Did you know that women are people who sometimes make and/or produce music? I know, shocking, but it's a thing! As a woman in a band, I've heard my fair share of patronizing, dismissive or creepy comments from men who just can't wrap their heads around women (or as we are more commonly called in this sphere, "girls") making music. Prowess with instruments or sound equipment in particular seems to be a cause of befuddlement.
My band, Patti Cake, is making a zine for our show this Thursday at the Silver Dollar in Toronto. Since our songwriter, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Kritty Uranowski is a counsellor at Girls Rock Camp and I am mostly always thinking about feminism (i.e. ALL THE DAMNED TIME), I decided to submit a collection of crowdsourced "things people say to women musicians" for the zine. I tweeted this:
I'm blogging ridiculous/infuriating things folks have said to women who make music. Are you a woman musician? Tweet me choice quotes, or RT.— Steph Guthrie (@amirightfolks) July 4, 2013
Here's a sampling of the responses I got. Note the frequency with which the word "girls/girl" appears. Also, music store employees? PLEASE DO BETTER.
- "Girls can't play bass because they're not technical."
- "You girls must be singers." - music store employee to women customers looking at mixers
- "Do your parents know you're out with old guys?"
- "Let me explain to you how soundchecks work." - sound tech, who went on to patronizingly explain Soundchecks 101 to a musician with years of experience
- "WOW, a girl drummer!"
- "So you're a solo acoustic act, right?"
- "Are you the singer?" "No." "...Are you the keyboard player?" "No."
- "Girl bassists are hot."
- "........" - the sound of a woman musician being ignored a million times by music store employees
- "They make you carry that?!?!" - onlooker to woman musician lugging gear
- "You know about amps?! Whoa, you just blew my mind. I love a chick that knows about gear."
- "Oh, you're IN the band!"
- "There's a girl's voice on this recording but no girl in the band." - reviewer about a band in which there is, in fact, a "girl"
- "I almost had a show for you with [female artist], but decided against a woman opening." - booker
- "I bet you're buying the blue tambourine because blue is your favourite colour." - music store employee
- "This headshot won't work for your poster... You need a body shot!" - agent
- "It's pretty hard to know what this stuff does unless you really study it." - male music store employee to a trained audio engineer who is also a woman
- "I didn't know girls liked Iron Maiden."
- "Oh, so you're in the jazz program. Singer, right?"
- "You were actually good; I was surprised!"
- "You play this?!" - male music repair shop employee re: a woman musician's guitar
- "You must've dated at least half your band."
- "We always thought you were waiting for your boyfriend." - male music store employee when a woman musician asked why she never got any service from them
- "Ha! Like YOU could ever sing Zeppelin."
- "Want a Betty Boop strap to go with that new guitar?"
- "I didn't know girls played saxophone."
- "There are no female music producers because women can't understand the technicalities involved." "[Names a female music producer]" "She must have had a guy helping her out."
- "I can no longer book you because you want to tour with your baby."
- "Girls don't play jazz." - man, to a woman who auditioned and beat a tonne of guys for a spot in the ensemble
- "Just shut up, smile and sing, honey."
- "You should specialize. People don't like girls who do too much." - man, to a woman who sings and plays a variety of instruments
- "I hope you girls know what you're doing with those covers, the bass parts are hard! I know because I have the tabs book."
- "Are you shopping for your boyfriend?" - male music store employee
If you groaned at least once while reading these, please consider making a donation or spreading the word about Girls Rock Camp or the Resampled music production workshops for women and trans folks (there's one at the Tranzac this Sunday).