“To all the women who have been impacted by the forces’ failure to protect your experience at work, and on the behalf of every leader […], I stand humbly before you today and solemnly offer our sincere apology.”

Such were the words of the RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson, this Thursday, during a press conference in Ottawa. He was looking at ex-officers Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, the two main plaintiffs of a class-action lawsuit for gender-based harassment and discrimination. Also present were the Justice Bastarache, as well as Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk.

They were together to announce the “historic” settlement of the lawsuit that now involves 500 women, who are current or former employees of the national police force. Four years after the lawsuit was filed, the RCMP apologizes, promises tens of millions in compensation for the victims and commits to improving the situation.

“This is a great day for myself, women in the RCMP and women in Canada… I have total fate that this is the beginning of a new era, hopefully a better era” said Merlo.

The ex-Mountie choked back tears as she talked about the dedication of the women who stepped forward: “they all love the RCMP, they love their jobs. They just want it to be a better place to work; a place for their daughters to work.”

Davidson expressed similar hope, before promising that she will “continue to watch developments and continue to right the wrongs” in the RCMP.

The settlement was accepted by all parties but has yet to be approved by the court. It entails three main aspects: an official apology from the RCMP, a compensation scheme for the victims and measures to improve the situation.

Confidential and independent process

Six different levels of compensation have been set, based on the severity of the offence and on the impact of said offence on the claimant. The highest compensation possible is $220 000.  Based on the 500 victims that are part of the initial law suit, the RCMP has planned a budget of $100 million, taking into account that the number of claimants could reach 1 000. The commissioner called the estimates “a ballpark” and insisted that it wasn’t a cap on the spending.

Justice Bastarache took great care of insuring, in both official languages, that the compensation process will be “absolutely confidential.” The RCMP will transfer the compensation money to an account only Bastarache manages, and thus will be kept in the dark about the details of the claims and the identity of the claimants.  Women who have suffered bullying, harassment and discrimination can come forward without fearing retaliation from colleagues and community.

The confidentiality, necessary as it is, also means that the identity of the perpetrators will be just as secret as the identity of the victims.

This raises obvious concerns about harassers not only going unpunished, but being allowed to continue working with the RCMP.

The commissioner, visibly uncomfortable at the mention of such concerns, assured that victims were welcome to address the RCMP or the police directly if they wanted the guilty party sanctioned. “Be assured that the fist of God will descend upon [the perpetrators],” he promised.

“Cultural transformation”

“We don’t think women should be in the force, and especially not French-speaking ones.”

That’s how Joanne Mayer was greeted by her sergeant when she started working for the RCMP in Gibson, B.C.

In Nanaimo, B.C, when Merlo told her supervisor she was pregnant, he started yelling at her that next time, she “should keep [her] fucking legs closed.”

Dildos left on their desks, constant crude remarks and sexual propositions, superiors groping their breasts, less time off than their male coworkers and even less assistance in dangerous situations are all part of what some female RCMP agents described as part and parcel of their daily life.

After retiring prematurely, Merlo spoke out about the gender-based discrimination, bullying and harassment that she endured during her 20 years of career in the national police force. In 2012, she wrote a book titled No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP and filed a civil claim.

500 then came forward with similar stories. This number is expected to double.

Commissioner Paulson pronounced the words “cultural transformation” as many times as he could fit into one press conference. He admitted that it was more than time to bring the RCMP into the modern days and thanked the plaintiffs multiple times for playing their part in this progress. The way that complaints and sexual harassment are processed in the RCMP is under review.

“You can now take some comfort in the knowledge that you have made a difference” he said to Merlo and Davidson. “The RCMP will never be the same.”

As a woman who has shit to do I have often struggled with the fact that most of my clothing does not have pockets in it. Why a pair of pants would have faux pockets blows my damn mind. The only female clothes that have pockets are usually the smallest cut off booty shorts where the pockets are comically longer than the shorts themselves or old lady house dresses. I normally wear cute skirts and dresses with leggings underneath.

short-shorts

Very rarely do I find fashionable stuff with pockets, I (along with every other female out there) freak out with pure glee when I come across fashionable and practical pocketed clothing, its like finding a fucking unicorn!

