dasharush

syd

Coinciding with International Womens’ Day, advocacy group and networking platform Female Pressure yesterday launched themselves on Tumblr. In a stream of photos, they’ve been sharing images of female-identified artists engaged in process with music creation technology. (Some randomly-selected images are here; see the rest via the link below.)

The images alone are a humbling and inspiring for me, just because I see so many familiar faces – friends and artists that have been personal role models for my work, including in moments of personal struggle as an artist and writer.

The idea, say Female Pressure, was partly a response to an extensive commentary by Björk. In an interview with Pitchfork provocatively titled “The Invisible Woman,” Björk speaks at length about authorship as a producer. She talks about her new record, too; the whole story is a must-read. But the question of Björk and credit – her, even with superstar status, unable to be properly acknowledged – must have struck a nerve, because it got a lot of traction online in the weeks since.

Simply put, Björk’s comments got attention because of widespread frustration with press and fans assuming by default that women aren’t actually doing production. And surely that’s an absurdly Medieval notion to survive in 2015. Björk’s thoughtful consideration of why this could be, though, went further (whereas the rest of us, myself included, might have stopped with “WTF?!”).

“It’s a lot of what people see,” Björk told Pitchfork. What people see onstage, and what people see in the press, she said, determines their opinion of how female artists are involved in the music:

“So maybe it’s not all sexist evil. [laughs] But it’s an ongoing battle. I hope it doesn’t come across as too defensive, but it is the truth. I definitely can feel the third or fourth feminist wave in the air, so maybe this is a good time to open that Pandora’s box a little bit and air it out.”

Well, whether or not Björk was featured in enough of these sorts of images working in the studio, others have been. Female Pressure have unleashed a torrent of images of women working in electronic music, whether in studio production or DJing or live performance.

I think it is important to note that even Björk’s original interview suggests that this isn’t an entirely simple issue. While the commentary was widely reported, almost no one since the January story has acknowledged that Björk herself was reluctant to have herself pictured in this way. Speaking as a journalist regularly covering artists, you shouldn’t skip over that passage. (When I’m covering technology, I don’t have to deal with this – software and hardware is neither gendered nor opinionated in that fashion.) She said at the time:

I spend 80% of the writing process of my albums on my own. I write the melodies. I’m by the computer. I edit a lot. That for me is very solitary. I don’t want to be photographed when I’m doing that. I don’t invite people around.

Now, just because Björk doesn’t want you snapping photos while she tries to produce a record shouldn’t mean that everyone assumes someone else did the production work for her. But it does underline a separate point: we have to be cautious and talk to artists as individuals. I hope that we avoid thrusting any kind of obligation on any artist, least of all an added obligation because of their gender identity.

Of course, that said, artist reluctance is clearly not the only reason these images aren’t more widespread. In everything from the media to marketing in the tech end of the musical instruments industry, there’s an obvious absence of pictures of women engaged with tools. It’s not the only problem, but it’s a big one. And it’s frankly puzzling if there’s ever a failure to do this, particularly if your job is marketing tools.

I believe this problem begins with an approach to music generally. The media too often shies away from technology, from discussion of craft, from any glimpse of discussion that might be technical in regards to music or tools. There is a fear of music practitioners as specialists, even before getting into gender politics. As an advocate of music education and technology education, I hope I can do my duty even to begin to scratch the surface of those problems.

cannedfit

ceciliacastro

When that deficiency hits gender identity biases, things only get worse. If artists in general are meant to present themselves as magical and flawlessly appealing public figures, divorced from discussions of what it means to make music and to use music technology, then women are under still-greater pressures.

As with so many issues around gender identity, eventually, everyone loses. Male and female artists are under enormous pressures to market themselves according to existing norms. This is why ultimately we have to find avenues to allow artists to be as individual as they wish, to present portraits of who they are and what they actually do.

For Björk’s part, the effort is highlighted on her Twitter account.

bjorkfemalepressure

Make no mistake, then: what female pressure is fighting for, what Björk is suggesting, can benefit everyone.

We all need a certain degree of solitude and privacy. But I hope that we can find those opportunities where we do feel comfortable inviting others into our more personal process, including our relationship with our tools.

