Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

This was in yesterday’s Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jan/25/women-challenge-scottish-folk-scene-macho-image?CMP=twt_a-music_b-gdnmusic

I thought the writer made some salient points. Trad music, at least in Scotland, remains a male dominated activity — not just at the professional level, but even at sessions with mostly amateur players. Now and then the gender balance is 50/50, or once in a blue moon you will have a female dominated session, but I can’t honestly remember when that last happened to me.

The writer of the Guardian piece suggested that there is more of an appetite in the industry for "masculine" trad music, fast, driving, aggressive; she quoted Simon Thoumire saying some odd things, like, "Maybe. Maybe it’s an animalistic thing. Maybe we [men] want pounding stuff because instinctively we should be out hunting,” and Donald Shaw saying some odder things: “if a woman straps on an electric guitar, is she genuinely absolutely comfortable when she starts sweating?”

I’ve met great female players who can play aggressive, driving music, but there are less of them at the top, getting the same number of well publicized gigs, awards, recognition, as male musicians (tune players — like Molleson said in the article, singers are in a different ball game). Are those qualities in a female instrumentalist not rewarded to the same degree? If a female musician dressed in black leather like the Treacherous Orchestra lads, would it be recieved in the same way? Are there less women playing in that style? Are less women putting themselves out there for the awards, etc? And the notion of the drink-fueled cock-size competition doesn’t answer the question of why sessions in general — at all levels — have a male majority.

Anyway, thought I’d throw it out to the Mustard Board crowd. Like the old days.

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I thought it was interesting. My band (Malinky) has had two very well-regarded female singers in Karine Polwart and Fiona Hunter, and the notion of us not having a female singer in the band is simply ridiculous as it’s a central part of the whole band dynamic.

It certainly is feasible that young girls making their way in music might be intimidated by a laddish sort of thing, the folk scene being fuelled as it is by booze, drugs, adrenaline, and a certain amount of show-offishness. I think it would be a pity if girls started ‘girl groups’ out of a sense of alienation.

Donald made an interesting point that having Karen in Capercaillie helped to make ‘the guys’ that bit more moderate in their, let’s call it ‘socialising’ 🙂 Having been part of a band for 20 years now, I can honestly say that having a woman in Malinky definitely had a similar tempering effect on us. I’ve toured and played with bands whose recreational interests are, let’s say, hair-raising, and am quite glad that we had a sense of moderation provided by the gender dynamic.

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I certainly lay low in sessions where there is a lot of showing off and lots more egos, and then avoid them thereafter.

But you guys illustrate my point — there are plenty of opportunities for female singers (or tune players who sing), but what about female tune players who don’t sing?

For fun, I scrolled through the trad on my iTunes. Out of about 600 albums, 18 are either a female solo player (non-singer) or a band with a female headliner (i.e. Sharon Shannon).

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Well there you are then - there is no market for it.

(for fun)

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Yeah, no kidding! That’s the point the Guardian was making.

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Like so many of these things, it’s systemic, and there are many vicious circles involved. Trad encourages a competitive milieu, and regardless of the reasons for it, it’s one that tends to appeal to men. People who don’t enjoy that tend to get sick of having people play over the top of them pretty quickly. And if you are cheeky enough to be female and play good music, you can guarantee someone will feel the need to come out the woodwork and ‘challenge’ you.

There is also the sausage fest aspect; it’s difficult to enjoy playing music when you are surrounded by men leering at you. Realistically, this happens far too much.

Then, why do people exit playing trad music and at what stage do they do so? I suspect women have bigger crosses to bear in terms of relationships, earnings, and families - not least children.

There are certainly the players there to put together a "Treacherous Ladies" - so what’s the issue? Are they not getting the social opportunities to put together that kind of lineup? Do they simply not want to (unlikely)? Are they being discouraged by gatekeepers (record companies, managers, promoters)?

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On the other hand mystery writers seem to have achieved gender equality. 🙂

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I think Calum makes good points. I’d like to add another. As a woman, I’d (still) be very disinclined to go into a pub on my own, unless I was already established in said pub/session. In which case I’d have to find someone to go with me. Normally my long-suffering husband, who would then be a bit left out when I joined in.

Even my local pubs, where I am known and chat to people, I wouldn’t go in and sit on my own for a drink - which my husband wouldn’t think twice about.

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I think some feminist at The Gruniad is setting up a straw man. I don’t see any obvious bias in the industry or the genre. My gut feeling tells me that there is a higher ratio women involved in folk and trad than other genres (except perhaps classical). Women musicians do get to the top, which suggests there isn’t an inherent bias against them, and DR SS’s iTunes collection probably says more about her personal taste than the state of the industry: if I did the same exercise I think well over half my collection would feature women (though admittedly often as singers).

So if there isn’t any bias, why are there more men than women? It’s simple - the sort of ego that drives a person to become a musician instead of getting a proper job is more common in men. Women have more sense.

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To me, all this is surprising: I’m in Canada, where most of the various fiddling traditions seem to be, if anything, dominated by women nowadays. And while I don’t follow much of what’s happening outside of fiddling, I think that that’s true of the professional traddy-celtickly-folkie stuff generally here.

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Men dominate in all areas of music because what is involved in both playing the music and doing it for a living appeals more to men than to women. For example, you don’t generally find as many women playing multiple instruments. Men do because men like to tinker. They can spend hours just trying varieties of the same instrument. I’ve never had a woman ask to try my flute. It just doesn’t happen. Men approach playing an instrument as a science as much as an art. Some women do, too, but it isn’t a given as it is with men. The women I know personally who do seem to thrive (Google Cathy Barton for a prime example). Then there is the equipment aspect of playing professionally. Oh, my! Get men started on microphones, recording equipment, amplifiers, doo-ah, doo-ah, and you’d better have brought your lunch; you’ll be there awhile. Women just don’t seem to gravitate to that.

I’m sure there is a bias against women in music because there is a bias against women in most things, but if we do a chicken-and-egg analysis, I would argue that there are fewer women who have the interest to pursue a career in music than there are men. It may be because they are not encouraged as children. Society’s level of acceptance is very entrenched, but I would go so far as to say that girls who study an instrument don’t tend to approach it from as much of an inside-out standpoint as men do. How much of that is inherent as opposed to learned is difficult to say. All I know is that, back in the day, no girl or woman I ever knew wanted to show off her stereo or record collection and neither has anything to do with whether or not they could be in a band.

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As with any ‘newspaper’ someone at the Guardian is getting paid for writing column inches that Guardian readers will read. They seem to have got quotes from promoters in the large-scale commercial folk scene that add up to "there are fewer women instrumentalist because they tend not to be part of providing what we think audiences want".

Does the comparison with singers tell us anything? We can almost always hear the difference between a male and female singer and any first-person story telling tends to influence the subject matter. Gender has an effect on the aesthetics. Can people hear the difference between a male and female instrumentalist?

Are there differences in oppportunities for women instrumentalists to get good? Are women less inclined to partake in the loud end of festival line-ups? If so, and it is something to do with a ‘laddish’ vibe there (and similarly at sessions), is that something peculiar to the folk scene? The Guardian article seems to suggest not (e.g the quote from Donald Shaw "That culture still exists on the isles and has spilled into the music.”).

Down at the beginnerish end of the trad scene that I exhibit I haven’t noticed a bias in participation at sessions. I have been to more workshops led by women that by men - though I expect there to be those who suggest the women are earning a crumb leading workshops rather than making a racket at the end of festivals.

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Perhaps the real problem is that men don’t sing. Yes, the women involved in this music are often known as singers, and so in this conversation seem to have been dismissed, but an awful lot of those female singers are top rate instrumental musicians too.

There is clearly a bias against male singers.

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Lack of someone to look after the children kept me away from sessions for a long time. Maybe more (male) partners need to step up and stay in with the children more often.

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Women are more inclined to spend time watching boxed sets and/or Netflix?? Ducks and exits 🙂

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Good god, as soon as I read the quote regarding would a woman be happy to pick up an electric guitar and "start sweating…" I started throwing up in my mouth. What a load of codswallop. Ever see women jogging in your neighborhood? Guess what - they’re sweating. What kind of sheltered 1950’s world leads someone to believe that women are afraid to sweat, and therefore they don’t want to pick up an instrument? I’ve spent the bulk of my life as a musician (meaning working musician), most of that was in the punk scene. I’ve been in bands where I was the only female and also in bands that were all female. In my current band it’s all lasses barring our male singer - that wasn’t a deliberate move, it was just how things turned out: the only competent musicians to reply to our advert were female. As for the comment about women not being multi-instrumentalists I guess I’m an outlier then because I play guitar, drums, tenor banjo, mandolin and just started learning the concertina a few months back. I started playing guitar and drums when I was 10 years old. I also find it both sad and hilarious that it’s the bloody 21st century but we still get the obligatory comment that assigns the motivation of the article to be down to a disgruntled "feminist". If there’s a lack of women instrumentalists in music (of all genres, not just trad/folk) then that is likely down to a culture where being a musician is not presented to girls/women as a viable option, not because, as some have suggested here, that women lack the "qualities" needed to make it in music (ego etc). We all respond to our environments, and if your environment doesn’t facilitate or support you in your desire to pursue music as a career, then it’s not going to happen, whether you’re male or female. If women lack opportunities in music it is less down to lack of "what it takes" to make it and more down to lacking an environment that makes those opportunities viable.

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"To me, all this is surprising: I’m in Canada, where most of the various fiddling traditions seem to be, if anything, dominated by women nowadays. And while I don’t follow much of what’s happening outside of fiddling, I think that that’s true of the professional traddy-celtickly-folkie stuff generally here.

# Posted by meself one hour ago. "

Here in the States women have played a prominent roll in folk and traditional music for generations, literally. Women like Jean Ritchie were pioneering folk back when folk wasn’t cool. Yes the professional U.S. band might be typically male-dominated but there are plenty of popular female bands like Cherish The Ladies and The Gothard Sisters. Go to any of the dozens of mountain and hammered dulcimer festivals or workshops across the US and you are just as likely to find female as male attendees, performers and instructors.

David E

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At the very-high-level weekly session in Montpelier, Vermont, at least half of the participants are women.

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I knew this thread was off when it started with "Folk" and not Trad! Just kidding. ;^)

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"being a musician is not presented to girls/women as a viable option"

- wait - being a musician is a ‘viable option’? Seriously, though - are there really that many more parents encouraging their sons more than their daughters to become musicians? I doubt it. In fact, I think it is rare that the possibility of having a career as a professional musician is ‘presented’ to any young person.

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@meself, I’m not talking about parents or family - I’m talking about media representations of careers or career paths. Opened up an instrument specific music magazine? By and large the advertising features male artists - imagery like that fuels an environment where the perception is that it’s a career for men. Whether or not a career in music is a "viable option" for any gender, that doesn’t stop music media from fueling those dreams through a male lens. We become conditioned to things - it’s one of the ways we learn, and it colour how we view the world. So if we’re repeatedly presented with imagery that only shows a career as a male one (or a female one for that matter) it perpetuates the myth that it’s something that men do, not women.

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And there’s Rascall Flatts, too. I smiled when I found out, after only hearing some of their songs, that they are actually blokes singing in very high-pitched voices 🙂

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"So if we’re repeatedly presented with imagery that only shows a career as a male one (or a female one for that matter) it perpetuates the myth that it’s something that men do, not women."

I wouldn’t say that that’s the reason music is "male dominated" I’d say that maybe it just so happens that most of them end up choosing a different career path. No one would be forcing them to do that and give up music (I would think anyway)

To be honest I agree with Mark Ms point that there’s a bias against male singers. In my choir we have a total of 8 guys in a choir of 30+ students.

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Sorry should have said "not that my school discriminates against men in choir, it’s just that most men at my school just don’t like to sing."

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In Manchester in the Irish trad scene there is a very strong core of really fantastic female musicians who are doing a lot of running sessions, teaching and performing. The likes of Angela Durkin, Grace Kelly, Ríoghnach Connolly, Emma Sweeney and Debbie Garvey, all really gutsy players in style, and a host of others, who are all constantly moving things along. They are also teaching the generation coming through, and once again, a very high proportion 70%(?) are girls. On World Women’s day last year there was the a great celebration of talented players in the Fleadh Mna. Now whether, given this, there is gender equality in access to gigs - well there’s a whole thesis in there.

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@triplet upstairs - Thanks for talking sense.

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I don’t think girls are being "brainwashed" by media. Surely if they loved it enough they would pursue it anyway, right? Maybe it’s because music is not viewed as a practical career choice for anyone regardless of sex.

