There is comfort in the lusciousness of Stevie Nicks' voice, her intricate lyrics. The arrangement of each song constructs the perfect ride for each soul. For forty years, she has lived life on her own terms. As witnesses to her creative success, personal triumphs, and tribulations, we all have an image of her in mind. The alabaster skin, the honey colored hair of a siren, her penetrating gaze eats the camera's lens.
There is nothing saccharin about her. Two generations of women have come into being since she inked her first record deal in 1972 as a part of the duo Buckingham Nicks. Her voice, intonation, and presence are as captivating as one might expect upon seeing a goddess of American music.
All of my life, Nicks has been a part of the emotional soundtrack in my home. As a girl, I danced in the kitchen with my mother. Today, I do the same with my sixteen-year-old daughter. As an advocate for women's equality and ending gender-based violence, I am always encouraging survivors to find creative outlets and find solace in the artistry of others. Music and art are a universal language. Thousands of strangers, in venues large and small, gather together every night across the world.
This universality holds power.
In Virginia Beach, Nicks took the stage last Saturday evening. Her manager and production staff have everything oiled to a smooth and easy pace pre-show. It felt a little like being in the safety of a womb. They were gracious and as poised as cats on a ledge. Knowing she will knock your socks off reminds you of true feminine power. Timed to perfection, I was whisked away to the media platform as I thought of this legendary woman behind the stage doors. I wondered how many survivors of violence or trauma were invisible among the thousands of fans. How many broken hearts were healed whilst spinning "Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)" or "Landslide" on the original vinyl. Or how many times she appears on an iPod playlist reserved for the times when only Stevie will do.
Living life out loud, without regrets, but with kindness, passion, ambition and purpose is a gift. Every one of us, man or woman, admires those who scrap convention and chart their own course. More than this, there are forty years of the feminist movement to consider. Have they served women's souls? Have they given women hope? Or changed the world into a more hospitable place? Are feminists welcoming new ideas and voices into the fold? Or are they trading the oppression of men for oppression by other women, who call you a gender traitor if you disagree with them at all? Are we closer to love and faithful understanding of the human condition?
Perhaps. Women in Congo have yet to see this freedom. Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive. Women across Afghanistan live in fear of acid attacks, honor killings. Women in Somalia and many other countries are tortured by female genital mutilation. Education is denied to so many women and girls, across every continent. Suffering is immense.
As a woman, as a survivor of gender-based violence, as a daughter, and especially as a mother, freedom and justice are as important as oxygen to me. Freedom of expression is particularly crucial. Stevie Nicks walks that walk. Her life is marked by great love, more than anything. Profound successes, painful lessons, struggles, and a will to define her own existence are shared freely. The sacrifices are too. The plaintive cry we have all felt in one moment or another is right there, ripened fruit of an American woman's existence.
Her relevance is made possible by her timelessness. An unfinished song she began writing in the 1970s about her experiences with Lindsey Buckingham, was given new life after she saw New Moon, the second film in the Twilight saga. "Moonlight, A Vampire's Dream" is exquisitely written and arranged. "Secret Love," the first single off her latest album, is mature and complex. It was originally written in 1976 for Fleetwood Mac's blockbuster album Rumours but did not make the final track list.
Nicks embodies that which I love most about being a woman from the United States. We enjoy a freedom from fear, even when we have survived devastating trauma. The specter of justice is palpable. Healing is not only possible but likely. The ability to not be defined by crisis is real here. The ability to find love, construct a life on our own terms is an every day occurrence.
Feminists and advocates often get caught up in decades old arguments and refuse to take the wins and celebrate them. We have achieved much in forty years. And yes, there are more tasks ahead. Finding joy in our craft, as Nicks' career demonstrates, requires faith in self and limitless dedication and energy. The women and girls we advocate for, here at home and abroad, should see the celebrations on the near-horizon for each triumph.