We reached out to 37 female musicians about their experiences with sexism, only 5 responded
Last year, we published an article detailing just a select few things women in music are sick of experiencing. The response was overwhelming, with currently 170 comments left on the article, some of which asked us to revisit the topic and involve musicians.
After toying with the most effective context for the story for almost a year, I was finally overwhelmingly compelled to reach out last month in the wake the onstage assault of Pity Sex’s Britty Drake and Tigers Jaw’s Brianna Collins and the immensely empowering #YesAllWomen movement.
Out of the nearly 40 musicians we reached out to asking for stories of how they have faced sexism, only five responded, which begs a few things: that they didn’t have time to respond, that some didn’t have experiences to share or, more troublingly, that female musicians still feel intimidated to speak up about their experiences.
In a scene where unity and acceptance are revered, it’s easy to sweep experiences like the following ones under the rug for the sake of maintaining an imaginary punk-rock utopia, but how does burying the experiences of female musicians (or any woman in any circumstance) really affect us? Simply, it hurts us.
Members of Candy Hearts, Dangerkids, Perfect Pussy, War On Women and Crystalyne shared their experiences and perspectives.
Candy Hearts vocalist/guitarist Mariel Loveland
Sexism in music is a constant eye-roller for me. Normally I try not to get mad because I really feel like people are just ignorant to the fact that women really do play music, especially in the supremely male-dominated pop punk scene.
One of the most headache-inducing experiences I've had is being straight-up blocked from getting onstage by security even though I was carrying equipment and had a laminate. I walked up to the bouncer and asked him, “Hey, how do I get on the stage?” And he was like, “Why do you need to go there?” I said, “To sing,” and he sill wouldn't let me onstage until I was like, “Well we can wait here until no band starts playing because I'm not there.” Then he finally let me on.
Crystalyne vocalist Marissa Dattoli
Being the frontwoman for a band has always been my dream job. I remember being 10 years old and fantasizing over the perfect life, where everyone would know who we were, and we got to get dressed up every night, receive VIP treatment and play arena shows to thousands of people. As I got older, I quickly realized that the music industry was a tough environment to grow up in. Crystalyne started its journey a few years ago, and I don’t think we could have ever prepared ourselves for the amount of obstacles we’ve had to face so far. Most shockingly to me, a lot of them centered around sexism.
One of the most eye-opening experiences for me happened on our latest tour. We had just finished a quick soundcheck and were about to head out for dinner when we realized we hadn’t been given any marker to show the venue that we were one of the bands playing the show. We couldn’t find the promoter, so I walked up to the security guard with the boys in tow and explained the situation. The security guard raised his eyebrow, gave me the up and down, and said “Are you really in the band?” I was so in shock that it took me a second to process what had just happened. Was this guy seriously suggesting that I was a groupie trying to sneak my way into the venue for free? I laughed it off and pointed to the poster taped on the wall behind him, which had a huge photo of our band on it. He didn’t apologize, or look phased in any way, just took my wrist and wrote the letter “B” on it, and did the same to Josh, Justin and Scotty. It really bothers me that in 2014, people still have a hard time processing that women are musicians, too.
Dangerkids drummer Katie Cole
I think sexism is still a very real thing in the music industry. At the same time, I feel like people are becoming more accepting of females involved in it. I’ve never had a major situation that bothered me personally, but I’ve dealt with a lot of the stereotypes. People make a lot assumptions about girls in bands but should really be taking it for what it is; it’s about the music!
There have been times when people thought I was just a gimmick or thought I wasn’t going to be a good drummer just because I’m a girl. It sucks hearing those things, but it’s always before I play so it makes me want to kill it onstage so they can see that what they're saying doesn’t matter. I’m the only girl in the band so I’ve heard all the typical remarks at shows : “Are you the merch girl?” “What time do they play?” “That’s cool they have a girl drum tech.” Just little things that I know wouldn’t happen if I were a guy. It’s time for everyone to realize that we’re all equal in this. Sexism should never be tolerated, and one day I hope seeing females in the music industry becomes so common that people don’t even question it.
Perfect Pussy vocalist Meredith Graves
We played this past February in LA at Echoplex. It was part of a short run of shows up and down the West Coast opening for Propagandhi and the Flatliners. It was the last show, and the tour had gone really well, and for a pretty unknown band like us the response was great. Halfway through our set a guy started yelling super-loud "I like your ass!" in between songs. It was too loud to ignore, so I tried to deflect it with humor, saying on the mic to my drummer "Hear that, Evan, that dude likes your ass." Well, dude didn't get it, and yelled, "No, YOU! The singer!! YOUR ASS." Meanwhile, Nancy had her own jerk to deal with. He was standing right under her yelling, "Yeah! Sexy baby! Nice ass!" for a few songs.
Some might ask what the big deal is, or say if you go on a stage you should expect to hear some shit. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if you are one of those people, you've probably never been afraid of being harassed, followed, groped or assaulted because of your gender. This isn't your average heckle. Sure, onstage, in that moment, we were in control, and I have a very loud mic and the opportunity to call that dude out. But after the show I just kept thinking, what if I didn't have a mic? What if I wasn't on stage, but on the street, and this stranger spoke to me like that, commanding I pay attention to him. It wasn't hard to imagine, because for most women and LGBTQ folks it's a daily reality. Then I hesitated to go into the audience after we played because what if I saw him? Or what if he snuck up on me and touched me? The threat of violence doesn't disappear when the show is over and you make it to the floor you're sleeping on that night. It's constant, oppressive, wrapped in "compliments," and dismissed as an ovaryaction. Of course we're freaked out by seemingly innocuous comments, because when we do stand up for ourselves, harassers get more aggressive, and when they take their aggression out on us, we get blamed. It's in our best interest to avoid any interaction with anyone in public, ever. If that doesn't sound like a way to control women, I don't know what does.
The idea that women's bodies exist for male consumption, that we as human beings are to be judged solely on our fuckability, is so pervasive that even a front person on a 10-foot-high-stage and amplified microphone can't escape it.
The entire episode maybe lasted two minutes and ended with me going on a rant about how women do not think of pleasing anyone but themselves when they get dressed and leave their homes every day, and that if you're going to be an asshole you can at least buy one of our shirts to help us pay for gas. It was quick, the show moved on, but I'm still thinking about it. It's one of the many harassment experiences I think about whenever I pass a strange man on the street. ALT