Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

The study sample was self selecting, and overwhelmingly female, but I imagine the examples provided are fairly indicative. I think any pub based activity largely populated by older men is going to be a challenging environment for young women to enter. Having said that, several of the sessions I go to are hosted by women, sometimes in majority, and it’s hard to think of another activity I’ve participated in that was as evenly gender mixed in terms of numbers and professional reputation. I’ve witnessed good and bad things for sure, and more macho cultures in some parts of the country than others. Performance is another matter, loads of bands, gigs, festivals with gender issues.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Here’s the research paper referenced in that article:

121 Stories: The Impact of Gender on Participation in Irish Traditional Music by Úna Monaghan
https://www.ictm.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/121-Stories-The-impact-of-gender-on-participation-in-Irish-traditional-music-Una-Monaghan-Ethnomusicology-Ireland-7.pdf

Abstract:
"This article reports on findings from an open online call in 2018, for experiences relating to gender in an Irish traditional music context. 121 anonymous responses were received from 83 people, mostly women. A thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) resulted in the identification of two main themes to describe ways in which gender affects participation in Irish traditional music: systems, causes and examples of gender inequality, and personal experiences of the effects of gender inequality. The research demonstrates that the mechanisms and structures of the Irish traditional music scene continue to privilege the contribution of men. More generalised societal sexism is present in traditional music contexts and affects participation for women. Impacts of gender are found to be current, complex and longstanding; are present in all contexts in Irish traditional music; affect children and adults; and are not confined to the professional sphere. The study also revealed a range of attitudes to the discussion of gender in Irish traditional music. Some implications of the work are discussed in the final section."

I would ask that if anyone wants to comment on the report that they read it first.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I suppose it’s a sad fact that however cultured we might think we are, in all spheres of human activity, perhaps especially when money is at stake, there is going to be a not insignificant cohort of neolithic idiots.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Didnt we have a very similar discussion a couple of years back following the Harvey Weinstein scandal? It’s sad if nothing has changed for the better since……………..

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

It’s worth pointing out that of the current issue (issue 7) of Ethnomusicology Ireland (where the research paper is published) is dedicated to women and traditional music. It’s well worth checking out.

The articles are:

Women and Traditional/Folk Music: Building a Research Field
by Méabh Ní Fhuartháin

Taming “The Tradition Bear”: Reflections on Gender, Sexuality and Race in the Transmission of Irish Traditional Music
by Tes Slominski

121 Stories: The Impact of Gender on Participation in Irish Traditional Music
by Úna Monaghan

American Folk Music by Shaker Women and Girls: The Case of Ann Maria Love
by Jennifer DeLapp-Birkett

“The Man and his Music”: Gender Representation, Cultural Capital and the Irish Traditional Music Canon
by Verena Commins

“Clap Your Hands”: Gender Role Distribution in Flamenco Guitar
by Massimo Cattaneo

Where She Stands: Conversations with Nóirín Ní Riain
by Sarah Fons

Woman and her Cello: Ilse de Ziah’s Approach to Irish Traditional Music
by Kaylie Streit

Commercialisation, Celtic and Women in Irish Traditional Music
by Joanne Cusack

Mother Music: Socially Embedded Creative Practice and the Marketisation of Irish Traditional Music
by Tríona Ní Shíocháin

The (Non-)Gendered Practice of Irish Traditional Lullabies
by Ciara Thompson

Unheard
by Paula Ryan

Truth is the Daughter of Time
by Karan Casey

The PDF is available here:
https://www.ictm.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Ethnomusicology-Ireland-Issue-7-.pdf

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Read it in its entirety (as well as a couple others from the journal issue), and yes, I could have written any number of those responses to the researchers’ questions. Welcome to my world. I could tell some stories. I think I do in those threads Calum linked to.

The section where she talked about female musicians fronting bands in the role of attractive, willowy singer amongst the male players and the accompanying photos of bands’ album covers really made me want to start my own band. Several women, one man, and the album cover will have everyone standing in the woods with the women wearing jeans and t-shirts and the lone bloke out in front of everyone, topless, with Michael Flatley trousers. I take your objectification, and I reverse it!

