Woman Up

It’s an inescapable fact that the music business is a male-dominated industry. Lately I’ve noticed a springing-up of more discussion groups and surveys focusing on the roles of women in touring, and why there aren’t more of us. As you’d expect, I get asked about it a lot.

There are some brilliant organisations, like Soundgirls, who support the ambitions of budding young female sound engineers. I really like their pro-active approach of inspiring the younger generation and sharing knowledge – knowledge which is valuable irrespective of gender. Soundboys would do well to check out the articles on the Soundgirls website for practical know-how!

But some comments I’ve read on Facebook (in response to very sensible questions about how, for example, other women have handled a situation) worry me. It’s great that there’s somewhere we can discuss the stuff that concerns us. But I see some women getting hugely up in arms about the attitudes of some guys, and wasting time dissecting their behaviour/comments/ignorance; time which, to my mind would be better spent just proving them wrong!

I absolutely identify as a feminist, and a strident one at that. But…. I don’t know if continually highlighting the thing that makes us different is helpful. Your life consists of what you pay attention to, after all. If you’re determined to be offended and outraged, you won’t have to look too hard for material.

But equally, if you’re looking for opportunities to educate the old, mostly male, guard; to inspire and surprise and change attitudes….. Here’s your chance!

I’m hugely supportive of younger women trying to break into a tough but brilliant career. I’m hugely supportive of younger men trying to do that too.

The advice I would give to a young woman wanting to do my job is 99.9% the same as that I’d give to a young man, and I think that the more we draw attention to the fact that *drum roll* THERE’S A WOMAN ON THE TECH CREW!!!!, the further away we push ourselves from our intention of acceptance.

What creates happy, peaceful communities? Integration.

And what causes wars? Segregation. ‘We’re different.’ It’s obviously an extreme example, but I hope you see my point.

There will be people – ok, guys – who want to make a drama out of you being a woman, and belittle you, and who feel threatened because the world is changing. But trust me, if someone is being a jerk, it’s not because of your vagina. It’s because they’re a jerk. Or having a bad day. Or whatever. You know what you do? You deal with it and you move on. Dismiss it. Don’t give it more energy than it deserves. That’s how we change attitudes – by not letting the jerks win.

Women in a lot of places in the world have a seriously raw deal. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about emancipated, educated western women with choices. With personal power.

The behind-scenes music business is tough, irrespective of gender. Only the deeply committed get anywhere. It’s long hours and hard work and rejection and uncertainty and insecurity. It’s also a great many brilliant and exciting things that make all of that worthwhile. If you’re the kind of woman who gets offended by swearing; who expects special treatment; who doesn’t want to get her hands, either literally or figuratively, dirty; it isn’t for you.

But if you’re a woman who has a thicker skin than that; if you can brazen out any stupid comments and learn how to come back with a witty retort; if you’re willing to get amongst it; the music industry needs YOU!

We need you because when the people who got here first – the boys – see that having girls in the playground isn’t a problem, guess what happens? It isn’t a problem! But like all ground-breakers, it’s up to us to educate them. Is that fair? No, probably not. But are you going to sit around complaining about life not being fair? Or are you going to change things with your actions?

(Or, as an ancient proverb has it – will you be the person who wants to wrap the world in soft leather to make it comfortable to walk on? Or will you put on your shoes?)

The best advice I can give a budding young lady roadie is to just GO FOR IT. Dream big. Don’t give your gender another thought, because a guy certainly wouldn’t, and you are every single bit as capable and worthy.

Are we seriously going to let what we’ve got in our pants be a defining factor in whether we pursue our ambitions and live our dreams? Come on girls. Get real.

Woman up.

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