Vintage dresses and stuff from Target usually have the best chance of pockets. When we do get pockets often they are not deep enough. It is all about accessibility and accessories.

Women need to buy purses to hold their stuff. We are marketed all kinds of beauty products, life essentials, hand sanitizers, mini perfumes, bags of candy, and all kinds of other random purse MacGyver action items. A man can keep all he needs in his deep pockets. A wallet and cellphone, that’s it, perhaps a tiny little beard comb if he’s fuzzy.

If I wear a fanny pack I am seen as less sexy and lame. I love fanny packs regardless of how cool they are. Putting your giant cellphone in your back pocket is asking for a swim in the toilet. Do I just start carrying my stuff in my snatch? Is it nature’s pocket?

My roommate Lucy has some thoughts on pockets: “Women don’t deserve pockets, we have to load everything into our purses,” as she digs through her purse looking for change. It’s bullshit.

I remember my tiny grandmother having a bad shoulder from carrying her XL handbag. My aunt and mother going into back room Chinatown black-market purse shops trying to undercut designer prices. Watching my mother sit in front of a big screen TV tuned to the Liquidation Channel or the Home Shopping Network, precursors to the internet shopping that my peers are obsessed with. Amazon Prime is a dangerous beast.

When I was a bartender I had to get a bottle opener necklace and wear an apron to be efficient. It is easier for a pants wearing man to carry what he needs. Thank goddess for Carabeaners, I use mine to clip to a belt or sometimes my leggings when I don’t want to carry a stupid purse.

Forever the fashion industry has been run by primarily gay men. Women are hangers, consumers, people who like accessories, told to just spend their husband’s money on mindless junk.

A lot of girls carry things in their bra. I have multiple problems with this. First of all fuck bras! They are another social construct that I do not wish to participate in.

It is embarrassing when my mother calls me out on not having a bra on. It pisses me off that she doesn’t understand that it was just an advertiser who made all women buy these undergarments.

I have had larger breasted friends tell me they need bras for comfort and back issues, I guess that is the exception, if you want to wear bras feel free, I am not judging you, just don’t judge me for not wearing one.

Second part of this is the fact that cellphones are in boobs. I do not want a phone sized titty tumor. Cellphones are evil in general, they are starting to set shit on fire, don’t want that near my boob. Also sweat water damage, I am a sweaty betty. Third problem with bra pockets is sweaty boob money. It is gross, nobody likes to be handed wet smelly money.
hippo-in-kangaroo-pouch-funny-picture

I want a pocket like a mother kangaroo carrying her baby Joey. I want my precious cargo to remain safe inside of me. Gender politics and the fashion industry holding back women stops me from being a fashionable female capable of functioning in the fast paced world around us. I don’t need a giant purse holding me back and weighing me down. More pockets need to be seen on the runway, women are demanding them!

Wearing functional men’s clothing is a social taboo. The material our clothes are made of is generally thinner and less long wearing than men’s lines. Besides, fake pockets there are always fake zippers and buckles too, random aesthetics that do nothing to aide in functionality.

Men’s clothing also has more logical sizing. Women’s clothing is complete bullshit, dress sizes are arbitrary and complicated, often meaning different things with different designers, you always need to check out the handy dandy size chart.

In the medieval times both men and women carried bags, but as pickpockets became more prevalent, internal pockets made more sense. Women were still left vulnerable, ready to be robbed.

How dare a woman mess with her beautiful silhouette by having stuff in her pocket bulging. Suffragettes had pockets but Hilary Clinton’s suit does not, what does that say about our society?

From French commentators calling Japanese gymnasts “little pikachus” to media systematically crediting male coaches for female athletes’ achievements, the coverage of the 2016 Olympics is accumulating mishaps. Not that it’s anything new.

Once every two years, sport journalists are thrust in a spotlight of epic proportions. Every media tries to make the most of it, scrambling to find a commentator who has the faintest idea about the rules of slalom canoeing. Not only are mistakes bound to happen, but they are bound to be heard by a greater audience than ever.

