#1 Women in Music: Annie Gardiner (Hysterical Injury)

Annie GardinerOver the course of April, DrunkenWerewolf will team up with women filling various professional roles in Britain and abroad, to talk about the finer details of feminism and its application to the music industry. Rather than lambaste common topics such as heckling and media coverage, we hope to address issues that often go unrecognised but are equally as important to discuss. The instalments are in association with our 2013 article Grrrock and the Ratio Argument, and the current issue of DrunkenWerewolf Magazine, a Women in Music special.

In her article ‘What’s it like to be a man in a band?’, Annie Gardiner writes about defining 'female musicians' as just that, and the problems that can entail. When she's not wielding her bass as the front person for Bristol/Bath duo The Hysterical Injury, Annie tutors at BIMM Bristol. For more information, head over here.  

Annie Gardiner's What’s It Like to be a Man in a Band?

When asked by editor Tiffany Daniels to write an article about being a woman in music, a tsunami of versions toiled and troubled. Recent debates on Sexism in the Industry has seen Charlotte Church’s John Peel lecture in October 2013 and BBC6 Music’s Lauren Laverne dedicate a show to the subject. Constant debating on social media about the finer points of feminism has heated emotion beating between those that see the misrepresentation and aren’t afraid to speak up, those that feel they are being attacked and are therefore defensive and those that think it was all over years ago – lucky them! The exploits of Miley Cyrus, the double appropriation of ‘twerking’ in Lily Allen’s "Hard Out There", or boycotting Robin Thicke and his hit, "Blurred Lines" are all regular contenders as well as the refreshment of ever new statistics about under representation. Should we mention the female in the female fronted band or not in a bid to try and move the whole thing on? The complication of this affair is enough to drive anyone to exhaustion. Underpinning the whole thing though is the question, when will it all open up the way it needs to for everyone to have space?

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It has become a norm for me as a musician to be asked in interview and at gigs about my gender role more often than my music. I openly write with feminine ideas in my songs but always hope that my band are being booked, interviewed and paid attention to because we kick the shit and not just because I am a woman and I need to be ‘represented’. Even though, obviously, we need equal representation – hmm…complicated! Every time I have to answer a gender related question in interview I think about it more deeply but come up with the same thing: How do I actually know this is happening because I am a woman, I don’t know what it is like to be anything else. I wondered if men never got asked these things.

I decided to compile some questions that I routinely get asked into a questionnaire for my male friends in the music industry by simply flipping the gender: What is it like to be a man in a band? Do you ever get told you are good for a boy? Are there enough positive roles models for men in the industry etc. The response has been very eye opening. So far, most of the 19 men have not only experienced difficulty in answering questions about gender with regard to themselves but also because of how guided the questions are. Greg Cordez, musician and session bassist for Patrick Wolf, said in answer to the question ‘what’s it like to be a man in a band’, "I don’t know any different. It seems that I am in the majority gender and I just ‘blend in’. To me, I feel age is more of an issue than gender based on my experiences."

Tom McRae Mercury Music Prize nominee said in email correspondence that he had received difficulty from labels about his "weight, hair colour, cut, clothes’" When asked the question ‘Do you get problems in music shops when you are trying to talk technical to the staff? Are they more likely to talk to your girlfriend/boyfriend?’ musician and record producer Morgan Visconti said, "Actually, the employees at record shops (especially if they sell vinyl)/instrument shops make me feel inadequate at all times..." This response was typical as was the resounding "No" to questions like: ‘Do you ever get told you are good for a boy’, ‘would you support men only festivals / publications /gigs’. The question ‘Do you ever get heckled based on your gender – show us yer tits luv etc’ was met mostly with disbelief that this type of thing still happens, although Danny Le Guilcher of Dynamite Pussy Club has experienced heckling from women "giving me shit for cutting my hair or wearing different shoes…" A surprising response to the question, ‘Do you ever get any issues from other men in the music scene’ came from Jon Harper, founding member of The Cooper Temple Clause and session player for CSS and IAMX; “Men are the worst. I was pretty much made to feel worthless for the whole time in my first professional band…”

The two points emerging from this research are the male experience of gender issues in the music industry and how the questions start to look ridiculous when the context is only slightly shifted. Having a male perspective on this will hopefully shed new light on these areas of gender in the music industry that in turn will move along the discussion.

This research is continuing and will make up a small publication. Men! Please get in touch with me if you would like to take part.

Annie Gardiner: singer, songwriter and bassist for Hysterical Injury. Random order.

- Annie Gardiner

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