I was born in a family of four children, two boys and two girls, and never ever did our mother make us feel as if we were any different from each other. We didn’t have dolls in one chest and robots in the other: we had teddy bears, Lego, crayons, keyboards and guitars. We played together. Created together. We were raised to think we could do anything we wanted if we worked hard enough for it. No gender-specific opportunities were awaiting round the corners of our separate male-female paths.
Turning into a young woman and putting my nose out in the world, I slowly realized that the respect and sense of equality I had always taken for granted were not going to come from everyone. I was walking with a veil covering me. People were assuming things about me. Treating me differently, seeing me differently. I wasn’t a singer, musician, songwriter, studio geek. I was a FEMALE singer, musician, songwriter, studio geek.
My gender and my sexuality always preceded me. They came before my music, my lyrics, what I had to say, why people assumed I had to say it. My early reaction to this was to just ignore it all, keep doing what I was doing with a smile and not give importance to an issue that, so I thought, didn’t deserve any. I hoped to fight inequality with a peaceful, serene nonchalance.
As I grew older, I understood that quietly minding my own business and being nice to people was not going to solve the problem. Shop assistants in Denmark Street were still very surprised at the realization I was there to get served, not waiting for a boyfriend. People were still assuming I had nothing to do with anything “musical” or “technical” in regards to Black Casino and the Ghost.
Patronizing clerks were still questioning me when I asked for specific TV cables and saying “I don’t think that’s the one you need”. Clients were still waiting for the “male engineer” to arrive at the studio. Blogs were still advertising courses run by men to “boost the confidence of insecure female musicians in the studio” instead of courses on “how not to be a sexist cretin”.
Little by little I started feeling frustrated. That was simply not fair. It was not fair for me to be made to feel different all the time.
I think that, as with all kinds of discrimination, the root of the problem is ignorance: we fear what we think we can’t understand, what we think is different, so we try to control it. I’m sure that many of the people I mentioned wouldn’t even describe themselves as sexist. That’s why I have come to the conclusion that it IS important to talk about the issue. In a world cursed by violence and abuse (be it on women, men, children or animals) there is still a lot of space for words, a lot of work to be done. Words have the immense power to change minds. Sharing thoughts and experiences can slowly but effectively help humans overcome their misunderstandings and evolve into a better, more civilized, moron-free species.
So I have decided to open up.
I have recently come across three episodes in particular that really made me think about how we are victims of our culture. The first one was an exchange of opinions between British journalist Liz Jones and pop singer Rihanna. On her Daily Mail article Jones described the singer as promoting the “sort of fashion sense on stage that surely invites rape at worst, disrespect at least”. To which Rihanna replied: “you sound bitter! (…) That’s a sad sloppy menopausal mess!!!”
Dear Mrs. Jones, NOTHING and I repeat NOTHING invites rape. Rape is one of the lowest examples of humiliation and abuse that one human can subject another human to. We were all shocked by the horror of the recent tragedy on that bus in Delhi. Rape cannot be INVITED. That is an idiotic contradiction and it dangerously shifts the focus of responsibilities from the perpetrator to the victim. Women have every right to wear whatever they feel like and to show off and express their sexuality if that’s what they want to do without compromising their safety. Moron.
Dear Mrs. Rihanna, you are talking to a person whose views are dictated by her brains (or more appropriately the apparent lack of the latter) not by her ovaries or ability to conceive. Moron.
The other two episodes that caught my attention were London Grammar’s singer Hannah Reid being at the centre of a debate on BBC Radio 1’s Twitter where the DJ asked listeners to send in their opinion on how “fit” she was, and Cvrches having to post a Facebook update asking fans to stop sending rude messages regarding wanting to “have anal sex with”/”fuck the accent out of”/”make superior love to” singer Lauren Mayberry.
What saddened me deeply were the comments by people who, despite giving their support, prompted the bands to accept the situation because “that’s to be expected if there’s a female member in the band”. There it is again, the veil. The gender before the person. A woman’s relevance in relation to an eager sexual perspective before her relevance per se. I respect these bands for raising their voices.
Women are not objects on a shelf waiting to be evaluated, scored, judged, and then picked and consumed by other people’s lust. They are human beings. As far as I know unwanted sexual attention is disturbing for ANY human being. It is NOT “flattering”. Any creative person would feel mortified if all that they were, all that they meant, all that they stood for and worked hard for, all the soul, blood sweat and tears they had the guts to share with the public through their art, had to be seen through and after the filter of “how fit they were”.
It’s time to stop considering women through and for sex and looks only. It’s time to stop “PMS” jokes, “slut” remarks, “bitter” remarks, “menopausal”, “fat”, “thin”,”needs a boyfriend”, “asking for it”, “shouldn’t be wearing that” remarks.
Time to start putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. Think a bit more. Talk a bit more. Fear a bit less.
And if you think I’m writing all this because of any sexual reason (I hate men, I need a boyfriend, I’m repressed, I’m ugly, I’m bitter, I like having sex with lamp posts) then you are guilty of sexism too and you should start reading this blog post again from the top.
Peace & Love
Elisa Zoot is part of Black Casino and the Ghost; an alternative rock band consisting of Elisa (vocals & piano), Ariel Lerner (guitar) Gary Kilminster (bass) and Paul Winter-Hart (drums). The band was formed in London, England, in 2010. Their music is about isolation, disorientation, lust, and how to fly a plane through turbulence without spilling your coffee. Their debut album, Some Dogs Think Their Name is No, is out now.