And if we really care about music as something human beings make, we should give artists who can give those invitation the space they need to share. This means really making process visible: not fetishizing music technology, but understanding it as something personal and meaningful. It means facing it head-on, not being afraid of the tools, the tool makers, or the tool users.

I know plenty of artists, and certainly plenty of female artists, who have no desire whatsoever to be invisible. If they’re open enough to share, let’s accept and encourage that hospitality.

From top: Dasha Rush, Syd Tha Kyd, Canned Fit, Cecilia Castro.

  • Sexy!

  • Sexy!

  • gunboat_d

    Pict 1. HOW DO YOU FIND ANYTHING ON THAT DESK?
    Pict 2. Ah, that’s more like it
    Pict 3. Cool
    Pict 4. My back aches just thinking about working like that.
    Finally something worthwhile on Tumblr!

    • Ha, actually, I posted this and it didn’t occur to me – I’m fairly certain #1 is Krautok. I was playing at that event; everything was like that. 24-hour live jam at about blank. (Answer to your question: you don’t.)

  • gunboat_d

    Pict 1. HOW DO YOU FIND ANYTHING ON THAT DESK?
    Pict 2. Ah, that’s more like it
    Pict 3. Cool
    Pict 4. My back aches just thinking about working like that.
    Finally something worthwhile on Tumblr!

    • Ha, actually, I posted this and it didn’t occur to me – I’m fairly certain #1 is Krautok. I was playing at that event; everything was like that. 24-hour live jam at about blank. (Answer to your question: you don’t.)

  • HansMono

    Very interesting article/subject. Lots of good pictures, wich of course we need more from. So i guess, airing out that pandorras box is long overdue.. ;b

  • HansMono

    Very interesting article/subject. Lots of good pictures, wich of course we need more from. So i guess, airing out that pandorras box is long overdue.. ;b

  • KM

    Women being awesome is awesome. The fact that this is about women participating in something I really care about makes me happy. Thanks for this article.

  • KM

    Women being awesome is awesome. The fact that this is about women participating in something I really care about makes me happy. Thanks for this article.

  • beketaten

    Plenty of women make electronic music and everyone knows this, but ultimately, the vast majority of women are not technically inclined. They may be musically inclined–as vocalists–but the nuts and bolts of studio production is far more suited for male brain structure. Most of of the women featured on this tumblr blog all look obviously masculinized or are known lesbians. Not exactly normal women. I myself adore music and have always vowed to pursue making it, but whenever I try to sit down and seriously approach the software, I get so bored I have to stop. No one ever told me I couldn’t do it because I’m a girl–it’s just that my lifelong dream is only enjoyable for me as an abstract fantasy, not as a genuine commitment to mechanistic knob-twiddling. The only reason my lack of musical output is as distressing to me as it is is because I was told my entire life that I ~could~ do it, thus it caused a far greater ego wound once I realized I was not temperamentally capable of it. Enforced “equality” sets women up for failure.

    • nothingnatural

      As a masculinized, known lesbian making electronic music, your strange, essentialist assessment of women’s dispositions against knob-twiddling had me laughing. Thanks for the chuckle.

      • gunboat_d

        this is the best possible response to trolls

      • Ha, wow, I had missed beketaten’s comment while moderating and … then had to read it a couple of times to make sure it was real.

        Thanks for answering. 🙂

        A “masculinized, known lesbian” Tumblr blog could be a next chapter!

        – not exactly a normal guy

        • nothingnatural

          My tumblr IS a masculinized, known lesbian blog! Also socialist, anti-racist, and various other things that beketaten wouldn’t like. (I checked out her disqus history. Wow.)

          Thanks for your support Peter. You don’t put up with the sexist BS that gets a pass on most websites, and that’s one of the reasons I visit CDM on the daily.

          • Oh I thought you were pro that comment when I got to the “thanks.” It came out so friendly with the chuckle. That spurred me on to go absolutely loony in my response (I was already upset, clearly) … but I like it lol. Oh well. 🙂

          • I scrolled back up and, on this page, it’s not even true that the women look all “masculinized.” There’s a variety of hair, clothing, etc.

            I’ve been prepping a blog post partially about how taking selfies while doing this work can be daunting _because_ it’s not like we’re dolled up. I mean, daunting for someone who cares, like I do.