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

One thing I want to say, as someone who has hosted sessions (and might even do so again, some day…) is that for us men it’s really easy to fall into the trap of, oh, it is terrible that these bad things happen, done by other people. It’s up to us to create the conditions where these other people lack the power to get away with what they do. Just thinking about issues like transport, dark nights, who is leaving with who, can make a big contribution to practical issues at sessions. If that guy you’ve never seen before stands up to leave at the same time as a woman announces she’s heading off, warning lights should start flashing in your head.

One more thread, which in fact was the one I originally went looking for and couldn’t find:

https://thesession.org/discussions/41836

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I doubt whether this is specific to Irish trad music. I’ve seen similar discussions in the communities of genres wildly different to trad or folk. You hear the same kind of thing in the electronic music scene - discussions on why most dance music producers and DJ’s are men, and how female producers and DJ’s report not being taken as seriously, or booked as a "novelty," things like that. The teen daughter of a friend of a friend of mine is a blues/rock guitarist and she gave a TED talk about sexism in the world of guitar playing - similar things reported.

You’ll also hear the same kind of thing talked about in the world of standup comedy.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Posting something I found online that basically summed up how I felt reading those discussions Calum has linked:

“When you debate a person about something that affects them more than it affects you, remember that it will take a much greater emotional toll on them than you. For you, it may feel like an academic exercise. For them, it feels like revealing their pain only to have you dismiss their experiences and sometimes their humanity. The fact that you might remain more calm under these circumstances is a consequence of your privilege, not increased objectivity on your part. Stay humble.”

And be kind.

Having grown to love the music and also using the multitude of knowledge and resource the Session has provided, I was fairly disappointed reading some of the comments, as some were from posters I much admired. The internet has a way of desensitizing us to the very human experience of discrimination. Having a heated debate about which instrument will be next to be added to the tradition is not the same as debating discrimination against women musicians. One is an object with no feelings or thoughts. The other are your peers, friends and family.

You only have to look at the online hashtag #misefosta on various social media to see that sexism and abuse in trad is a real problem. It’s disheartening when you have friends, both in real life and online, tell you of their experiences and who to watch out for in hush tones.

Also, thanks for linking the rest of those articles online Jeremy, will have to check them out.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

> I was fairly disappointed reading some of the comments, as some were from posters I much admired

I must admit I felt the same way, though given that in some cases a good many years have passed between then and now I’d like to be charitable and hope that they’ve learnt something along the way. I know I certainly have in my time, on and off this site.

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Re: Men privileged over women… engendering a set of norms

Please read the paper. If for no other reason so you might find some meaning in the following bit which I removed the references & several phrases to make it easier to read though difficult to fully comprehend.
Here’s a hint. It helps to consider norms and privilege. Without looking into each of those it’s impossible
to see what all the fuss is about.

"The transference of Irish traditional music… to the pub, and the overt dominance of the pub as a h…normative male space, replaced the informality of practice and transmission pertaining to domestic space. Implicit in this change is the creation of a particular social order that commutes the intersection of gender with inequality… The advance of the pub session, a development privileged by…, is party not only to maintaining, but solidifying… gender boundaries, engendering a set of norms that continue to be reproduced in the present in both Ireland and the diaspora, shaping the sights and sounds of music as it … Discourses that describe the shift from domestic to public space, narrativise this change in the context of modernity… not only normalises social exclusion based on gender, but controls g___ behaviour as a means of controlling…"

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Was there, a year or so back, a series on TG4 or RTE featuring women in trad music - possibly called Mna an Cheoil or something similar [excuse my Gaelge] if so does anyone have a link? I meant to watch it at the time but for whatever reason didnt get around to it.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

That’s the one! Thanks Triplet.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Well its some of it anyway - I’m sure i remember Louise Mulcahy on uillean pipes being featured, but doesnt seem to be there anymore. Wish I’d watched it when I had the chance!