One of the most disturbing effect of all this live, unfiltered, commentary are some shockingly racist comments appearing on national television. France Télévisions’ Thomas Bouhail kept comparing Japanese gymnasts to pokemons and mangas. CBC’s Byron MacDonald had to apologize after saying a Chinese swimmer “died like a pig.”

The lack of technical knowledge is forgivable. As a gymnastics fan, hearing nonsense like “piked salto with straddled legs” about a bar release certainly makes me wince, but I have to appreciate the challenge of commenting on sports – especially ones you only have a passable knowledge of – in real time.

What I take offence to is commentators who palliate their lack of knowledge with relentless remarks about every competitor’s age, appearance or nationality that are redundant, irrelevant and bordering on prejudice.

Take young Chinese gymnast Wan Yang. She was wonderfully consistent in Rio, qualified for two of the four event finals and came sixth all-around. Listening to Radio-Canada’s announcers, though, you would think that the most interesting thing about her is that she is 4’6″.

I swear more than half of their commentary about Chinese women’s gymnastics was an extended exercise in variations of the terms small or tiny. The rest of it was mostly preconceived notions about what China was good or bad at with little regard to what was actually happening at the moment.

I particularly resent one commentator discoursing on the lack of artistic delivery, amplitude and good connections in Chinese floor while Yang delivered a brilliant performance that presented none of these problems. The same commentator, in a remarkable impression of a well-meaning but obnoxious uncle, exclaimed that Yang “looks 12 or 13, ahahahah.”

Radio-Canada is not a lone sinner. It’s amazing how much of the coverage of women’s artistic gymnastics is still a long-exhausted running commentary on how young and tiny gymnasts are.

Not only is it annoying and besides the point, it’s deeply rooted in racial and gender bias.

How often have you heard about the height of male gymnasts, this year (yes, male gymnasts too are notably short)? Which brings us to Olympic coverage’s other most enraging aspect:

Ubiquitous Sexism

The world of sport journalism is very unwelcoming to women, be they athletes or journalists.

Has this issue been explored before?

Multiple times.

Do we need to keep talking about it?

Well, let’s take a look at a couple of things that actually happened in the last two weeks:

dempsey pretty penny

  • Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak breaks an Olympic record and wins four medals: Toronto Sun’s cover gives her the nickname “Pretty Penny.”
  • American Corey Cogdell wins a bronze medal in trapshooting (her second one in three Olympics): Chicago Tribune refers to her as “wife of a Bears’ lineman” in a tweet, omitting her name.
  • Majlinda Kelmendi wins the first Olympic medal for Kosovo, in 52Kg Judo: A BBC commentator calls the final a catfight.
  • Women’s rugby sevens make their debut at the Olympics: France TV’s commentary includes a consultant calling the French players “little darlings” and saying they are cuter and more feminine than the Americans.

I recommend you devote four minutes of your time to have a look at this spot from Vox’s Wide World of Sexism (I promise you it’s worth it).

Why are Olympic commentators so bad at commenting on women’s sports? Probably because they never do it.

A Canadian study published this year highlighted how little attention women’s sports usually get. In 2014, National newspapers only devoted 5,1% of their sports coverage to women’s sports. National sports channels had similar performances.

This is despite the fact that Canadian female athletes have excelled more than ever on the international scene in the past couple of years. As of this morning, women have won 14 of Canada’s 18 medals in Rio. Nonetheless, according to the same study, 99,5% of sponsorship sums are still awarded to male athletes.

Female athletes who actually make it to the news don’t have it that much easier. Another recent study by Cambridge University Press analyzed 20 years and seven billion words of media coverage of male and female athletes.  They found striking differences in the vocabulary used to describe them.

Male athletes were found to be often described with words like strong, fastest or great. Words often associated with their female counterparts included married, unmarried and pregnant.

Women in sports were likely to be referred to as ladies or girls, whereas the terms boys and gentlemen were rarely used.

