All Girl Band?
I heard that Leland Smith had done a very nice piece on my talented friends, Lulu and the Aqua Nets. I immediately went to the ADN website to check it out only to be slapped in the face by the first three words in the title, “All-Girl Band.”
I’m not really holding this against Leland – I’m a big fan and he doesn’t write the headlines anyway. My reaction stems from being a woman in the Anchorage music scene since the late 80’s both on stage and behind the curtain. I can’t count how many times I heard the “All-Girl Band” label attached to my old band, Sky Is Blu. (Our regular base players were both male – we wondered if they should have dressed in drag) I can’t count how many times I either was a witness to or recipient of behavior that was belittling, patronizing, dismissive or downright abusive from club owners, club patrons and frequently our male musician counterparts. I also can’t count how many times female musicians have been told to wear shorter skirts, reveal more cleavage, be “friendlier” to the club owner’s friends, and remove their wedding rings to seem “available” to the patrons - even to the extent that they must pretend not to be attached to their husband/boyfriend in the band.
There are some folks out there who won’t even book women into their clubs, unless she is a mini-skirted lead singer for a bunch of guys.
All of this was brought home for me when I was running sound for multi-Grammy-winning Blues guitarist/singer/songwriter, Debbie Davies. I actually watched an audience member walk up to her during a break and tell her that she was “the best girl guitarist” he’d ever seen.
This behavior is not limited to the past; it goes on every day. It’s also not limited to musicians; female bartenders and waitresses have the same problems.
Do I believe that there is more sexism in the music/nightlife scene than in the rest of the world? No…I just think that it’s one of the few communities where such beliefs and behavior can still be openly expressed without consequence. The community is too small; the competition is too tough for a musician/bartender/waitress to make waves without fear of losing their jobs and not getting rehired.