The key word in that tweet, for me, is “quietly”. I could overlook that, and flatter myself by thinking that I live up to that standard, but I’d be lying to myself. I’ve blogged, tweeted, posted on Facebook and made a podcast, all of which have a self-promotional bent that might not invalidate my choice, but certainly undermines it. Now, less than a month from the end, I don’t regret starting the Ladyist Experiment; I do, however, regret all this talking about it.
That’s not to say there haven’t been good things that have come from it: lots of great people have offered recommendations, lent me things, and generally expressed support for my choice. I’ve pushed myself as a writer, and remembered how much I enjoyed doing it. And maybe, if I’m lucky, some of you folk heard a musician you might not have otherwise come across, or read a comic that you might’ve overlooked. All of those are wonderful things, and that’s before I reflect on the ways I’ve changed in the past year (spoiler: there are several). None of this, though, required me to make public declarations about my diet. I still think it has been a great thing to do, but I wish I’d cut myself out of it.
Aside from the ego element, there are other issues with the nature of the Experiment, and the ways in which I talk about it. However much I steer clear of terms like “girl band” and “woman in rock”, the focus I put on the creators and characters still creates a sense of the ‘other’ about them. It separates the artists and their work from their contexts and places them in a special category based entirely on their gender. That just helps to reinforce the idea that women can’t compete with men, that they need rarified air to allow their fragile species to flourish, which of course is not true.
Neko Case rightly pulled up Playboy for doing much the same thing. Their phrasing reinforced the idea that there is a distinct subcategory for women who are also musicians, outside of the norm. (Neko herself tackled this on ‘I’m From Nowhere’, which you should listen to right now.)
That idea of “women in music” as ‘other’ affects the lives of musicians like Neko every day, when they have to contend with a patronising sound guy, or a rival band who accuse her of sleeping her way to the top (or to the middle, or…). That sort of industry-wide obstacle forces women out, and reinforces the status quo. It’s a wretched state of affairs, and I’m not thrilled that I helped perpetuate that image, well-intentioned or otherwise.
If I could address my past self, I’d still tell Joel of 2014 to read, listen to, watch and play stuff about women for the next year (I’d probably encourage him to push harder and stick to women as creators, too). Then I’d tell him to scrap the blog, delete the Twitter account, and do it for no other reason than it’s a good idea.