Tasche de la Rocha
Vocalist, Songwriter, Guitarist
March 13, 2017
How old are you?
I am 26.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Portland, Oregon.
What brought you here?
I’ve always been drawn to this city since I first visited. When I started discovering music it was the biggest draw.
How would you describe your role within the music community of New Orleans?
The past four years I’ve been playing on the street and been learning by watching how people respond to the music that I’m playing. It’s made me change the rhythm and feeling of everything that I’ve been doing. I’ve been focused on collaborating with other musicians who can work off of an old sound and create something new from it. We’re not trying to reinvent anything. We’re trying to find inspiration from New Orleans music and other older music and propel that forward into a new style.
Do you remember being told or taught anything while growing up about the behavioral expectations of being a girl?
My family is queer and polyamorous. My parents have had multiple partners for over ten years now so my concept of gender roles was really confusing. I had a Mohawk was I was seven. I didn’t understand because I had this world at home where gender roles didn’t exist and then I went to school and it was completely different. I was made fun of a lot for that and kids weren’t allowed at my house because it.
Can you define sexism as it presents itself to you?
It’s questioning the intelligence of feminine people for little to no reason. It’s doubting your own abilities for no reason at all. It’s coming up to a male and a female and taking the male seriously. It belittles everything you do. It’s not taking my work seriously. It’s not taking me seriously.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
It’s infuriating and it’s shocking and it’s unexpected. But I notice the more successful I become, the more sexism I have to deal with and the more confidence I have in myself, the more sexism I have to deal with. It makes me more angry than it used to. Everybody that I know that’s female and is working really hard doesn’t deserve that type of treatment. It takes a lot of bravery and courage to throw artwork out into the world but even in progressive communities I’ve dealt with sexism. I’ve dealt with people that I trusted and would never think would act in a sexist manner and then do.
Do you always notice when individuals are acting in a sexist way?
It takes a minute to notice it’s happening especially if you trust that person and you want to believe they don’t have these tendencies. But it is in our culture. It’s in subliminal messaging, it’s in advertising, it’s in everything so it’s hard to avoid. It makes you much more guarded about what you’re doing and who you’re around and who you’re willing to work with. When you’re sharing your work and you’re working with people, you want to help people and create a community that shares success and shares opportunities. But I’ve had the opposite happen. I’ve had opportunities taken away from me because I’m female.
Can you recall any specific occasions of when you experienced sexist behavior against you?
I put on an album this year that I’ve been working on for about two years. It’s professionally recorded, I hired professional musicians from all over town, I wrote and arranged all the music. I hired recording engineers, it was mixed, mastered, pressed. I hired three different artists and a graphic designer to make the artwork for it. It was a big project for me. I’ve never done anything like that before. So I submitted it to a magazine once it was finished and ready to be listened to. And the person reviewing the album did not listen to the music at all. He just spoke about my background in street performing and being a vulnerable, helpless young woman in a big city. He used language that was extremely condescending and belittling. He described me a desperate, doe-eyed, struggling. He called me a waif. It was insane and very discouraging. He placed me in a genre of a lot of transplant musicians that come to New Orleans and try to take over the city and destroy any type of culture in their way. That was so frustrating because that shit annoys me too! If any OG badass came to my busking spot, I would bow out any day. I’ve been actually thanked by a lot of locals of all different cultures for continuously bringing what I have to offer instead of coming here and consuming and leaving. He ended the article by saying, “…but she is actually kind of good so give her some spare change if you see her in the street.” I just worked for two years on this album. Did you even listen to it? What about the piece of work I gave to you? Aren’t you supposed to talk about that? Does it matter how I make my money? Does it matter where I live? But he barely spoke about the music. He didn’t mention any of the songs. He talked about my body and my female being and belittled me and told me I was insignificant. But it did make a lot of people very angry. Musicians that I respect as well as people I don’t know were livid about it. The magazine got email complaints, phone calls, people went into the office, people were posting on the internet, commenting on the article. The magazine did post a public apology and took the article off the internet but it’s still in print. It still was written. They also never reached out to me to apologize to me directly. didn’t reach out to me directly and apologize. My manager contacted them to ask what they were doing about it and they told him that we were blackmailing them with a mob of angry people and that the word “waif” has been used for a long time. They said it was used to describe Edith Piaf before she was famous while she was street performing but I can’t imagine she ever would’ve enjoyed being called a waif.
Saying something was acceptable in the past does not make it valid now.
That was their excuse. They were very defensive about it. They didn’t actually admit their fault at all to us personally and then they just posted this public apology because of all the feedback they were getting. I think it was really inspiring to see so many people, men and women, come up to defend it and say this is absolutely unacceptable. It would’ve been one thing if it had been a bad review or if he hadn’t like the music but he didn’t even talk about the album.
How are you handling that?
Overall I think was actually a positive thing. It gave my album more publicity than if it had gotten a good review. But it’s unfortunate that it brought way more attention to what I’ve been doing than my actual work.
How would you describe the difference between what is understood as blatant sexism and subtle sexism?
Subtle sexism is almost worse than blatant sexism because I would rather somebody just be out with it and show how they really feel so I can disregard them just as much as they disregard me. If it’s covered up, it messes with your psyche and gets under your skin and you don’t realize why you’re so upset or hurt.
Are there any stereotypes of men or of women that just drive you insane?
To me, true masculinity is being ok with being sensitive. It’s being comfortable with yourself and comfortable with your emotions and comfortable with a lot of things. The way that masculinity is stereotyped is almost terrifying. Buff, strong, tough, not caring about anything. That’s scary. That’s putting that wrong idea into people’s heads.