            It’s not like we’re in our home studios, in our DAWs, in full makeup and ball gowns. Makes no sense. LOL. 🙂

            Pink jammies and scarves here, haha. Still chilly!

            So photo-ready? Maybe not. Same for some of our home studio spaces too … or just messy woman-child me? Haha. I mean I know to declutter the actual audio space or it’d hinder the sound/recording work, but otherwise, like say possible vlog/YouTube areas, hurricane zones, lol. Spring cleaning soon though! 🙂

          • ONE more, then I’ll stop. ;D

            Disqus history, comment on:

            “4 Super … Sciencey Reasons to Oven People with Tattoos”

            WHAT is “ovening” people?????

            I had to share.

    • nick

      horrible narrow minded and offensive thing to say. maybe your brain is not technically inclined. that does not mean you speak for all of wom*n.

      “Enforced “equality” sets women up for failure” thats horrible

      equality in any facet of society is never a failure.

    • StanleyBrothers

      While I support the premise that men and women are different and that’s okay (although quantifying those differences may be tricky) equal opportunity is not enforced equality. You can make music just like the rest of us. I work with enough kick ass lady engineers to know that the ‘women aren’t good at math, technology, science’ stereotype is a myth. Electronic music might not be for you (or maybe it still is and you just need a teacher?) but it has nothing to do with being a woman.

    • I’m actually a cat morphed into a girl and well, how you feel about software I felt about guitars. I love batting at a mouse so much that I became quite natural at software as I turned into a young woman. I’m better at software than dealing with humans too.

      Personal rant warning: Enforced ideas of what’s normal make me freak out about my damaged hair and mess it up more. Enforced ideas of what’s feminine (and good enough, and this or that) or not do the same, and that hinders its growth (by making me mess with it). I get sad or just go nuts, and mess my hair up. Like the more I think about how I want it long or a proper bob the more I think about how it doesn’t look like “me” but instead of wait I sabotage. I know this has nothing to do with what you’re reacting to, but it gave me huge “feels.” 🙁

      But I’m just a space cat princess turned into a mess of a girl with fewer resources than average, wearing skirts only when it’s hot out, enjoying looking disarmingly girly (well I used to and I miss it) partly so I can better obliterate the patriarchy and with big laughs. But also partly because it’s so me, “even though” I too do love fellow, um, kitties, also nice (not too manly) boys. Like my nice boy who needs me to fix computer problems for our household. *beams*

      I know I’m not “normal.” (What is?) I’m a horny unicorn snowflake, but isn’t everyone?

      Ooh, look, yarn……………….. I’m going to go make a giant bow for my hair.

      But first I do want to extend sympathies for your own feels about not meeting your hopes for yourself. You can still make music another way, perhaps with a collaborator. I’m not really a scientist or math whiz, but I made websites and graphics before I discovered that DAWs even exist (no one bothered to tell me they exist, let alone say girls can use them, erg, and somehow I didn’t find out on my own for so darn long) so I still get around the software I bought (sometimes approaching it a bit like audio photoshop or something). And I learned my DAW and worked on my voice, etc., for years before “hopeless” unemployment allowed me to speed up that process and this year I’m finally releasing music. Women make graphics and code and we sometimes do it differently from men, more visually. I think of my music skills like that, going for art, using ears – more slowly learning the science like KHz and EQ. Oh well! My ears help me catch up. Men make fun of women working more on the art side of the web too, less in the science (CSS vs PHP), but screw all that bias. Rockers bash electro, and that’s kind of similar. Someday that’ll be over (except bashing less macho stuff won’t fade as fast).

      Don’t give up on music if you feel incomplete without it. Your fantasies won’t stop. Maybe try the duo thing. If you want to try again with a DAW, I recommend Tracktion. It’s not modeled after old-school physical consoles (knobs, etc.). It “feels” like other computer stuff and I LOVE that. *mouse mouse*

      Don’t forget, women are “behind” in tech because partially we’re behind with most other professions. We used to be excluded from most work!!! Why wouldn’t we be behind in tech, politics, business, almost everything? It’s not our brains. It’s the patriarchy.