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I’m with CreadurMawnOrganig in her appreciation of tripletupstairs comments. I read the entire Guardian article and was peeved when it degenerated into a chattering classes pile of rubbish. Lord help us, the female players/singers I associate with would probably spit-roast the writer.
Alex.

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I guess I come at this from the point of view of not seeing that there’s any particular reason that anyone should be encouraged to become a trad - or any other kind of - rock star. Or star athlete, or maybe star-anything. I think if someone has the requisite obsessiveness and drive, there’ll be no stopping them, if there are not actual legal barriers or rock-solid conventions in the way; otherwise, I wouldn’t encourage anyone who wants a long, healthy and happy life to take up the career of a travelling musician …..

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I took the time to read the article and I thought it was overthought. There aren’t always sexist or unfair reasons for the way things are in the world.

As Sigmund said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".

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Nail on the head captacoustic!

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I think the scarcity of women in trad and esp at the top level - for want of a better descriptor - is a thing. Which is a shame. If you think about it, it must be down to a relative lack of encouragement of female children to pursue music by parents. Which is sad.

My family had the wierd situation where the 2 boys got heavily into trad, and the girl decided that classical music was where it was at. I dunno why. (Possibly she is nuts lol) It would be really fascinating if the reason girls didn’t play trad in general was a predisposition to other genres. But i suspect it is doen to more prosaic and sexist reasons.

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Kellie is a 16 year old male, still in school no less, but already feels empowered to pass comment on the experience of women in music, something I can guarantee he has zero real life knowledge of. That my friends tends to be the difference between men and women.

Oh, and cheers Creature and Alexander!

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The cynic in me is wondering what the state of arts funding in Scotland is like at the moment and if addressing a gender bias in traditional music would be seen a positive feature in a funding application.

(erratum: inhabit, not exhibit, in my previous post)

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Sorry for being so stupid.

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"Kellie is a 16 year old male, still in school no less, but already feels empowered to pass comment on the experience of women in music, something I can guarantee he has zero real life knowledge of.

That is an utter rubbish and a very prejudice assumption. It pisses me off so much that I have to be careful of choosing my words. And why are you picking on Kellie for merely agreeing with somebody else’s comment! I also totally agree with captacoustic, and I’m 66 years old. personally I think the whole idea is utter crap.

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Define "The Folk scene", show me the statistics and the statistical method, then show me the results of an ‘objective’ analysis, and then show me where, within that analysis, (should it support the hypothesis in the first place), how it comes down to sexism. Then there would be something to discuss.

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Guess it’s the ol’ "children are to be seen and not heard" …..

***************
I wonder if it would be possible for posters on this thread to indicate what part of the world they are in? I suspect that the situations are quite different on the two sides of the Atlantic.

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Now is probably a less than ideal time to have this conversation, simply because many people (women in particular, in the US) are tired of explaining themselves and being told their experience is invalid.
My $0.02, the number of women leading bands in the trad world and playing instrumentally will increase in the future simply because the next generation of women’s experience has been different; they have female role models who are providing the motivation and evidence that it’s a real option and society has been less accepting of the culture that made the session scene unappealing to women. Still there, definitely, but with more women around and more support for a woman made uncomfortable or afraid, there’s a greater likelihood that newbie females won’t be scared away before they build the network and group playing technique to break through the barrier and create their own opportunities. Sure drive is important, but in my experience in natural resources lots more young men who wanted to be fisheries biologists made it through and found jobs than equally intelligent and more driven females because the barriers of discomfort (i.e. the nature of conversation and attitude towards a woman’s ability to do the job by some professors). Some of the women found other paths to the same career but through less well-connected programs.
I’m lucky, I have many female trad music friends and the men I play with would shut down any fool trying to create an unfriendly atmosphere if we didn’t laugh him out of the pub first. But, I also know I’m lucky and that not everyone else is.

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"many people (women in particular, in the US) are tired of explaining themselves and being told their experience is invalid"….
Yes, exactly like 16/17 year olds, and other teenagers (as per my comment above). I am totally against ALL forms of discrimination. I must add however, that on this subject all we have are our own subjective experiences, and in my own long experience in the Australian folk scene it is equally, if not more represented by women. Like I said, show me the statistics. But anyhow, most people who I know that play in the folk scene are just not interested in stardom and getting to the top. They do it just because they love it.

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Don’t worry about it Kellie. You’re entitled to your opinion.

Groups are often single sex because of the way they are set up. They’re not a formal business hiring personnel. They’re usually a group of friends of a similar age and interests and so are often of the same sex as each other. Groups of mainly women - Rant, for instance, https://youtu.be/ObcctsguZO0 , present themselves differently from the male groups and tend to take different work so it depends where you go what you find. The individual group is not usually making a deliberately sexist choice but the overall pattern when you see big folk groups en masse reflects the nature of our society.


Pub music sessions, however, are some of the least sexist gatherings I have ever wedged myself into uninvited. (Me being, as you can’t tell from my name here, a woman). Dedicated sessioners don’t care if you are a Martian as long as you don’t smell and you play in tune. People who enter a session with low confidence should remind themselves of that fact.

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triplet upstairs, that was a very unfair comment about Kellie, I feel.

If nothing else, I don’t think the tendency to assume things about the opposite sex is restricted to men; it’s something both sexes are guilty of (or tend to do, whatever wording you prefer).

As for the whole point, I think there’s rightly a consensus here that the article is a bit sensationalist, and indeed is generalising too much. "Folk Music" is a very wide term encompassing hundreds of different genres in many countries, and it’s been rightly pointed out that the M:F ratio varies wildly between these undoubtedly interlinked, but essentially separate genres.

From my experiences with instrumental ITM, I have to say that the M:F ratio depends very much on the setting and the context of the musical event (whether it be lessons, sessions, concerts, ceilis) and the age-group participating (children, adults, a mixture, older musicians only). ITM can be quite insular or open, depending on the people involved, but I have never considered there to be a major fundamental gender problem; in fact it has seemed to me like the younger adult generation playing ITM seem to have a very good balance between male and female players, and long may that continue.

I do think that musical snobbery as opposed to gender is a huge issue in ITM, and a lot of very good musicians are very reticent about welcoming in new musicians to the tradition to the point of being downright rude, but that’s a completely separate issue, of course.

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" sessioners don’t care if you are a Martian as long as you don’t smell and you play in tune."… Oh Damn!

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Yeah, that explains the cold shoulder I’ve been getting …..

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Cold shoulders, waling into lamp-posts… Ah meself you continue to make me laugh!

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Yeah, well - we’ll see who has the last laugh … !

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"But you guys illustrate my point — there are plenty of opportunities for female singers (or tune players who sing), but what about female tune players who don’t sing? "

Seriously, I think some of you guys are stuck back in the 1960’s. Just lookin’ through my rather extensive CD collection I see: The Poozies, Altan, Cherish The Ladies, Liz and Yvonne Kane, Uncle Earl, Nickel Creek, The Rankins, The Gothard Sisters, Winifred Horan, Liz Carroll, Athena Tergis, Nina Zanetti, Bonnie Rideout, Cathy Barton, Celtic Woman, Claire Mann, The Friel Sisters, Gillian Welsh, Harriet Bartlett, Jean Ritchie, Jessica Comeau, Joanie Madden, Jody Marshall, Joemy Wilson, Julie Fowlis, K.C. Groves, Karen Alley, Karen Ashbrook, Liz Knoweles, Madeline MacNeil, Maggie Sansome, Mary MacNamara, Mary Rafferty, Moonfire, Nancy Galambush, Nina Zanetti, Patty Looman, The Quebe Sisters, Sharon Shannon, Sierra Hull, Siobhan Owen, Sweetwater, The Willis Clan, Caitlan Nic Gabbann, Cucanandy, Grainne Murphy, Leahy, Naimh Ni Charra, Zoe Conway…

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What - no Natalie MacMaster?

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Or Edel Fox… tsk tsk tsk… 😛

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Or Louise Mulcahy.

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Well there are endless one, but I thought we were talking about the folk scene and sessions, not just the commercial stars at the so-called top.

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Zina Lee!

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Muireann nic Amhlaoibh - do we need to go on………………..

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Instead of wondering why women have such different experiences in ITM, why not listen to them in their own words?

http://www.tg4.ie/en/player/home/?pid=5282183235001&teideal=Mn%C3%A1%20an%20Cheoil&series=Mn%C3%A1%20an%20Cheoil

Cheers,

Melany

And for what it’s worth, the session scene here in Western Canada/Pacific NorthWest is about 40/60 men to women, with many multi-instrumentalists and highly dedicated session leaders and community organizers.

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Back from a few hours at band practice, had a feeling this thread would still be going strong when I got back. I see some of you feel I was "unfair" to Kellie - fair enough, that’s your prerogative, but I don’t back down on my statement. I never said he couldn’t voice his opinion - I merely pointed out that here was a 16 year old schoolboy commenting about something he has zero experience of. Jaysus, you’d think I’d insulted his ma the way some of ye have reacted. But you did illustrate my point beautifully - namely that if a woman speaks from a place of experience she can expect to be admonished for pointing out that a young male person lacks that experience. Pretty fitting given the climate of the times. Think I’ll just go read some alternative facts to cheer meself up.

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I mention Muireann then there she is on your Mna na Cheoil link - thanks Melany, that’s going to interesting
listening

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"We all respond to our environments, and if your environment doesn’t facilitate or support you in your desire to pursue music as a career, then it’s not going to happen, whether you’re male or female. If women lack opportunities in music it is less down to lack of "what it takes" to make it and more down to lacking an environment that makes those opportunities viable."

Agreed triplet upstairs and the above is a core point. Mind you, if you have or had triplets upstairs, no wonder you mightn’t have much time for a few tunes 🙂 Also agree re your take on inexperience of some but that’s a common enough feature of forums like this.

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> I also find it both sad and hilarious that it’s the bloody 21st century but we still get the obligatory comment that assigns the motivation of the article to be down to a disgruntled "feminist".

Frankly, the comments in this thread explaining why there isn’t a problem do a fine job of illustrating exactly why there *is* a problem.

> show me the statistics and the statistical method, then show me the results of an ‘objective’ analysis,

Yes, I think it’s completely reasonable to set a piece of work that would take several researcher man-months to complete just so we can have a conversation about it, not to mention that at the end you’ll just come back and quibble with the choice of using a chi-squared test and pontificate that you’re still not convinced and more work needs to be done. No.

> that was a very unfair comment about Kellie

Anyone is entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to be taken seriously. On the one hand we have a teenage guy with no personal experience of what he’s pontificating about. On the other we have reams of personal testimony from the people who have been there and done that. And somehow we’re saying those things should be given equal weight?

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" On the one hand we have a teenage guy with no personal experience of what he’s pontificating about"

Does this apply to young women as well, or does your discrimination stop with teenage males? In all fairness, kellie has only related to what has, in fact, been his own personal experiences at school, and his experience is as valid as anybody’s. Nobody on this site has the right to say that any other member has no right to speak. In my opinion the comment against Kellie was indeed unfair if not outright rude and age discriminatory.

Re the research, well first off I can’t imagine where a Chi -Square test could possibly be relevant, but I still maintain that if there actually is a problem then the grounds should be shown to be valid and not (possibly)imagined. Is the accusation real? I don’t know. How are we to judge without valid and objective evidence. In my world, where women on the folk scene way outnumber the men, I have seen absolutely no evidence of what is being proposed. And I am in no way an anti-feminist.. just the opposite actually.

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"if a woman speaks from a place of experience she can expect to be admonished for pointing out that a young male person lacks that experience. "
Again I ask, am I to apply this same criteria to a young female?" You can’t just say to somebody that they should shut-up because they are too young to speak. And how do you know what life experience he has had? He’s just had a totally different one than you. We all have!

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

There haven’t been any 16 year old women who have commented on this thread, so the point is moot. She is saying that the lack of experience is the issue, the gender of the commenter touches on the wider issue but is largely irrelevant.

I will say it’s interesting that (in my experience) sessions across the US have a fairly even split of men to women, leaning towards more women. I can’t say how this compares to the rest of the world, but it certainly seems to run contrary to the number of women in the professional music industry.

Not trying to draw a conclusion here, fyi.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"Well there are endless one, but I thought we were talking about the folk scene and sessions, not just the commercial stars at the so-called top."

Re-read my list. Many of these women are in the folk scene and session crowd or got their start there. Sorry but I think the premise of the thread is wrong today. Maybe 50 years ago, yes it was definitely male dominated back then.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I find it kind of funny how people are assuming Kellie cannot have any experience in the given area, without knowing what experience his statements were based on - I think that’s kind of unjustified presumption.

