In light of the US Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v Wade, a host of musicians at Glastonbury protested the reversal of the landmark ruling, ensuring the festival would go down in the history books as a moment that put women’s rights front and centre.
Glastonbury Festival 2022 was always going to be memorable. After a three-year hiatus, the world-famous music extravaganza opened its gates once more to welcome music lovers and performers back to Worthy Farm in Somerset.
In the run-up to the festival, the spectacular range of performers was all anyone could talk about: Billie Eilish becoming the youngest-ever headliner at the age of 20 and Beatles legend Paul McCartney at four times her age becoming the oldest. Motown icon Diana Ross would be playing the teatime Legends slot on Sunday, while the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Megan Thee Stallion and Olivia Rodrigo were bringing immense star power to the line-up. By all accounts, the festival would be history in the making.
But as the festival kicked off over the weekend, it wasn’t just the vocals of the superstar artists bringing the crowds to life, but the political statements they shared on stage.
As the US Supreme Court voted to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe V Wade ruling on Friday afternoon, allowing individual US states to ban access to abortions, a chorus of defiant voices condemned the court’s decision over the course of the weekend.
Putting female expression, empowerment and bodily autonomy centre stage, the festival saw a number of artists, including Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Phoebe Bridgers, Megan Thee Stallion and Kendrick Lamar use their platform to protest the striking down of Roe v Wade, which now ends the country’s constitutional right to abortion. And their calls to defend women’s rights couldn’t help but draw an emotional response from the crowds.
Pop phenomenon Billie Eilish, who headlined the Pyramid Stage on Friday, decried the controversial ruling as she dedicated her hit song Your Power, a song about abusing power, to the subject.
“Today is a really dark day for women in the US and I’m just gonna say that ’cos I can’t bear to think about it any longer in this moment. This song is dedicated to that I guess…”
Meanwhile American singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, who has been vocal about the battle over abortion rights since news of Roe v Wade’s impending overturn was first leaked earlier this year, didn’t hold back as she made her feelings known in front of the crowd.
“In all honesty, [the festival is] like super surreal and fun, but I’m having like the shittiest day,” she told the crowd.
“Are there any Americans here? What wants to say ‘Fuck the Supreme Court’ on three?,” she shouted before leading a chant of “Fuck the Supreme Court!”
“Fuck that shit. Fuck America. Like, fuck you. All these irrelevant old motherfuckers trying to tell us what to do with our fucking bodies.”
On Saturday, Grammy award-winning pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo sent a furious message to the US Supreme Court before inviting out Lily Allen for a surprise duet of her expletive-laden song Fuck You.
“I’m devastated and terrified,” she told the crowd as Allen her middle fingers in the air. “So many women and so many girls are going to die because of this. I wanted to dedicate this next song to the five members of the Supreme Court who have showed us that at the end of the day, they truly don’t give a shit about freedom.
“The song is for the justices: Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh. We hate you! We hate you.”
Things were really heating up by Saturday night when Megan Thee Stallion took to the stage.
“Now, y’all know it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t take a second to call out these stupid ass men,” she told the crowd. “I mean, God damn. What else you want? Texas really embarrassing me right now; y’all know that’s my home state.”
She then gave the thumbs down, cueing the massive crowd to “boo” the restrictive legislation.
“And I want to have it on the record that the motherfucking hot girls and the hot boys do not support this bullshit that y’all campaigning for,” she said before leading the crowd with a rallying cry: “My body, my motherfucking choice!”
Perhaps the most dramatic Glastonbury resistance of all came from the Pulitzer Prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar, who closed the festival on Sunday with a powerful headline set.
Lamar, who is a Christian, explained before his final track Saviour that the glittering diamond crown of thorns on his head represented Christ.
“I wear this crown. They judged Christ. They judge you, they judge Christ,” he said, before launching into the number.
As he reached the conclusion of the song, during which fake blood dripped from the crown covering his face and white shirt, Lamar began a powerful chant which appeared to reference the Supreme Court ruling.
“They judge you, they judge Christ, Godspeed for women’s rights,” he rapped before suddenly and dramatically exiting the Pyramid Stage.
The ruling from the Supreme Court on Friday has sent shockwaves around the world after nearly 50 years of precedent allowing nationwide abortions was swept away. In the wake of the decision, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri and South Dakota have already banned abortion in their states, after putting “trigger bans” in place that governors enacted after the Supreme Court ruling. At least 26 states are expected to severely restrict or completely ban the practice, which will affect tens of millions of women.
But as Glastonbury proves, the decision is not going to be taken quietly. As protests and rallies continue around the world and intensify the debate around abortion, the statements made at the world’s biggest greenfield festival have sent a powerful message that the fight is only just beginning.
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