Sound Check

Sound Checkby Amber Goodwyn

Two awesome, potentially consciousness-raising shows happened here recently: punk band Against Me! with their transgender front person Laura Jane Grace and the raw and wonderful Perfect Pussy led by the inspiringly candid Meredith Graves. It made me daydreamy about how rad it would be to have such shows happen on the regular…sigh!

Also recently: a lady friend of mine took to Facebook to ask whether her friends bother to let organizers know when they don’t have enough women in their events (or bands or projects or teams, etc). Then, a few days later, another bud from a different city posted “When I see a concert where every single member of every band is a white male, I consider that show a failure.”

Somewhere in between, I had a conversation with some local (dude) musicians and asked about them about the notable lack of ladies in shows around town. They agreed that this was an issue but weren’t sure what to say or do about it.

Not-so-breaking-news: there are more guys than gals on stage in general, and a whole lot of them are pretty privileged fellas to boot.

This isn’t a new frustration, of course, and it certainly isn’t unique to Regina. I’ve had concerns about this stuff since I was a teenager (and have a stack of rumpled, photocopied zines as evidence).

In a way, it seems like there are two ways to address bullshit like this: action or inaction, and I think there’s a place for both. For a while I’ve been sitting on my hands, being all tired of it and I think there’s room for that; for burnout and for the need to recuperate. Other inactive folks don’t have the words and ability to say much at all. Then I wake up and see young ladies at local shows watching and rarely joining the stage and I seethe, or I get yet another invite to an all-bro-rock-show, and Get. So. Bored.

Maybe this is it: I’m returning to the land of living and action. Kindly hold all applause, please; I have no idea what to say or do. I guess I could start by writing a music column about the issue. Then maybe I could make an effort to tell people that they need more ladies in their shows. Perhaps another step would be to organize inclusive shows myself or to make an effort to play more and encourage other ladies to do the same.

I suppose one could always start an all-lady radio show on the community radio station or start up a Rock Camp for Girls summer camp program.

I’m open to other suggestions! (P.S.: and they’re not just for me.)

In my ears: Girls Got Rhythm compilation

Twitter: ambergoodwyn

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8 thoughts on “Sound Check”

  1. At the start of this year, I actually started trying to go for something approaching gender parity in Prairie Dog‘s album reviews. I know, I know, I’m a pretty fucking great privileged white dude. I’ll be accepting laurels at the Dog offices all week. But it’s a simple thing: we mostly have four reviews for every two week period, and it would be bonkers to say, “There are absolutely no albums where the lead is a woman or the album is at least a duo where one of them is a woman that are worth my attention.”

    There have been a couple of hiccups –– one issue was messed up because a series of writers couldn’t finish reviews so I had to write about what I’d been listening to essentially that day, and this issue is super dude heavy because Kevin Drew and the Hold Steady got held back from last issue. But it’s mostly been a really easy thing to do. I’ve never had to tell a writer, “No, not that one, we need to review a record by a woman.” It’s just a matter of thinking about the issue for a half a minute, and then minimum consciousness of it when I’m doing my work.

    In the review section, though, we’re tied up by circumstance a lot less than, say, a local promoter might be. My writers and I get to choose from maybe 40 albums (more, if we’re willing to review something that’ll be a little old by the time it hits stands) and figure out the makeup of our reviews. A local promoter, after they have their touring act or acts in place, chooses from the local musicians who are in town at the moment, of at least a comparable genre, who are willing to open, who might bring even a smidge of a draw, and who aren’t working that night. The pool of available artists for a post-hardcore show in the German Club on a Thursday can dwindle quickly.

    There are a million caveats to my trying to shift blame away from promoters here, namely a lot of grey areas. For one, I’ve never been in a band, let alone been a woman in a band trying to get a show in Regina, so I can’t speak to that experience. Also, this isn’t say that just because something is tough that isn’t worth doing, or that we don’t have loads of talented, female musicians around here. Some are even playing in the next few weeks! The Fortunate Isles are in the Club April 11. (I work for the Cultural Exchange, so light up your CONFLICT OF INTEREST KLAXONS for my having mentioned that.) Spoils are playing the same night at O’Hanlon’s. Brass Buttons are releasing an EP at Artesian on April 9. Orphan Mothers and Belle Plaine are both playing the Queen City Hub opening tomorrow, April 4.

    But I can’t help but think we’d see a lot more women on stage for our rock, punk, and metal shows if there were a lot more women in bands in Regina. Chicken and egg? Oh, certainly. And unfortunately, my big solution comes down to that old “welcoming environment” thing, which isn’t the most revolutionary sentiment. Hopefully, everyone is already operating on minimum jerkishness. But that’s what I’ve got.

    The other side of the “welcoming environment” bit? Perfect Pussy’s situation in their hometown of Syracuse, NY. I could tell you all about the awful, gendered pushback Graves gets in her home for her candidness, but has already done a great article addressing it.

  2. I am only two lady members short of starting a mostly-lady punk band right now so, like, you all know how to find me

  3. Not to knock the thankless work James does putting together the review section, but if it was me, I would put more effort into getting gender parity in the writers pool than review subjects. More female voices won’t necessarily lead to more female review subjects, but it might. Who knows?
    Not to knock any of the regular reviewers (or irregular ones, to include myself), all great writers, but we are not a diverse bunch.
    In the meantime, I’m semi-available to review records by non-males.