When 16, I was for some time touring with an irish band of ~40 years old guys - could have just as well been women I gues. And I think in today’s world, one can have loads of contacts/experience from close 2nd hand, which may give him an better idea of a situation when he’s 16 than a grizzled veteran of trad music who’s never really left the village he plays sessions in (not saying this is the case of anybody here btw.).
This is not to say that a likelihood of a 16 years old man knowing about the given matter is huge, but the uncertainty would be, at least to me, too high to pick upon him in that way for it…

Concerning the article, I also think that this kind of journalism needs a study design, laid out methodology, and analysis, including confounding factors (I think the choice of appropriate test isn’t that difficult and if a wrong one is chosen, it can be clearly argued out why). And I think that yes, this actually could be done in a way that takes months and is based on actual methodology. Otherwise it’s just an activist blabbering and I think we do have enough of that in this world. The article has so many unclear points that are made to seem convincing, but are not backed by anything, that, I believe, it’s just the type that will be praised by people who agree with it, and rejected easily by people who disagree with it. Net effect - the author gets paid and the benefit of society is zero - not good enough for me. If there is a real study, yes, it will be possible for people to discuss if the study has been done well, but this type of study could, I believe, persuade people who did not expect the outcome in the first place. And if the study has some issues, well, it can be improved/analysis refined, etc. It can at least start a discussion, rather than keep the trend of throwing stones in gender wars.

Btw., the article seems to talk mainly about equality for outcome, rather than opportunity. The evidence for the fact that there should be equal outcome (50:50 men/women in music) has no support in evidence why that should be.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Maybe we haven’t had a 16 year old female comment on this thread. Why would any 16 year old comment ever again when they have been told that their opinion is invalid? But we certainly have a young female meber on this site who is 16 years old and demonstrably incredibly intelligent. Her current username is ‘Bluestocking’. Some may remember her as Hanan. Here is a quote from one of her last posts.This is the writing of what some of you would label an inexperienced 16 year old:-

“Even writing, which of all my half-skills I do best, isn’t true writing. A true writer has wisdom and astuteness and witty turns of phrase, all of which I do not. I am merely a belletrist—one who can make little nothings sound pretty, or construct grandiose façades for inane and empty notions. A belletrist is nothing but a pretender and a sycophant…

You older folks will all laugh at me and tell me that it’s all right, you’re not expected to have your whole life in order when you’re only sixteen; life is a journey, you’ve got yours all ahead of you, etc… But if you knew this unending loneliness that traps me in a vicious cycle of self-consciousness and self-analysis, if you knew how bleakly my every sun rises, if you knew what it was to live in this sunny and spacious place that everyone calls a “fine house” but only I know as a prison cell… If you knew, I think, then you would understand my desperation to find some purpose in life—some token that I do not suffer all these days in vain.”

The intelligence of this young girl speaks for itself, but my point then is that we should never discount what somebody has to say purely on the grounds of age. If you feel the need to explain something to them, then do so as you would with anybody else. But their opinion should never be shrugged off as invalid purely in the grounds of age.

As for myself:- well convince me that the problem is even actual and I’ll take it seriously. We are wasting our time arguing about imagination. Anyhow that’s goodnight from me for a few weeks.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

For what it’s worth in my years of playing music in Ireland, there seems to be a very rough divide between male and females. Though I have noticed that certain instruments are more gender oriented than others

pipes: mainly fellas
fiddle: good mix of both
concertinas: mainly ladies
banjos: mainly fellas, though a noticeable amount of women
whistles/flutes: a good mix
accordions: good mix
guitars: mainly fellas, a few ladies
singers: mainly ladies, a few fellas
harpists: almost always ladies!

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

^ Yes, that seems to match my experience too…

If well supported, an interesting point of the article could be that Scotland has that differently…

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Glad to see Donald Shaw and Simon Thoumire are nice and progressive.

Interesting thread, thanks for posting DSS!

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> How are we to judge without valid and objective evidence.

It is an imperfect world, and for a certain type of person there will never be enough evidence. 97% of climate scientists have a settled view, but according to some we still need "more research".

Again, the problem is not the sex or the age of the commenter. It is the fact that someone with no experience is treated as seriously as someone who has lived the topic of discussion. I’m not saying Kellie should be quiet. I’m saying his opinion should be taken in view of the background he has to provide a basis for it.

In addition, you’re taking a discussion about a very large problem - women’s participation in trad - , and turning it into a discussion over whether a man was once unfairly treated in a comment thread. Is it really worth derailing the thread to discuss this?

> The evidence for the fact that there should be equal outcome (50:50 men/women in music) has no support in evidence why that should be.

I don’t see why equality requires evidence to explain it. Why do YOU feel it’s OK to dismiss the possibility of an issue with no evidence?

> The intelligence of this young girl

A young girl who is forbidden from participating in traditional music through being born into a partriarchal culture, and you have the brass balls to cite her in your argument? A woman is *literally* locked into her house and you use her writing to try and explain that there is no problem with women participating in traditional music?

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Do you folks with experience of the scene have any comments on the quotes, in the article, from Julie Fowlis?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Calum: Agreed on the difficulty of obtaining evidence on some types of results, but I think in this case, it is easier to research this than climate science.

Agreed on the Kellie point. And I didn’t take that matter on the basis of gender, rather general stereotyping.

Why equality requires evidence to explain it? Well, I things generally do take evidence to explain, that’s how science/reasoning works. You can claim that ants are equal to elephants, not needing evidence… I am not dismissing the "possibility" of equality, I have never stated that, so do not say I did. I am saying there is no evidence to consider it likely enough to accept it as a fact, namely to act in a way promoting equality of outcome. There are good reasons to think that the biological equality in >>all<< criteria is extremely unlikely (different hormones, brain wiring - and yes, I’m aware of studies that say that it’s not as big thing as was proposed, but it remains clearly different, different evolutionary pressure, different activity of sympathetic nervous system, etc). On the other hand, while I >>believe<< that there are some differences, I do not think there is evidence for their broad characteristics (how concretely they translate to behaviour), at least in many of them - and if somebody would say, that gender X are better at music in general, I’d challenge that statement as well, as I think that there is a similar lack of evidence.

In the absence of evidence for superiority of one gender in music (and my experience in no way suggesting that such a thing happens), I am 100% supporting the equality of opportunity for career in music, but equality of outcome is a different thing.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

(which for reference, are as follows):

"Julie Fowlis – Gaelic singer, instrumentalist and presenter of the BBC folk awards – is less inclined to buy into such gender determinism. “Music is not essentially male or female. Women can be every bit as feisty and fist-punching,” she says. “But it’s true that in Scotland we do have a bunch of all-male bands playing a certain type of music, generally booked as headliners to finish off a night.”"

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

This got going!

The thing about discrimination is that it’s often subversive (well, maybe not so much now that a guy who publically admitted to sexually assaulting women got elected president), unconscious, and completely bound up in a cultural understanding of norms. That’s why all female bands get billed as "all-female" bands. You ever seen a group promoted as an "all male" band? Of course not. The former is the derivation from the norm, the latter is just normal. Similarly, people talk about "women’s soccer" but never "men’s soccer."

Are women being deliberately excluded from traditional music? No, but male musicians benefit in a thousand unseen ways just by not being women, whether that’s feeling comfortable with leaving the pub later, or going to the pub alone in the first place (I’ve had some pretty weird experiences going to pubs alone to play in sessions — drunk men seem to think of a lone woman as fair game), or being seen as the right sort of band to headline a festival, or having more role models on particular instruments. And yeah, there are plenty of great female musicians who have "made it" in spite of all that, but there are probably ten men for every woman.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Well said DrSS.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Does a situation where one gender dominates numericaly always indicate discrimination?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

And bias against male singers? Are you kidding me? You all do know that many of the biggest names in music, not just trad but generally speaking, are men, right? Dylan, Bowie, Springsteen, many more I can’t think of because I’m bad at pop culture…..

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

It was a simple question the answers to which may be relevant when assessing the article’s evidence base.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I’m with tripping upstairs on this one (thanks DrSS for posting it).

I’d also challenge all the people who think that sessions are usually 50/50 to actually count for the next year. It’s been shown (for things like classrooms) that when women are equally present (and equally vocal) that men and women have the impression that women are the majority! My experience has been that women in sessions (in Ontario, Michigan, New York, Texas, Ireland, and probably more) are generally fewer, often far fewer, in numbers than men. Not always, of course.

Maybe I’ll make a spreadsheet and count for the next year!

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"As for myself:- well convince me that the problem is even actual and I’ll take it seriously. We are wasting our time arguing about imagination. Anyhow that’s goodnight from me for a few weeks."

Gobby, I wouldn’t be so defensive or prescriptive. We know that it takes all sorts to make up the world but the question in point here was about women and the folk music scene. Surely you must realise that as a self proclaimed recluse somewhere in the Aussie Outback, that your own experience of the topic is likely to be limited?? Sometimes when one doesn’t know much about a topic, it’s better to hang back and hold yer whist. And I’d like to think that I apply that to meself.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

The answer, David, is maybe. In this case, people’s experience backs it up more often than not. I agreed with the article’s premise. Being a woman in the Scottish folk/trad music scene, I felt I had reasonable grounds to do so.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

DrSilverSpear: Well, I think that taking "always" formally, the answer is "certainly not". I think men clearly dominate global running charts, women clearly dominate giving birth - I do not think there is any discrimination in either. Furthermore, if there is a finite-size sample which may manifest features, it is possible that all elements of the sample will have the same value of the feature just by chance (of course, as the sample size increases, the likelihood will be lower and lower, but still "possible", provided the sample and set of features are finite).

This, of course, does not mean that there is no discrimination in the area of the article, but I believe (and am sorry if it’s wrong) that David50 was suggesting a point that an imbalance does not imply discrimination on its own and this should not be used as a way of deriving an argument without providing further evidence.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Though in fairness to Scotland, I should add that the creepy drunk guys hassling me when I go into a pub solo have usually been in Ireland. Only once here, and it was a session in a pub in the Barras called the Foggy Dew, so no surprises maybe (if you know Glasgow), and never in the US.

My favourite: I walked into a pub in Donegal where I thought there might be a session. Three lads accosted me by the door, asking me what I was looking for. A lone woman must have meant target for douchebaggy behaviour. I said I was looking for a session. They said, "Oh, honey, we’ll show you a session alright." I fecked right off. Never did learn if there was a music session in that pub.

I think it’s difficult for men to argue that women experience no difficulties or discrimination in trad music because they don’t have to deal with that crap and if they are the nice guys who don’t perpetrate it themselves, they probably have no idea it goes on, or of the extent to which it goes on, unless female friends and partners tell them.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

But that stuff is biological.

You’re saying that the imbalance in music is biological?

Anyway, the quotes from Donald Shaw and Simon Thoumire in that article speak for themselves!

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

My experience is that both genders have their issues when interpreting whether a behaviour is nice or not - I’m really sorry you were subjected to such treatment, which is totally not nice! And I guess in a testosterone-heavy community, men cat-call for fun, without meaning badly, not realising it’s extremely unpleasant for the target.
Then again, I’ve encountered it twice that a drunk spectator leaned on a girl a bit during a session and complemented her playing, and the girls took it as gender-based offence - such a thing has happened to me three times in last two years or so, so that’s something that’s not necessarily gender-specific (then again, I have long hair, and from behind… damn, didn’t realise that!).

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

DrSilverSpear: Yes, pretty much - at least in power-based running (<=800m?). Testosterone induces changes in muscles which increase peak power output. Also, it allows blood to bind and deliver more oxygen.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I don’t think you can equate biological traits (being stronger, giving birth) with cultural constructs in which the performance of your job has nothing to do with your physical characteristics, i.e. underpresentation of women in STEM jobs, or as professional trad musicians.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

And a last one. David 50 said
"Does a situation where one gender dominates numericaly always indicate discrimination?"

You said it does, I tried to show why not. Biological or not - I provided a concrete example why there are counterexamples to "always".

Btw., I am not saying that there is a biological reason why there is an inequality between musical skills of men and women - I do not know that and do not see any.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

*underrepresentation. I really can type.

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I said maybe. Then qualified it with the case study in question. "The answer, David, is maybe. In this case….."

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Yes, and I said that the answer is clearly "not", given that there is a concrete example of relatively clear imbalance which is not due to discrimination. I.e., the statement "imbalance always implies discrimination" is untrue. If the sentence was "imbalance sometimes implies discrimination", I have no issue with that. If you said "mostly", then the anwer would be "maybe". But for "always", I do not think "maybe" does it.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Jesus. Pedant’s corner over here.

