Drumming at the Front Lines - Gender Bender


As a woman, it is a great feeling to work with male artists who don't categorize you as a "female musician," but rather, choose to work with you based specifically on your musicianship, regardless of your gender. Women the world over go through a variety of subtle, (and not so subtle) experiences when it comes to gender issues in music culture. For example, a gentleman with the best of intentions, may approach you after a performance, and say, "Wow, you're the best female guitarist I have ever seen." A compliment of sorts, but most women would rather hear, "Wow, you're a really great guitarist." Odds are, the gentleman would be offended if you tried to explain this to him. After all, he thought he was complimenting you. It deserves a thoughtful conversation though.

For me personally, the categories and complexities are something that I have chosen to take with a grain of salt, and even with a good laugh at times. Women who broke through the male ranks in generations past, had much more difficult conditions to navigate. We are tip-toeing through the tulips in comparison. My gratitude for those determined women is limitless--both for those who are revered, as well as the forgotten ones.

I have had the great fortune to work with incredibly respectful, supportive male musicians, but somehow people stereotypically assume that I had a "tough road" as a female musician. Quite the contrary.

  • There are a few good rules that I live by as a musician:
  • Don't ask anyone to carry your gear for you.
  • Practice hard... the world owes you nothing.
  • Don't mix business with pleasure.
  • Don't play music that embarrasses you... I don't care how much it pays.
  • And lastly, play with love in your heart.

Gender bias can be so automatic by both women and men, and so controversial, but new norms are taking shape faster than you can blink. Both male and female musicians continue to open huge doors for the girls who are up and coming, and it's done in a very matter of fact way, I might add. My young daughter sees so many women musicians represented in the media, and in life; it would never even occur to her that females were once a rarity as musicians... and guess what... the boys feel that way too. I am suddenly reminded of this provocative quote by Sarah Silverman, "Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it's a mistake. Not because they can't, but because it would never have occurred to them that they couldn't."

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By Elizabeth