The researchers also observed a particularity in the usage of the word women. We talk about Women’s football, women’s golf, women’s cycling. But we never see men’s football or men’s golf, do we? Usain Bolt won the 100 meter dash. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the women’s 100 meter dash.

BBC’s John Inverdale gave a prime example of the mentality this is linked to when he asked Andy Murray how it felt to be the first person ever to win two Olympic golds in tennis. Because Serena and Venus Williams won about four each… in Women’s tennis.

Women are a huge part of sports. They should be a huge part of the coverage of sports too.

*Featured image from the Nirvana News Youtube Channel

Panelists James Douglas and Niall Ricardo discuss the success of Bernie Sanders in the US Democratic Primaries, the state of the Montreal theatre scene and Roosh V, the so-called “pickup artist” who recently got doxxed and pretended to cancel a series of meet-ups. Plus an interview with Montreal feminist Katie Nelson who was part of a group who thwarted Roosh’s Montreal meetup, the Community Calendar and Predictions!

* Please note that this was recorded prior to the New Hampshire Primary

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

James DouglasMontreal theatre scene veteran, FTB contributor, member of the People’s Gospel Choir of Montreal

Niall Ricardo: FTB political columnist

* Katie Nelson interview by Jason C. McLean

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

On November 23, 2015 the Arts and Science Federation of Associations (ASFA) of Concordia University reached a settlement with a former executive who accused them of discrimination and harassment based on her ethnicity and gender. The executive is known under the pseudonym “Mei Ling” to undoubtedly discourage harassment from misogynist and racist trolls and supporters of her harassers.

She sought $30 000 in damages after discovering a Facebook conversation about her between two male executives that was left open on a shared computer. The conversation made sexist and racist comments about her, referring to her as a “chink slave,” “bitch” and “whore” and joking about having her impeached if she didn’t have sex with them. Her complaints also include being excluded from executive events, being denied an award before she’d even applied for it and being the only executive not to receive a bonus.

She, with the help of The Centre for Research-Action of Race Relations (CRARR), a civil rights advocacy group, filed a formal complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Youth Rights Commission last March. Though a settlement – which includes an undisclosed sum, a public apology and a promise to set up a task force to address the issues arising from the case – was reached with the ASFA, Mei Ling told the press she has every intention of pursuing her harassers individually before the Quebec Human Rights Commission. An investigation is currently underway.

This article is not about the fact that Mei Ling’s harassers are clearly racist misogynist slime who have no place in any position of authority.

It is not about the fact that Concordia’s refusal to give her justice and address the issues of misogyny and racism directly make them an accomplice to the harassment she received, and that the settlement reached is clearly an acknowledgment of their guilt.

This is about the reach of the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal.

quebec charter of rights newspaper headline

The Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal are the organizations charged with the enforcement of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. This law was enacted in the 1970s and prohibits, among other things, discrimination based on “race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.”

Though the Quebec Charter isn’t part of the Canadian Constitution and therefore can technically be changed by a simple act by the Quebec legislature, it is considered a fundamental “public order” law with quasi constitutional status. This means that it can’t be trumped by other laws or contracts unless said laws provide even more rights and freedoms than the Quebec Charter and even contains a rule stating that all other laws can’t violate articles 1 to 38 (regarding fundamental rights, freedoms including judicial and political rights and freedom from discrimination) unless the other laws specifically say that they apply in spite of the Charter.

quebec commission logoUnlike the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which applies only to the government and anyone acting on its behalf, the Quebec Charter applies to all violations of rights and freedoms, including those that occur between private parties. That means that even if your harasser is a private business or some jerk on the street, he could still find himself before the Human Rights Tribunal while the Human Rights Commission demands an explanation and compensation on your behalf.

It works like this: your rights are violated, so you go to the Human Rights Commission and file a complaint. The Commission then conducts an independent investigation. If the Commission decides there are legal grounds and evidence justifying the complaint, it then decides the best course of action which could be the negotiation of a settlement between you and the violator, submitting the dispute to arbitration, or referring the issue to the Human Rights Tribunal.

