The Student News Site of Kent State University

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The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

Ethel Cain Wants All Eyes On Palestine

Art by: Natalie Waggoner

My ideal summer morning is something I’ll never be able to create accurately. It’s a feeling more than anything else. I imagine a life not like my own. I awaken in an old farmhouse. It’s quiet and still, nothing to disturb me from my sleep aside from the bright sun shining through my window. The home’s attic doubles as my bedroom, and I can tell by the smell that pancakes are being cooked downstairs. But that is it. That is the only way I can describe it. I do not live in a farmhouse. I do not wake up to the smell of pancake batter, and I sure as hell don’t sleep in my attic. Yet when I am asked what summer feels like, this is where my mind takes me. I have never found a way to accurately describe this place in my mind, a vessel that helps paint a picture of a life that is not mine. That was, until I discovered Ethel Cain. 


Being a bisexual girl who has a Twitter account, I was bound to come across Cain’s music eventually. Described as the pinnacle of “Southern Gothic,” her entire image has been a source of interest since she first appeared in the music scene in 2017. Images of Southern living and dark gothic entities cloud her aura. Her music is filled with motifs surrounding religious trauma and the struggles of sexual repression within the Church. Her music feels alive somehowthe sound surrounds listeners. Now, I have never been one to fall for an artist with a thoroughly detailed gimmick. I prefer authenticity and a well-balanced aesthetic over the overwhelming obnoxiousness that comes with taking on a personality entirely separate from your owneven for the sake of art. 


Hayden Silas Anhedönia, Cain’s real name, was brought up in the Southern Baptist Church. Her father was a Deacon, and she lived in a small town In Florida. At the age of twelve, she came out as gay. At the age of twenty, she came out as a transgender woman. Now 25, Anhedönia has created a character for herself: Ethel Cain. This serves as a stage name as well as an identity entirely separate from her own. 


In 2022, Cain released her first studio album titled “Preacher’s Daughter.” This album tells the story of Ethel Cain, a young woman who endures a life of trauma before being gruesomely murdered. Cain (the character) was raised in a small Alabama town and shouldered the burden of being the town’s late preacher’s daughter. Feeling responsible for his legacy, she turns to alcohol amidst the pressure and grief she is experiencing. She mourns her father, her ex-lover, and the future that she will never get to know. Ethel loses her current lover, a hardened criminal, to a police shoot-out and now she is on the run. Still trying to come to terms with the love and hate she holds for her abusive father, Ethel meets a trucker who offers to take her to California. The two begin a sexual relationship that devolves quickly as his drug use becomes more apparent. Eventually, the trucker experiences a hallucination and ends up killing Ethel in a very disturbing way. In the afterlife, Ethel reflects on her wrongdoings and the fact that she still turns to God, even though he did not save her from her fate. The album closes with her expressing regrets for the grief she knows her mother will now be forced to endure in the wake of her absence. 


Cain’s use of character and world-building is unlike something I have ever seen. She truly places listeners within the life of the character, and the imagery crafted with her words is unlike something that I have ever seen. In particular, the songs “Family Tree (Intro),” “American Teenager,” “A House In Nebraska” and “Thoroughfare” all paint a picture of the life and struggles of the preacher’s daughter. 


Despite the incredible storytelling abilities that Cain has, the thing that sets her apart from other artists of her caliber is her commitment to social justice. As an autistic, bisexual trans woman who grew up in Florida’s Southern Baptist Church, Cain is no stranger to the fight of giving a voice to the voiceless. But on February 14, 2024, she exceeded expectations by releasing a song titled “من النهر,” which translates from Arabic to “From the River,” a reference to the Palestinian liberation chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The song was released on SoundCloud and serves as a prayer for Palestine and Palestinians. 



On October 7, 2023, Hamas, a Palestinian resistance group, which has been recognized by many nations as a terrorist organization, attacked Israel in one of the largest acts of rebellion by Hamas to date. Celebrities and politicians flocked to social media to share their thoughts on the topic and send well wishes to Israel. The issue with this is that, since that day, nearly 30,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been slaughtered by Israeli forces. A genocide in every sense of the word is currently taking place, and the world is watching at a standstill. The United States and the U.K. both use neutral language, at best, to describe the ongoing escalation in Gaza to protect their diplomatic relationship with Israel. This decision is to the detriment of 2.5 million people. While activists and liberation groups across the globe have been rallying hard in support of a permanent ceasefire and for a free Palestine, most large and influential figures have either contributed to the spread of harmful misinformation or have blatantly ignored Palestine’s cries for help. 


Within the entertainment industry, Cain’s stance on this subject is an anomaly. She is the exception, not the rule. Fans have begged their favorite artists to make a statement acknowledging Palestine, mostly in vain. Cain, however, is choosing to use her platform for good. Rather than releasing a love song or posting a sappy Valentine’s Day photo shoot, she chose to use the large appeal that the holiday garners to spotlight the ongoing violence that an entire population is currently facing at the hands of  violent apartheid. 


Cain’s continued support of Palestine has paved the way for other artists and creatives to take a stance on their platforms as well. Fans of Ethel Cain have chosen to speak out and speak up, and it is undeniable that it has something to do with her. While it is an issue in and of itself that we live in a society where many people require the push of a public figure to advocate for a ceasefire, Cain’s ability to rally together support is an impressive and commendable feat. 


With talent like no other and a moral goodness that the world is currently lacking, it’s no surprise that Ethel Cain has garnered so much love and support in the few years she has been in the music scene. She is a beacon of hope amongst a crowd of morally dark figures, and I can only hope that she doesn’t lose that quality anytime soon. 


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Hi! I’m Annie Gleydura, A Magazine’s editor-in-chief. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.

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