Yesterday proved to be another busy day in the world of politics, culture, and postmodern living in general. I sipped my morning decaf almond milk mocha while reading headlines about everything from more of Donald Trump’s xenophobic, racist, sexist, violent spewings, to a female rape victim (of a convicted serial killer) being thrown in jail for thirty days because she broke down in court while testifying and fled the room. I know that I am not alone in my feelings of anger at the constant barrage of stories and pictures and videos of human divisiveness leading to violence and, at the very least, bad decisions that adversely affect humans, animals, and the planet.
Meanwhile, our culture remains addicted to entertaining ourselves in order to drown out the noisy inhumanity. While I make every attempt at using my free time to be creative rather than consumptive, I find myself binge watching Tim Minchin. With Tim, I get (mostly) enlightened messages and (some) logic cradled in his virtuosic compositions and performing abilities, so I can count my viewing as not merely mindless entertainment!
Back to yesterday. I went online to our local CraigsList postings. The “Musicians” category is usually rather amusing, with posts about “lame bands” next to “book my band” posts and calls for “metal drummer” or “old school blues guitarist.” This morning, I saw an intriguing post titled “Where are all the female musicians?” As you can read for yourself, the author is Howard Sterling, owner of Musician’s Contact service. Sterling writes that in 1975, he predicted “by the year 2000 there would be just as many females as males in bands, and there would be just as many all female bands as all male bands” and he invites readers to offer their ideas why his prediction was way, way off. I could not resist the temptation to reply, and here is what I wrote:
I recently returned to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to earn my BA in Communication Studies, where I wrote extensively about such topics (see my research paper attached). Since I am a trained singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, all of my friends and family assumed (erroneously) that I would get my degree in music. Certainly, there would be some benefits to being able to teach “band” in junior high and high school, but having a BA in Music would not confer any clout on me in the music industry—not that I am at all interested in being part of an industry that would surely productize me and my work. During my time in Hollywood, I had my share of “casting couch” opportunities with degrading male A&R execs, club owners, and others, not to mention auditions with probably 200 male musicians who made it quite clear that being in a band or songwriting partnership with them meant I was consenting to sexual relations with them, and when I did not consent, the music making opportunity vanished. Being female, I learned quickly that it is an unwritten contract in our entertainment culture to accept that my talent alone is not enough, that I would have to sex it up to get in and hope to stay in. After so many years of living in that stifling, self-destructive environment of power play and whimsy, I had to get out. Wisely, I had done the actual hard work of music along the way, and I continue to write, produce, perform, and record.
As I began to wrap up this message, I started to apologize to you for putting a feminist spin on my reply to your ad—but I am not sorry. What I am is saddened and, yes, even angered, by the twisted social construction of female musicians at the hands of industry power mongers who have coopted the second wave feminism upon which your prediction was made. In other words, you probably would have been right (or at least close!) if some brilliantly (/snark) oppressive industry insiders hadn’t seen Madonna’s early—and beautiful—assumption of power and turned it immediately into the hyper-sexualized model for all female music artists. Of course, they knew that if they didn’t do it, someone else would. Way to go, guys (and their blindly following girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters): way to keep women down at the expense of not only a diverse, thriving music industry, but a better world, period.