If the Commission goes to the Tribunal, it can seek “any appropriate measure against the person or to demand, in favour of the victim, any measure it considers appropriate at that time.” (section 80 of the Quebec Charter). This could not only include compensation for material damages but also any grief (known as moral damages) you experienced as a result, and even punitive damages if the violation of your rights was clearly intentional.

Take the case of Richard Zilberg. He’s a Jewish hairstylist who worked for a spa in Montreal. In 2012 he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission when his boss Iris Gressy told him he’d no longer be scheduled on Saturdays, his busiest workday, simply because he’s Jewish and shouldn’t work on the Sabbath.

Zilberg, like many Jews, does not keep the Sabbath and rightly felt that his level of observance was his decision alone. The Human Rights Commission agreed and asked that the spa pay him $17 500 in damages: $12 500 for loss of income and $5000 for moral damages. In addition, the Commission recommended that Gressy pay Zilberg an additional $2500 out of her own pocket for her intentional violation of his civil rights. Gressy has since refused to pay and is planning to go to the Tribunal.

Then there’s the case of Lettia McNickle, a black waitress working at Madisons New York Grill & Bar in Montreal who was given less work due to her natural braids. She claims racial discrimination. Though the chain’s head office has since issued an apology, the restaurant, which had initially agreed to mediation, has since withdrawn. With the support of CRARR, McNickle too filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission and an investigation is scheduled.

To many, the Quebec Charter may seem like excessive policing of individual behaviour, but it and the bodies made to enforce it have their place in a society where suing someone on your own is so expensive. It’s an additional protection from harassment and discrimination and gives recourse to people who would otherwise have none.

Sometimes when you write opinion pieces, you spend time trying to argue why something is a bad thing. Every now and then, though, you can just lay out a few facts and that pretty much proves your point.

Daryush Valizadeh aka Roosh V is professional pick-up artist (PUA), Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) and touring speaker. Oh, one more thing: he wants to decriminalize rape on private property.

He’s in Montreal to give a talk and if you don’t see a huge problem with that or with what he argues for, then there’s something wrong with you. You’re part of the problem.

According to a blog post on his site Return of Kings (no, I will not link to that site, Google it if you must), Roosh argues that legalising rape on private property will force women to take “greater responsibility for their own safety and security.” He goes on to say that “if rape becomes legal, she will never be unchaperoned with a man she doesn’t want to sleep with.”

There’s misogyny, really bad misogyny and then there’s Roosh V.

Response Gets A Response

This is Montreal, a city that doesn’t stand for the type of crap that Roosh V is spewing for a ticket price ranging between $47 and $87. Understandably, response started with a petition to block his entry into Canada and a protest planned if that petition failed to achieve his goal, which, sadly, it did. On Thursday, reports  surfaced of him being spotted in the Plateau and on Friday he confirmed to a Quebec City radio station that he has been in Montreal since Monday.

Protesters successfully got his intended venue to cancel the event. Now, though, Roosh and his troll army are fighting back.

Their first move was to post the names of those who signed the petition. Let that sink in for a moment. If you sign an online petition, you are already agreeing to your name being posted online endorsing what the petition does. To copy those names, repost them as people supporting the petition and thinking that you are somehow outing those people takes a special type of ignorance.

The next move, though, this time by Roosh himself, is considerably more vile and dangerous. He asked his followers to Facebook stalk the women who started the petition against him as well as a Journal de Montreal journalist who published the venue info, which presumably led to the cancellation.

He wants info. He wants to make their lives hell by contacting their employers, friends and family. Now what he hopes to accomplish with this can only be one thing: intimidation.

I can only guess that the reaction of friends, family and employers of people who are against legalizing rape would be one of support for their friends, family and employees and utter disgust at the person contacting them to somehow shame their acquaintance.

The thought of this contact being made, though, can be jarring.

Making His Opponents’ Case for Them

With these actions, Roosh is proving that he much more than just a hypothetical threat to people in Montreal. He is effectively making the case for those who want to keep him out of the country.