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

If it’s all as badly written as the section that AB quotes, I certainly won’t be reading the rest of the paper!
"…commutes the intersection"? "…a development privileged by"? "…narrativise"?! (FFS!)

Having said that, my initial instinct was to suggest that the pub environment is still very often a male one and that this might well be a major factor. The same explanation might be given for the lack of professional female darts players, for that matter. I also agree that prejudice towards female musicians isn’t unique to trad. folk music and musicians. Apart from being aware of the discrepencies and making sure women are comfortable and equally valued as performers, I don’t think there’s much which can be done to speed the rate of change, unfortunately. It’s not something which can be legislated for.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Presumably you are an academic ethnologist and are therefore fully qualified to comment on the writing style of papers in this field ;) It’s not specifically written for a lay audience, whence the use of technical terms. To me it seemed accessible enough!

That aside, in terms of the other concern of keeping the tradition alive, what easier avenue than listening to and taking to heart the wishes of the huge majority of women in this study who are clearly saying sexism is often preventing them from being able to participate fully and freely - we need to be on the lookout for all of this and put a stop to it. Really great stuff!

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

"Presumably you are an academic ethnologist and are therefore fully qualified to comment on the writing style of papers in this field :D" - No… But English is my first language! :P

I agree totally that we should be on the lookout for sexism and should do everything we can to combat it. Ideally in all walks of life, but certainly in those areas we like to think of as ours.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

You can’t legislate for it, but more awareness and empathy is a start.

Not too long before Lockdown 1.0, I was playing in a session and a very drunk punter inserted himself in the session, mainly all over me. I couldn’t get rid of him. The male musicians in the session were either amused or oblivious. Finally, I packed up the pipes and left. Screw this.

Later, when I told one of the lads why I left the session early, he shrugged and said something like, "You just have to expect that sort of person at [Pub Name Here]."

Uh, no, I shouldn’t have to "expect" to be hit on and hassled by very drunk strangers when out for a few tunes.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

That’s a f*cking disgrace! I’m shocked at the (lack of) response of your fellow musicians to what was a potentially threatening situation. That goes way beyond the condescension and "boys’ club" attitude, which is how sexism usually manifests itself in that envirionment, in my experience.
At least you know you can avoid that pub in future, but that’s not much consolation when the others, who you’d think would be supportive, are prepared to put up with that sort of thing. That’s almost as bad as the drunk, himself. I’m sorry about your experience.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Here’s an RTE segment on the #Misefosta (Me too) movement last year. It explains some of the difficulties why it has been hard to push for change inside Ireland.

https://www.rte.ie/news/player/2020/0723/21808178-misefosta-abuse-of-power-in-traditional-music/

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram has more posts dealing with personal stories, and honestly I want to throw up reading them.

Ugh, sorry to hear that happened to you DrSilverSpear. Is it so much to ask that our fellow musicians could at least stand up for us in the face of harassment? Hoping the newer generation will be better about it,

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

A huge part of the problem in tackling any issue of prejudice from a dominant group is that a large number of people in that group simply don’t want to think about the problems more vulnerable people face. And they tend not to want to consider words like "privilege" or that they’ve actually had a significant advantage in life. Being part of a safe, dominant majority emboldens people into thinking that they’re tougher or more capable than they actually are, and hearing about the major struggles and sh*t sandwiches that people from vulnerable groups face interferes with that world view. Your achievements in life don’t sound quite so impressive when you consider that other people are achieving the same or more whilst also dealing with a daily struggle that makes everything harder. And if someone forces you to think about what it’s like for these other groups, you tend to think "well I’m sure if that was me, all of that stuff would be like water off a duck’s back. I wouldn’t let it bother me."

The truth is that dealing with widespread prejudice and discrimination really grinds people down, mentally and physically. It disheartens and frustrates. You feel like society in general is working against you. You fantasize about what it must be like to be part of that "mainstream," dominant group, to be someone who doesn’t have anything that people would discriminate or make fun of them for, and how much easier your daily life would be. And meanwhile, people from the dominant group are constantly telling you to "get over it," to "not dwell on it" and that it’s nowhere near the problem you perceive it to be. All very frustrating.

