I attended a local, annual gig which raises funds for suicide prevention recently. I had not been to the show for a few years due to living elsewhere, being too ‘busy’, and my time being taken up with other projects.
Where I live has a long history of progressive politics rooted in a worker struggles, a longstanding immigrant community and campaigns for justice. The music scene here reflects, embraces, and in many has ways provided leadership for decades. This was again clear in the festival, the bands, the discussions and the audience.
Woman continue to play a key role in organising and running the event, with very clear and explicit support from men. There bands who played included a mix of genders, including the normative male only bands, and some long established and well-respected women only groups. Alongside the focus of festival, it was one of the latter that I most wanted to see—having not been to one of their shows for several years. The title of this post is a reference to them, and provides some subtext to what spurred me to pen some words.
The gig ran from mid afternoon through to late evening. I arrived mid ay through, with four bands still to play. First up was a group of men mostly playing Ramones covers. Most of them were wearing wigs, and their performance in many ways embodied the music ever scene: one that does not take itself too seriously, and at the same time comes together on key issues in the community like depression and suicide prevention.
The next bad to play was the one I most wanted to see, and all women three-piece — and I was more attentive They might well be the happiest angry band in the world. Their lyrics and style embody riot girl, and those I know personally live that ethos their everyday: radical and progressive politics and attitudes towards each other and the community. They have a good fun playing their shows, which we might consider essential given how long they have been together.
What specifically spurred me to write is the audience. As they played, the floor was a mix of men and women, all respectful of each other’s space. Right in front of the stage, women were dominant and their space was not intruded on in anyway. There was a clear embodiment here of progressive ideals, and an obvious awareness and comfort amongst the women who came to the show and were enjoying themselves. At the time I did not really pay too much attention.
The next band was 50/50 male female, and there was a similar representation on the floor. Again I did not pay too much attention. It was when the following band started playing that my non-noticing—as a benefit of my lived privilege as a man—became much more exposed. They had an all male line up. Noteworthy here is that also embodied the progressive politics and values that was the foundation of the event, and the broader community in attendance. What was different was the floor. Right in front of the stage was not only dominated by men, it was exclusively male.
I need to stress here that I did not note any aggressive or abusive intent or actions towards women. Rather there was an absence of the comfortableness I had witnessed only an hour prior with an all-women band on stage. For me it is not the overt impacts of patriarchy and sexism that are the most insidious. It is the everyday, the ones we (mostly men) don’t notice so much that require our attention. The example here illustrates how they permeate into progressive spaces. It is not in the actions of men that these were visible (to me), rather the response, perhaps preemption of women in not being willing to be in front of the stage for an all male be band—irrespective of the bands politics, and that of the audience—that are most telling.
I think men need to step back, (perhaps) become a little uncomfortable and embrace uncomfortableness in these spaces. Reflect on and reduce their presence. To make spaces for others—on their own terms.