Not only has he advocated for legal rape, he has directly encouraged stalking and harassment of specific women. That’s grounds to call him a threat as far as I’m concerned. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he is a terrorist.

#findrooshv

instagram roosh vOne of the first Roosh sightings came courtesy of St-Denis café L’Artiste Affamé on their Instagram page. Roosh had stopped in for a coffee and someone snapped a pic and posted it with this caption: “Girls your main man is here. Roosh V! In the flesh. Should be here til 9 if you wanna show your undying “love” for the dickbag. The door’s open. Make it count MTL!”

Now, it appears his minions are targeting their Yelp page with fake reviews. Meanwhile, others are throwing them support online and promises of “throwing money” at them when they get the chance.

They also seem to be the inspiration behind the #findrooshv hashtag. Now people who encouter him have a mission: let people know where this unwanted guest is so they can watch out or speak out.

Not Ready for Montreal

Roosh encouraged his supporters to take over the protest event page. If you look at the comments his supporters posted, or just take my word for it so you don’t have to read that bile, you’ll see that only one of the trolls who actually commented pro-Roosh was from Montreal.

That makes perfect sense. We Montrealers may have our differences, but one thing is true of almost all of us: we don’t put up with the kind of horseshit Roosh V spews. Not only are we social media savvy, but we’re also, at the core, progressive. Feminism isn’t a dirty word here.

Roosh will realize this very soon if he hasn’t already. This is not the town for him. If he goes to war in Montreal, he will lose. Maybe he doesn’t care, and as one observer commented, is just using the negative reaction agianst his presence to sell future books.

Whether a public rejection of Roosh V in Montreal only helps him has yet to be seen, but regardless I think it’s important to show him that he’s not welcome in this town. He also makes me and my fellow men look bad. I hope he crawls back under whatever rock he came from and disappears.

If anyone reading this was planning to go to his talk, just know that everyone knows what he is about. He can’t teach you anything about picking up women, only how to hate them. If the sheer bile that this individual spews doesn’t turn you off right away, you should probably get help. But, for the time being, just know that showing up may end your chances of getting laid in this city forever.

I remember my first music festival. It was Lilith Fair, the late/mid nineties, and I was around 8 or 9 years old. Natalie Merchant, Sarah McLaughlin, Fiona Apple, Lisa Loeb and soooo many more! All the female power was exhilarating. Less superficial than the “Girl Power” of the Spice Girls (don’t get me wrong, I fucking LOVE the Spice Girls). Free spirited feminists, many with armpit hair, ruled the audience. My eyes were open to a whole world of strength, celebration, and raw positivity lead by real live women. I was hooked.

Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.
Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.

It wasn’t long until I discovered Riot Grrrl music: Bikini Kill, L7, Sleater Kinney, and Bratmobile being my favorites. Kathleen Hanna is an absolute goddess. I also adore the obviously Riot Grrrl influenced Gwen Stephani of No Doubt, and Beth Ditto of the Gossip as truly kick ass leading ladies. These bands all brought light to the issues of rape, domestic violence, smashing patriarchy, sexuality, racism, and other socially taboo progressive feminist topics. Girls to the front! Fists in the air! Mini dresses and combat boots galore! I was recently at the Dyke March afterparty and was so moved by all of the female bands. Buffalo also has Vaggie Fest, an all female punk music festival.

Unfortunately not all music festivals or music venues these days are as female powered as I would like. I’ve seen several blogs where they remove the all male bands from the poster and it is always depressingly scarce. I wondered why this was happening? Why is the music industry so male dominated?

I sat down with three extremely unique and talented female musicians, Ellen Pieroni, Erica Wolfling, and Lindsay Zasada, and I made them brunch. Over our pink champagne mimosas and a literal meat fest we discussed what it’s like to be a girl in the primarily male dominated music world. These women have proved that they are more then just tits, an ass, and legs.

Ellen Pieroni

Ellen is in many bands including The Ellen Pieroni Quartet, The Folkfaces, and Blue Stone Groove.