I was dodging around David’s categorical statement, which was setting up a straw man more than anything. Of course the answer is "not always" but by "maybe," I meant that it certainly flags up something worth noticing and thinking about. Maybe it is because women have uteruses and men don’t. Maybe not.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

At least here, the "folk music scene" has long been (always been?) gender-neutral, pretty much.

Ditto the Irish trad session scene, which is around 50/50.

But let’s face it, instrumental music has long been male-dominated. Orchestras were all-male. Then women began making inroads. Oddly this happened on an instrument-by-instrument basis, as if the male hierarchy could at one point concede that a woman could be a top-level musician on the harp or violin, but not on brass.

Brass instruments have been the Final Frontier. A friend’s wife was a professional trumpet player back in the early 1980s and she faced strong resistance. I know a few professional female brass players (tuba, trombone, and trumpet) and the old macho resistance is alive and well.

The macho musician thing seems to be stronger in the jazz world than in the orchestral world, seems to me, though I could certainly be wrong.

The Highland pipe band world used to be utterly segregated. Women had to play in "ladies’ pipe bands" who wore frilly outfits. By the 1980s some women were coming into the previously all-male bands but they carried over their distinctive outfits. Now this has been all done away with and large numbers of women play in the same bands with men and wear the same (traditionally male) outfits.

Too bad Highland Dancing isn’t likewise becoming integrated; it’s still virtually 100% female.

An interesting sidelight to this topic comes from the book May It Fill Your Soul by Dr Timothy Rice, a detailed examination of Bulgarian traditional music in a specific village in the 1930s:

"Perhaps the most important factor determining musical acquisition was gender. Men were almost exclusively instrumentalists, while women knew most of the songs… Virtually every boy had the opportunity to learn to play simple instruments while herding animals… and girls, who were learning skills necessary to women, like cooking, sewing, and embroidery, never had free hands to practice instruments and were discouraged from taking up what was viewed as a male activity."

If this all sounds horrid, the author does mention that the village had a woman who completely bucked the system, who kept her own household, wore men’s clothes, and did men’s work. She wasn’t ostracized or hated or feared or any such thing, but accepted for what she was, and simply viewed as a village eccentric.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Sorry - I tried to highlight this was a sort of formal take on the matter, I’m unfortunately often like that.

I think that the matter on imbalance and discrimination depends quite a lot on the surroundings one is exposed to. I am in an environment where the view that anything can be attributed to discrimination is relatively frequent (not in giving birth, but I had to bring concrete evidence on brain differences/muscle difference on several occasions, as these were proposed to be also due to discrimination) and in such an environment, it indeed is worth pointing out that the link between imbalance and discrimination is not always an implication.

I think the anecdotal information in the article interesting and I wish that things were better, if it represents how things actually are. However, in its current form, I think it is written in a way that suggests bias of the writer, and is based on anecdotal evidence mainly, which is not generally the strongest type of evidence. I think that if this is to have an impact on people who are causing the mentioned problems, it would have to have stronger evidence.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

It’s an opinion piece in the Guardian, not a study in a peer reviewed journal. You have to take it for what it is, but it speaks to a lot of people’s experience. And it obviously bugs a lot of people, but it appears to be men arguing most vociferously against its premises. Interesting.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Good thread Dr.
I have not taken the time to read all the comments but I will read it this weekend.
Take care,
Ben

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

But what good does the piece serve? Wouldn’t it be better to do a single rigorous study than have thousands of published opinions? Many people with opinions aligned with the article’s claims will criticise people for being racists when they generalise small-sample personal experience or anecdotal evidence to a global statement - but this opinion is precisely that - a generalisation of anecdotal evidence.

What do you think is the article’s premise?

Whatever it is, I’m not sure who’s arguing against it. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s very useful, nor strongly supported. But I think it may be very well true and if it’s so, it shouldn’t be so.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

It was a question DrSS, not a statement and, like Jakub, I think that an answer of "maybe" is the same as "no". That is, numerical bias doesn’t always indicate discrimination. Or, if you like, it might not indicate discrimination.

So in most cases I think one needs more information and a better idea for what may be going on before reaching that conclusion.

I wasn’t setting up a straw man, but you were right I was heading towards song. I wonder why there is the 3:1
male:female ratio that Kellie estimates for a school-age choir. In adult community choirs I have experienced as much as 8:1 (the chat can get quite embarassng, they forget we are there, us blokes have to stick together…). At the only harmony singing workshop I ever went to with more men than women the leader said it was the only one like that that she had led (there were a lot of couples with similar-aged children).

Why the bias? Culture? Hormones? Discrimination?

That’s why she went to sources — people who know what’s going on, if you will — and asked them: people like Julie Fowlis, Donald Shaw, Simon Thoumire.

I’m running out the door and won’t be online for the rest of the weekend. I am sure this thread will happily simmer away.

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Ok, re-reading the article, let’s look at some concrete points why I think the article isn’t that great.

Paragraph 2 ("Yet Shaw…"): Yes, there is a gender imbalance. Why is it? Is it discrimination? Or demand (surely, you wouldn’t like to order people what to like). I.e., is it bad imbalance that reflects that women do not have opportunities, or it reflects other, natural causes? The article sounds to me like it’s mainly the former, but without evidence, it’s useless. The note oon 50/50 gender representation or talking about balance - this is ridiculous, ordering 50/50 balance is unsupported and can backfire easily. Why? Let’s say we assume men and women are equal. The article states that there are fewer women in the field than men. Ok, let’s say that quality is normally distributed - then you draw two normal distributions for men and women, and you take n best samples from each - given that there are more men around, assuming the same distribution of quality, the peak n men will be better, on average, than peak n women. Which people might hear, and this will reinforce the dumb stereotype that women are worse, even though it’s not actually true. Well done, 50:50 quotas 🙂

Paragraph "One person…" - she’s overwhelmed - why? Someone forces her to listen to such music? Or someone forbids her to play her style of music? If that is so, it’s sad and should be prevented. But there is no evidence for this. I myself dislike many types of music (‘very masculine bands" would be mostly among them, probably), but I wouldn’t dare to boss people around whether they may or may not listen to that.

Paragraph 4 - claims that artists are falling back on retro stereotypes. First, I’d like to see this supported by data. Isn’t the amount of professional female musicians much higher than before 30,40,50 years? I don’t know, but have thought it would.

Paragraph "And why does the folk scene" - this is the best. Particularly rich is the sentence "Statistics from the BBC folk awards support her theory…". It supports the theory that female instrumentalists need to sing… aha. So let’s flip it, shall we - in the same way, the statistics "support" that male singers have to learn how to play an instrument to get ahead. That’s ridiculous, right?

I.e., I think the association of a very good cause (we want everybody to be free and to do what she/he wants) with poor reasoning and argumentation is bad, because if people see something that’s badly supported, they might think it’s wrong, even though it might be true, just poorly supported.

Whatever the premises are, I don’t think I disagree (unless the premise is that 50:50 outcome is to be enforced per se, I would disagree with that). I just think that this kind of argument should be done better, as tbe current form may do more harm than good.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"That’s why she went to sources — people who know what’s going on, if you will — and asked them: people like Julie Fowlis, Donald Shaw, Simon Thoumire."

She could also get views from many more people "who know what’s going on" from Rachel Newton’s Facebook discussion linked in the article. It ran mainly 17-23 Nov and IMO it’s a much more interesting and informative read than the article. That said, by the nature of Facebook, there tend do be few strongly contrary opnions.

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… to be…

I can’t type

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I go back to the, it’s not trying to be a peer reviewed article. While the way you discuss the possibility of opportunity bias is accurate, a single study will fail to answer the inherent question because of its complexity. To be honest, I don’t know whether I care about a peer reviewed study. I have my experience and many other people’s experiences; I don’t need my opinion validated. If you refute our experience, scrounge up the money and do the research. Really, the story did its job; we just had a conversation about it and if everyone here who refutes the story is more aware of the conditions that women purport to experience to test the validity of their argument, either they’ll notice and speak up, or not. Win-win in my opinion. 🙂

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And in defence of lame opinion pieces, if they stimulate enough interest, they made may lead to proper studies. Of course, that is only worthwhile if the subject warrants study in the first place. Say, for example, the president of a country claims widespread election fraud, and then decides the issue requires an investigation funded by taxpayers - wait: keep politics out of it, keep politics out of it keeppoliticsoutofit keeppoliticsoutofitkeeppoliticsoutofitkeeppoliticsoutofit ……

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So many experts about Scottish folk music, I don’t think so.
And of course the Guardian newspaper is all so reliable (being based in another country).
Donald Shaw runs Celtic Connections, Simon Thoumire invents national folk institutions. Both are "good guys".
I don’t recognise the place in the paper.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"A young girl who is forbidden from participating in traditional music through being born into a partriarchal culture, and you have the brass balls to cite her in your argument? A woman is *literally* locked into her house and you use her writing to try and explain that there is no problem with women participating in traditional music?"

Yes, Calum. That was exactly my intended point. i.e., The lass is 16 years old. Are we to dismiss her experience purely on those grounds?

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

This morning when I first saw this thread, I sent an email to my research partner suggesting that we could actually do a scholarly investigation of this question. It would be relatively simple if the members of this discussion group would be willing to answer a survey. So, my question is, would it be appropriate to develop a survey, put a link to it on this site, and ask members to respond?

It hasn’t been lost on me that in the two bands I play with, the Irish trad one has two women out of eight members and the other has two adult and two adolescent females out of 18 or 20 members (it’s not just Irish/Scottish trad, but it does some of that). Anyway, the point of this is to ask if you all would be willing to participate in a study. It won’t be anytime soon — the approval process for studying human subjects takes months to wade through, which is why I’m asking about participation before starting down that path. Thanks!

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Kilcash… re your comment 7 hours back that due to my reclusive existence I lack enough current experience to have a qualified opinion on the state of things; well I agree. But in fact I don’t have an opinion on it and haven’t expressed one. I have merely asked for any objective evidence that could provide me with one. And so ….

Debbie van Tuyll … this makes me wonder how difficult it would be for you to define an objective population for coming up with a definitive answer. I mean, as has been pointed out, we all have individual experiences and no doubt our experiences vary from place to-place. From what I’ve read here, for example, things are very different in Scotland than they are in Australia. but then in Australia, where I would hazard a guess (which is all that’s been going on here so far), the ‘folk scene’ would comprise of at least 50% women. But "Folk Scene" means something different here than in other parts of the world. It is totally distinct from (say) the Scottish scene. And as Kilcash pointed out, my own *current* experience of my own scene is just about Zilch! It is at least less than young Kellies, who attends sessions. But the other day I went to pick up my father from our local folk club, which has a weekly meeting, and I can tell you that there were 12 women and three men. That’s the limit of my experience. But does this observation count for anything in the big picture of things? Well of course not, yet by virtue of me being a member of this site I would be one of your study population. Nobody else from my local area is a member of this site, yet there are many in the ‘folk scene’. And then you have the problem, of course that in many cultures, such as in the Australia’s Aboriginal experience, males and females own their own separate traditional music, and it is performed exclusively by one gender or the other. there are so many factors to be taken into account in trying to answer such a broad question. Still, I would rather your academic efforts rather than us just keep arguing mere personal experiences and emotional opinions.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I would certainly be willing to participate - but I think Gobby’s reservations are spot on - and I’m sure many more could be added - so it would be quite a challenge to set your parameters, etc., such that you could end up with meaningful info.

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@meself "And in defence of lame opinion pieces, if they stimulate enough interest, they made may lead to proper studies."

I agree that it’s lame. I think it doesn’t hang together logicaly because it’s second hand opinions tarted up for the Guardian. This http://www.tracscotland.org/tracs/traditional-music/traditional-music-forum/blog/exploring-music-and-gender is rather on the dry side but the discussion following Rachel Newton’s Facebook post* that seems to have been precurser to the meeting goes way beyond the article.

I am interested in your own observations DrSS - but it’s a crap article.

* https://www.facebook.com/rachel.newtown.7/posts/1623211394650009 but you have to be on Facebook.

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We’d have a set of dependent and independent variables defined by prior interviews or focus groups. I agree we’d have different results by location. The interesting parts would be the whys. Those would be grounded in cultural norms, I expect. Might bra multi-stage project.

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"The interesting parts would be the whys. Those would be grounded in cultural norms, I expect. "

I agree strongly with both those thoughts Debbie. I look forward to hearing about your research when you finally get it through all that vetting, and finally receive approval (and a big grant, I hope).

