Sarah McCoy

Pianist, Vocalist

June 25, 2016


How old are you?

I turned 31 years old at the end of May.

Where are you from originally?

I was raised in Charleston, South Carolina.

How long have you been in New Orleans?

Five years.

What brought you here?

Kind of a mystery. I had been traveling for a while and there was a lot going on in my life and I just kept hearing about New Orleans and I thought, “To hell with this, I’m gonna move to New Orleans when my van dies.” And two weeks after I made that decision my van died.

Why are you still here?

Because I love it. During that period of time, there was nowhere I could call home. I was under the impression that I was never going to find a place where I could be this weird thing that I am. I got here and started experiencing the city and started meeting people and it is a place where I can exist as myself. It comes with less formalities than most places. It’s a mother city, it nurtures the people who want to be a part of it.

Do you remember being told or taught anything regarding your behavioral expectations as a girl?

I actually remember the day when I was officially different and I didn’t understand it. I was probably maybe four or five and I remember my brother, my neighbor who was also a boy, and myself were playing outside. The boys had no shirts on, I had no shirt on, it was summertime. I remember my mom coming outside and telling me I needed to put a shirt on. She didn’t know how to explain it to me but said, “You’re a girl and you should be wearing a shirt,” and she made me put my shirt on and remember it not being fun anymore. I was so confused as to why I couldn’t be in the moment anymore. And then I remember my dad driving me to karate when I was fourteen years old and him telling me, “Just one thing about boys: they only want to get in your pants.” It’s not inaccurate and obviously he wanted me to defend myself against these assholes but it was my prerogative to keep these men out of my pants not the men to keep themselves out of my fucking pants.

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

When you believe a woman is less than anything you’re capable of being. I think it’s the idea that any woman is automatically less capable. I read something the other day that I can’t stop thinking about. If created this image of finding out you were having a baby boy and breaking. Open the piggy bank and finding a dollar inside but if you were having a baby girl and you broke open that same piggy bank, you’d find 75 cents inside. That 25 cents turns into hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars depending on how much money you make. And when you think about the fact that women very often become single mothers and yet everybody’s so willing to criticize them for not being capable enough. It’s all based on the superstition that women are born idiots that are here to make your babies and are not capable of doing anything on their own. It sucks but that’s just how the system is built. There’s somebody making a law about my body right now. I am forced to hold on to what I was taught from the beginning: protect myself against men. It’s disappointing. Sometimes I blame religious traditions for this kind of shit thinking. The woman has her place in the house under God’s law? No she fucking doesn’t. None of those things are true. Let’s be fucking real, a lot of these words were written by men who had jealously problems. I know what it’s like to date a guy who thinks like that. It fucking ruined my life for a good two years. You don’t see me as your equal at all, you see me as a fucking pet. It’s amazing to me how many times I fall into agreeing to playing into the subordinate role in an emotional state. I think that that comes with being trained to think that that is how you’re supposed to feel. I don’t want to call myself broken but I feel broken. I am fiddling with thoughts of self-worth on a daily basis because I am a woman. We are children when we learn these things so we have to stop teaching it to children and teach them the right things. At the same time you teach boys how their wiener works, you also teach them that it’s not something you force on women. I read about a study where the researchers went to a high school and asked boys about rape and when it was ok to rape a woman—the answer to which is absolutely fucking never. But the questions were along the lines of what if you bought her something? What if she led you on? What if she was kissing you and decided to back out? And these boys thought that they had a right to have sex with this hypothetical woman if they bought her things or if they took her on a date. There are still women out there who think if they wear the wrong thing they deserve to be raped. All of that is wrong.

The Stanford rape case hit me pretty hard.

I don’t think any woman who has ever had an issue with a man is even surprised.

After it all happened, I remember looking at the pictures on my Facebook and wondering what could be insinuated about me if I was raped. It’s so fucked.

I’ve woken up on a Greyhound bus to a guy with his hands in my pants and in my shirt and I didn’t do anything because I was scared shitless. I told him to get his hands out of my shirt and he thanked me. It was disgusting. I started to cry and there was a blind woman sitting in the handicap section of the bus and she heard me crying and she told me to come sit with her. She was a badass chick from Compton with ‘I love dick’ tattooed on her back and shit. She was the coolest fucking bitch. But to thank me after being disgusted and asking him to remove his hand? Thank you for being here in this seat next to me so that I can touch you.

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

I’m always surprised at how much I’m capable of withstanding before I actually crack. When it becomes physical is when I become the most angry. You don’t even have the energy to fight it every moment of every day and it is actually happening every moment of every day. I’m not offended when a guy holds the door for me but I know where those girls are coming from. They want nothing to do with it and I get it. But I hate catcalling more than anything. I can leave the house happy as fuck that I’m going somewhere and see a group of three or four men and in a split second I start to get nervous about the things that they think they have entitlement to say to me. “Hey big girl, get over here.” I was on my break the other night and there was some skeezy ass piece of shit leaning against a pole and he said, “That’s the one I want right there. Come back to me. That’s the one I want. Girl come back to me. You know I want you.” Or when people ask for your number before they ever ask for your name? There’s one intention behind that and it’s never good. Leave me the fuck out of your gross mind.

Can you recall any specific occasions of experienced sexist behavior against you?

There was one guy who used to come to all my shows. He was a really nice guy and this was back in the days when I used to drink more. Whenever I was drunk, he would kiss on me and would just say, “Come on, man, stop.” And then when I stopped drinking and I said, “I really don’t want this.” But even when I was sober he would keep doing it. I remember I kept slipping his hands off my hips and he kept coming and trying to kiss me and I told him, “I don’t want to fucking kiss you. Stop trying to put your lips on me. Get your hands off my hips.” And he says, “What? Are you on your period?” I lost my shit and I told him off in front of everybody in The Spotted Cat and then told me, “This is your fault. These are just words, these are just kisses, none of this matters. This is all just some part of some giant play that we’re in.” I yelled at him, “You’re fucking insane. Don’t ever touch me. Don’t come back to my shows. You’re a piece of shit.” I told you to stay off of my body and you asked me if I was on my period. If that’s the only reason you keep your fucking hands off of a woman you don’t deserve to ever touch a woman. I think about that situation and you and I think, “That’s disgusting,” but you tell that to a young conservative guy and say, “Well, you were kind of asking for it, right? You let him get away with it without flipping out on him before.” You don’t understand. We’re been raised to be subordinate and it becomes tiring to fight every day. You can see it in your face. Coming to work every day with your face fallen because there were three different stops along the way with a group of men that have something to say to you. It is exhausting. And when I start comparing this struggle to the other kinds of struggles that exist in this world, like for women of color, this must be doubling exhausting because you’ve got things coming at you from different angles that are imposed on you from the day you are born. It sucks.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on?

The list is infinite. If this is my chance to speak for everybody, I could make that list long as fuck. I hate the idea that the word feminism is stigmatized. I hate the behaviors that have become acceptable if not promoted within masculine cultures because it’s all meant to keep women out of important stuff, right? It’s a boys club. Politics is a boys club. Religion was a boys club. Music can be a boys club, too. Why do people believe girls can’t play guitars? What about Sister Rosetta? She’s the one who fucking wrote the blues. It’s fucking crazy watching that girl play the guitar! She’s wailing harder than half the guys from all the rock bands in the 70s and 80s. Yet, nobody really knows who she is. How do you overcome that? There are generations of girls stepping into our shoes. I was 19 years old and woke up on the bus with a guy fucking molesting me and there’s a 19 year old waking up on a bus right now.