July 28, 2016
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
St. Bernard Parish.
Can you tell me about your experience with sexism in your life, personal or professional?
I owe a lot to Frenchmen Street because it took me out of my comfort zone and made me break out of my shell. It’s a business, we gotta get people in the door, we gotta keep them inside, we gotta get them drinking, we gotta get this band on stage, we gotta get the next band on stage, we gotta make it work. So you don’t have a lot of time to get angry about something in the moment and that gave me a much tougher skin. It tuned me into what’s happening right then and there in what’s going on in that NO community and it gave me one of my first realizations about what it was going to be like in New Orleans as a female engineer. You’re going to be surrounded by all these people partying, you’re going to be around all these musicians that might not be as progressive as you are. It’s definitely an old school vibe and with old school comes a lot of old ways of perceiving things. I think I’ve worked hard enough on that street, long hours, walking to my car at 4am by myself with a wad of money that I made in my bra because I’m afraid of getting mugged. While some people were happy to see me, there were a lot of bands that would come through and it was a struggle in get them to believe in me. There’s always somebody trying to get your number and I know I wasn’t getting paid as much as other guys there. I got my jump start, I got my confidence, and I was around long enough to start engraining myself in the community. But I’ve kind of given up on Frenchmen recently. It’s a lot of hard work for not much money and it’s exhausting things to be a female on that street. “Oh really? You’re the sound engineer?”
Can you recall any specific instances of sexist behavior against you?
there was a really big shoot happening at the studio I work at and we had a lot of really wonderful big people come through. Some of those people are superstars and idols to me. I’ve looked up to them since I was a kid and you think that this person is going to be the most perfect person in the world. But we’re all human and you can’t put a person up too high because they’re just like you and me. On that session, I was one of a couple assistant engineers and a lot of engineers out there are not very talkative, are a little antisocial, a little quirky, a little weird. But at the end of the weekend one of the artists came up to me and said, “Man, you did a great job. You’re really great. Everything you did. You were on it.” And so I said, “I’m very happy, too. It’s all a part of making the magic happen. If you ever need help just let me know, I’d be happy to work with you in any capacity.” And he said, “Oh no. I don’t think that could happen.” And I insisted, “No man, really. I got tough skin. I’ve been working on Frenchmen the past year. I’ve got no problem. You’ve seen me in the studio.” And said, “No, it’s not that. I just don’t think I could contain myself around you.” And it was an immediate stab in the chest. He didn’t have to say that. I don’t know if he thought he was giving me a compliment but to me it didn’t feel good. He couldn’t take me seriously as someone who could work for him because he doesn’t know if he could handle the attraction of the sexual tension that he has. It’s the kind of thing you need to laugh off because you can’t offend someone like him. I can’t do that to the studio I’m working in. What if I upset that guy and he doesn’t want to work here again? He’s going to be thinking about the girl that called him out on saying something sexist. You don’t want to be thought of as that person that is difficult to work with. Because at the end of the day as an engineer, it’s about doing what you have to do to make this magic happen. Recording is so dependent on having to be cool and collected and having a swagger about you and it’s hard to do that when you’re worried about being around somebody that you know might not take you seriously for being a female.
Once I was taking a break outside the studio, collecting thoughts and getting ready for a session that was going to happen. There was a band in here having a session before me and one of the guys came outside and he looks at me and says, “Are you waiting on your man?” I thought, “What did he ask? Wait. What did he ask? Am I waiting on what?” And then repeats himself, “Are you waiting on your boyfriend?” All I could manage to say in that moment was that I’m a recording engineer at the studio. I fucking work here, dude. But what if I was a manager of the studio? What if I was the next client coming into the room? Why is it automatically that I must have a boyfriend at the studio? That I must have a man that I’m waiting on. What if I were a client and was approached like that outside of the studio? Would I want to come to this studio again? I don’t even remember what he said after that. Everything he said was in one ear, out the other. I couldn’t take him seriously.
There’s someone with a studio here that was just starting out and we had a lot of mutual friends and he came across me right after I moved back and contacted me and said “I’m opening a studio here. I see you’re an engineer and that we have a lot of mutual friends. We should talk, we should get to know each other, we should hang out because I don’t really know anybody here yet.” I was hesitant because I didn’t know him that well and I didn’t know the intentions. I didn’t know this guy and I don’t know how he found out about me. But we eventually ran into each other and I thought, “You know what? This guy seems decent enough to where I might actually do this.” It started as us hanging out and getting to know each other and then it quickly veered into him hitting on me and wanting to hook up with me. “Are you looking for a job? We’re hiring at the studio. By the way, I think you’re really hot and that we should head back to my studio right now and have some drinks and see what happens.” Motherfucker. Fuck. What are you thinking? Why would you ever think that’s appropriate? It’s a really great studio and now I just know I can’t work there. Not for him. I just got to this city and I can’t have anything to do with this person now because reputation is everything. Is she a good engineer? Is she easy to work with? Does she know her shit? Can she make magic happen? Is she cool in the studio? I was offended and let him know that I don’t shit where I eat. I have enough work that I don’t need to work at your studio while you try to have sex with me. It sucks. It really sucks.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Being a female engineer—or being any woman in the music industry—you have to be louder to be taken seriously. I’ve said things so many times that were washed over and then a guy says it and all of a sudden it’s a fucking brilliant idea. It sucks that you have to make yourself fit in the mold. You have to be able to adapt because you never know who you’re going to be working with. but it doesn’t feel great thinking that you have to take into consideration certain qualities about yourself and hiding them so they don’t get in the way.