“Things are happening to me recently where I have been getting gigs solely for being a woman saxophone player. I literally got called by a woman from out of town who has never heard me play before and she hired me for a gig just because I was a woman, I want people to hire me because I’m good saxophone player,” Ellen says.

“The one problem and I always get from everyone is like ‘Oh it’s so nice to see a woman up there playing the sax, I love seeing a woman do that.’ People mean well saying that so you have to take it as compliment because they are genuinely are trying to being nice. Compisults ‘your tone is so feminine’ – the sad part is that most time it’s women who say this stuff. It stems from the general lack of female musicians. I’m the hottest girl in my band – did I mention I’m in a band with 4 other guys? I’m in a few bands with all guys with the exception of one girl, the incredible singer in Blue Stone Groove.”

“I don’t think women should ever be discouraged . A lot of women are afraid to join a band and gig. You must go outside of your comfort zone . Mostly only little boys are being handed the sax and not girls in school. It is discouraging early on especially.”

“Join the army of female musicians! When you see another one you get excited. In Buffalo State College right now there. equal amount of girls playing sax so I hope things are changing.”

We then discussed how women are often over sexualized on stage. They are forced to be the center of attention whether they like it or not. The girls are always staged in front because sex sells. Gotta have that hot stage show wearing tight leather pants and a low cut shirt or the teeniest of dresses. Do I have to dress this way to be successful?

“Just in general I don’t like wearing a lot of clothing, it’s for me not anyone else. I’m not part of the scenery. You can be an incredible musician but still seen as just a sex object No matter how good I get they will always see me that way. Sax is a sexy instrument it’s not my fault.”

Featured photo is a shot of Ellen Pieroni performing.

Erica Wolfling

Erica Wolfling is a singer, songwriter, pianist, and an ice dragon. Her voice is like Regina Spektor and Tori Amos had a baby.

“I don’t sing about sex. I sing about mental illness and sexual domestic violence. Feel things and emotions for the music I sing and write, not about my body. You are putting yourself out there. Here are my emotions and I can’t do it in any other way. I’m doing it in front of a room full of people and all you see is my boobs,” Erica says.

“How people perceive women is the problem. Everyone just puts boobs on their music. There is a sadness when they compliment my looks but not the sound, just dismissing the reason I am up there. It will never end! In my professional life too: A man once said to me that ‘it’s been a business doing pleasure with you.’ I’m not just this cute girl. I’m a smart woman who learned this hard thing that you don’t know. Fucking respect me.”

Erica Wolfling performing.
Erica Wolfling performing.

“I don’t want to be a rockstar with a harem. It’s more like ‘Thanks guys gonna go upstairs and hide now.’ I never take anyone home, I take myself home, thank you.”

“I have this hot mesh and leather dress and a guy outside one if my shows said ‘You shouldn’t be wearing that, you will entice so many men.’ Oh rape culture. Other men say he’s just protecting me and women are enraged.”

“It’s important to wear clothes I can I breathe in. Why did I think it was ok to wear Spanx to perform? Now I don’t even wear a bra half the time because I don’t want boob sweat. Comfort over sex appeal all the way. I’ve never had people treat me like this before. I was a late bloomer. Then, when they whistle to you on stage, it’s creepy. Being objectified is so strange. I’m treated differently after losing weight. ‘You look really good now. You are really attractive now. I would date you now.’ I’m not insecure, just detached from it. It’s all about self projection and being comfortable in your own skin. It takes a long time to get there.”

Lindsay Zasada

Lindsay Zasada

Lindsay Zasada sings and plays a variety of instruments from guitar, to ukulele, and electric violin. She was once in an all girl band called The Cunning Stunts. Her newest band is called West Side Bike Ride, all females and one male, a little different perspective. She says being in bands with girls is empowering but can also be volatile.

“I’ve never had weird competition due to gender, just people who play the same instrument. It’s important to play unique instruments. Unconventional ensembles… Fuck yea! Women should not be scared to pick up any instrument and play.”

“There is nothing wrong with being sexy! Lindsay Sterling made tons of money selling her body, not saying she isn’t beautiful and talented but the sex appeal is definitely a focus for her.”