My old man is a bit like this. He’s currently furious about "cancel culture" and thinks that the LGBT community is just a bunch of provocative whiners who want to "ram it down our throats." I’m irritated by certain elements of cancel culture too - some of it seems irrational and unjust and downright crazy. On the other hand, I can understand how it came about. Gay people have been viciously brutalized and discriminated against for decades. Everyone looked the other way while they were bullied, beaten and ostracized. They were told they were "not normal." They were beaten senseless only to have a small town police officer say "well what do you expect? You’re gay." They were having their lives "cancelled" for years, and guys like my dad weren’t worried about it in the slightest. Didn’t think it was an issue for a macho, working class heterosexual male to worry about. Even with gay and trans people killing themselves in their teens and 20’s because their lives were being made a living hell. Sooner or later a civilized society is going to have to face up to these issues and acknowledge that it’s a problem which should worry ALL of us, if we want to be considered civilized anyway. Turning the other cheek or telling people to "toughen up" and accept this kind of BS is never going to be the way to go about it.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I’m sorry to hear of your experience Emily. That drunken sod was out of order and someone/some people at that session should have stopped him. Even if he was bothering a male musician at the session he should have been stopped.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I got more where that came from.

Years ago, during the Celtic Connections festival, I’d been playing at my usual session and agreed to give a male friend a lift home. Another male friend, who didn’t live in Glasgow, was going to follow me in his car, because my building at the time had a car park, and he was staying at a hotel in the City Centre for the festival and didn’t want to leave his car on the street in that part of town. All fine. As I was loading my friend’s instruments into my car, another musician, who lived on the opposite side of the city, brazenly hopped into the back seat without anything like permission and announced that I should give him a lift as well. I told him no way. But he glued his butt to the seat, and my pal said, "It’s fine, it’s fine." I drove my friend to his flat, hoping and assuming that he would take unwanted passenger with him, seeing as they were pals. He blew it off, "Aye, you’ll be alright," and didn’t. He just grabbed his instruments from the boot and went inside. I wasn’t happy; it was 2am, and now I’ve got this guy in my fkucking car, and he isn’t shifting.

I drove slowly in the vague direction of my flat, stopped on a main road, told him to get out. He refused. I drove a bit further, and he then started asking if he could stay at mine. Hell no. He insisted on it. I told him for the 200th time to leave my car, at this point not even being nice about it. I had my phone out and was about to call the cops, when my other friend, who’d been following me the whole time, worked out that there was a problem, got out of his car, and walked over to me. Unwanted passenger saw him, said, "Oh, I didn’t know A was staying with you," exited my car, and disappeared down the road.

I was freaked out, but what really made me angry was that unwanted passenger was and continues to be a well-liked member of the trad music community. The sh1t people get away with…..

It certainly wasn’t news to me that the traditional music community has a problem.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

With all respect, one of the reasons that particular piece of shit "got away with it" (and who’s to say what would have happened, had your friend not been there), is that you are - to some extent - protecting him. I guess this the point of #Misefosta - giving women the confidence to speak out, even if the perpetrator is "a well-liked member of the trad music community". I’m appalled to read all this stuff.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

> you are - to some extent - protecting him.

Jimi, I’m sure you mean well, but you really need to understand why women don’t report these things. Do you *really* think that DSS is keeping his name quiet for *his* sake?

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

No, of course not. But she’s told the story on here, so I assumed she didn’t mind people knowing or commenting on it.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

@Jimi Limpet

I know you mean well and want to see justice, but even with the Me Too and Mise Fosta movement, it is such a terrible burden for a victim of abuse to come out and seek Justice against their accused. Recently I’ve had to support someone in just such a case. She didn’t even believe her own story even though we supported her and told her she had enough evidence to file charges against her abuser. As friends we saw all the red flags and encouraged her to file. But even with our love, support and encouragement, she chose not to report him because of fear of retribution in her industry, and previous bad experience with police and victims support.

