Response to: “Where have all the women gone?”

By Andrea Alarcón

I was writing about divorce but decided to stop, because Juliana’s blog on lack of females in music blog spurred a flash of introspection. Do I know any women who play musical instruments well? Well yes, I am one of them, and many of my friends started playing at about the same time that I did. What stopped us from an forming an all female band?

First, a lack of tenacity and self-confidence. It seems like most of the musically inclined women I know, (that are not clasically trained… the gender statistics in music schools and conservatories is something to add to that sociological study),  figure out really quickly that they will never make a living off of it, and they don’t spend vast amount hours of the day in the pursuit of it.  Anything artistic requires boldness, the desire for risk and spending a lot of time practicing something that you are most likely not going to get paid for well, at least statistically speaking.  If you are a good singer by birth, the talent is raw and obvious. You are more likely to know if you will be a great, succesful singer than a bass player.

Shakira
Shakira. Credit: Wikipedia.

Shakira is an example of this tenacity, since it took a lot of effort and slimming down before she got where she is today. She is a dancer, singer, writer, guitar player etc, but if you tear it all apart you’ll see she’s not the best at any. She has managed to add all those qualities into a concoction that makes her a bomb; a star more than anything else. And yes, were she ugly, I’m sure that all of her qualities would have remained hidden from us in some obscure bar.

The second one is your second option, a lack of interest.  Not a lack of it per se, but too many interests.   From what I have noticed around me, and what my male colleagues have said to me, women have many things they want to do, therefore they do not spend all their time in one. I see it as what I would call the language meter. People who speak five languages are less likely to be an expert in any of them, with clear exceptions. Women are the polyglots of life, and men the masters of their own language. The extremes: Yes, there are more men who are in the genius category, but most people in jail are also men. Let alone serial killers. Women are generally what we call “well-rounded”;  hovering in the middle. Good at most things but not genius-like in any. That’s why they are better at school, and multitasking.  What do you think about this Juli? Would you agree?  Whether this is nature or nurture, don’t really know. You tell me ;)

As for the baby-making thing,  yes, children and family fall into that as well,  and they always will in most things where men excel because they have more time.  I liked this post by the IHT Female Factor on Facebook

Asked at a Barnard College conference what men could do to help advance women’s leadership, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the landmark “Men and Women of the Corporation,” answered, “The laundry.”

This applies to anything in which women want to be leaders in.  They also begin to think about motherhood much earlier than men do about fatherhood. Being a musician is not a 9 to 5 job. It requires performing, traveling, moving, etc. Absolute dedication and deep absorption of the craft. Wouldn’t that be a deterrent for someone thinking of bringing up a family? It seems like this kind of preoccupation does not often come into men’s heads.  Shakira started a successful career at the age of 18. I read a profile of Sheryl Sandberg where she said that if women haven’t  found a job they loved before they became mothers, they are not likely to come back. Our dear Shakira was lucky; she knew what she wanted since she was 10, way before baby-thinking time.

Anyhow, just adding to this. Would love to read what else you find out on the subject.

3 thoughts on “Response to: “Where have all the women gone?”

  1. How about the mixed bands? There seems to be an entire legion of bands that either have girls on vocals or instruments! I think if we consider those it might make for a different picture at least in the field of music.

    1. Hi! thanks for commenting on our site :) I think on this issue, another commenter, T. Stump, had a great point when she/he said: “Take a look at any list of top indie bands or performers. Now identify the women that are either solo acts or members of these bands as singer or instrumentalist. Notice how nearly all of them would be considered – even by producers of American Idol – as “conventionally” attractive. Then do the same for the male performers, and notice how the ratio is far lower.” Women’s looks are emphasized over their talent, even in mixed bands. In any case, there are far fewer bands were the women are bassists, drummers, sax players, etc. Many times they are there, but their contribution is not on par with the men’s. That is not to say there aren’t any women instrumentalists or composers out there. A friend who majored in classical music composition pointed Yoko Kanno to me, who is composer, arranger, musician and frontwoman for The Seatbelts, where she also plays sick piano. This is more of what I am talking about.. this is what I feel is really lacking, women who are leaders, a problem that goes way beyond music.

  2. I am amazed at your post. There are many successful female musicians in every category. As for genius, I do not believe that there is a distinction between male and female in IQ scores, if that is any measure of genius. I do agree that confidence and risk taking are necessary factors. There are ways around that. For example, there are now online music competitions, like Make A Star (www.makeastar.com). You can upload a video and it gets voted on by the online viewers. The winners end up on National TV. The advantages are that you can keep your day job, you don’t have to appear in front of a crowd and you can submit another video if the first does not succeed.
    Of course, if you win a competition you have to grab the opportunity, and it does not hurt to be thin.

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