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Women in Music

I was perusing New York, one of my favorite magazines,  and started reading a great interview with actor/author Anjelica Huston (Issue April 29-May 12).  The interviewer asked her about the attitudes of men towards women and if, in the era of the #MeToo movement, anything has changed, and she answered:

“No, I don’t. And frankly I think there’s a whole element of guys who will get up to what they want to get up to….and yet this whole thing continues to be whitewashed and whitewashed and whitewashed. On the other hand, there is a thing called male imperative, and it is mabe stronger than any #MeToo movement, because it happens at birth. I hae a great 3-year-old nephew who made his way over to my umbrella rack the other da y and pulled out an Irish walking stick out and said, “I am the leader of the universe.” Girls don’t do that.”

When the interviewer asked her if she’s had what would have been qualified as a #MeToo experience, she said:

“You’d have to ask me that on a daily basis, practically. That’s how often it happened, that you’re objectified, or misread or put down. I think men do it a lot, and I don’t think half the time they know what they’re doing. That’s how inured they are.”

Wow. This struck home. Every single female I know past puberty has had many #MeToo moments, including me. But I liked Huston’s answer included not only the sexual aspects, but just the overall mentality of some men towards women as business partners, mental equals, innovators or entrepreneurs.

This is rarely said, but in New Orleans, I feel that this mentality is rampant. Speaking as someone who traveled nationwide as a consultant and who dealt with many (mostly) male clients, I’d never experienced the overall condescending attitude I’ve seen towards many women from men in New Orleans, especially in the business community. This is no joke. As a consultant, I was used to walking into a situation with a male client (almost exclusively outside Louisiana) who was respectful of my brain and expertise. When I started doing business in New Orleans, I can remember being shocked by the lack of women in powerful positions and the way men seemed to “pat you on the head” and treat you like a good little girl. Doing business in New Orleans has been described as a “boys’ club” and I can certainly attest to that in my experience, and this attitude is still largely prevalent, and changing way too slowly.

I was very happy when LaToya Cantrell became our first female mayor (‘bout time!). I am also aware that Cantrell is catching a lot of flak for some of the decisions she’s made, goals she’s set and her approach to the problems in this city (for example, her stand-your-ground to demand that the hospitality industry’s taxes contribute towards the city’s crumbling infrastructure. It must’ve been very difficult considering that New Orleans & Co.’s head made his bones in Louisiana state government and has a lot more friends in Baton Rouge than Cantrell, By the way, the Louisiana Legislature is a bastion of male dominance; only 14.6 percent of legislators in Baton Rouge are women, much lower than in other states; Louisiana is in the top ten lowest states for female representation in state legislatures). Women have to fight harder, present more convincing arguments than a man in a similar situation (to mostly men), and risk being called “bitchy” or “difficult” or worse if we don’t back down.

We certainly don’t have enough women in the music business here in New Orleans. There are definitely female musicians and women involved in the music industry, but frankly, there are just not as many as there should be. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but OffBeat has been making a special effort to put more women on our covers over the past few years, because they deserve it. I know many women who have worked behind the scenes in music for a lot of years, and they’re hardly ever the ones who are recognized for what they do.

Maybe we need to create a “Women in Music” group for female musicians and music businesses to correct this situation. What do you think?