Question: What's it like to be a female musician touring in a heavy rock band?
Answer: It's pretty much like being a man touring in a heavy rock band only when you hit a rest stop you go in the door marked “Women”.
Honestly, despite the fact that I play music in a genre dominated by men in terms of sheer numbers, I don't really think of myself as a woman in a man's world. I'm just a person doing what makes sense to me. I need to play music and for all the grit and grind, I love being on the road. I don't mind being surrounded by guys all the time. The majority of men I come into contact with are cool people that aren't threatened by a female's presence.
I was psyched to get to tour with Laura Pleasants from Kylesa and Alia O'Brien from Blood Ceremony, partially because they're both complete badasses at their instruments and also because I had never toured with women before. Still, it wasn't different from other tours in any particular way that I could trace to the existence of estrogen. Between all four bands/crew on the tour (Lazer/Wulf, an amazing band of three guys, was along too) we had 17 people and everyone got along really well and we had a great time. About halfway through the 6 week tour, Laura, Alia and I acknowledged that we thought it was a nice change to have some female energy around and then continued with the work of touring. Several of the guys also mentioned they were enjoying having women along. Why wouldn't you?! Generally, I think musicians and artists tend to have less rigid ideas about societal roles and so they can converse and learn from others regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, etc.
From a very early age I've been wary of living life by rote memorization. I did well in school because I enjoyed learning but I was also in trouble often for not obeying rules. I refused to recite the pledge of allegiance, dissect animals, attend pep rallies. I ditched classes when they seemed redundant. I've always felt that if you remain compassionate and keep your mind open to the universe of different points of view, you should be able to make your own rules. You have to be bold in this world and let go of the need to be accepted by everyone. To paraphrase Nelson Mandela, there's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you. By empowering yourself to live as you choose, you unconsciously give others permission to do the same.
People get excited when they see a woman onstage for the same reason a chocolate cupcake sticks out on a tray of vanilla ones. It's not the norm so it's a thrill and it peaks our curiosity. I get a lot of people, both women and men, coming up to me after shows and telling me how happy they were to see a woman up on stage rocking out. I project energy and confidence and it inspires other free spirited people. I think it's less about gender and more about independent-minded beings feeding off of each other's energy. What's the ratio of men to women in the business? I don't know! Why aren't there more women in the heavy rock world? Beats me! Maybe they want to get better paying jobs so they can take real vacations. Maybe it's less about there being so few women in the business and more about an over-population of men. Even Lemmy admitted to joining a band so he could get more chicks. I mean come on! No wonder there's so many male musicians out there. It works!
Have I experienced some sexism out there? Of course! I had a male promoter refuse to pay me directly because he “doesn't do business with women”. I had a fellow musician in an opening band tell me I was “pretty good for a woman” but that “women can't play bass”. I find those experiences humorous rather than frustrating. You should never take stupidity seriously. When things like that happen I feel more like a social scientist marveling at the simplicity with which many people prefer to view the world. They enjoy the security of concocting a rigid identity (gender, religious, political, etc) for themselves and those around them. In my opinion, if you are lucky enough to have your health and your physical freedom, you are wasting valuable mental energy if you perceive yourself as a victim. Societies will always discriminate against certain groups. This is unfortunately human nature. Enlightenment is hopefully on its way but for the time being you must take responsibility for yourself and live the change you want to see within your own life.
I feel really lucky to be making music at this time in history. Undoubtedly, there were many great rock musicians that struggled against real chauvinism in the 60s and 70s. People like Joni Mitchell, Suzi Quatro, Joan Jett, Tina Weymouth, Mo Tucker, Tina Turner, Patti Smith, Nancy Wilson, Janis Joplin and so many others known and not put up with a hell of a lot more bullshit then I'll ever have to. I may not be surrounded by ladies in the green room but my record label is owned by a woman and our records are mastered by one as well. To some I may be a female bass player but to myself I'm a musician. And hey, I like chocolate cupcakes as much as the next guy.