June 22, 2016
How old are you?
I am 30 years old.
Where are you from originally?
I am from New Orleans.
In what capacity are you part of the music community of New Orleans?
I’m a vocalist.
Do you remember being taught or told anything regarding behavioral expectations for girls when you were young?
When my mom got remarried I suddenly had four step-brothers who were older than me. There were certain things that I had to ask permission to do but they didn’t. Like one night, I just stayed out. I just went to see a movie. And yes, it is scary when you don’t know where your child is but my brothers did that stuff all the time. My mom called the police and had all of Kenner looking for me. Things like that that were just so much more stressful. I grew up as a tomboy because I had four brothers so I wanted to be the skater chick and I wanted to rock out but I always felt like I was expected to reserve myself and close my legs and not be that rock star. I always wanted to be like Gwen Stefani, you know?
Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?
It’s a hard thing to describe because I don’t think we talk about it enough. My opinion might be undeveloped because I don’t hear enough of other people’s opinions. I’m intuitive and I’m emotional about some things. If I approach it from an emotional point of view, sometimes I feel like that’s wrong because this is a male-structured world. There are things that are naturally gifts to us as women and it’s denied. You start second guessing yourself. You shouldn’t be emotional about things because it’s wrong and you don’t trust your gut instincts anymore. You’re told that you’re wrong, you’re emotional and then you stop trusting yourself. Once you do that, there’s a whole downward spiral. You believe you’re a bitch, you believe you’re crazy, you believe you’re too emotional.
We’re working so hard to fight the stereotype, we’re stifling our natural characteristics.
The shitty thing is that a lot of women believe it, too. And then you have these women that are so against feminism because they are believing the lie that women shouldn’t act a certain way. It’s like watching someone who has Stockholm Syndrome.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
It used to make me doubt myself which naturally led to depression. I think as I got older it led to anger and bitterness which was ugly and bad as well. I wasn’t able to trust myself or other people around me.
Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?
I catch it but I won’t mention it a lot of the time because I am in a male dominated industry as a jazz singer. I have two or three close female friends in the whole world and then other million are men. I think it gives me perspective because I don’t think that my friends are trying to be sexist, I just think it’s a conversation they’ve never had. They’re living in a world where we aren’t having the conversation. It’s kind of like racism. There wasn’t a platform to talk about it. My friends don’t mean to be sexist, they just haven’t heard enough of how they’re being sexist. Every once in a while, I’ll same something but most of the time, I keep my mouth shut. It’s just like knocking against a brick wall because I’ll be outnumbered and then I’ll be wrong just because I’ll be outnumbered.
Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against you that may have stood out?
Sometimes when you walk onto a stage to play or sit in, you feel like you aren’t even a human because you’re a woman. There’s a different energy when a man goes to sit in on stage. You have to prove yourself as a base-level human first and then you can be acknowledged. It’s like you’re just a piece of meat or eye-candy, just this pleasurable thing to enjoy but not acknowledge. I haven’t ever gone back since but I was going to sit in with this really great band. I came dressed nicely with my book and was ready to go. I was wanting to be really professional because I was excited to sit in with this band, you know? I wanted to introduce myself as a singer on the scene. There was nothing about it that made it seem like I was trying to get a date or something. But the way once of the musicians was hitting on me made me so uncomfortable that by the time I did get on stage to sing I was literally shaking. I’ve never experienced that before. My knees were shaking and my hands were shaking while I was holding the mic and I couldn’t think about the music anymore because I felt so exposed. All these other people got to experience their night in a completely different way because they’re not a woman. Now I would say, “Fuck you. I’m going to sing the shit out of this song and you’re going to follow me, asshole.” But he dominated the situation in a way that I made me feel so uncomfortable and it scared me from ever going back. I’m a girl in America. I’ve been hit on since I was twelve. I’m used to male attention from inappropriate places but that was the first time it affected me in a career setting.
Do you handle subtle sexism differently from blatant sexism?
I try to call people out if I’m close to them. It will not only be surprising for him, but it’s surprising for me to realize that people I consider close innately feel that way just because no one has ever questioned it. Do you see what you just said there? Can I take a moment to question why you think that? There’s always some type of tension when that happens. I’ve never experienced a guy responding with, “Oh, I’m sorry, you’re right.” There’s always resistance. Why won’t people ever just believe me? Can’t I say that that is wrong? You’re not a woman, you can’t say that you know how that feels. It’s frustrating because you want to fight the good fight but you also want to keep your relationships intact. How do you teach something to someone when they don’t even believe they’re doing something wrong? A lot of guys don’t believe they’re sexist because they’ve never been told they are. Men are immediately defensive. “I’m not being that way! I’m not sexist!” That’s not what I mean. I don’t mean that you hate women, it just means that what you said is not right.
Are there any particular stereotypes of women or men that drive you insane?
I feel like I’ve been treated like a less-than-perfect girlfriend because I wasn’t being a mom. When you’re living with a guy, you’re expected to handle the household but if you’re an artist, you need downtime to practice and be a messy person because in that chaos comes creation. You’re messy and sometimes I’m messy too. Why is it worse that I’m messy? Because I’m a woman? I’m expected to learn this in home economics? I didn’t, I learned music instead. I didn’t take the path of baking cakes, I took the path of working my ass off. I feel like I’ve been shamed for not having housewife skills even though I never signed up for that. I never said I was that. I said I was your girlfriend and that’s it. That’s why it’s frustrating because we literally don’t even get the conversation to talk about it. I don’t believe that men are bad-hearted, I just think that they don’t know yet.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I deal a lot with feeling like I got the gig for the wrong reasons and get conflicted on whether or not I should take it. On one level, I need the work and want the work. But once you realize that he’s hugging you more and for longer or holds your hand or rubs your back. Why is he not doing that to the other band members? If I say something, am I going to lose my job? I had one gig where that was happening a lot and it was giving me anxiety to go to the gig. I wanted to throw up every time I left the house. I loved playing the music but seeing him was giving me so much anxiety that I stopped enjoying it.