist Moments” article in 2015. But she hasn’t stopped there. She has gone on to support numerous other organizations, and she’s played at numerous other events, that celebrate and strive for equality.
“My drumming always existed on one side,” she said in an interview with Vice’s Honor Titus. “And then my passion for speaking, and for activism, and for women’s equality kind of pushed me to be more vocal. Then when you combine the two, the birth is Madame Gandhi.”
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that, at one time, she was sitting in the background, playing to the beat of someone else’s drum. Now, this previously unknown talent is bringing stigmas and taboos with her from the shadows and placing them in the spotlight. Having already played SXSW, and with the Pitchfork Music Festival coming up this weekend on July 14-16, her message is getting out there and it sounds incredible. Hopefully us men will really hear it.