    • cmh

      wow I think you are ridiculous. You lost me at Male brain structures and Normal women. Sources? I’m sorry you suck at it. I actually don’t. So now you think all girls (except abnormal masculinized lesbians) just don’t do it well. Thanks for playing the patriarchy better luck next time.

  • waffleironmarch

    Plenty of women make electronic music and everyone knows this, but ultimately, the vast majority of women are not technically inclined. They may be musically inclined–as vocalists–but the nuts and bolts of studio production is far more suited for male brain structure. Most of of the women featured on this tumblr blog all look obviously masculinized or are known lesbians. Not exactly normal women. I myself adore music and have always vowed to pursue making it, but whenever I try to sit down and seriously approach the software, I get so bored I have to stop. No one ever told me I couldn’t do it because I’m a girl–it’s just that my lifelong dream is only enjoyable for me as an abstract fantasy, not as a genuine commitment to mechanistic knob-twiddling. The only reason my lack of musical output is as distressing to me as it is is because I was told my entire life that I ~could~ do it, thus it caused a far greater ego wound once I realized I was not temperamentally capable of it. Enforced “equality” sets women up for failure.

    • nothingnatural

      As a masculinized, known lesbian making electronic music, your strange, essentialist assessment of women’s dispositions against knob-twiddling had me laughing. Thanks for the chuckle.

      • gunboat_d

        this is the best possible response to trolls

      • Ha, wow, I had missed beketaten’s comment while moderating and … then had to read it a couple of times to make sure it was real.

        Thanks for answering. 🙂

        A “masculinized, known lesbian” Tumblr blog could be a next chapter!

        – not exactly a normal guy

        • nothingnatural

          My tumblr IS a masculinized, known lesbian blog! Also socialist, anti-racist, and various other things that beketaten wouldn’t like. (I checked out her disqus history. Wow.)

          Thanks for your support Peter. You don’t put up with the sexist BS that gets a pass on most websites, and that’s one of the reasons I visit CDM on the daily.

          • Oh I thought you were pro that comment when I got to the “thanks.” It came out so friendly with the chuckle. That spurred me on to go absolutely loony in my response (I was already upset, clearly) … but I like it lol. Oh well. 🙂

          • I scrolled back up and, on this page, it’s not even true that the women look all “masculinized.” There’s a variety of hair, clothing, etc.

            I’ve been prepping a blog post partially about how taking selfies while doing this work can be daunting _because_ it’s not like we’re dolled up. I mean, daunting for someone who cares, like I do.

            It’s not like we’re in our home studios, in our DAWs, in full makeup and ball gowns. Makes no sense. LOL. 🙂

            Pink jammies and scarves here, haha. Still chilly!

            So photo-ready? Maybe not. Same for some of our home studio spaces too … or just messy woman-child me? Haha. I mean I know to declutter the actual audio space or it’d hinder the sound/recording work, but otherwise, like say possible vlog/YouTube areas, hurricane zones, lol. Spring cleaning soon though! 🙂

          • ONE more, then I’ll stop. ;D

            Disqus history, comment on:

            “4 Super … Sciencey Reasons to Oven People with Tattoos”

            WHAT is “ovening” people?????

            I had to share.

    • nick

      horrible narrow minded and offensive thing to say. maybe your brain is not technically inclined. that does not mean you speak for all of wom*n.

      “Enforced “equality” sets women up for failure” thats horrible

      equality in any facet of society is never a failure.

    • StanleyBrothers

      While I support the premise that men and women are different and that’s okay (although quantifying those differences may be tricky) equal opportunity is not enforced equality. You can make music just like the rest of us. I work with enough kick ass lady engineers to know that the ‘women aren’t good at math, technology, science’ stereotype is a myth. Electronic music might not be for you (or maybe it still is and you just need a teacher?) but it has nothing to do with being a woman.

    • I’m actually a cat morphed into a girl and well, how you feel about software I felt about guitars. I love batting at a mouse so much that I became quite natural at software as I turned into a young woman. I’m better at software than dealing with humans too.