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Kellie. Have you any ideas on why females outnumber males in your choir ?

I wonder if something similar could result in there being more female than male instrumentalists who also sing?

(logging out)

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

ALAN21 says
"So many experts about Scottish folk music, I don’t think so. 
And of course the Guardian newspaper is all so reliable (being based in another country).
Donald Shaw runs Celtic Connections, Simon Thoumire invents national folk institutions. Both are "good guys". "

They are actually "good guys" and do a lot for the music but their "expert knowledge" is no better than your or mine on many matters. However, they always seem to be the first port of call by the media or press if they are looking for comment and opinion on any news story relating to folk or trad music, if someone dies or whatever.
Likely this is either laziness or lack of knowledge on the journalists’ part but this has always been a phenomenon.
Donald and Simon just happen to be "chosen experts" for the time being.

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Concerning the study, I’d be very happy to participate. It’s no Scotland, of course, but I’m happy to collect data on sessions in Oxford.

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I am female. I was at two sessions last week. I was outnumbered about ten to one at the first and maybe eight to two at the second. Quite typical for these sessions.

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In thirty years of sessions across UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, I don’t recall any with a majority of women, some where the numbers were roughly equal and the vast majority numerically dominated by men. If my experience is really so unrepresentative of the trad scene, why have the vast majority of posters on this thread been male ?

And why have those women who have posted had their succinct expressions of personal experience buried under a mountain of male piffle?

Guys - it doesn’t require a scientific study, it simply requires us to listen to the majority of the human race. But to do that we might have to give up some of the privilege that ensures our voices are heard over theirs.

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So it’s ‘privilege’ that’s creating this ‘mountain of male piffle’ on this thread? Hmmm ……

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Yes. It is privilege that enables men to confidently post comments like these:

"I don’t see any obvious bias in the industry or the genre."

"Men dominate in all areas of music because what is involved in both playing the music and doing it for a living appeals more to men than to women."

"There aren’t always sexist or unfair reasons for the way things are in the world."

"personally I think the whole idea is utter crap."

"convince me that the problem is even actual and I’ll take it seriously."

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In this context the voice of the majority of the human race includes the question "Why" and the post expressing the suggestion of a scientific study in most detail is part of that majority.

I don’t think it requires a scientific study, but I think it does require an attempt to separate out some of the factors. For example our resident 16 year old male had spotted one element (intially brought up by Mark M). There appear to be more female than male singers in many societies. So we need to be careful in drawing conclusion from a bias in bands.

If not science, then how about some clearer logic? Simon Thoumire may well have a point over his "back-line issue” but I can’t help thinking that if it was the other way round - men out front and the women providing backing - someone would have brought up a "front-line issue".

Are biases that come from society in general being pointed to as being special to trad music? Women being wary of going into pubs alone is not specific to sessions. As the article seems to acknowledge the all-male end of evening headline acts are response to audience demand.

Other than that I prefer the ‘quieter’ and to my ear more subtle bands that usually have more women I don’t really have an axe to grind here - except that I seem to surrounded in life and on social media by Guardian readers who are uncritical of sloppy opinion pieces and then winge (or in the last year wail and gnash their teeth) when the world doesn’t go the way they want. FFS make a decent case**

** and I think the case being made by the 90% female voices in the discussions elsewhere is good and I suspect it will be heard where it matters.

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My apologies to the OP for getting wound up over the article rather than addressing her questions she asked. I”l think about it.

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Here in little Rhode Island USA, I would say that the mix at most sessions is about 2/3 men and 1/3 women. There are less women amongst the older players, but at the sessions where there are more younger players the split is about 50/50. So the old male domination of the sessions is fading. I notice no difference between the way the men and women play music. I have a feeling that, decades from now, people will look back at a lot of this "men are like this, and women are like that" stuff and laugh at our quaint notions.

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I don’t understand - opinions and arguments aren’t valuable because they were written by a male? Why to be sexist about this? If the quality of statements/arguments are to be evaluated by the gender of a poster, rather than their own merit, I can see how we’re entering a postfactual era.

Dan Conway: Your sexist remark aside, nothing has been buried anywhere. The relevant posts are still on top of the page (which is what new readers will see first). Actually, given the discussion under that (be it male piffle or not), the discussion remains in "active discussions" and is thus more likely to get to a wider audience.

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Jakub, are you saying males are not in the majority responding on this thread?

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AB: No. Why?

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Sorry, I was wondering why (or how) you read Dan Conway’s comments as sexist.

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No problem! I think the sentence "And why have those women who have posted had their succinct expressions of personal experience buried under a mountain of male piffle?" is quite sexist, given the derogatory rating of male posts. I have no issue with Dan disagreeing with anything that anybody has written, of course, but why to link the posts to gender is beyond me.

When writing about gender issues, I generally try to flip the genders and situations, to see if they would be easily offensive to someone (so that I combat any subconscious bias I might have). I think the situation above, if men and women were flipped, would induce a very harsh reaction.

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Fair play. I took Dan’s comments about a mountain of piffle (while apparently from males) as reference to the posts which rejected, or cast serious doubt on, the personal experiences of women who posted. In other words, not all posts made by males; but significant in their response to female perspectives on the subject.

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Aha, no, ok, I see. It’s tough to see what was thought to be piffle and what not, but throwing such a big set of posts into a single bag seemed not very nice to me.

I myself found the personal experiences posted here very interesting and informative (I was totally unaware of the situation in Scotland, given that the situation where I am is entirely different), but that does not mean I have to like the original article that much. I think there is no issue with casting doubt (I had doubt cast on my thoughts many times and it sometimes persuaded me that my opinion was due to a limited sample size/small part of the problem seen, so it was very beneficial in the end), but there are of course nice/constructive ways of doing that and not-nice ways.

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There are definitely not enough women in music sessions and I would be delighted to see more. In our Friday Session last night in a total of about a dozen players, there was only one woman. Has anybody, of whichever sex, any sensible ideas to cure this situation?
There are more girls who take music in school than boys (from my sister the strings teacher and my sister the reeds (unfree) teacher.) Why do they not come in to traditional music as adults? Are they not exposed to it?
My sister tst (for short) teaches mostly girls, and they LOVE playing trad tunes, sometimes even without the dots! She puts as many pupils through this teaching as possible. What happens between 16 and 24?
Is it possible that they follow the tradition which they have learned at school, the classical one? As far as I know there are many women of varying ages in local classical orchestras and they are not all teachers either.

Points to ponder. I think it makes sense.

Chris B.

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Thank you Jeremy for bringing to light what I feel have been very telling comments made on women’s experiences in trad/folk music scene.

Having an experience from a male point of view does not invalidate your life experience. However, because it did not happen to you personally or from what you’ve observed from your female peers, does not mean that the discrimination did not happen at all.

And for what it’s worth on a personal experience, I’ve been told by a male tutor that I should choose a "woman’s" flute (Rudell& Rose, in boxwood because it was was lighter) as opposed to my choice of a Blackwood pratten style flute. You can bet I went for the latter in a heartbeat because I had tried several models from that particular maker through my flute playing friends and it suited my personal preferences in my playing and goals.

And finally, this wonderful series is currently on TG4’s line up. For those invested in this topic, please watch it, because the line up is amazing and their stories provide some insight into why women were/are not as well represented in Trad.

http://www.tg4.ie/en/player/home/?pid=5282183235001

Cheers,
Melany

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Cheers Melany! it’s a very interesting show.

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I am still thinking about it (and gathering some possibly related information). However, if males who question the formulation of the problem, or point out potential drawbacks of suggested actions, are going to be called out for being in denial of its existence there isn’t much point in contributing.

@Gobby - I read your quoted comment in context but initially didn’t recognize it out of context.

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Melany , I was really looking forward to watching these programs, unfortunately the lack of English
subtitles made it very hard going [and presumably for 100’s of other non-Gaelic speakers] I’m just hoping TG4
get the problem fixed before time runs out

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@christy - there are English subtitles but it seems to depend on your browser. I watched the flute one on the PC then settled down by the fire to watch the others with a tablet plugged into the TV and stereo - and the subtitles vanished.

The concertina one has some very strong stuff ‘the place of the women’ in the past.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"…. stuff about ‘the place of women’ in the past…"

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> opinions and arguments aren’t valuable because they were written by a male?

When your opinion is about the female experience, no, your opinion is little better than conjecture and all you are doing is drowning out women’s voices. I’d be curious to know just how many women there are reading this thread, having something to say, and deciding they are better off not participating.

> Why to be sexist about this?

It is not sexist to shut up and listen when people who know more about a subject than you are willing to talk about it.

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@Calum. I understood that we were invited to comment -"Anyway, thought I’d throw it out to the Mustard Board crowd. Like the old days." # Posted by DrSilverSpear 3 days ago.

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But aren,t women in Scotland just guys wearing dresses ? ihbketwpwcp4[h.k …….gurgle…….. splat 🙂 Hey, just joking. I always got the impression that, apart from Dick Gaughan and perhaps Robin Morton, ALL the fantastic singers and musicians were ladies !

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@Calum: I, however, was never putting the female experience in doubt. I did not put forward any opinions on the actual matter in Scotland (i.e., I did not claim the matter discussed was not a problem), given that I do not know enough of the situation factually - I’m aware of that. I was pointing out flaws in the reasoning of the article, discussing why it is not very well thought out and why it might be counterproductive. These do not require knowledge of the underlying matter, as they are general patterns of thinking. Assuming there is the issue, and I tend to believe there is, based on the experience shared, then having an easy-to-refute defence is a very bad thing and by saying we (people - as I work with people, rather with two species of men and women) shouldn’t try to refine or improve it, you might be very well promoting what the article is against. Incidentally, if you haven’t noticed, the discussion might have triggered an actual study being carried out on the topic, which would be far more powerful and persuasive than the initial bit of journalism. I.e., we, all the debaters, of all genders, might have contributed to better understanding and description of the situation. I think that’s a considerably better job than you propose by people shutting up.

> It is not sexist to shut up and listen when people who know more about a subject than you are willing to talk about it.

That is true, I never said it was. I’m putting some effort into not putting words into people’s mouths - please try a little harder do likewise. Discounting constructive discussion (to which we have been invited) based on gender, that is sexist, which I have written indeed.

A discussion usually consists of two things - data, and reasoning about the data. If the data contain statements A=>B and "A is true", then, if someone states that B is false, you can confidently comment on this statement being wrong, while A and B may be anything - you don’t need to know whether this is about music, or cardiovascular research. If you think that people are not entitled to using general thinking, i.e., if people cannot say, e.g., that a statement does not logically follow from another statement, then we have nothing more to discuss as our approaches to life differ too considerably for this to be of any use.

By the way, we were just discussing the issues of the article and that there might be a study on this (proposed by a woman), when some people came and started derailing this towards "men cannot discuss this" - I think that is the drowning.

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"I’ve been told by a male tutor that I should choose a "woman’s" flute"

Wow. What utter nonsense.

Not that I’ve not heard stuff like that before, just not about Irish flutes. With jazz woodwind and brass, orchestral brass, and Highland pipes I’ve heard men make comments implying that women can’t get a big sound. Of course there are plenty of female woodwind players, brass players, and Highland pipers who get a great sound, yet the attitude remains.

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> I was pointing out flaws in the reasoning

You were, and are, sealioning. Demanding "moar data!" before you will condescend to take an issue seriously is not being neutral, it is taking a stand in favour of the status quo, and the status quo sucks.

How, exactly, would a piece of academic research stop DSS being harassed when pubgoing in rural Ireland? How would it help any of this?

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Nice to see this issue is being discussed fairly with lots of voices from all sides.

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Calum: I do not think I’m sealioning. I think it is polite to respond to other posts directed my way, which is why I post even on things not directly related to the original topic. I did not even say I would require more data for the key matters, that was somebody else - you can read in my posts that I do tend to believe that the matter is a real problem.

However, speaking generally, when there is a statement, the burden of proof is on the one making the statement, otherwise it’s merely an opinion. It can be many opinions from many people. I think you can get quite a lot of opinins in the UK on how immigrants take your jobs and how Brexit was needed. Please trust me at least in this - I’m a scientist and even among other scientists, who should be the most neutral and fact-based people, I see a terrible tendency to biased thinking based on a small sample, which very often leads to wrong conclusions. This is far worse in less analytical people.