Those who come out are brave and I commend them for that courage. And those who survived but chose to remain silent, are no less brave. I wished it was that simple to just call out someone and hope it changes everything. But we are complex beings and ultimately it is the survivor’s choice on how they want to go forward. I just hope with all the awareness around this, one day we won’t have to talk in hushed tones and can speak up and stop these behaviours.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I am aware that victims of assault or harassment often find it difficult to come forward and I apologise for my comments. Actually, I’m mostly angered by the apparent lack of support DrSilverSpear received from people who were actually present.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Nothing to add, other than this thread has really made me think and, whenever sessions start up again, I’m hopefully going to be a lot more observant of these sorts of issues so I can step in if they occur/try and improve them.

It seems obvious now, but in particular I’d never considered how deeply historically tied a pub is to “male/lad” culture and hence its obvious that’s already starting poorly re making a venue friendly for women/equally accessable.

I’d also never considered this bit someone posted above which is thought provoking: “The fact that you might remain more calm under these circumstances is a consequence of your privilege, not increased objectivity on your part.”

Thanks all

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

@AB Why can’t I find the text that you quoted in the article that Jeremy linked?

I did read the article, because we were requested to before posting. Despite the academic style it seems to me to be a subjective selection from anecdotes provided by a self-selected group. I found the stories and comments in discussions here (linked above by Calum) and the anecdotes above far more convincing and thought provoking.

And the flute player quoted!!! As a male flute player with small hands am I also allowed to whinge about the standard instrument being easier for larger hands?

I think our DrSS not wanting to name the pub says a lot about the scene thereabouts.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

My bad. I was reading another article, David50. The bit I paraphrased is in the following PDF. I won’t try to persuade anyone to read it since it is not the subject of this thread. Although it is related.

https://www.ictm.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/The-man-and-his-Music-Gender-representation-cultural-capital-and-the-Irish-traditional-music-canon-Verena-Commins-Ethnomusicology-Ireland-Issue-7-6.pdf

It’s on p. 51 (3rd page in the PDF).

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

"…one of the reasons that particular piece of shit "got away with it" … is that you are - to some extent - protecting him."

Seriously? Protecting him?

"I told him no way."

"I drove slowly in the vague direction of my flat, stopped on a main road, told him to get out. He refused. I drove a bit further, and he then started asking if he could stay at mine. Hell no. He insisted on it. I told him for the 200th time to leave my car, at this point not even being nice about it. I had my phone out and was about to call the cops,"

That is not protecting him. What part of "Hell no." do people of privilege not understand?

If we just listen to Emily this is what Mise Fosta is about; what Me Too really means.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Thought-provoking, sadly only too believable and should raise our sensitivity to these issues.
Also not particularly difficult to read. Recall that an abstract is a special and peculiar thing written in a very specific way for a very specific purpose aimed more at machine filing and search systems than human readers.
The point about the contributors being self-selected is not important, as the paper makes no pretence to having statistical significance - it only attempts to throw some light on the issues perceived to be in play.
The one place to pick a hole in one of the comments is the one about the size of flutes. Stringed instruments can of course be different sizes, balanced out by string weight and tension. The length of a flute is essentially fixed by the speed of sound and the fact that D and G are the standard pitches of this music. It would not be hard to make an F flute, but converting everything else to F and B-flat isn’t going to happen. But the fact that one contributor misunderstood flute physics is, shall we say, trivial.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

@Alex Wilding

If I may out myself, I was probably one of the contributors to the flute discussion in this essay, and if not, then there are other women who share similar experiences. I wrote this on an older post here on the Session a couple of years ago.

When I was first learning to play the flute I ask someone for advice on which flute I should get? He told me that I should get, “a women’s flute”. And by that, he meant one that was a Rudell & Rose model as opposed to a Pratten style. I won’t get into describing the details about why each model is different, a quick search here on the Session will reveal why. He also suggested I get one made in Boxwood and not Blackwood because it would be too heavy.

