The stage lay empty under the dim purple lights as it waited for its first performer. The show artists cluster around the bar, talking to friends and waiting anxiously for their turn to take the stage. Miss Chiff is one of these artists, eagerly anticipating her chance to unleash her arsenal of fast-moving rap lyrics.
The Women’s Cabaret at the Gasthaus is ready to unfold.
A diverse collection of performances ranged from jazz ensembles to expressive dance and everything in between. Women of all ages, character types, races and personalities were displayed on stage to show off their unique talents, experiences and thoughts. The concert aimed at exemplifying strength and culture among women in honor of the month.
Women’s History Month is a holiday dedicated to celebrating the contributions from women in history and contemporary society. Celebrators of women’s history want to acknowledge all the achievements that women have brought to the world, as well as how they have helped build culture and society. Supporters of the cause honor the women who have paved the way for the women of the future.
“Women’s History Month is about drawing attention to the diversity and richness of women’s lives that sometimes aren’t as visible or acknowledged in certain ways,” said Cathy Seasholes, a UWM Women’s Resource Center administrator and director of the event. “The various arts that were exhibited tonight are often arenas where women are still coming from a professional perspective, but we also want to create opportunities to ensure that we’re hearing their voices.”
Some performances featured women playing more traditional roles like opera singing and a one-girl-one-piano recital, while others performed more contemporary and progressive roles. Miss Chiff, a hip hop artist, played an especially dynamic role.
“I think the fact that I’m doing rap to begin with is a big step for women,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of women in rap, and I want to let women know that it’s cool to do this.”
Miss Chiff is a UWM graduate with a degree in acting. It wasn’t until after graduating that she realized her true passion was music.
“I have always felt like I have a lot to say, and very few outlets to express that. Even theater always left me feeling a little empty. Once I began writing my own script with hip hop, I ran with the idea and eventually Miss Chiff developed.”
Miss Chiff prides herself on her self-discipline. Her experience in gymnastics for 11 years in her youth taught her to become goal-oriented and competitive. She noted that it is these experiences that have
“I don’t find conventional song writing to be a challenge. Rap, however, is hard for me, and I don’t see the point in living without challenging myself. Where’s the fun in that?”
The aspiring artist likes to focus on her style of female-empowering rap as a way to stand out and make her mark on hip hop music. She said she would like to see more females in popular hip hop.
Of course, building social progress is no easy task. Women who have fought the status quo in the past have been strongly censored, or worse. Miss Chiff recognized that breaking new ground for women is a risky venture.
“It can be scary, but it’s fun. I believe that women should be able to choose what they want to do with their lives, because we only live once,” the rapper said.
Songs and poems of women’s empowerment belted throughout the concert hall struck emotion in spectators’ hearts.
“I was in awe of the girl who got up and read her poetry,” audience member Melissa VanderHeyden said. “Her words were so strong but still beautifully hypnotic.”
Seasholes says the Women’s Resource Center is committed to empowering women through knowledge, information and resources. Seasholes and the staff in the organization believe that empowerment comes through having access to options and choices. She argues that having options leads to empowerment by letting a person chose their own destiny, and women have not always had such freedom like this.
“Social progress is sometimes incremental and sometimes in big leaps and bounds. Gender equity really is about equal access for people of all identities to be able to be themselves and contribute to and benefit from society,” Seasholes said.
Miss Chiff said that she was excited to be able to share her work at such a venue and gave her encouragement in her musical endeavors.
“I think women can bring conscious rap back. I also think they can bring a fresh and intuitive perspective to the game because they take in life a little bit differently than men do. I think women can bring rap back to its purest form and I have full confidence in the fact that they have the ability to make people listen to what they have to say without having to objectify themselves.”