Without supporting statements and basing things on evidence, a real mess can start. To give a concrete example - my own experience was that I was robbed four times in my life, all the times by people of romany origin. The situation was similar for many classmates. We could totally have a discussion on how the romany people are criminals (based on our data, they were clearly more than the majority) - and reject opinions of people who were not robbed by them as "not having experience with this matter". But wouldn’t have they the right to ask us for a more substantial evidence (such as data on global crime rates, confounding factors, etc.), if we went out claiming that romany people are significantly more robbers than the main ethnicity? If we rejected this, based on their lack of experience, or their "privilege of not being robbed", we’d be foolish. Fortunately, I did not fall in the trap and did the research myself. I have seen many times that people with a "privilege" can keep cool a lot easier, because they are not as emotionally involved in the matter.

In today’s world, there is such a high number of activist groups that you can get strong hearsay evidence on almost anything - from UFOs, illuminati, to cancer being healed by a mystic chant. Do you believe these? No? People who believe in them do. Wouldn’t you ask them for more evidence? Don’t you want to see more data before you treat people for cancer by chanting? Because, you know, the status quo with cancer isn’t that good.

The piece of academic research probably would not stop DSS being harrassed, unfortunately, but that does not invalidate what I said. I think the effect of articles can be divided into roughly three groups - on people who agree, who disagree, and who are uncertain. I think people who disagree will be never persuaded by something that is not solid and based on substantial evidence. The dumber among them will probably not be persuaded by anything at all - still, a small edge for strong, fact-based research. People who agree - they might not care that much for how well researched the area is. However, those who agree and who want to persuade others will benefit from a strong result based on data. This is similar in the case of undecided - if someone who is undecided and has critical thinking sees an argument that is weak, or even unintelligent (as is unfortunately the case with the article, in some places), he may even turn against the original opinion, as when you see something supported wrongly, it’s a frequent (although not amazing) human property to believe the opposite. Of course, the undecided will be hardly persuaded for a weakly argumented cause - if they are, they would just as well be persuaded by a report working with statistics, or data. In all the cases, I think the impact of a well-researched piece will be higher in the positive direction, and smaller in the negative - i.e., it’s a win-win situation. It’s of course not a win for the journalists, as it places some requirements on their intelligence and effort, but those should be default properties in a journalist, I believe.

Btw. I do not expect people to read scientific journals broadly, of course, but a study can be used as a resource for an easier-to-digest format.

I don’t know about rural Ireland, but here, when I see someone insecure while playing, I’m encouraging towards them (and no, not in a patronising way like "not bad for a girl" in case you’re wondering). When someone has a sexist note that makes someone feel uncomfortable, I speak out. This might have helped if DSS came in a pub where I was.

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P.S. From the definition of sealioning I found: "You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party. If your bait is successful, the other party may engage, painstakingly laying out their logic and evidence in the false hope of helping someone learn."

Ok, you didn’t request to be enlightened. But I think that if you compare our style of communication, where you lay down statements as facts without any support, whereas I try to illustrate my points in breadth and depth, explaining my reasoning, you might want to reconsider which one of us is closer to sealioning.

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@Jakub. I think the cartoon that was a source of the term ‘sealioning’ http://wondermark.com/1k62/ is more subtle (intentionally or not) than most definitions of the term would indicate.

Even staying with sea mammals consider, for example, replacing "sea lion" with "whale".

Replace "sea mammals" with "people" and where could it go from there? Making a potentially prejudiced statement without being prepared to explain it can lead, justifiably in many cases, to a whole load of trouble.

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Haha, I see, thanks 🙂

Anyway, sorry this all has gone far from the original topic…

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@christaylor: I do hope you get to watch it. I have no problems using Chrome browser on both my laptop and iPad to watch the program. I’m hoping they will release it on YouTube or some other channel in the future because it is thoughtfully compiled together.

@Richard D Cook: my thoughts exactly. Somehow I should have been more outraged than I was. I understood why he wanted me to start on a Rudell due to its specs and being a relative newbie on the flute, but I also questioned with that type of attitude, would I have been taught the same technique and breath control as his male students? If I’m not going to be encouraged to play like Matt Malloy, Harry Bradley, Conal O Grada etc due to my gender, what else would I have been missing out on?

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thanks Melany - I just watched the flute and the concertina programs on Chrome and the subtitles worked
fine - looking forward to watching the rest. It would be good to think the social attitudes that held women
back in music [or any other occupation] were a thing of the past but looks like some places they’re still hanging on…………….

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"…he wanted me to start on a Rudall due to its specs and being a relative newbie on the flute…"

Yes if he steers all of his students to Rudall-spec flutes, due to his believing that they are more newbie-friendly, that’s understandable. For sure I’ve noticed a number of fluteplayers playing Rudalls initially but later switching to Prattens. I did that too. Though I don’t think I would go so far as saying that all beginners should start out of Rudall style flutes… each person is different, why impose my personal tastes on everybody else?

"…with that type of attitude, would I have been taught the same technique and breath control as his male students?"

Yes one might well wonder about that. Quite possibly not.

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Thanks for bringing the programme to our attention Melany, it’s really nice and full of great playing!

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"the question of why sessions in general — at all levels — have a male majority" For sessions in pubs and bars I suggest that it may be mainly because they are in pubs and bars.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

should have been "pubs bars in the evening"

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The discussions on Rachel Newton’s Celtic Conncections panel and on her Facebook page more or less support the assertions in the Guardian article. Some of the participants, like Jenn Butterworth, Gillian Frame, and the band members of Outside Track and the Shee (one of which is Rachel herself), are some of the most succesful women on the Scottish trad scene. Nevermind me telling you that female trad players are still battling sexism — I’m just a fairly average amateur player who shows up at the occasional session — but if the ladies who are at the top of the game are saying the same thing, that should mean something.

Jakub, it seems to me you decided to disagree with the Guardian piece without doing any research into the experiences which were underlying the writer’s contentions. Like listening to women who play trad, or reading Rachel’s Facebook page (and a few others). "But it’s not scientific," you cry. Well, not as such, but if a bunch of different people are describing similar experiences, and you are not one of these people (black, female, etc., so you have no way of knowing how they are treated, really), then dismissing it as "not science" comes across like the patriarchy reaching for reasons to dismiss arguments they find uncomfortable.

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I am frequently the sole female player (I do NOT sing) at the three or four sessions round here.
In fact I could count the number of times there has been another female (in the last five years) on my stubby little fingers..and a few stubby toes.
I just ignore the fact that I am female- and so so the guys I play with…the locals pub goers don’t say anything…to my face…and if they do have opinions about me being female in the gang of men..I really am not interested…
I am more interested in having someone else playing fiddle round here rather than what gender they are.
ET

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Whenever I’m at sessions in Glencolmcille Co. Donegal (one week per year), women are the majority. I’m looking forward to those sessions for the entire year - that’s my only opportunity to play that repertoire with other musicians. Nobody around here knows it.

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@pikilily. Do I understand correctly that the guys you play with don’t discriminate but that opinions that other pub goers could reasonably (in your locality) be expected to have might put off women who don’t share your disinterest?

Sorry that’s convoluted. I am interested in social attitudes that might reduce the number of experienced female session players and so feed into the issue covered in the article.

There are a whole list of practical things that female players that I know have told me put them of particular sessions - e.g. walking through town back to the car park, drunks on the last bus of the evening, driver-only trains (topical in the UK at the moment).

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Thankyou "DrSilverSpear" for raising this issue.

I for one am listening, and despite the fact that I’ve been involved in many campaigns and organisations involved in equality (amongst other things) I am chagrined to say that I’ve not done much on this particular question other than in my own personal actions and in the band I play in.

The reaction from some has been somewhat disapointing, and I’m not talking about the article as such (I have other problems with the article not to do with the gender equality subject), but I suppose it was to be expected, especially online where these discussions can get derailed.

I’m literally about to leave the house to go to my local weekly session and I’m going to raise this question, and listen to what is said by our small female contingent.

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I can’t speak for other women, but as a middle aged woman I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into an unknown pub alone. If I really wanted to check out a session I’d have to take plenty of reading material and find a quiet corner.

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DrSilverSpear: Please feel free to refute my statements with your broader knowledge of the data. Given that my reasoning was typically independent of the underlying data, as far as I recall, but was based on criticism of reasoning using the data, I do not really see yet where I was wrong (but I might have been, there was a lot that I wrote). You have not shown me where I made an argumentation error in a single place. I’m very happy to have a discussion, but less happy do be accused of bad things in such a broad fashion.

I’m being accused for dismissing people’s experience (for a second time, incidentally). I explicitly stated several times that I valued the experience, I never dismissed it, so what’s the issue? I said I do believe there is the issue raised. Can you state why you have accused me of this, that I do not find to be the case? I laid my reasons why I think that a more rigorous study would be beneficial, but that does not mean that I do not value personal experience and opinions at all.

I said that experience can be sometimes limited, and if you’ve read my post on having poor experience with a certain ethnicity, I believe you’ll see why I, in general, think so. Human nature, I believe, is very much made to generalise small-scale experience (humans didn’t have anything beyond that until recently). You think that this experience here is valuable (and I do as well). But people who believe in chemtrails, illuminati, ghosts, etc., have also based this on experience - and we’d probably think them wrong. Scientologists have some really big names supporting them as well, it’s not just freaks. Like these groups will not persuade you without further evidence, the efforts to improve the situation of women in folk music might be inefficient without further evidence. I hope the parallel is clear. You might wonder why I was saying that confounding factors/causes should be researched (again, not discounting experience per se) - e.g., the Simpson’s paradox in UC Berkeley acceptance rate is a famous example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson’s_paradox. At the first sight, it’s extremely obvious that there was gender discrimination or something… except there was not and it has a simple explanation. This is of course a completely different case/problem shape, but it illustrates that it’s good to try to look behind corners of problems.

I’m doing what I can to improve the situation of women in my field, science - I ran some very concrete activities to encourage them in pursuing scientific/computing careers. Given that I’m not in Scotland and I’m not a female musician there, I can hardly improve the situation by doing something very direct; trying to show how the article might not be doing the best job and suggesting that there might be other ways of doing some things was my attempt at contributing to this. That’s how I work even in what I’m doing otherwise - finding flaws in arguments of people, thus helping them to improve it. It’s usually appreciated and desired, as people who want to persuade someone usually want their argumentation as good as possible. If it’s not wanted here, then fine, I’m sorry for wasting our time.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I’m thinking the issues raised in this discussion are just one symptom of a much wider problem that spreads
throughout society, politics, employment, sports, domestic life - I don’t have the answers, I guess our society has moved on some since the Suffragette movement but here in the ‘civilized Western democracies’ we have no reason to be complacent - racism and sexism are never far behind us. Just look at the Election results across the Atlantic-
I rest my case.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Yes, I’ve always considered chemtrails and women in folk music to be similar issues.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

> the efforts to improve the situation of women in folk music might be inefficient without further evidence

Do you have any evidence for this, or is it just a convenient excuse to do nothing?

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Tom, [sorry don’t have a Scandinavian ‘o’ on my keys] not sure if your response was serious or satirical ?anyway said all I’m saying about this, now I’m going to enjoy the rest of those TG4 Mna na Cheoil
vids.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Ok, that’s it, the level of emotions and lack of critical thinking and discussion has gone over a threshold where I just get too depressed over this. There is no point in trying to use logic and illustration of general issues with certain patterns of reasoning, when one gets accusations and not even a reasonable part of his concerns addresed thoroughly.

That’s not aimed at you, Calum now, by the way, it’s rather my reading the recent rest of the discussion and Tøm’s "insightful" point.

@Calum: Seriously, thanks for at least using something I did actually write in the discussion (although this did actually have some context, without which it sounds like a broad statement). In that sentence & paragraph, I have tried to highlight, why, in general, anecdotal evidence isn’t that strong for persuading people who do not see a problem/not share a view. Evidence - I see that very often, people making claims, and are not believed because the support for the claims is weak - they are consequently inefficient at persuading others.You probably saw this as well, no? I don’t have a strong conflict of interest to make this up. Whole science is based on requiring evidence, and science is how good and bad hypotheses are sorted from each other. An important thing is that I wrote "might", but not "is always". For "might" to be good enough, my personal experience should be sufficient (might raises an issue, but does not consider it answered). Given that many people I encounter are/will be opinion makers, I think their approach will propagate indirectly further.

A major inefficiency of the article might be the part on "supporting the argument" - that is simply something that an intelligent person thinking deeply about the text she/he is writing would not write. At that point, people like me will doubt that the author has gone thoroughly through the available evidence, has evaluated it carefully, and presents it in an way minimising bias.

