Marion Tortorich

Musician, Assault Advocate, Doula, Yoga Teacher

October 24, 2016


How old are you?


Where are you from originally?

New Orleans. This house actually. My family owns this house and I rent out this side.

Growing up, do you remember being told or taught regarding behavioral expectations for you as a girl?

I wasn’t awakened to my own sense of feminism until the last six months. Female conditioning and sexism and the rape culture that we live in was one of the harder layers for me to uncover. It’s so deeply seeded. As a culture it goes under the radar and a lot of people don’t even realize that the programming of women to be inferior is so rooted in our culture. A lot of people don’t even notice it. It’s fucked that I thought that was how it was supposed to be. I never realized there were all these layers. I remember that I very harshly stopped identifying with any of the things that I had been conditioned to identify with or had been told were “female”. I would try to get dressed up and I would look in the mirror and I would feel very uncomfortable and I didn’t know why. Am I gay? Am I a tomboy now? All of a sudden I couldn’t identify. I would do my makeup and then wipe it all off. There was a huge disconnect. I harshly rejected it and slowly started to pull in the things that I liked again. I love putting on lipstick but then I also love dressing up like a man. I love playing with both of them. My personality has become more gender balanced. As far as how that applied to playing drums and music? My dad bought me my first few guitars. He took me to Guitar Center and got me a drum kit for one of my birthdays. I really didn’t receive a lot of programming for that and never really thought twice about it until I got older and started playing music professionally. “Oh cool, you play in a band? You sing?” That was always the assumption because I dress all colorful and funky and I’m a girl. And then when I told them I play drums the next question was always, “How long have you been playing?” They need to qualify the amount of time that I’ve been playing drums to make sure I’m good. There aren’t a lot of female drummers which I think is because of societal conditioning but whatever the reason is, I’ve given into that as well. Even as female drummer, I still need to let go of some programming. You don’t have to be gay, you don’t have to wear men’s clothes, you can enjoy societal feminine stuff and fucking thrash on the drums. You can combine the things however you want. I expect people to accept me as a female drummer but I also realized I needed to accept women in music as well. Even the Hindu deity Saraswati is the goddess of music. Music has always been more of a feminine spirited thing with this goddess energy. When did we decide that rock bands were only men?

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

People instantly having certain expectations or lack thereof of me based off of my gender and treating me a certain way because of my gender or sex. We need a mass deprogramming of the male population. It’s not that I even blame them. It just creates more problems to view them as monsters because this is a societal problem. And the change needs to come from the group that has the issue. Performing music has helped me. I’m not going to be nervous. I’m going to be confident and proud and show off as I set up my drums and get ready to play a cool show.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

I feel closed off and exhausted. Preparing to feel that way is even more exhausting. Like today when I was walking in the Bywater to a coffee shop and passing a group of men I automatically closed myself down. I try not to let it stop my natural confidence and embodiment of a woman but it definitely crosses my mind to close my jacket and not walk as sassily so that I don’t attract unwanted comments. And inherently nothing is wrong with showing off. I know you should be smart and not go to a bar by yourself and get wasted with strangers. We have to play into what we have right now and keep ourselves and each other safe and bring your drink with you. You can’t pretend that things aren’t fucked how they are but I’m not about outsmarting sexism, I want to end it. You should be able to get wasted and naked and walk down the street in the middle of the night and till not have that be an invitation for catcalling or rape or anything. You should be able to show off or strut or whatever. So I try to keep it up even if I am going into a situation where I want to close down. There are people online that have all sorts of coping mechanisms. This one woman blows glitter on men when they do it and this other woman looks down at her breasts and screams as if it was the first time she has ever seen them. People have all these great coping mechanisms and it’s sad that we have to do it but it’s great that people are taking it into their own hands.

Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?

I started reading all these articles and realized that rape and coercion and assault aren’t just someone jumping out from the bushes and beating you up and attacking you. More often it is people being really sly and taking advantage of you. I feel like I wasn’t as aware. Now if I am on a date or having an intimate moment with someone and I say no once and it’s not respected, it’s instantly a deal breaker. That’s not ok anymore. And in that journey of me putting my foot down, I’ve had some nasty reactions from men. “What are you doing? You’re crazy.” But no means no. Now I know what that means. I didn’t know what that meant before because we aren’t raised to know that. Sexual education is about STDs and pregnancies but a huge part of it needs to be sexism and rape culture and educating boys and girls. It should be about trying to help ladies claim their sexuality from a young age and let them know that it is absolutely their choice when they decide to share that with someone. I don’t feel like there is proper education in that at all. I had no idea. You go to Catholic school and they tell you just to not have sex. That doesn’t solve anything. Zero things are solved with that method. It’s not empowering at all. It’s just guilt and fear tactics all the way. Whatever your faith is, it is completely irresponsible to not empower young women whether to claim their sexuality and make decisions for themselves.

Can you recall any specific occasions when you experienced sexist behavior against yourself that may have stuck with you?

I really believed for a while that sex is about the male orgasm and all these myths about blue balls and them having to get off or they can’t go to sleep. It’s also disempowering for men because it’s saying that they don’t have control over their bodies. Men are raised to believe that so then they don’t have control. Why don’t we teach men some tantric breathing techniques at a young age so that they can go to sleep when the woman says she doesn’t want to have sex? I also didn’t think catcalling was a problem until I realized that it was an integral part of the struggle against sexual violence. I’m conditioned to be insecure and it’s exhausting.

Are there any particular stereotypes of men or of women that drive you insane?

I know that there are some truths beneath stereotypes so a part of my work personally is trying to dig and find the reality is behind the stereotypes. I really enjoy some of the possible truths beneath the stereotypes but when they are acted out as generalizations in the real world, it’s definitely a power play. I see men taking control and taking the power without the woman agreeing to that. It’s a fine line between what’s truth and what is just a cultural, built-up stereotype that encourages sexism.