A number of seemingly unrelated events over the past few months has left me sleepless, disconcerted and a little depressed regarding the position of women, and frankly, my own position as a rocker and music lover in this scene.
The most recent incident was an email I received from Indie Week Toronto organizers asking bands to confirm the number of band and crew members for an upcoming showcase my band HotKid was invited to play. The email concluded by saying, “wives, girlfriends and family do not count as crew”. I don’t know if you caught that, because I almost didn’t. The implication here being that all band members are straight male, or perhaps lesbian females, but considering the context I think it’s safe to say that wasn’t the implied meaning. Recovering from dental surgery earlier that evening and perhaps bolstered by pain meds I shot off a tweet highlighting this embarrassing, but potentially innocent oversight. As of yet, no response.
As I lay in bed, struggling to sleep, a number of similarly disconcerting incidents came to mind. Just this past September my band was asked to play a fundraiser for Girls Rock Camp (www.girlsrocktoronto.org.) This is a great organization that encourages young girls to pick up rock instruments, and gives them the tools to write, record and perform the glory that is loud rock ‘n roll. I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I was the only female performer on the bill that night. That’s fine, maybe all the other “chick bands” were busy. I mean, there are lots of bands comprised of female members that are ruling the Toronto rock scene right now. To name them all here would be an exercise in futility and would merely reduce these groups to the sum of their parts. Believe me though, there are lots of good ones.
I’m still tossing and turning as I remember another shocking incident I had put out of my head having to do with Toronto’s North by North East Festival. The online application form outlined some requirements for bands applying to be part of the event. One such requirement read “band front person must be male”. Now this was no doubt an oversight, or mistake or something because… come on?!! Again, I tweeted about it. No response. I contacted the festival, sent them a screen shot of the online application, oversight and all. Several days passed and it had not been corrected. Fine, we’ll play your showcase anyway. Maybe I’m being too sensitive?
Possibly the most confusing experience, and one that made me question whether I was just paranoid or the only person paying attention was at the Arcade Fire show at the Molson Amphitheatre this past August. Now stay with me. I know it’s paramount to sacrilege to say anything against our national heroes but maybe you can help me out with this one. The show is winding down and the fake guest band, all in dude bobble heads, announces that they are going to play a song about “what it feels like to be a woman”. Ok. At this point a few bars of Shania Twain’s “Man I feel Like a Woman” is played over the PA. That’s turned off and Teenage Head is played for a few bars at which point it is switched off and a Roney Hawkins tune is played to it’s conclusion. Fine. Then Arcade Fire front man, Win Butler, comes on stage and asks the crowd “does this outfit make me look fat?” … Is it just me or does that sequence of events strike anyone else as a bizarre? Maybe it was a comment on the male voice being the dominant voice in our culture, or a comment on how women are too hard on themselves, or maybe it was just a stupid thing to say in that context. Who hasn’t had a joke go wrong on mic?
Regardless, I was confused and tried to talk to my friends and fellow concert goers about it but no one else really seemed to notice what had happened, nor cared to criticize one of their favourite bands. I went to twitter looking for some insight, writing “what was with the @arcadefire encore preamble? championing women in rock or sortasexist” I received two blunt and deriding comments from fellow female concert goers, one asking “did you really not get it?” @livmanc wrote, “Ehhh… Are you on drugs or something?” I was discouraged and no closer to understanding what the hell I had just witnessed. I have since learned that Twitter is rife with those posing questions regarding women’s rights or social issues quickly being bashed and ridiculed. Just ask @tagaq or @BrodyDalle. Next time I will be braver. I guess that is why I’m writing this.
These are events relating to my personal experiences as a women in rock and a music fan. I’m not even going to get into the JLo’s and Nicki Minaj’s of the world. It’s just too much to process at 4:30 in the morning. If we could just be a little more inclusive, careful in our wording and maybe not afraid to call people out on being exclusionary in their language that would be great. Considering Canadian women only technically became “persons” under the law 85 years ago, October 18,1929, I guess we’re doing pretty ok?