      Personal rant warning: Enforced ideas of what’s normal make me freak out about my damaged hair and mess it up more. Enforced ideas of what’s feminine (and good enough, and this or that) or not do the same, and that hinders its growth (by making me mess with it). I get sad or just go nuts, and mess my hair up. Like the more I think about how I want it long or a proper bob the more I think about how it doesn’t look like “me” but instead of wait I sabotage. I know this has nothing to do with what you’re reacting to, but it gave me huge “feels.” 🙁

      But I’m just a space cat princess turned into a mess of a girl with fewer resources than average, wearing skirts only when it’s hot out, enjoying looking disarmingly girly (well I used to and I miss it) partly so I can better obliterate the patriarchy and with big laughs. But also partly because it’s so me, “even though” I too do love fellow, um, kitties, also nice (not too manly) boys. Like my nice boy who needs me to fix computer problems for our household. *beams*

      I know I’m not “normal.” (What is?) I’m a horny unicorn snowflake, but isn’t everyone?

      Ooh, look, yarn……………….. I’m going to go make a giant bow for my hair.

      But first I do want to extend sympathies for your own feels about not meeting your hopes for yourself. You can still make music another way, perhaps with a collaborator. I’m not really a scientist or math whiz, but I made websites and graphics before I discovered that DAWs even exist (no one bothered to tell me they exist, let alone say girls can use them, erg, and somehow I didn’t find out on my own for so darn long) so I still get around the software I bought (sometimes approaching it a bit like audio photoshop or something). And I learned my DAW and worked on my voice, etc., for years before “hopeless” unemployment allowed me to speed up that process and this year I’m finally releasing music. Women make graphics and code and we sometimes do it differently from men, more visually. I think of my music skills like that, going for art, using ears – more slowly learning the science like KHz and EQ. Oh well! My ears help me catch up. Men make fun of women working more on the art side of the web too, less in the science (CSS vs PHP), but screw all that bias. Rockers bash electro, and that’s kind of similar. Someday that’ll be over (except bashing less macho stuff won’t fade as fast).

      Don’t give up on music if you feel incomplete without it. Your fantasies won’t stop. Maybe try the duo thing. If you want to try again with a DAW, I recommend Tracktion. It’s not modeled after old-school physical consoles (knobs, etc.). It “feels” like other computer stuff and I LOVE that. *mouse mouse*

      Don’t forget, women are “behind” in tech because partially we’re behind with most other professions. We used to be excluded from most work!!! Why wouldn’t we be behind in tech, politics, business, almost everything? It’s not our brains. It’s the patriarchy.

    • cmh

      wow I think your assertions aren’t grounded in you know like actual evidence just anecdotes. I’m bad at this so all normal women must be. Interesting how when men aren’t good at something it’s just them not this whole gender. You lost me at Male brain structures and Normal women. Sources? Anyway I’m sorry you suck at it. I actually don’t.

  • Miquel Dangla

    It’s as well a matter of exposure. The more we see women using music technology, the more will join in. Let me praise Moog for their recent features of Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, two perfectly proficient synthesists on the System 55 and the Werkstatt+Buchla Music Easel respectively –two machines which are anything but easy to master.
    http://www.moogmusic.com/sight-and-sound/product_demo/

  • Miquel Dangla

    It’s as well a matter of exposure. The more we see women using music technology, the more will join in. Let me praise Moog for their recent features of Suzanne Ciani and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, two perfectly proficient synthesists on the System 55 and the Werkstatt+Buchla Music Easel respectively –two machines which are anything but easy to master.
    http://www.moogmusic.com/sight-and-sound/product_demo/

  • Juicy

    I’m a female touring FOH engineer and I get excluded out of a lot of photos, or images of crew working. Most local photographers assume I’m a girlfriend of the band. I can’t tell you how many time someone has looked at me and asked me point blank where the sound guy is.

    I’ve had house engineers in Europe try to kick me off the desk because they don’t think that a woman can do it without breaking their house rig.

    We need this exposure, we need to be included, we need to encourage our sisters and daughters and peers.

    This is awesome.

    • Glad to hear! Thanks for encouraging encouragement.

      Of course, getting photos of FOH engineers is already something that needs to happen more. But then they’re actually doing those photos, and assuming you don’t belong there? That’s horrible (if unfortunately unsurprising).