But again, to be mega-clear, I’m not discounting anecdotal experience generally - I think that it’s a crucial mechanism for raising issues for further analysis - and it seems this might have happened here, which would be great. Concerning the strength of evidence - is this anecdotal evidence good enough for me to be more attentive to whether women at sessions are not feeling unpleasant? For sure. Is it good enough for me to support, e.g., 50:50 quotas at festivals? No.

I also didn’t say I would do nothing - if it helps the study proposed above, I’m very happy to collect longitudinal data in where I am. Also, me trying to refine the argumentation supporting the cause, is doing something, or at least I tried. Are you going to spend time like me to try to improve the cause?

I think we could be really discussing the UC Berkeley’s Simpson paradox just as well. We can get 10 women who feel they were not accepted because of gender reasons. They would even have some data, showing that 35% female applicants were accepted, and 44% male applicants were - given the numbers of applicants, it’s quite "clear" this isn’t merely due to chance and that there is a strong bias for men. Someone comes into your discussion, saying that it should be analysed in greater depth. People here would jump at him, saying the matter is obvious, that there are even statistical data and that he is just blocking justice for women, he’s doing nothing, etc. But they would have been fools, as upon deeper analysis, a small, but statistically significant bias >>for<< women was found, when this actually was analysed further.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Oh, and if you need further evidence, just look at the discussion under the article, people disagreeing with it/saying it’s unsupported. I’m quite sure many of these points could be addressed with a deeper analysis. Of course, some of the readers seem to be persuaded that this is not a problem, which would make persuading them difficult overall, but still, there are people like me trying to persuade others with a different opinion. It actually does work, sometimes.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Jakub. The example of your poor experience may have been relevant when you introduced it but in your last but two post I think it is a red-herring when applied to experiences reported here.

(I have not yet read your latest posts which appeared whilst was typing this)

We have one first-hand account of several instances of offensive behaviour that was undoubtedly gender related (from DrSS). So we know that the probability of this behaviour in greater than zero.

We have one first-hand declaration that someone wouldn’t feel comfortable going into an unknown pub alone. So we know that the probability of women feeling that way is greater than zero.

You have a second-hand account (from me) that one woman thought that driver-only trains would put her off attending a session. So we know that the probability of women feeling that way is greater than zero.

We know from history that the concerns of those women are founded on things that have happened to others in the same or analogous situations. The risks at any one time is probably very small but lifetime risks to someone who does not seek to minimise them may not be.

I use those examples because they come from this discussion but, as DrSS points out, there are reports of experiences elsewhere that support the general points made in the article (which I think is largely plagiarism).

I do think your statistical point regarding 50:50 quotas is good (it is usually taken into account when considering positive discrimination in favour of a group that has had less opportunity). In one of the discussions elsewhere someone expresses a preference for choosing on the merit alone. In fact, there is a another perversity in the article here - “I asked the Celtic Connections office six times for the gender ratio of this year’s artists, and was told repeatedly ‘we don’t have that figure’” If they had a policy of booking bands purely on merit then deciding not to have the figure might help them to be objective over that. Elsewhere someone said that Celtic Connections is mainly run by women.

What I am not convinced about is that the problem is anything specific to ‘the folk’ scene rather than as aspect of some parts of society. Simplistically one could say ‘the Scottish entertainment industry’ for the main subject of the article and ‘pub culture’ for the issues of gender ratio in sessions.

For a lone woman is a bunch of blokes playing tunes in a pub more or less a source of concern than a bunch of blokes drinking with their mates?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

David50: I tried, probably not well enough, to highlight when I’m speaking about general patterns of thinking and when it’s concretely about this example - that poor experience was generally about not jumping to conclusions too quickly, rather than to say that the experience of posters here is irrelevant. I’m really sorry about DrSS being treated nastily based on her gender. I’ve seen men treat women badly and stood against that quite actively - and if a band is not booked because there are girls in it, that’s horrible and I do not understand the person who would do that at all.

I agree that this might be a concrete manifestation of a general social bias (then again, the ratio of bands reported sounds larger than would be "normal" bias in many areas). But "bias" does not equal oppression. When I see oppression, I stand against that - always. When I see bias, I try to explain it first, before acting.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Jakub. I think you are straying into straw man territory. The article doesn’t try to use anecdotal evidence in a statistical way and not only does it not suggest 50:50 quotes but it reports that "Nobody I spoke to favours a quota system"

(crossed - and heading off to a class)

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

David: I didn’t say it used anecdotal evidence in statistical way… where do you think I did?

I didn’t say the article supported 50:50 quotas, previously! That was me speaking generally about examples of for what is anecdotal evidence good enough for me and for what it is not.
However, since I re-read the article again, I’ve noticed that it contains "it seems indicative of a lack of general discourse around the subject that, even this year, the festival were not championing 50/50 gender representation, nor even talking about the balance."

That sounds to me like the author would like festivals to champion the 50/50 gender representation, no? But this may be just me being foreigner, not understanding it properly. Maybe the author just uses that to describe the situation and it’s not indicative of her opinion… Given that uncertainty, I really wasn’t discussing the quotas in this area previously.

This is a real mine-field, I thought I could write more clearly than I apparently can 🙂

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Fair enough - I missed that on recent quick read through.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"Ok, that’s it, the level of emotions and lack of critical thinking and discussion has gone over a threshold where I just get too depressed over this."

You mentioned chemtrails, the Illuminati and ghosts, not me!

The article has provoked interesting discussion. Thanks again for posting DrSS, and drawing my attention to the original Facebook post.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Tøm: Of course these were ridiculous cases, but they were there to illustrate a point, not to be presented as something on an equal level to the matter discussed here. I guess that’s an issue with using parallels - one means it in one way and others may take it in a different way…

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

> UC Berkeley

That would be the study that concluded women had an advantage despite half as many women applying as men. Yeah. Evidence.

> Celtic Connections is mainly run by women

Well, yes, under the skin most arts and social organisations are staffed by people who work hard for little pay and for some mysterious tend to be women.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

*mysterious reason, that is.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I don’t know what to do, I haven’t yet met a person with such thinking/argumentation that would be so alien to me… Sorry, I don’t know what more to write.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I hope that by "alien" you don’t simply mean a different way of thinking.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

You can’t really measure sociological phenomena as though there is some kind of objective reality, outwith human experience, when the very thing you’re trying to understand is qualitative human experience itself.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Calum. I assumed that by this point that everyone here knew the original context. My point was about them having - or not - a figure for the gender ratios.

The author of the article could have done what any competent campaigner would do - worked it out herself from the programme.

Can you give a source for your assertion?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

@DrSS. Is a gender bias in some sessions - at all levels - a sociological phenomenon?

How about a gender bias in pub darts matches, or amongst amateur singers.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

@David50
(you said) Do I understand correctly that the guys you play with don’t discriminate but that opinions that other pub goers could reasonably (in your locality) be expected to have might put off women who don’t share your disinterest? …
* well, that’s the issue- I don’t know if there ARE attitudes or local opinions - I never hear them-or observe anything which would be construed as bigoted or judgmental… I am not going around with blinkers on !! and I do go to a number of sessions…and my husband does not escort me. NOT ONCE have I felt uncomfortable. So is this just me?
I was a karate instructor, I am in a profession where I have to deal with other peoples challenging behaviour …so is there something that radiates from within me which inhibits those negative social attitudes??


(you said) There are a whole list of practical things that female players that I know have told me put them of particular sessions - e.g. walking through town back to the car park, drunks on the last bus of the evening, driver-only trains (topical in the UK at the moment).
*I have not got an issue with these aspects either. I do drive, so that limits my experience of public transport. However I do have to walk in the dark and along roads etc.

I may add here, I was violently raped when I was seventeen…maybe that has freed me up to live life as I wish, not get constricted or hung up by other peoples attitudes, be sensible about my attitude towards myself within my society…you get the picture! So in short maybe i am the exception and my opinion should be dismissed as being outside the norm.
ET x

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

> Can you give a source for your assertion?

Someone else asserted it, not me, and it was about the people running the festival, not performers.

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I guess it might depend on where you are? Here in New England in the US, I’ve never seen session discrimination based on sex. Based on five string banjo, dobro and such…..yes. But not sex.

Admittedly, I’m not a great attendee of sessions, but never have seen that.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Calum - your "Well under the skin… " sentence was phrased as an assertion.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

@pikilily. I guess having been a karate instructor could give you a different perspective on the risks and it does sound as if you might radiate more confidence, or something, than the norm.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

@David50
Yes I think your comments are fair, I think learning a martial art helps to control fear and nerves, knowing you have tools in the toolbox which can get you out of a nasty situation (Self Defence) means you are less likely to get into that situation on the first place….and radiating confidence is the end result.

How ever, put the fiddle in my hands and a mic in front of me and I am a bag of nerves!!!

ironic

ETx

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Some much-needed context and a little summarisation:

1) the Guardian is an ‘English’ paper, i.e. published in England for a primarily English audience. Circulation figures (check ABC.org.uk for the exact numbers.) in Scotland only account for around 5% of the total. This may not seem immediately relevant, but it’s hard to argue that the article is trying to change ANYTHING about the music scene in Scotland when it sells less than 9,000 copies North of the Border. More likely this is just one of a long, long line of "Scotland Bad" articles that the paper has being regularly printing since the political party that it is most closely associated with started to plummet in the polls, but I won’t get into that because of, y’know, politics.

2) The article is appalling (I think we’re all agreed on that) and makes a whole host of generalisations - the fact that the journalist in question does not bother to work out the gender ratio is entirely indicative of the poor state of UK journalism at the moment. Enough said about that, probably - but we’re likely looking at someone who either had insufficient time or interest to do anything resembling research. Given that we’re left with a whole plethora of unanswered questions as a result, this means that unless we do what several people have already tried to do here and define terms, set boundaries, agree norms… all of which is very difficult to do without proper ‘study’ (as has been pointed out). If one set of people are obsessed with proving something because of ‘facts’ (or showing beyond an acceptable level of error using statistics), and another set are arguing on the basis of personal experience, then these questions are unresolvable. Both are valid, but we can’t compare apples and oranges, people. Empirical data rarely resolves qualitative issues, and doesn’t really answer deep sociological issues that are wider than the narrow window that is ITM.

3) Having said that, I recall that some educational studies have been done into musical participation levels as students mature, and show that there are different rates of continuation - more girls take up tuition than boys, but less continue to play into adulthood. I could probably track some of these down, if anyone is interested, but it’ll take a while. It may be one reason for the disparity in numbers (along with all the others), and I seem to remember that a need for greater social interaction was suggested as a reason for this; girls being more socially mature seek greater social interaction than boys, who are happy to continue in socially limiting activities such as music, gaming, and all the usual things that teenage boys like to do on their own.

4) Wider sociological issues are intrinsically being alluded to in the course of this discussion, but are unlikely to be resolved in this thread. It is interesting that those people demonstrating the most ‘dug-in’ opinions about there ‘not being a problem’ also seem to be the most likely to engage in needless rhetoricism for the sake of not being proved wrong. That, my friends, is a very masculine trait. I don’t mean anything by that, it’s just an observation since I’ve come late to this thread, but there’s some arguing tactics going on here that wouldn’t be very pleasant were they to be performed in public. However, this is delving into meta-discussion, and I shall steer away from this. Anywho…

4) IMPORTANT CONTEXT:

DrSS poses her questions about Trad in general, but is speaking from a point of view of having played music (like myself) in Scotland and Ireland. I’m not saying that anyone without a direct experience of playing in this context has no valid opinion, but I can assure you from my own direct experience, that she is correct. The overwhelming majority of sessions that I’ve attended in Scotland and Ireland have had more male than female players. The ratio may not be very high, but that statement is correct. Most sessions in Scotland? Wall to wall sausage fest. The odds against me having met my wife at a session were, quite honestly, astronomical.

5) Historical context (offered without judgement, merely relaying anecdotal evidence):

Historically speaking, playing music in Ireland was absolutely a male-dominated pursuit because it was necessary to travel to people’s houses to play music (as sessions did not regularly exist in pubs, where women generally wouldn’t be found anyway). At the time it was simply not an acceptable thing for an unmarried woman to go round visiting in this way. Women played at home, if at all. There are even distinctions in the instruments that it was deemed ‘appropriate’ for women to play - hence why there were so many more female concertina players once upon a time. This isn’t up for debate. This is how it was. In order to know this, you have to have spent time with players of that generation (which is now rapidly diminishing), and to have listened to their experience of music in those days. You can’t show that in a study, you’re going to have to take the word of those that were there at the time, and there’s not many of them left now. However, to argue that ‘gender bias’ in traditional music ‘isn’t a thing’ is quite simply idiotic and ignores both the origins and the history of the music in the sociological context from which it derives.

