Stephanie Mayne

Event Production and Direction

July 11, 2016


How old are you?

I’m 34.

Where are you from originally?

I was born in Lafayette, grew up in Dallas, and moved to New Orleans in 2004.

In what capacity are you or have you been a part of the music community of New Orleans?

My second job in New Orleans was Director of Special Events for Republic New Orleans. I was there when we were developing the live music program. During that time, I met the person who became my boss at my last job for just under seven years. I started with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra as Special Projects Assistant and ended as Chief of Staff. I ran all of the administrative aspects and worked with the development team and the musicians throughout that time.

Do you remember being told or taught anything growing up about your behavioral expectations as a girl?

My parents were always really encouraging no matter what we wanted to try. I have two older brothers, and there were ways they bonded with my dad and there were ways I bonded with my mom that were just different. But there was never a time my parents told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl and they were boys. The first time I thought of sexism as a concept was during my first job at LSU. I worked in the psychology department, and the professor I worked for used to read his class a book on the first day – a children’s book from the 50s called I’m Glad I’m a Boy. I’m Glad I’m a Girl. On the boy pages it said, “I get to drive cars. I get to have a job. I get to play outside and do sports!” And then, on the girl pages it said, “I get to cook and have babies, and I get to play with flowers!” It was the ultimate extreme of all sexist and gender stereotypes but it was an actual children’s book that was distributed and read by a lot of people who are still alive now.

Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?

Sexism is the concept that someone’s expectations of you and what you are capable of, as well as your opportunities, are affected positively or negatively by your gender and appearance. Although it’s usually negative and aggressive, it can also be unnoticeable at times.

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

I think that it really depends on the type of sexism. I think there are some ways that me being a woman has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Running special events is a very woman-dominated industry. In that way, there is potential for positive impact. However, it is negative and really hurts when you meet someone and you can tell their reaction to you is that you’re less capable of something. I’ve had people actually tell me they assumed I got my job because of how I looked instead of the fact that I actually worked hard and earned it. There are a lot of stereotypes about jazz and the women who are associated with jazz. “You’re a young, attractive woman, so you must have gotten this job for a specific reason.” I’ve been hiring musicians for years, and I came from a family of jazz musicians. I’ve been living this music my whole life, so when I got an opportunity to make my family proud in that way of course I wanted to go in that direction.

Do you react in a certain way to sexist comments or brush it off?

I think any negative comment someone makes to or about you affects you, whether it’s in that moment or later when you allow yourself to deal with it. I don’t want to change what I look like or how I interact with people based on those comments, but I do think they impact you and I think it can impact how you treat people down the road. Every time someone tells you something negative about you, it hurts. Both men and women deal with that. All people deal with that. I think a lot of people want to pretend that sexism is something that died in the feminist movement and racism is something that died in the Civil Rights Movement. But when you do that, you’re just lying to yourself and continuing the tradition.

One thing that’s been really special about the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra is hiring Emily Fredrickson at a time when women were, some would say, being pushed out of jazz. There was a protest at Jazz at Lincoln Center because they didn’t have any female members of the band. Most jazz orchestras don’t have any female members. Emily plays trombone—an instrument women are not known for playing—and is also the Artistic Curator and is writing music for the band. She is in a pretty powerful position for a jazz performer under the age of 30. You could say that sexism is at work both in a positive and negative way. The positive is that people are even more excited for her than they would be a man because they realize it’s not a thing that happens. But the negative is why doesn’t it happen? Why is it special? She’s really good on trombone and she should get the same applause as the other two trombonists, but in most cases she gets a huge uproar because you know you’re not going to see that every day.

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

Some people are really good at hiding prejudices, both great and small. When someone hurts you or you don’t get an opportunity, and you realize it’s because you’re young, or it’s how you look, or that you’re a woman and they don’t expect you to be in that role, you’re obviously going to recognize it.

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

I hate that I’m supposed to be able to cook because I can’t and I really have no desire to. We’re at an interesting point in society because for the first time women are being encouraged to go into professional situations that they were discouraged from pursuing before because they’re too dirty or too hard or there is math involved. I think it’s the first time that men who don’t want to be want to be in more “man-centric” fields have an opportunity to venture out into other concepts, and I think it’s the first time that women are really going into fields they felt like they weren’t allowed into. Society has come a long way but we still can’t live in each other’s skin and live in each other’s bodies. we don’t do a good enough job of monitoring how those differences affect our everyday reactions and expectations of other people.