The Problem With Male-Dominated Lineups - A Personal Story
A grass roots level examination of what it's like watching all male lineups do their thing.
Words by Maggie Bochat. This article originally appeared on her blog, Recycled Rainbow, you can view it in its unedited form HERE.
I pick up a glass out the back of the venue I work at. It's Friday night and my body is soggy from the antibiotics I sometimes remember to take.
A grey man with leather wrinkled skin watches me as I pick up his empty glass and place it in the white tub. "You can take me with you as well love," he slurs. I shudder.
The first band plays. Four white males. The second band plays. Four white males. Third band - three white males. And the final headliners? Could it be... Yes, of course. Four. Cis. White. Boys.
I complain about the lack of women on the lineup to a female who orders two Hendrix and tonics. She agrees with my sentiments: "I gave up playing music in high school," she shrugs, "That's just the way the world is."
A guy who five months ago made sexist comments about me and my body comes up to the bar. I avoid serving him, avoid looking at him, but I still feel like I'm back to a house party at sunrise in December, with five other men I thought were my friends, telling him to fuck off as he talks about my body, a woman's body, the body that doesn't belong to him but he think's he owns, in a derogatory way.
His friend, who used to be my friend, who once played the headline slot at almost all of my Recycled Rainbow parties, who spoke down to me and said that he had imagined my naked body in various sex positions, stands at the side of the bar (as he always does) and shouts an order of "SHOTS!" I ignore him. Minutes later he is next to me, behind the bar on the end farthest away from him. He gives me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I don't look up.
The dudes play, up on the stage, in the spotlight. I catch my breath between sets, listening to cries of "cheers boys", "let's get fucked up", and "we wanna get fuckin' laid tonight." The music in between is chosen by staff, so I ask, can you play a female musician?
"I think it's important," I say, "because there is no woman on stage."
"But this is Stevie Wonder! He's disabled!"
As I pick beers from the fridge I am relieved that tonight I wore baggy overalls and a big cord jacket. My body is covered. I feel protected from seedy eyes behind the mid-height wooden ledge that separates me from them. My co-workers, of both genders, also get exhausted by the toxic, masculine behaviour. A co-worker tells me some men assume they can bond with him through demoralising the females in the crowd, something that make makes him extremely uncomfortable.
Between uncapping beers I slip to the sound desk and open Spotify. I play a song by Princess Nokia - Goth Kid.
"And I don’t give a fuck about the fun you make of me / I’m not the type to play your role / So get the fuck away from me / You make me sick / And all I was was just a kid..."
The song finishes. On continues the Eminem album that was playing before...
Jennifer Aslett (Gunns, GUM) sent me a link on Messanger - BEST PRACTICE GUIDELINES FOR LIVE MUSIC VENUES - by Music Victoria. "Page 30" she directs me, and shares this quote with me:
"Sexual harassment and sexual assault are often supported or promoted by the broader culture of a venue. Venues may contribute towards the prevention of these behaviours by:
- Promoting gender balance of staff, security, performers etc.
- Being inclusive of gender and sexual diversity; and
- Promoting a venue culture that is safe and respectful."
I want to make a few things clear in this article which, at this stage of my brain and emotional healing, feels a little unclear.
The venue I work at is a safe space for me and many others. I love working there. I feel at home. It does an incredible, beautiful job of supporting all humans in their musical journeys, and the staff and patrons are wonderful people. On this particular night that I have written about, my dear friend (who is indeed a male) played a DJ set that made me smile, dance and almost cry. We hugged with happiness. On this night I was supported by both the male staff (whom I consider family) and my female co-workers (who also, are family.) It does an incredible job of promoting diversity and equality, it just so happens that because I am passionate about this issue, and because I work so closely alongside the venue, it is my first experience of most and all live music.
This issue extends to EVERY music venue in Western Australia, Australia and the world. It also extends to all forms of music and creative pursuits.
I am not a man hater. I do not hate ANY of the men playing this lineup. I respect them, and am friends with many of them. I served the lead singer who also booked this gig and asked him why he did not produce a more diverse lineup. He was genuine in his response, took the time to speak and understand, and offered a truthful response to a confronting question. While his folk band regularly plays alongside women, his rock band does less so. For this particular gig, he selected bands "on his radar." We discussed Perth rock bands that are killing it and also have female members: Rag N' Bone, Hussy, Flossy, Boat Show to name but a few... I am hopeful that this conversation has altered the way he thinks about booking future shows.
Perth is in a transition period. We are progressing, but there are bad habits and old patterns that need to be broken.
We are holding on to the fact that masculinity and music equals a lot of drinking, and a lot of drinking equals revenue; if we are making revenue, we are succeeding.
I understand this firsthand as a booker, who two years ago was booking almost exclusively male lineups.
I've had conversations with male musicians who are related to me through family or emotional ties. And quite often they say the same thing: "We get it, but it's just the way things are," or "Things are so much better than they were before," or even, "How can you make equality appeal to me as a male?"
And to those responses I say this:
I am a woman. I am victim of sexual abuse. I am a creative, a performer, an empathetic human, a music lover.
I am a valid part of the conversation.
And I say that male-only gigs make me feel small. They make me feel silenced. They make me feel invisible. And the more they continue to pop up "now and again", the more these feelings will remain. Perhaps, I can safely assume, not just in my own soul, but the soul of so many others.
I shouldn't feel invisible, especially not in my second home. It's up to us to work TOGETHER to change this.
How? Representation for the unrepresented. ALWAYS.