Thursday, July 11, 2013

Exorcism Number Eleven: SELF-EXORCISM!

 Here is an essay that I have been working on regarding gender equality. My amazing editor friend Janine Kamouh and my amazing husband Jeff both helped me make some more sense. Many thanks to those two lovely people and to all of you for reading. I encourage comments and an ensuing dialogue! 



What the heck do we all want from life? Most of us just want to be treated with respect. And I think most of us would agree that there is a huge difference between ordinary "kindness" and actual respect. Kindness has this patronizing air that I find difficult to swallow.  When people respect you, they'll give you constructive criticism. They'll tell you when you have made a mistake. (Or many mistakes.) I love when people tell me that I could do something better, because it means that they think I am CAPABLE of being better. I hate being infantilized. Condescension is spectacularly awful and is trumped only by one thing: invisibility. I'd rather be loathed than be invisible.
Why am I writing about this? Well, all of this comes to mind because in my 19 years of playing an instrument, I have felt a lot of feelings about how I am perceived by people of both sexes and all orientations.  I have wondered whether or not I am respected as a human being and worthy of being taken seriously. I have almost always been treated with kindness, but I have been forced to consider whether or not the music I produced was being respected.
And all of this first world pondering brings me to THIS: When on the rare occasion that I have been interviewed, inevitably the question of "What's it like being a lady AND a musician??" will rear its hilarious head. And when it does...I pause. I recognize that it is a huge honor that anyone would ask me anything ever, and then I usually say that it's no longer a rarity, and that I have been lucky enough to have encountered little to no sexism. Most definitely, I could give a more long-winded answer about what it's like to be a lady and do a thing ALL AT THE SAME TIME, but I don't. I FIRMLY believe that if you say it is rare, it is going to STAY RARE. If you act as though it is commonplace, it becomes commonplace, and with any luck the chances of being asked that question again diminishes. Like maybe, I could be asked about something having to do with the music that I make instead. To reiterate... it's nice that I'm being asked anything at all. However, "What's it like being a lady and doing a thing?"  makes me feel as though you do not respect me as a musician.
Weirdly, one of the only times I have encountered real-life sexism is when an interviewer asks me how I deal with all the sexism that I am (supposedly) constantly encountering. Wrap your mind round THAT, music "journalists."  Stop asking how I cope with being the rarest of rarities! It breeds the idea that female musicians are RARE when we are absolutely NOT. It creates a conflict where there is literally no reason for a conflict to exist. And PS: I have been asked this question by women as often as I have by men.  None of us need to mention we are a "female" anything anymore. If you point out your gender, your gender becomes the focus, and the gap widens.
Now, this makes it SEEM like I think sexism is a figment of the imaginations of delusional women who are blue with the monthlies. Believe me, I am aware that sexism exists and it produces horrors that only a real lack of civil equity is capable of producing. Really unfortunately, some people have been taught to think that women are lesser beings and that we don't do things. And if we do choose to do something it is going to be of a lesser caliber. You guys: Let's not let this get us down!! Men and women alike, let us move past these dark times and actually become respectful of each other! WE CAN DO THIS!
Let's remember what respect really is: it's thinking of all humans as being equal.  It is my dream that such equality can produce a blissful kind of transparency in relation to gender. As in: one should not censor one's self with the opposite sex because, except for the parts we have, we are essentially the SAME.  Now, I admit that this is difficult especially because most of us were raised to think that women and men are practically different species. But the way we think and act is adjustable. Questioning your thoughts and your actions is a powerful thing. Occasionally scary, but always powerful.
Question whether you actually believe women are to be taken seriously in any and all areas of life. And please consider this kind of thing really deeply before you go hog-wild and call yourself a Feminist. Feminism is not about having crushes on girls and thinking they are adorable when they play in bands. It's more complex than that with multiple facets, all of which are highly debatable. Don't be afraid when you realize that it is more difficult than you originally thought. Respecting the depth and complexity of Feminism is something that I grapple with every day. For real.
Think about whether you include women in conversation or if you only make occasional eye contact with them. Think about whether or not you have EVER made eye contact with women! I know that a lot of men find women to be intimidating. However I think that there is a huge difference between being intimidated by a woman and thinking she is a strange and untouchable deity. Again, we are all the same. Just different parts. (We are the same. Different parts. We are the same. Different parts...It's a handy mantra!) Yes, our bodies are more beautiful than yours. Thank you for noticing. But we still like, fart and stuff. And drum. And sometimes both of those at the same time.
All in all, I know that most people are really well-meaning and that our mindsets regarding women and all forms of equality usually boil down to our different experiences growing up. I have been lucky. I have had amazing parents and really strong female role models. I was never made to feel like I couldn't do something. And I am so so grateful for that.  I recognize that we all have not had that experience. I just think that we might as well all make the best of our time here. Even when it is a confusing fucking mess of hormones, we can still find the time to use our heads and be respectful.

Thanks for reading!

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