This isn’t going to be a fun one. In fact it will probably make a lot of you mad. We’re talking about gender in the music industry and the relationships you have to deal with there. No matter what I say, I think that some of you will be angry. There’s a lot to be said here – there’s a lot of stuff I try not to think about but that I have to deal with that is an inevitable part of this industry and all that it entails. Figuring out – from a dudes perspective – how to deal with women in music sounds by default kind of douchey, and I’m trying really hard to avoid that. I merely want to think critically about an important topic that we all need to confront if we want to make this industry better for everybody. So sure, as a straight white male I’m probably the wrong person to be talking about this sort of thing but I also think that this is a perspective that needs to be at least acknowledged. I promise there will be a funny gif at the end of this – please just read on.
I think that I and many of you have to deal with similar things hen it comes to working with women. Again – I’m not trying to blame women here. I know that they have a seriously hard time of it in this industry. The culture of double standards is frankly surreal at best. There’s no true reprieve from sexism. I’m merely trying to help dudes to see how they are screwing up. Meanwhile – I’m going to spend this entire article trying really hard not to sound like an entitled whining douchebag. I swear I’m trying to help – but at this point in our culture we have to be careful with our language if we want to guarantee all parties the respect that they deserve. So I sincerely hope that when I talk about some of thee issues it’s clear that I’m trying to come from a place of compassion with the knowledge that being able to reduce sexism in the industry will benefit all of us – even those the straight white dudes at the top.
One key aspect I have a lot of difficulty working, that acts as a metaphor for everything else, is giving advice for stage clothing. If I’m working with a group of dudes then I rarely have a problem telling them what I think they should wear on stage and helping them to figure out a strong live aesthetic. With women… not so much. Now I’m not complaining. It’s merely that awkward balance of simultaneously trying to suggest to women what you think would work and not trying to be an overbearing piece of shit. I’m sure some guys have a better way of dealing with this but I feel like a lot of reasonable straight dudes feel weird trying to help women with their stage getups. No one wants to come off as rapey or be telling women what to wear. (That’s actually probably a little less true than I would like to think) Now I’m not trying to use this article just to talk about how men and women are different, but rather wanted to use this example as a microcosm of a larger issue that I think plagues the industry more than many of us would care to admit.
I think you noticed the fundamental issue behind my clothing example just now. The issue is not based in clothing politics. Rather, it is based on a crux of gender politics in the music industry – rape. It’s the thing that hurt women so much over the ages, and even rears its ugly head today with instances of rape causing potentially career ending disasters for folks like Kesha. The tragedy of this crime, asides from the obvious problems with regards to individuals involved, is the long term destruction it can have throughout the industry. It creates a sort of inherent terror and awkwardness that we all have to deal with for no other reason than that it could happen to anyone anywhere. I feel like a lot of dudes don’t really process how often this happens and the crushing effect it has on women. There’s a reason it’s all so screwed up.
Sex sells – but you also shouldn’t be telling women what to do. If a woman wants to use her body to sell a band then that’s totally her choice. Of course determining at what point it’s the woman deciding to use her body and at what point it’s a creepy manager is hard to do. I mean – maybe a woman is just very body positive and is thrilled that dudes want to see here in her underwear, and that’s great. Since women are majorly sexualized there comes a point where you need to acknowledge the power imbalance. It’s not about sanctity and purity as much as it’s about the Madonna-whore complex. Any band with female members is going to have to deal with it, and the sooner you start thinking about these things the better. There are easier ways to navigate it – but outright recommending some of them would make me sound insane. I will say this though – for fairly obvious reasons you’re probably going to get a lot less flak if female members of the band dress as ‘one of the guys’. I’m not saying they have too – merely that that is the easiest way to cope with that in our society.
Don’t think that femininity is a death sentence in the music world though. Just look at a band like Subrosa – they manage to remain feminine without any real trace of sexualization. You need to be careful with these sorts of things and not try to dictate other peoples lives but you also need to be delicate in your structuring of images and your process. Trying to be sensitive to gender politics is not an easy thing – especially for dudes who are trying be sensitive but also realize how clueless they are. So let’s all like.. hold hands and be cool guys, we want to make this work and it’s terrifying, so please try not to mess it up.