      The “maybe that’s someone’s girlfriend” thing is rampant and self-perpetuating, too, I know – even sometimes by well-meaning people, and men and women alike. So it strikes me that yes, this will require a lot of proactive intervention on all our parts, if it’s going to change.

    • poemproducer

      please send us pictures of you in working environement!
      http://femalepressure.tumblr.com/submission

  • Juicy

    I’m a female touring FOH engineer and I get excluded out of a lot of photos, or images of crew working. Most local photographers assume I’m a girlfriend of the band. I can’t tell you how many time someone has looked at me and asked me point blank where the sound guy is.

    I’ve had house engineers in Europe try to kick me off the desk because they don’t think that a woman can do it without breaking their house rig.

    We need this exposure, we need to be included, we need to encourage our sisters and daughters and peers.

    This is awesome.

    • Glad to hear! Thanks for encouraging encouragement.

      Of course, getting photos of FOH engineers is already something that needs to happen more. But then they’re actually doing those photos, and assuming you don’t belong there? That’s horrible (if unfortunately unsurprising).

      The “maybe that’s someone’s girlfriend” thing is rampant and self-perpetuating, too, I know – even sometimes by well-meaning people, and men and women alike. So it strikes me that yes, this will require a lot of proactive intervention on all our parts, if it’s going to change.

    • poemproducer

      please send us pictures of you in working environement!
      http://femalepressure.tumblr.com/submission

  • As long as festival bookings are like e.g. Sonar Copenhagen (9 female artists – or bands with female members out of 39 in total), compared with e.g. Sonar Barcelona (16 out of 94) or Melt! (10 out of 83), I’m afraid we still have an awful long way to go. And don’t count me on the exact numbers – this was just to make a point.

    As said before in the comments here: Exposure and encouragement are key. Amongst the dozens and dozens of women I have met to discuss music and figure out whether or not we’d want to collaborate, I have only met three that were at least remotely interested in any technical aspects of at least the most basic home recording setup. I don’t know what the barrier is for all the other ladies, but music related technology and computer stuff really is not any rocket science – and it is on the other hand so much liberating (yes, also for me as a male musician) to know how stuff works and to be able to use your tools completely on your own, instead of having to rely on someone else.

    Anyway, respect to everyone (male and female) who supports the only way forward. Like in every other business: I believe it is unhealthy, when there is not a good balance between male and female contribution and points of view.

  • As long as festival bookings are like e.g. Sonar Copenhagen (9 female artists – or bands with female members out of 39 in total), compared with e.g. Sonar Barcelona (16 out of 94) or Melt! (10 out of 83), I’m afraid we still have an awful long way to go. And don’t count me on the exact numbers – this was just to make a point.

    As said before in the comments here: Exposure and encouragement are key. Amongst the dozens and dozens of women I have met to discuss music and figure out whether or not we’d want to collaborate, I have only met three that were at least remotely interested in any technical aspects of at least the most basic home recording setup. I don’t know what the barrier is for all the other ladies, but music related technology and computer stuff really is not any rocket science – and it is on the other hand so much liberating (yes, also for me as a male musician) to know how stuff works and to be able to use your tools completely on your own, instead of having to rely on someone else.

    Anyway, respect to everyone (male and female) who supports the only way forward. Like in every other business: I believe it is unhealthy, when there is not a good balance between male and female contribution and points of view.

  • poemproducer

    hi all, I just want to take a minute and thank Peter for this beautiful article and stand. I am curating the female:pressure tumblr and wrote some of my thoughts here: https://medium.com/@poemproducer/some-things-just-must-be-said-simple-and-clear-there-is-a-lot-of-women-in-electronic-digital-d252f67a5b03

    Here an overview of all submissions: http://femalepressure.tumblr.com/archive#_=_
    For women in music and tech: http://femalepressure.tumblr.com/submission

  • poemproducer

    hi all, I just want to take a minute and thank Peter for this beautiful article and stand. I am curating the female:pressure tumblr and wrote some of my thoughts here: https://medium.com/@poemproducer/some-things-just-must-be-said-simple-and-clear-there-is-a-lot-of-women-in-electronic-digital-d252f67a5b03

    Here an overview of all submissions: http://femalepressure.tumblr.com/archive#_=_
    For women in music and tech: http://femalepressure.tumblr.com/submission