For the past 20 years, Shirley Manson has carried the torch for a particularly fiery brand of feminism in rock music. And she isn’t about to quit.
Speaking to WHO about the release of Pretty Little Birds, the just-released sixth album from her landmark alt-pop band Garbage, Manson sounds every bit as uncompromising as she did when they broke big in 1995.
Asked to reflect on the band’s legacy—and how they have stayed relevant to generations of fans despite huge shifts in the industry, she replies: “It’s very difficult to have integrity in the music business. “We’ve been slapped, laughed at and loved. But somehow, me and my band—my boys—haven’t been corrupted.”
Manson’s style—neon colours, miniskirts, and lots of make-up—was something of an anomaly in the world of alternative rock when Garbage first appeared. “We were very careful how we imaged and styled ourselves,” she says, “and it’s really only in retrospect I’m aware [of it]. I had to look different from everyone else to stick out from the crowd.”
The 49-year-old singer maintains a healthy presence on social media, where she regularly hits back at followers who attempt to troll her. “Bullies don’t intimidate me at all,” she reasons. “Every now and again, I smack them down … because I know I can.”
But despite her notorious don’t-mess-with-me attitude—Manson says she still encounters sexism with regularity.
“Sadly, we all know those issues—ageism, sexism, misogyny, intolerance—always will exist. But I’m of the mindset that, okay, if all that stuff exists, I took will continue to exist. And I will stand against it, grab it by the testicles, squeeeeeze and keep squeezing until flesh is oozing between my fingers and blood is pouring out. I won’t allow it to stop me in my tracks.”