“A lot of people think it’s about attention. I’d rather play my music and not be popular. All the guys are like it’s not that bad.”

“Sexism infiltrates all parts of life don’t take music from me too bro! Music is beautiful and genderless, the person who is delivering it to you shouldn’t dictate whether you like it. I just wanna play! It’s not just in my head. It’s good to know we are all having the same experience.”

 

“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” – Oscar Wilde

Oh Miley… it’s hard to even know where to begin. In case you’ve been living underneath a rock without wi-fi, during a performance last weekend with Robin Thicke at the MTV VMAs, the former child star Miley Cyrus proved she’s very much shed her Disney-friendly Hannah Montana skin by stripping down to a flesh-colored latex bikini, fondling herself with a foam finger and performing the now infamously appropriated style of dance called twerking. Basically, it involves bending at the waist and jiggling your ass.

With her tongue recklessly wagging out of her bright red lips, she expressed a desperate and obnoxious desire for attention. And she certainly got it, but not quite in the way she was looking for… well, at least the notoriety got ‘twerk’ officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Unsurprisingly, the reactions to the performance covered the gamut from confusion to disgust and repulsion. The inventor of the foam finger expressed his disdain for her degrading use of his piece of American iconography, while the Parents Television Council blasted the network in a statement from their Director of Public Policy Dan Isett, calling the situation unacceptable and claiming that they “once again succeeded in marketing sexually charged messages to young children using former child stars and condom commercials…while falsely rating this program as appropriate for kids as young as 14.”

In true teenage fashion, Cyrus flipped the proverbial bird to her critics by bragging on Twitter that she had 306 000 tweets per minute and pointing out that this was more than the blackout or Super Bowl, ending her tweet her with most smug hashtag of them all: #fact.

miley twerkingWhat she failed to register was that the majority of the feedback she received from the public was negative. Cyrus’ manager Larry Rudolph defended her organic evolution in the music industry from teen idol to raunchy pop starlet, comparing her with another of his precocious protégés, Britney Spears, who executed a similar transformation at the same awards show in 2001.

I’m almost shocked that people were so shocked over this. I figured that the devolution of popular culture into a realm of unparalleled crass and lewdness would have rendered us numb to shock value, to the point where it’s not even uncommon to see girls suggestively rubbing their crotches on men old enough to be their fathers.

And somehow all the uproar unfairly was focused on young Cyrus, without enough questioning of the role Thicke played in this contemporary melodrama. Blogger Matt Walsh penned an eloquent letter to his son on the truly unglamorous nature being a man of low character and no integrity:

“A 36 year old married man and father, grinding against an intoxicated 20 year old while singing about how she’s an “animal” and the “hottest bitch in this place.” And what happens the next day? We’re all boycotting the 20 year old. The grown man gets a pass.”

The real winner here seems to be Cyrus’ publicity team, if they’re continuing to rely on the old adage about any publicity is good publicity. It’s been working well this summer for Thicke, who is on his way to having one of the most popular songs of all time, at least according to the Billboard music charts.

It also begs the question: where can she really go from here? At the frenzied pace she’s twerking, she’s headed down a self-destructive path of head shavings, regretful marriages to try to overshadow the canyon-sized daddy issues plaguing her relationships and oh so much more.

The spectacle will be brought to you play by play, as people love to witness a fall from grace. Or maybe, once her judgment isn’t so clouded by the brash arrogance of youth and the spoiled rotten result of never being told ‘no’ by important authority figures, she will begin to realize what a damaging role model she is turning out to be for young girls and teenagers who see this as a viable method of drawing the attention of men around them. But by then, it may just be too late for a generation of kids growing up exposed to these types of images day in and day out.

I think the best thing to come out of this are the memes, specifically watching Cyrus twerk in a whole host of hilarious new locations, my favorite being famous paintings.

Finally, local comedian Jon Lajoie weighed in with this little ditty that hits the nail on the head when he laments, how dare she try to use sex to sell pop music!