  4. I have been in bands for a few years, and have played music for a while now. I’m also a programmer, and am really active in the community and trying to get more ladies into the tech community. I’ve never really put two and two together and thought about how one connected to the other.

    I’ve always been in bands with mostly dudes. I never really thought twice about it, until Cassandra Loustel joined Eden & Escrow and I was overjoyed at the fact that not only was she the most amazing bassist I could ever have the privilege of working with, but she was also a lady. There’s some pretty neat things that comes with having more than one lady in a band. For one, there isn’t the notion of a token female (I’m not trying to condemn bands with one lady in them – that’s awesome and please keep making music).

    One thing I’ve learned while trying to build diversity in the tech community is that there’s tons of ladies that are interested in programming but are intimidated by whether they will be accepted, or whether it will be too hard for them (ladies have been told that they aren’t as good at math/sciences as dudes are for the longest time – which isn’t necessarily the case). There’s programs that try to help give them that extra little bit of encouragement that might be required: Girl Geek Dinners, Ladies Learning Code, Girl Develop It, and a ton of other programs. I think having some programs for girls and women to get into bands and get on stage like this would be encouraging and helpful, and I’d love to participate in them.

    For young girls, there could be camps. We could also simply hold events that showcase new bands that feature women and encourage them to get on stage for short sets to just try it. I’ve seen people talk about ones that happen in Philadelphia before, and have seen ladies start bands just for the event, only to continue with it and eventually record. Sometimes they don’t end up going on with it, but at least they felt welcomed and in turn tried it out.

    I have a ton more to say about what needs to happen to help women *stay* in the tech industry, and I think there’s tons of parallels with the music industry. This comment would turn into a epic, however, so if someone wants to chat about it, they can email me:

    That being said I think the Regina music scene is fairly promising, with many of the bands that are gaining some sort of following having female members. I hope this continues to grow, and I think there’s definitely things that people in the community can do to help ensure that it doesn’t dwindle or become stagnant.


  5. An excellent topic, and I totally agree, tho I wonder if these discussions happen in choirs or concert piano or harp, where the majority tend to be women. Rock music, ultimately, does seem to be a shrinking play thing for middle class white males. That’s bad for it, for sure, narrowing it. I myself have been mildly struggling with the idea of abandoning rock music altogether in favour of jazz, piano, etc. Listening, I mean. I can’t play a note. Also wanting to take guitar lessons to change that. Listening to French CBC pop helps, too. Great stuff on there.

  6. @ Emmet: Knock away, please. It’s something I’m definitely aware of and I’m trying to fix. If I come up with a rough list of our regular reviewers, we’re looking at probably an 80/20 male/female split, which just isn’t acceptable. Some of the solution means me going out of my way to find reviewers instead of going back to our established stable, which isn’t something I’m great at but it’s something I’ll need to do.

  7. This is gonna be kind of a ramble. I have a lot of feelings about this and I don’t even know where to start –

    I guess maybe a good place would be: although I really want to believe that folks are operating on minimum jerkishness I’m not entirely convinced. Being publicly trans and partially fronting a band makes giving folks – especially dudes – the benefit of the doubt really difficult. (The last show I went to, some dingus pointed at me and called me “that”, and honestly the stuff some dudes say about women when they think there aren’t any around isn’t much better.) And like jerkishness is only a small part of the problem as we’ve all internalized a lot of really toxic garbage that comes out when we’re on autopilot or even when we think we’re doing a good thing. But we all know this.

    There’s been a pretty noticeable shift in how local music people respond to me from like our first show where I wasn’t really “out” and everybody assumed I was a glittery gay boy “playing with gender” to I guess 2 years later where it’s pretty obvious I’m some kind of trans lady. Surprisingly (or maybe not) I’m taken a lot less seriously now that my weird grace period of still being part of the boys club is up. (Thank god.) So like… the atmosphere isn’t all that encouraging or at least not in an active way. Except for like one show we’ve only ever been asked to play by other ladies and even then folks end up speculating why we were included – like we’re there to meet some sort of diversity quota because why else would you put a trans person on stage unless they’re already famous? I’m seeing folks totally supporting women/queers/trans folks in bands from elsewhere who are big names while at the same time ignoring local non-dudes who are doing things.

    But I wouldn’t even be writing this if I didn’t see any potential for change and like I’m still here doing things. But I think part of the problem is that it’s going to take a lot of thoughtful self-examination by a lot of dudes who probably couldn’t be bothered to see any improvement on a large scale, which is why I’m more into finding out who the women/queers/trans folks are who are making music or whatever or wanting to and trying to build some sort of network of support there?

  8. I also think there is a lack of connections amongst female musicians in YQR. Most of us probably don’t know eachother. Also, the general music scene is great, but unless you’re “in” with someone it’s really hard to be “accepted” or even considered for that matter (regardless of gender). I see cliques at shows that seem impenetrable.

    Perhaps we should host an event one night, a gathering of sorts, where female musicians of all ages and talents can network / meet each other/ spawn ideas (spawn bands?!).

    ps. Anyone looking to join an all girl band?

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