Article & photos by Melodie Yvonne
Feminism has definitely been a hot button topic a little more here recently as the nation’s heart shifts along with the changing of the man in charge. Unfortunately, this isn’t a topic that I myself think about often. Its prominence in the news, however, as well as more open discussions with Christina Ann Ramey prompted by her women’s studies class have actually got me thinking about it more.
Many times throughout my life I have lived through blatant injustice based on my gender in and out of the workplace. This isn’t surprising as my day jobs have predominantly been factory environments. Now granted, the company I work for is very forward thinking and open-minded, however, it is inevitable that the occasional problem occurs. It is hard to have that kind of large multitude in any environment without every conflict known to man eventually occurring… and I’ve been there 22 years.
My photography job is slightly different on the other hand. The wonderful part about being my own boss is that I can follow my intuition and steer clear of some of the more “friskier” or chauvinistic clients. At times it is still blindingly apparent, though, that no matter how good my works is the ugly head of gender based discrimination will rear its ugly head.
The photography field is just as male dominated as factory life, but even more so as it is broken up into some of the specific specialties. Certainly the field I work in the most, music photography, is largely dominated by my virile counterparts. I’d have to say I don’t mind being surrounded by men here and there, but as always in any kind of late night life there is a slightly seedier underbelly just waiting to spew from that one shot too many, and unlike a factory there is no HR to keep the crowd in line.
Now I would wager to say these beautiful men in the photo pit with me (and yes, somehow they are ALL beautiful 😉 ) are getting just as much alcohol dumped down their backs as I am from any over exuberant crowd. That just means it’s a good show, and a completely acceptable hazard for a good night’s work. However, the beer slithering down my back on most evenings inevitably turns to sly little fingers jutting out of the crowd copping feels. Again, this is another thing that my male counterparts surely have to deal with too. I have seen some of those extra special libidinous female groupies in the crowd. I look across the photo pit of many shows at the super talented Tony Vasquez of Vasquez Photography and Keith Griner of Phierce Photo by Keith G. thinking, “yeah, those are very intelligent, good-looking, and charming guys who probably get felt up by drunken female (and/or male, these guys are hot) groupies every night like me.”
There’s a lil something extra I’m guessing that maybe the guys don’t have to deal with, though. We are all getting it from behind from the drunk fans, but a female in this position is pretty much bent over spread eagle and getting it from all sides. Many an evening I go home soaked in beer after never having taken a sip, broken down from being yelled at by an angry drunk dude because he thinks I’m a prude for finally getting crappy with him for grabbing my ass, and my only savior, a guard who protected me from the angry guy, did it only after spending most of the evening “slyly” putting his hands on my hips “just to let me know he is there” and then rubbing his crotch on me as he slides back and forth in front of the stage keeping an eye on the crowd.
These examples are real life for me, and just the small tip of the iceberg being shoved up my bunghole at most shows without even looking at dealing with the business side of things. Trying to get equal pay and respect for equal jobs done by men is near impossible in the music field just like elsewhere. Then add to that getting hit on by tour managers and venue staff that without a doubt will make your job sooo much more difficult or maybe not even hire you if you don’t flirt back.
Am I complaining? Yeah, maybe a little, but I’ve also accepted that this is the price I pay to live my dream. Everyone pays a price, so why should I be different? Or is that thought wrong, and part of the fight that the feminist are trying to make me understand is at my doorstep. I’m old and tired, though and just don’t usually answer the door, so maybe I will never know. This injustice has for the most part just become a way of life for me. Just another day. That’s what earplugs are for right? No. I’m finally getting that it’s wrong.
My mind was comforted recently by a fellow sister in the industry that occasionally voices her opinion on the subject. Jessica Weigand, though not in the photography field, is another power woman in the same music industry shark tank through which I swim. She is marketing & social media director for moe. and recently received a promotion she definitely deserved which now has her donning the tour manager hat as well.
Jessica often inspires me by sharing stories written by other women as well as her own that make me know I’m not alone. She recently shared the article Gender Inequality: What happened when a man and woman switched names at work for a week. The article details a man and woman switching names on their emails, and the stunning observation of how much harder his plight was compared to the ease with which his female counterpart suddenly now completed her tasks using his name. The need for a female to prove themselves before the business discussion can even begin is all too often apparent, and it is most likely absurd that I thought I was the only one.
I watch amazing women like Jessica Weigand soar in her field, and I’m completely awe-stricken. At an age barely older than my daughter she is taking the world by storm, commanding respect, and giving me hope that the next generation of women are absolutely ready to conquer their worlds. I am very fortunate to have met and worked with her as well as many other females in the music industry. I am also super blessed to work for the Lafayette Theater under the care of the magnanimous Nate Pientok whose male staff are somehow 100% the wonderful prince charmings you read about in fairy tales. I’m starting to learn that no one can live in a safe bubble of happiness forever, though. Denial doesn’t make my fortress impregnable. Eventually, the bubble always pops, and chauvinism doesn’t need legs to walk or hair to climb on to get up into my tower.
Consequently, I think it is passed time time to share my experiences if for no other reason than the hope that I can make just one other girl like me feel not as alone. You never know, maybe in the future the PPA and the music venues could come up with a system to cut me out as middleman, and just let the employees and the crowd feel each other up, but until then I’m going to keep looking for my own solutions, and keep rocking the f*ck out… and to the next drunk guy that flings himself onto me from the crowd with his meaty hands… don’t be surprised if those solutions involve tasers, pepper spray, or a flogging with my 70-200 2.8… maybe even all at the same time 😉
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