1. We sometimes get treated like shit.
Some of the tech staff from the venues we perform at undermine our experience and knowledge of our instruments. They will question our technical requirements and needs. Sometimes I am asked if I need help with my amp -- the same amp I have been using for the past 50 shows of the tour. Because of my dust and smoke allergy our technical rider explicitly reads "ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKE ON STAGE." However, the lighting engineers still put smoke out because it "looks better" and they don't think I'll cough with "their" machine.The annoying flipside to this coin is that when you do make a request, you're 99 per cent sure they're going to call you a diva or a bitch behind your back.
2. We are offered to back girl-bands
This happens to my bandmates more than I as they are often side musicians. They get calls from agents, managers and labels looking for hot sexy chicks who can hold an instrument. That's it -- they only need to know how to hold their instruments, they don't even need to play well. No music has been written yet, but they can "totally see it happening."
3. The venues weren't made with women in mind
Unless you are playing a traditional theatre, most of the time, you will not find a separate green room to change in or a mirror or even good lighting to apply makeup. I often end up fighting the two other girls in the band for prime mirror time in a port-o-potty where I have to place my makeupcase on anything but the gross grimey floor. I guess touring has taught me agility, flexibility and incredibly specific acrobatic skills: how to put on a stage outfit and tights in a portable bathroom stall without dropping anything on the floor!
4. TV technicians will touch your boobs
Every time I do a TV show, the microphone tech has his hands all over my chest before I even have time to say "yes I do mind, I prefer to install it myself." And then they are always puzzled by where to hook up the battery pack: after 80 years of televised show business, no one in a dress has EVER donned a mic set?
One time they tried to strap the battery pack to my thighs except... people on TV are skinny and the strap is made for skinny people. I am not. It took five different technicians (all male!) with their hands all up my skirt to try to figure out a solution which, in the end, involved only shooting me from the waist up.
5. "You're a great guitarist/bassist/drummer/etc. for a chick"
It's 2013. I'm either a good guitarist or a crappy one, however my female genitalia doesn't do any fingerpicking so it has very little to do with my abilities as a musician. My poor practice ethic on the other hand often betrays me, most definitely because I am a lazy/busy person.
6. "Show us your tits"
I thought crowds stopped heckling women back in the olden riot grrrl days, where Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill would get glass bottles thrown at her. A French singer-songwriter I know recalls a "dude" in the audience asking her to go naked and she promptly responded "I will, but only after you!" That shut him pretty quickly. While I'm not sure this doesn't happen to men, I still find it annoying.
(Bikini Kill plays the Bank in 1996, photograph by Dennis Kleiman)
7. "Open your legs and ye shall receive"
Several friends of mine have been offered better opportunities or free stuff in exchange for sexual services from "industry people" with a certain amount of power. It might be a big exec who offers you a contract or some creepy guy with a home studio offering you some free recording time for your first demo. It happens more often than it should. In fact, it shouldn't happen at all.
8. We get unwanted kisses after shows
I'm not a touchy-feely person, even less so with strangers. As a Canadian, I love my one-metre perimetre of safe space. I still love giving hugs to fans. There's nothing sleazy about it. They've just spent the past two hours hearing me wail about my heartbreaks and my woes: we have shared a moment and they deserve a hug if they so request it.
However, there's always going to be some shoddy old drunk guy trying to give a kiss to all the girls in the band after the show. I would honestly prefer a firm congratulatory handshake like my male colleagues. Even then, a kiss on the cheek is actually fine -- except when you have horrible drunk/cigarette breath or quite simply, you haven't asked for permission. My fans are so kind as to ask for my autograph, so why is it so hard to ask for a kiss before smacking one on me? Which is why, for these unsolicited kissers, I impose a "drunk tax" where I hike up the price of merch by 1€ for every uncomfortable touch or comment. You have been warned.
9. We are criticized for what we wear
Since touring my first album, I have quit wearing high heels on stage. Wearing flats makes me more comfortable, keeps me close to the ground and therefore less nervous, helps me play and perform better. Recently, a fan criticized me for not wearing high heels on stage. They said it wasn't "classy." The worst part is she loved the show! My clothing didn't ruin it for her at all!
While two of my male bandmates get to skid by, making zero effort in what they wear, I get crit for refusing to wear uncomfortable shoes that make me walk like a clumsy horse. Do they know how hard it is to reach guitar effects pedals with pumps on?
I almost keel over and trip every time I've tried so I've quit trying. I find this concern trolling happens more often to women in the entertainment industry than to men. And most of the time the criticism comes from other women (I think I'll try to write a longer blog post about this specifically at a later time...)
I love my fans, but I find it strange that they would tell me what I should look like. Why impose norms? Isn't the whole point of liking a band because they're different from the others? And why so concerned with my appearance?
10. Too many women hate their bodies
I am sadly one of them. I say terrible things about myself in private. However, when I am on the job, I keep those comments to a low because I find it unprofessional and unproductive in my interactions at work. Unfortunately, I spend great lengths of time on the road with two slim French ladies who complain about their weight or size or looks -- not their health -- ad nauseum.
These are wonderful, intelligent, bright and talented musicians. It sucks that the media and the whole world around us has made it difficult for grown women to go through an entire day of their professional lives without bashing their appearance. Imagine Hillary Clinton went around the world as secretary of state telling her staff how fat she thought she was? How irrelevant is that to her skills? How does this make her feel confident in our abilities as a leader? How can she be an example to her staff?
11. I hate sharing cosmetics with other women/people.
Maybe this makes me less of a girl? Maybe this makes me less friendly? I just think it's unhygienic.
Follow Mélissa Laveaux on Twitter: www.twitter.com/miellaveaux