Bif Naked is still a force to be reckoned with. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she helped me form my own definition of feminism. Growing up I watched Much Music and sang along to ‘I Love Myself Today.’ The anthem spoke to me before I even fully understood heartbreak. What 14-year-old me did get from the song was a message about self-respect. We’ve all fallen victim to heteronormative definitions. Most of us have felt inadequate and allowed people to define us, or felt the pressure to fit a narrow definition of beauty. Self-respect, or loving yourself, is knowing when enough is enough and demanding more.
Demanding more is how Bif fought through marriage, divorce, breast cancer and a male dominated music industry, among other challenges. Her new memoir I, Bificus is honest, dark, funny and not the work of a ghost writer. Bif wrote the entire first draft in longhand. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
Susie: Hi Bif! Let’s start with the basics. What inspired you to write the book, I, Bificus?
Bif: Well any girl who feels like she doesn’t have a vehicle for sharing or over-sharing needs to write her story down. It’s basically about telling your truth so other women can read it and maybe gain something like an idea or even mutuality.
Q: What was your main challenge being a woman in the music industry?
A: I think being a woman in the music industry is like being a woman in nursing or being a woman working at Safeway, ultimately it’s our culture or society. [To] rise above it is to really believe in yourself and continue to work hard no matter what happens.
Q: Do you see it getting any better for women in the music industry today?
A: Well I think that today is not much different than it was 20 years ago. Only now girls are a little bit more empowered, we have better language to frame how we feel and what we do, and also we make no apologies for our behaviour or our clothing…so in that way it’s much better.
Q: Can you tell us about a specific time you experienced sexism in the industry?
A: Definitely. Usually it was surrounding a concert that I would be playing at. If I was backstage and somebody didn’t know I was performing as a vocalist, they would assume I was a groupie or they assumed I was there to work for them somehow. I used to take it very personally, but now I don’t take it personally at all, I just laugh.
Q: Are there different challenges than there were 10 years ago? How do you feel about the Kim Kardashians of the world?
A: I feel like we live in a culture now that’s very Instagram-heavy. What I mean by that is that people are very accustomed to self-promoting. It’s narcissistic in a way but it’s also required to help you feel validated and legitimate in many ways. All these images of girls, even normal girls are hyper-sexualized, it’s very heteronormative. There aren’t a lot of things that influence young women besides these makeup heavy, tight clothes…I think that was probably in existence when I listened to Madonna in the eighth grade. I mean, for us she was in a black bra under a white t-shirt and that was like, oh my God, scandalous! We all wanted to emulate that and we all wore black bras under our white tees in gym class and got in trouble for it. Now for girls, in order for them to emulate their icons they have to do a lot more and that includes things like plastic surgery or oversexualizing their appearance.
Q: When did you start identifying as a feminist?
A: I think I was a feminist before I ever knew what it was. In high school I started reading an author called Camille Paglia and she was heavily influential on me. I just know for sure that they were burning bras before I was born to get equal pay and equal rights. All of those things were hard fought for and won.
Q: Have you read any Sylvia Plath? She was my personal favourite growing up.
A: I have, amazing! Now people have the internet, it used to be us girls going to the library to take out books, but now you can Google feminism and you can read about so many women all over the world who have fought for our ability to live in this world as equals.
Q: I remember reading Plath’s The Bell Jar and realizing that other women thought like me. Now it has morphed from having to go seek out those realizations and discover them personally to having them thrown at you on social media in a different way.
A: That’s right and now it seems like it’s being trivialized. There are a lot of examples where people who identify as being feminist are shamed on social media and that’s a whole different ballgame. It’s happening all the time. It’s hard to be a feminist.
Q: How do you personally define being a feminist?
A: I think anyone who identifies as a feminist, including my fiancé, thinks that women are equal citizens and we should be paid equally and treated with as much respect as men.
Q: How has being a feminist influenced your music?
A: I think it has influenced my performance a lot. When I felt either too hurt or too shy to express myself in my real life, in my real relationships I could say it in a song. For me that has been a real blessing in my life.
Q: Any advice to young women in the music industry today?
A: Keep going! If you want to be a singer, just sing, just keep going. In many ways it’s easier than it was when I was younger because you can have your own YouTube channel!