Already have an account?
Get back to the

Shirley Manson Celebrates Women Who ‘Challenge The Status Quo’ With New Rock Hall of Fame Exhibit (Exclusive)

Shirley Manson Celebrates Women Who Challenge The Status Quo With New Rock Hall of Fame Exhibit
Duane Prokop/Getty Images

Shirley Manson is happy to see the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame give flowers to her fellow female music icons.

“As I’ve said to the team here at the Hall, it’s so unusual — still, unfortunately — to see women represented in any kind of national museum,” Manson, 57, tells Us Weekly exclusively about the opening of “Revolutionary Women in Music: Left of Center.” The Garbage lead singer was on hand when the exhibit opened on March 8 at the Rock Hall in Cleveland, Ohio, and was among the first to see this collection showcasing groundbreaking and rebellious musicians from the 1970s to today.

“To see this exhibition of all these different types of talent, this myriad, all the different facets of female artistry is really moving,” Manson says. “I didn’t expect it to affect me that way, but I was really struck as I walked in by what an unusual event this is for not just me, but also the other visiting artists. We were all a bit blown away by it, to be honest.”

Manson said that one of the artists she’s glad to see validated by the exhibit is Alice Bag, the pioneering punk rocker who led The Bags in the 1970s. “They ran a video of Alice earlier today. Me and Jane [Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s], we both squealed because Alice has been overlooked for a long time now. Her impact on American punk music is a weighty one. And so to see her getting acknowledged here is really exciting.”

Feature Powerful Women Sydney Sweeney Beyonce Taylor Swift Simone Biles

Related: Us Weekly’s Most Powerful Women of 2024: Taylor Swift, Beyonce and More

“I feel like a lot of the women I saw in the exhibition yesterday, I expected to see them there,” added Manson. “They’re all women who have made a significant mark on the music industry for one reason or another, and again, in a myriad of different ways. But yeah, I was excited to see everybody. Quite honestly, it’s sort of embarrassing, I’ve gone from one artist to the next and been squealing in enthusiasm.”

Manson admits she’s “a big fan of female artists” and that she’s made it a priority throughout her career to uplift her fellow female voices because she is aware of the challenges they face in the music industry.

“For women who are not the easiest to pigeonhole, or they’re not the most willing to smile and pretend everything’s okay — traditionally, they like to challenge the status quo, and the status quo doesn’t like to get challenged very often,” Manson tells Us. “So that’s all part and parcel of this exhibition too. And it’s something that I feel strongly about. A healthy society relies on discussion and argument and sharing of ideas. So, I feel like this exhibition is a testament to all of that.”

Shirley Manson Celebrates Women Who Challenge The Status Quo With New Rock Hall of Fame Exhibit
Duane Prokop/Getty Images

Manson once said performing was “an act of defiance” for her since she overcame her natural shyness to become a global icon of power and ferocity. When asked if she recognized a similar connecting thread with all the artists featured in the “Revolutionary Women in Music” exhibit, she said, “I absolutely [do].”
“I can’t really speak for everybody because I don’t know all their individual drivers,” she says. “But for me, [performing is] a way of proving that I exist. As a woman, you can feel invisible in society sometimes. And when women’s rights are being impeded, that is so frustrating. I think women suffer from feeling that they’re not being listened to and not heard and not seen.”

“So as a performer, you get to defy that censoring and that silencing,” she adds. “There’s a freedom in performing. That is something that I greatly cherish.”

Xtina - Can't Hold Us Down

Related: Sing Along With the Best Girl-Power Anthems of All Time

While some might cite the success of artists like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift as evidence of progress, Manson said it’s generally hard to convince someone completely involved in the patriarchy just how embattled women still are to this day. “They think, ‘Well, women are dominating the charts. What are you talking about?’ Unfortunately, it’s just a little more complicated than that,” she says.

“Things, in some regards, are better for younger generations of women, who have learned from the generations that have come before them,” she continues. “The young artists that I meet are so much more switched on to the system in which they are having to be creative. They’re not as naive as we all were. We were very, very naive because there just wasn’t that much evidence out there for us.”

“The ability to actually educate yourself about music and the music industry is so much easier than it was for my generation,” she says, adding that the new batch of rising female stars she’s met are “much more fierce than I ever was.”

Manson also cites “the eradication of women’s rights in America” — referring to the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 and several states subsequently banning abortion — as evidence that there hasn’t been as much progress as she’d like.

“It’s a very scary time where old men in politics seem to believe that they can make more qualified decisions about women’s health than the women themselves,” she tells Us. “Now, that in itself is just a complete sublimation of womankind, and it has to stop. And I think what is wonderful about an exhibition like this is it reminds people of women’s value in our culture that we must be treated with the same respect as our male counterparts. It’s absolutely vital and necessary to a healthy functioning society.”

Shirley Manson Celebrates Women Who Challenge The Status Quo With New Rock Hall of Fame Exhibit
Duane Prokop/Getty Images

The “Revolutionary Women in Music: Left of Center” spotlights trailblazers across all genres of music. The White Stripes fans can see Meg White‘s iconic “Seven Nation Army” look with her kick drum and Christina Aguilera‘s wardrobe from the Stripped tour. Visitors will see electric guitars from Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale as well as Natalie Merchant‘s outfits from the “Ophelia” video on display.

The exhibit also features pieces honoring performers including SZA, Lisa Loeb, Malina Moye, Björk, Rihanna, Janelle Monae, Billie Eilish, Kim Gordon, Tracy Chapman, Sinéad O’Connor, Queen Latifah, Chrissie Hynde, The Runaways, Liz Phair, Ciara and Pink.

Manson, Weidlin, Loeb and Moye helped christen the exhibit at the beginning of March, opening it to the public.

This validation from The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame may be bittersweet to some since similar institutions have often overlooked or downright dismissed women performers. Manson offered a take when reflecting on the importance of recognition from these mainstream entities.

8 Times Female Country Artists Stood Their Ground 271

Related: 8 Times Female Country Music Stars Stood Their Ground

“I think all artists feel ignored, for the most part,” she said. “It’s part and parcel of being an artist. You just feel like you’re unheard almost all the time. But there is something monumental about being included in a national museum, [validating] a narrative about something that’s been so important to your whole life.”

“I got to tell my dad that this was happening, and he was so proud,” she continued. “It’s just a really rare thing for so many of us, so many different women, to be acknowledged in this manner. And I hope we get to see more of that in all aspects.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “Revolutionary Women in Music: Left of Center” is now open. Tickets are available on site or at the venue’s website.

Got a Tip form close button
Got a tip for US?
We're All Ears for Celebrity Buzz!