All boys, be cool for once in your lives. Go back, back, back.
International Women’s Day is here and it’s the one day out of 365-ish that we take up space to speak about women and non-male issues that always take a backseat to whatever the fuck the men of the world wanna talk about.
This conversation is not pleasant, but it is necessary.
We’ve seen this week that there’s still a bloody huge disparity between genders when it comes to the music industry, and the communities that exist around it. Festivals are still booked with men dominating the lineups (yes I’m looking at you, Days Like This Festival) and Hack published their yearly review of the gender gap in music and well, as a nation we’re still doing pretty shit.
When we think about ‘women in music’ we tend to think about those that write and perform and are on the stage. But let me tell you, that unfair imbalance skewed towards dudes extends beyond the stage. It hits the floor and expands out to green rooms, sound desks, and tour vans.
This imbalance of representation is rife throughout every single facet of music communities and to be honest, it’s pretty fucking abysmal.
I’ve heard plenty of cases of tour bookers being misgendered over and over because people can’t seem to even fathom that a woman is able to book a gig full of hardcore punk acts, and others being told that they can’t do their jobs simply because they’re not a man.
PEDESTRIAN.TV had a chat with a couple of women that work tirelessly behind the music of the DIY communities in Australia, and how not being a man has affected the perceptions that others have on them and the work that they are extremely qualified to do.
Shannon O’Riley is an audio engineer at the Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville. She’s been working as an engineer for seven years, and mixes sound just about every night of the week at The Rat. Working that venue over the last two and a half years, she’s mixed everything from thrashy hardcore, to throbbing techno.
Shannon knows her shit, and she’s pretty sick of being undermined about something that she’s worked hard on for numerous years.
“I quite often find that people are shocked when I tell them what I do for a living. I always get comments like ‘isn’t that a man job’ or ‘you must be a lesbian because you work in such a male dominated industry’.” Shannon tells PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“I also find that I have to work 10 times harder to prove myself because people just don’t believe a female can be an audio engineer. The same people also downgrade what I do and unfortunately I don’t think they do it as a conscious thing.”
Shannon believes a lot of the micro-aggressions she receives as a woman working behind the sound desk is ingrained in a lot of people that come to shows that she works – and they’re unconsciously making comments about her ability to do her job.
“I’ve had numerous production companies knock me back from employment because they think I can’t lift and carry things that are heavy.” Shannon says.
“Little do they know I’m lifting and carrying speakers and amps all weekend long without any help.”
Tara Jayne is a bike mechanic by day, but is also the vocalist for Sydney‘s punk outfit, Canine, and works her arse off running touring/record company, One Brick Today.
With the underrepresented communities of non-male and queer folk in mind, One Brick Today nurtures and promotes music and artists that very likely wouldn’t get the support of bigger labels or touring companies.
“I wanted to help contribute to creating space and platforms for peoples marginalised identities to be celebrated and seen, for bullshit stereotyped gender roles to not have a place within these shows, for people to be able to pick up an OBT release – perhaps not even knowing who or what the band was about – but to know that they were supporting voices that are so often drowned out.” Tara tells us.
“I wanted it to be completely centred around women and queers, something thats constantly lacking within the music industry.”
Tara has copped gross sexism in literally every part of her work. Her job, her business, and her band. She tells us her experiences go from being groped onstage and not taken seriously as a musician, being completely dismissed as a mechanic (while literally wearing her work apron and holding tools), to being grossly undermined as a booking agent and label owner.
It’s bad behaviour and yes, in 2017 when we are all thinking “well surely this doesn’t happen anymore” – it does. It’s real and it’s gross AF and we all need to take a good hard look at ourselves and our behaviour toward the people that are keeping our music communities running.
The negativity that both Shannon and Tara have had to put up with over the years of being active in music community doesn’t deter them from wanting to continue the work that they do. If anything, it spurs them on – adding fuel to the flame in their passion.
What’s the most satisfying thing about being a woman in a severely male-dominated industry? Shannon tells us that it’s knowing that her clients are having a good time while she’s mixing them, and being able to contribute to the DIY community in a way that she feels is helpful and needed.
“Specifically being a woman in the industry I feel rewarded when people walk away and think ‘this girl’s done an alright job’.” Shannon tells us.
“Hopefully it will show people that being an audio engineer is not just for the men. Bad ass babes can do it too.”
For Tara, the most gratifying and reassuring thing for her with One Brick Today is constantly being inspired by the women and non-male folk that she supports.
“I’ve had the chance to meet, play and work with some of the people who originally inspired or encouraged me when I was young, and had the chance to be that person for others also. Having people express feeling comfortable, motivated or inspired at OBT events feels so good.” Tara tells us.
“I often feel really burnt out, but its those people who are really getting something out of it that make me keep going. Its a really nice feeling knowing that we can push each other further in really different ways.”
But how can we cultivate and encourage more non-male folk to get into their communities and follow where their passions lie? It’s understandable that after learning about countless people that are continuously challenged and forced to prove their worth in the music industry simply because they’re not a man, others would feel intimidated and discouraged.
If anything, we need to be more supportive of each other. We need to recognise that good work is bloody good work and needs to be celebrated and praised.
We need to quit this toxic behaviour of putting others down because we assume that they are incapable of doing their own job because I can assure you they’ve been busting their arse doing it much longer than you know.
Photo: Facebook / ZKPhoto.