Monday, May 10, 2010

The Best Man Won't Hang Out With the Girl Band

Originally posted to Feministing Community

All the boys in the band
know how to get down

fill our Christmas socks

with whiskey drinks
and chocolate bars

When the evening ends we won't

be thinking of you then

Although the best man

won't hang out with the girl band
the girl band.

"You're No Rock and Roll Fun"- Sleater-Kinney


One night a week I perform at an open mic. The person in charge of holding/coordinating the event and I have struck up a friendship over the past several months. She mentioned, quite offhandedly one evening before the event got going, that she'd been seeking to attract more female talent. The task had proved to be far more difficult than she'd even imagined. Speaking in terms of demographics, male musicians outnumber female musicians 2:1 there.

Quite interestingly, however, the few female regulars who show up with any consistency often have more skill than many of the men. There is no in between with women performers--only the most naturally gifted ones bother to stick around. We are glad to have them, but I myself would like to observe female musicians who have raw talent but need the practice and experience to rise to their fullest potential.

Here is an example of what one normally observes from week to week. Female musicians who do perform for the first time ever are usually so self-conscious and nervous in front of a group of people that one feels sorry for them. Their manner of presentation might be best described, as Liz Phair put it, shyly brave, and regardless of their level of talent or proficiency, they can barely raise their voices above a whisper. After having finished, they rush off stage, absolutely mortified at themselves, no doubt ashamed of themselves, and rarely return. I've tried my best to be encouraging, finding a quiet moment between sets to dispense praise and constructive feedback. It is usually received well, and with a nervous smile, but almost all of my efforts are for naught.

I think as Feminists we can form lots of conclusions as to why this might be.

The most obvious of these reveals how women are not encouraged to boldly stand out and advocate for themselves. Still, if there was absolutely no female participation at all, then that would be one thing. But, as I've revealed, there always is a core group of "the girl band" who have the courage and the poise to push past their fears and reservations. If only I and others could find a way to get that kind of complete confidence to rub off on the talented, but skittish female musicians who never really give themselves a chance to blossom as performers.

This desire of mine doesn't just stop at music. It could very well go for regular readers to this very site who never submit Community posts or who seldom leave comments. Nor does it have to stop at female-centric spaces, either. There are any number of areas and places in the greater world where the contributions of women would be in good company. If we want to encourage gender equality and female participation, we must first speak to that immediate impulse within each woman which automatically causes her to doubt the quality of her contributions. And in so doing, it would be in good keeping to reinforce the notion that no one is ever perfect the first time we do anything. The dual forces of experience and persistence are amazing teachers. If you don't believe me, consult the women in your life who you admire the most--the ones who have accomplished great things--- and ask them yourself.

1 comment:

T.L. Holladay said...

But some of us have been told, basically, that what we have to offer isn't wanted.