Now, if he were to describe the instrument that would be suitable for a beginner in terms of what physical characteristics might make it easier for a student to start (eg, easier to hold, lighter etc etc) then I probably wouldn’t have had an issue with his reasoning. But by gendering the instrument, it got me thinking: would I have been taught only according to what is “appropriate” for my gender to achieve in his view? And what of flute players like David50 who chose flutes made for smaller hands, does that make him “inferior” to other flute players? These sexist bias affect everyone involved because it doesn’t let us determine our own stylistic choices and preferences.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I wasn’t going to name the guilty on an online forum, but I would not say that I’m protecting him. Anyone from the scene here will probably know who I’m talking about. When I have spoken about this incident before, to other players, I get the classic line, "Oh, it’s just what he’s like. A bit of a lovable rogue."

Obviously it’s bigger than the trad world, and you see it everywhere. That’s why sex assault trials usually end up being about the victim’s behaviour — her sexual history, her clothes, etc., because this is a narrative where men are seemingly not responsible for their choices. "She must have been asking for it." That’s enough reasonable doubt for a lot of jurys.

Privilege means men can get away with it, everyone accepts that as the norm, and the perps never lose an inch of social standing or face any consequences at all. That’s why papers like the ones in the journal are needed. We need a whole damn paradigm shift.

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I’d like to share my experience with this as although people are saying that this sort of thing happens in all circles not just the traditional music scene, I feel like there’s an element to the trad scene that heightens women’s vulnerability to sexual harassment/assault. In my experience, within the trad scene (esp younger players (20s)) there is this mentality of not wanting to “ruin the craic” or “rock the boat”.

I was at a trad festival when I was 16 with my mate and her siblings and we were playing in a packed session late into the night. Earlier a male musician in his 20s who was well known within our “age group” had approached me in the smoking area and complimented my playing. He was very touchy but I didn’t say anything as I respected him and didn’t want to upset things. Later the same night, when my friend got up to go to the loo he slid in beside me. I didn’t know the tune being played so I was sitting idly trying not to look awkward when he put his hand on my upper thigh and said that he thought my tits looked great. I was extremely uncomfortable but I did nothing more than try to shrug him off as I didn’t want to be the person to make a scene and ruin the craic. Thankfully an older teenager (who is now a friend of mine) saw what was going on and came over and said something along the lines of “ah thanks for saving my seat for me” and the creep f*cked off. We ended up chatting and she told me of all the fellas to be wary of and walked me and my friend back to the hostel when the session winded down later that night.
One of the things that kills me the most is that the creep still gets booked for gigs, makes a good living from music and is still well liked by most people even though lots of girls have had bad experiences with him. Whenever I hear a girl call him a pr*ck there’s usually a chorus of “he’s actually really sound”, “you just don’t know him”, “stop being so uptight” or “he probably didn’t mean it like that”.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

That’s an awfully familiar story, Róisín, both in terms of what happened and how people (don’t) deal with the perpetrator. Maybe we need a "rock the boat" club, of people willing to support each other when the fur starts flying.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

As I don’t live in Ireland or Scotland, I’ve only an American perspective to use. I’ve also never been a Sessions attendee, so my views are from a performance perspective. Our group, was pretty well equal representation gender wise, but I believe we were the exception, not the rule. The majority of the other groups in our area of the US were male dominated. I would estimate around 80%. So for every 10 groups of performers, 8 would be all or mostly male, and 2 would have more equal gender representation.
Over our 18+ year performance run, when we’d audition someone, there were always more males auditioning than females. I can only conjecture why that was the case, but I certainly can’t back up the why with data. I believe it was due in part to interest in the music. The males, in general showed more interest in learning the style, than females did. I may be totally off base, but that was the impression I took from my observations. It wasn’t a lack of skills, but a lack of interest. There were some females that showed the interest, but there were less of them in comparison to the males.
Hopefully, I’ve not offended anyone with my comment. It is simply based on what I experienced. So please feel free to take or discard my input on this subject, as I make no claim of being an expert.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Years ago myself and another man attempted to start a traditional music society at Dundee University, after having attended one at Abertay University and deciding we could start one at ours. We managed to convince a good number of people to come in initially but due to being totally disorganised and trying to do everything ourselves it fell apart pretty quickly. We were left with just a handful of people who it felt like would soon leave. At that time I remember thinking it probably couldn’t be done and abandoned the idea.