Do I perceive an imbalance? In Ireland and Scotland - Yes, without a doubt.

Do I understand it? Sort of, but not fully. I would certainly argue that there are more barriers to women - particularly single women - getting involved in trad music, and although I wish that weren’t the case, I nevertheless believe it to be true.

Are male players expected to be more… ‘bolshy/aggressive/sausage waving’? Probably, but that goes into such a mess of deeper questions about gender expectations and early-stage role building that I don’t really want to get into all of that. F*ck it, I’m going to say yes, yes they are, and there’s no acceptable reason (to me) why that should be so.

Are there less women playing in that style? Er… dunno. That’s a hard question, and probably not the question I’d ask at all. We should probably be asking if it is easier for the male players to get themselves recorded NOW as opposed to the past where the ONLY players recorded in the early days were men… Who sells more records? Who gets the most promotion? Who has to work harder to get those gigs? I suspect I know the answer, but proving it is damn hard, and I wish it weren’t the case. It’s also a question that extends to other forms of music and even the wider artistic world - though some people won’t agree with me on that. I don’t particularly care. It’s essentially the same as asking why there are more Michelin starred male chefs than female. If you can think of a ‘good’ reason, I’d like to hear it.

We fellas may not be comfortable with these questions, but that discomfort is itself evidence that something exists that needs to be addressed.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Excellent post. On that account there is a primary (to the trad music scene) problem in Scotland and Ireland. Is it the price for something that could be regarded authenticity in the crack?

I do believe the accounts from England, Australia and the USA that, in some places at least, things are different. I think most of the gender bias that I see is secondary; an overlay on the local culture, especially the evening pub culture, maybe in combination with some bias in takeup.

As for the uptake of traditional music I think it is a case of: "are women who would like to play traditional music being put off due to some form of discrimination?" I have no idea. The gender bias towards men in amateur singing is well known and I don’t recall anyone saying it is due to discrimination. One explanation is that boys stop singing when their voices break, get involved in other things (including your ‘socially limiting activities’) and don’t come back. It may be relevant because the ‘extra’ women who are singing may not then be doing something else (playing tunes) at a socially and/or domestically busy time of life.

But that doesn’t really matter unless one wants to proselytise in favour of trad music. And if you want more women is sessions Scotland it does appear that minding your behaviour would be a good start.

It could always be that, statistically wanting t0 spend hours playing jigs and reels is another ‘masculine trait’.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Let’s be honest here though. Many people don’t even know that there is a tradition of Irish music, and even if people find out about it very few are 100% interested in pursuing it. I wouldn’t have even known where to start without this website. I was left to follow a trail of crumbs. Do you expect others to be able to find it easier? The only reason I was able to start was because I got lucky and stumbled across Caitlín Nic Gabhann which only came about because I was lucky enough to find a random and I mean random recording of the Swallow tail Jig, and even then I was only lucky to stumble across an old fife that my great grandmother had hidden away. The point is this music is very obscure, and many people who are beyond lucky and manage to find one recording usually either don’t care about it or give up because of that obscurity. How can you get more women or men to join in if many don’t even know it exists, much less care about it?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I’m pretty sure that women aren’t being put off by any kind of overt discrimination in the first instance. It’s not like there’s some patronistic force at work telling them ‘this is not for you’. I suspect that more women stop in their teenage years is more subtle than that. Societal pressure? Different expectations during the crucial teenage years? Are they put off by the fact that sessions are generally comprised of more men than women? I’ve heard it said that ‘one man in a room full of women is ecstatic, one woman in a room full of men is terrified’. If a single woman wants to go into a bar and is prevented from doing so by a group of men making an unwanted advance, then yes, that is a problem. And that need have nothing to do with the music. Simply the fact that tunes happen in pubs is a problem. My parents went to a very well-known pub session right here in Scotland, and happened to meet up with my niece, who was at uni there. She went up to buy a round at the bar, and when my dad drank the beer that she - his granddaughter - had bought for him, he ended up in A&E because the beer had been drugged. Single girls in city pubs don’t appear to be safe. That’s a problem. Speaking from personal experience, I know two women who were put off from coming to a session because of the unwanted attention they received from a regular, an older bloke (and a musician), and they hadn’t felt comfortable talking about it or even asking him to stop. They just stopped coming, and we only found out that he’d effectively been stalking them years later. That’s a problem. This is what I mean when I say there are more barriers to women playing than there are for men, and that’s not something that is - at root - problem endemic to traditional music.

On the other hand, I think there’s much reason to be positive. Things are changing, albeit slowly, and it does seem that more girls are playing nowadays (particularly in Ireland) than ever before, which is great. So long as they get past that teenage bit, and start to make their mark. Certainly, I’d say more of the teachers of traditional music than ever before are female, and that can only be a good thing, they’ll make such a difference to the next generation as they bring them on, boys and girls. One of these days we won’t care, and it won’t matter - until then, let’s keep on keeping on.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Where do you live Matt? I can’t imagine that sort of thing happening in any pub in Yorkshire.
Mind, I’m missing my Tuesday session tonight and there are often more women there than men, though I’ve never really counted.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

One thing I thought of earlier but decided was too old-fashioned.

I can see a father being secretly proud of a 16-year old son sneaking down to the pub for an underage pint and some tunes the way he had done. Not so his daughter doing the same.

Where could she go? What’s the gender ratio at accordion and fiddle clubs? Do youngsters do Scottish dancing?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Right now I’m in Kelso, and there aren’t many regular sessions, but I’ve definitely met more fellas that play than women down in these parts… I’ve stayed all over though. I’m from near Aberdeen originally, I’ve taught fiddle in Dundee, I’ve stayed just outside Glasgow, and I’ve stayed down in Northumberland too. In each place there’s been more men than women playing. I haven’t often seen that really malicious level of behaviour, but the fact that it happens at all is really shocking. The dodgy pint was particularly concerning (the A&E staff seemed to think it might have been rohypnol) - but that happened at a busy time of year, and it might have happened in any city centre bar anywhere in the country. That is a risk that simply shouldn’t exist, never mind in connection to music, which is why I say these issues are not simply contained in that context, but represent a wider problem that needs to be addressed. And it is being addressed.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

It has a different history here in the USA, due to the different streams or subcultures which have joined to create our ITM session scene here.

One stream is people born and raised in Ireland who have moved here or are visiting here.

Another stream is the Americans of Irish ancestry, Roman Catholic, who constitute a distinct subculture here, who were raised playing ITM and have been in daily contact with Irish-born people their entire lives (taught by Irish nuns five days a week and attending Mass with Irish priests at least one day a week).

With at least the first of these two streams one would expect attitudes similar to those found in Ireland.

Then there’s the part of our current ITM scene which is home-grown, and grew out of the Folk Music Revival of the 1950s and well into the 1970s. This subculture tends to have a bit of a hippie/college-town flavor, well educated, well-read, humanist, liberal, and feminist, in which gender equality has always been a baseline expectation. Many of these people dabbled in various musics before settling on ITM, and it’s not uncommon for such people to continue to have interest in American Old-Time and International Folk Dance and folk music.

So here it’s a mixed bag, difficult or impossible to pin down.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Of course that’s gross simplification, and there are plenty of people here to came to ITM from rock, jazz, or what have you, people with no prior connexion to folk music or Irish culture.

I tend to meet large numbers of people who started out as Highland pipers, connected to the Scottish-American scene here, who later took up uilleann pipes, which functioned as a gateway to the wider world of ITM.

Each of these streams will bring into our ITM scene their existing gender notions.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Matt hit the nail on the head. None of this is about overt discrimination or "oppression." Nobody is telling girls women, "you can’t" or "you’re not allowed." This isn’t about segregated water fountains, but attitudes ingrained in our society that create more barriers for women than for men.

Here is another dreaded anecdote: there was session I (and others) would not go to because the session leader, an older chap, would habitually hit on young women. Everyone knew he did it, but it was socially acceptable enough that it was seen as (a) kind of funny and (b) the burden was on women to not go to his session if they didn’t like it — not on him to not behave in a creepy way, not on other blokes to tell him to knock it off, not on the pub to pay someone else to anchor that session.

"Are male players expected to be more… ‘bolshy/aggressive/sausage waving’? Probably, but that goes into such a mess of deeper questions about gender expectations and early-stage role building that I don’t really want to get into all of that. F*ck it, I’m going to say yes, yes they are, and there’s no acceptable reason (to me) why that should be so."

I completely agree with this, and the reasons probably have nothing to do with the music in and of itself, but as Matt said, it comes from gender expectations that people assimilate as children about what it means to be "male" or "female." For those of you who like scientific studies, there are about a million looking at how children develop gender stereotypes. I don’t want to say that a female player will have a "feminine" style, but there’s definitely a style of sausage-waving trad that I haven’t encountered a lot of women playing (and the fact that I can call it "sausage waving" and people understand what I mean says everything). But to come back to the original article, the bolshy/aggressive/sausage waving bands get to headline festivals. The musicians in those bands are far more likely to be men.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Because, as Simon Thoumire so elegantly phrased it, us blokes would prefer to be out hunting. Acts like Treacherous Orchestra certainly satisfy my primal urges…

Anyways, I’m off to re-watch Disney’s "Brave" now, with Julie Fowlis’s excellent singing.

Ahem…

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I think it says a lot that we have someone agreeing with something involving a "didn’t really want to get into" and then going on to "I don’t want to say… …but…"

And that those who adopt the "how do you eat an elephant" approach and try to focus on some bite-sized aspects get their heads bitten off avoiding the issue.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

.. off for avoiding …

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

"the fact that I can call it "sausage waving" and people understand what I mean says everything"

Actually, I’m not sure I do know what you mean - could you give a link to a sample, if you have time? Thanks.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Neither do I. I don’t understand what it* implies.
* i.e. ~ ‘… there’s definitely a style of "sausage-waving trad" that I haven’t encountered a lot of women playing.’

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Can’t quite believe I’m doing this, but anyway:

"sausage fest ‎(plural sausage fests)"
(slang, derisive) A party or gathering where the vast majority of the people are male."

Work it out from there.

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

I would call it willy waggling. Does that help?

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Too late with the edit AB - we saw 😀

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Tøm & Whitty, I understand the slang. However I don’t understand it’s use in the context DrSilverSpear is using in the quote I posted above.

edit: Yes, David50, you saw the first line, which I did not change. I added the quote in the second line.

Posted by .

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Beg pardon everyone. There is alot going on this morning. I’m in a coffee shop, the wifi is going on and off, my friend is taking down her art show and my coffee just now reached my brain.

My bad!

I missed DrSilverSpears n’t. So in my coffee defincient brain I was reading, "there’s definitely a style of sausage-waving trad that I have encountered a lot of women playing."

I get it kids. ;)

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Thanks, Tom. Couple comments, of no great significance, but: 1) in the first vid., I noticed that the sausage’s audience was composed almost entirely of rolls; 2) didn’t watch all the 2nd vid. - not my thing - but after the yelling at the beginning, it seemed pretty tame; and, again, no shortage of rolls in the audience. The band is dressed like 1970s bikers, of course, or like patrons of a certain kinds of nightclub not to my particular taste, if that’s of any consequence … each to their own, and all that ……

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

thank you, emily

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Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

As this thread was originally prompted by the Guardian’s article on gender equality in the Scottish folk scene (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jan/25/women-challenge-scottish-folk-scene-macho-image) perhaps it’s best to leave the last word with the Drone and their take on the macho image of Scottish folk bands - http://www.thedronenews.org/single-post/2017/02/05/THIS-SCOTS-TRAD-BAND-ARE-WAY-MORE-MACHO-THAN-YOU-YOU-BIG-SISSY

Re: Women (or lack thereof?) in the folk music scene

Bands such as the TO and Skerryvore(above post) have their place and can be good fun but the Scottish folk and Trad scene is much wider than that.

Many performers and outfits (even including some of the band members above in other guises) are much more subtle and women feature prominently in many areas. In fact, I’d consider them to be better musicians or, at least, the equal of males.

One of my favourite bands is Braebach which features Megan Henderson. Not a token female by any means. However, I wouldn’t describe her males colleagues as overtly macho either. In fact, most male musicians aren’t really.

We also have predominantly female bands such as The Shee, The Outside Track, The Poozies(veterans), Anna Massie and Mairead Green and so on.
Check out The Edinburgh Harp Festival and, to a lesser extent, the Scots Fiddle Festival where there are many great women players.

Talking about Simon Thourmire, his wife Claire is a fine fiddler and was a very energetic performer in her time. She doesn’t seem to play live much these days though.