June 6, 2016
How old are you?
I’m 60 years old.
Where are you from originally?
How long have you been in New Orleans?
A little over two years now.
What brought you here?
Why are you still here?
When you were growing up do you remember hearing about any behavioral expectations for you as a girl?
Yes. A thousand things. The things that bothered me mostly were “you can’t do this” or “you have to do it like that”. And “you hold yourself like this and not like that”. There were social and behavioral patterns that I was brainwashed into doing because everybody else around me was doing it. Don’t slouch, never put your elbows on the table, keep your back straight in a chair.
I remember hearing the term ‘lady-like’ very often.
Before I came to the States I hadn’t uttered a curse word. I didn’t even know what fuck meant really.
Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?
How do you define that? How do you actually give it a definition? I can’t come up with one specific answer. It’s all about how you get perceived and how it gets exercised without actual knowledge or consciousness of it. It’s very hard for me to define that word or to say how I see it.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
Disappointed. Frustrated. Sad.
Do you think forms of sexism are so engrained in our experiences and upbringings that we can’t register it all the time?
Absolutely. It’s the cause of a lot of things. It’s all nature and it’s evolving. It’s acting and reacting. You have to trust it and you have to believe in it in a certain way. But then does that mean we have to be responsible or we have to feel responsible for those behaviors? We’re all part of this. We weren’t transplanted here. Some of us do become responsible and don’t want to bring a child into this world. Period. And that’s ok. Nobody should judge that.
Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against you?
Are there any that stand out?
Not really. Because I brush it off. I can come up with some but they’re already gone. That’s not real for me. I’m not going to let this influence my life even though it’s hard and can get very frustrating sometimes. They’re all memories that are there somewhere but I don’t let it affect me. Although there are some moments when suddenly you feel [sexism] and it’s happening because people feel like they should treat you like a woman, not like an equal musician.
Have you found that certain people think you can’t do your job as well because you’re a woman?
I would say so. When I got here to New Orleans, it was the same thing. People are surprised when they find out I’m a musician. “Oh you’re a singer? You’re a singer? You sing. Listen to that voice. You sing. You should be singing. You need to sing.” And I tell them, “No. I’m a drummer.” If I were ugly, would they still ask if I am a singer?
There’s a good chance not.
It’s not a question, it’s a statement they’re actually making. It’s the same thing with my band. My guitar player is my guitar player, not my body guard. I can protect myself if I need to. Those things make you feel silly. “Oh but you’re a women,” things like that. Sometimes it’s almost unnoticeable, but we notice it anyway. People think that because you’re a woman jazz drummer, it can’t be all for real and it can’t be taken seriously. But if I were a piano player, it would be different because women are allowed to do that.
One of the most frustrating aspects is speaking to male friends about it. I’m not trying to attack you. I’m just trying to point out how what you’ve said is wrong. But on the other hand, I’m supposed to feel hurt because you don’t want to be attacked? You’ve attacked me. Maybe you did so subconsciously but that’s an attack on a part of me that I have no control over.
I have been so angry at guys. They can make you like that. There’s a part of our nature that is entirely ego: feeling important or feeling strong or being the best or this or that. It ends up becoming a threat for them when to have a woman standing in front of them that is just as strong. They feel threatened. They feel scared and they have to express that a certain way. And of course, guys have been conditioned to express that in certain ways. It’s all been preconditioned from seeing millions of other guys do the same thing.
It’s a vicious circle. No one can win.
Especially for artists. An artist is an artist for me. Whether you’re a musician or an artist, we’re all artists. There’s no gender for me, I look at art from the perspective of art. The composition and the content but I never think about it as being made by a woman or a man or by a cat or a kid. We have a unique opportunity and a unique gift to make it so that it stands on its own. It has nothing to do with gender. I would love to see more bands that have three female musicians and three male musicians and from all colors and races. I’d love to see that happen and maybe one day I will.