The next semester a woman decided to take up the mantle and make the society official. She got together a group of interested people and roles were chosen as chairperson, treasurer etc. Keys were acquired to a much better practice room, teaching sessions were organised properly and developed over the year. Despite having a busy time studying medicine, one of the musicians involved managed to keep the teaching sessions going by heading them almost every week. She ended up looking after it much better than I or my friend could have. I helped out most weeks for a while, but it became apparent to me it was the hard work of others that kept it ticking over smoothly. Since then it has been headed by a succession of women, with a strong committee mostly made up of women seemingly working well together at the helm, providing a welcoming space for traditional musicians to grow, and I have kept following the Facebook group, seeing it go from strength to strength over the 6 or so years since I left.

From that experience I’d say the traditional music scene would greatly benefit from more women being at the helm, running sessions, organisations and leading bands, and traditional music may even be at risk of fading away if more women don’t end up taking on leading roles. It seems highly likely that ITM sessions and organisations run by women would be less likely to tolerate any kind of misogyny.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Dr SilverSpear’s comment about reversing the line-up is extremely funny! Re men dominating sessions, I think there are a lot of extremely talented male musicians who seem to "take over" and others (female AND male I suppose) tend to be pushed aside rather. I regret the dominance of fast reels and jigs, not enough slow airs for my liking. After all there are plenty of graceful slow airs in Irish music and even more in Scottish. They are a vital part of the tradition, aren’t they?

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Let’s see the reversal photo shoots.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

"After all there are plenty of graceful slow airs in Irish music and even more in Scottish. They are a vital part of the tradition, aren’t they?"

Yes, but if the subject is playing in sessions, a true slow air doesn’t lend itself to to group participation.

A slow air in the traditional style uses "rubato" phrasing (irregular tempo), and is typically a solo performance. Every time I’ve heard a session group try to play along with someone leading a slow air, it’s a train wreck, because everyone else is always a little behind the tune leader’s phrasing. It just doesn’t work as a group effort.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Some sessions have solos. It does happen. Some slow tunes are played in some sessions. It does happen.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Susan’s comment is interesting. Jumping from women in sessions being pushed aside to the "dominance" of fast jigs and reels. Are you making gendered assumptions? That women would rather play slower, gentler tunes, and there is something inherently masculine about fast jigs and reels?

I would disagree. I quite like playing fast jigs and reels. I just don’t like playing them when feeling hassled by handsy men who feel like they have some kind of entitlement to your body.

@Chuck, I don’t think women are inherently uninterested in folk or trad, anymore than they would inherently rather play slow airs. But if the gig scene where you are is as male dominated as you say, women might not feel like it’s for them, or that they can really have the same access to it as men.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

@AB, sure, some slow tunes are played in sessions, but it’s usually a metered (steady) tempo where everyone can keep in sync. I’ve never heard a true rubato phrased air work in a session. Your mileage may vary there. I suppose if the group has been together long enough, and practiced that particular tune enough, it might work.

The times I’ve heard slow airs "work" in a session, it’s always been a Sean-nós singer or instrumentalist taking a solo turn, with the rest of the group listening.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

I remember one night we played a slow air of a song which a singer who played with the session would sing. She is no longer with us. It was probably the first time we ever played the song as an instrumental tune with the session. It worked. One of my favourite experiences. I was not even expecting it; but it worked.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Yes, DrSilverSpear, that was quite a leap by SusanK. She seems to be adept at it. No offense, SusanK. I’m surrounded by conversational leapers.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

As a total aside, I actually find slow airs really tedious, both playing and listening. There — I said it. On the internet. I am going to burn in Irish music hell for an eternity.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

You’re a leaper, too! 🙂

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

@DrSilverSpear: I sure hope there is no ITM hell for those who love the dance tunes and not the airs, because I’m right there with you. A true slow air with ultra-slow rubato phrasing is a listening experience for me, enjoyable but only in very small doses once in a while. Like one track on an album. I think that’s the intent for appreciating that style of music. You’re supposed to give it some space and attention. It’s really the opposite of the kind of music we play in sessions.

Back on topic, two of the three local sessions in my area are led by strong female fiddlers. No lack of alpha female power there, based on technical skill and repertoire. The session makeup is also roughly 50/50 female to male in these sessions. This is just a small regional sample though, and I know it’s very different in other places.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Susan’s comment re slow airs or lack of them in session might be worthy of a fuller discussion on its own but I don’t believe that they are necessarily preferred, enjoyed, or played better/worse by either gender.

Of course, it is possible that more female musicians in a session may have some effect on its "dynamics" but so too can the choice and number of instruments, the age range of the participants, the location (town, country, even venue), and various other factors too numerous to mention in one post.

The content in terms of tunes, their pace, and type will also vary from session to session. Much has been argued here about what an ideal session should be but it really depends on the settled will of those who attend there on a regular basis. Visitors should be prepared accept this and "go with the flow" unless specifically requested to add something new or different.
So, if you like slow airs and there aren’t any, go elsewhere and/or vice versa.

Finally, I must make the point that "go with the flow" refers only to the music and general format of the session. It does NOT, of course, mean that any member should be expected to put up with bad behaviour whether it involves unwanted sexual overtures, any form of aggression, or just plain rudeness.
It should be up to the session leader and other musicians to call out unacceptable behaviour and, if a particular venue attracts "bad punters" who are regularly causing a nuisance, consideration should be given to moving the session elsewhere.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Mm it’s true enough that a session cannot do with a lot of slow airs. But as was said, the playing of a slow song by musicians once in a while at a session can be a joyous thing! It seems a bit rigid to say that sessions are all about fast reels and jigs. The odd singer singing a slow expressive tune is often welcomed. It certainly was at The Reel in Orkney, now sadly killed off by Covid. Bruce Mainland, flute and guitar, sang some good comic songs, but was great at Burns love-songs also..

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

It’s bizarre how an important discussion about gender-based oppression morphed into session playlists.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

It’s always about the tunes. I cannot find part 4 of Mná an Cheoil. It may be on Louise Mulcahy’s Facebook page. I do not know.

I did find her doing a programme on the Rolling Wave though. https://www.rte.ie/radio1/the-rolling-wave/programmes/2019/0224/1032006-the-rolling-wave-sunday-24-february-2019/

"Louise Mulcahy talks about the history of women Uileann Pipers in Irish Traditional Music."

You may need to scroll down and hit the button that says listen, it’s down there.

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Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

AB yes its very annoying that Mna na Cheoil’s episode of Louise Mulcahy is missing - the others are all worth watching though.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

Irish slow airs in their pure form are certainly not ‘sessionable’ but slower Scottish tunes by the likes of Tom Anderson or Phil Cunningham work ok ensemble, as do most O’Carolan tunes. Personally I find a whole evening of unrelieved high octane jigs and reels wearying to the ears [and the fingers!] Still its all a bit hypothetical just now isnt it…………..

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music says a study

ps just realized that this has drifted way off the original subject - apologies for continuing that drift.

Re: Men privileged over women in Irish traditional music…imaginging a paradigm shift!

This topic has been on my mind before I ever considered playing Irish dance tunes. Even though I have distinct privileges in sharp contrast to my equals in less privileged groups; women, people of colour, transgenders, homeless people… I am constantly reminded that society tends to favour the privileged.

About pub sessions: Not all pubs are the same, some have {more or less} equal regard for their patrons
and are quick to recognise when a well-liked celebrity is being abusive (because of his privileged status)
& move to correct the situation as it happens. This rare exception requires compassion for the most vulnerable (not undue respect for the most celebrated) to bring a complete paradigm shift. It requires a new paradigm
where any and all women will feel confident and safe enough to go to a pub session in more venues
& play an equal part in sessions across the board.

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