Where is the support for female musicians? Roanne Wood speaks.

Following on from What it's Really Like To Be a Woman In Music, our writer, Roanne Wood opens up in this highly intimate insight into her world of music. Talking all about the hostile environments she has faced from both extreme feminist and damn right sexist parts of the industry.
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Why does just being a guitarist mean I don’t make enough of a point?

I’m feeling somewhat frustrated and a little helpless and let me just clarify in the very first sentence that I am not bad mouthing or naming anyone in particular, I am simply raising an issue.

Maybe I should start with a little bit of my history. I started playing guitar when I was 14. I had a few lessons from a family friend who taught me techniques and a couple of chords but ultimately I taught myself by learning some of my favourite songs from YouTube lessons and online tabs.

In the early days, I always used to struggle with feeling confident with my playing. I felt I couldn’t play as well as my other band mates and a lot of the musicians around me, I always used to beat myself up about it. I never felt confident enough. The more I played the more confident I became, eventually settling on my own style.

I got introduced to the feeling of being the girl in a band. Joining a much more serious band - seven years strong, I'm still there.

Personally, I love it. I love making a point! I love the thought of inspiring other aspiring female musicians.

I love that I’m in this ridiculously loud, heavy band and not a dandy pop group.

However I noticed, more often than none, I don’t get that handshake at the end of the set and annoyingly, get sound guys talking to me in a totally condescending way, suggesting I don’t know how to use my own equipment.

People have said: "Wow you’re a great BASS player."

And suggesting it would be better if I was front-woman, saying: "Everyone is looking at you, you’re a good looking girl."

The horror stories i've heard from other musicians make my experiences seem like nothing, which is shit but I feel extremely lucky, I am a part of such an amazing and supportive scene that only feeds my passion for music.

99 per cent of my friends are male, my band mates are both men. I don’t think men are bad, and I don’t in anyway think that it’s men vs women.

I find it hard to say that I am a feminist. I feel like if someone asked me why? Then I would get all jumbled up and say something really daft.

I’m used to hearing lots of fancy words in conversations about such topics.

However, one thing I know about feminism is that it is about equality. I see it as a way of celebrating women, making a point and trying to change negative issues that still affect women today and perhaps educating people on such issues.

I’d like to think that I make somewhat of a point in that sense, I’m proud to be a woman!

There are organisations and campaigns who put on events to celebrate women in music and the arts, some of them a regular event and some a yearly showcase.

My band has now been turned down on several occasions to be involved in showcases who do just that. We’ve been turned down not because we’re too loud or the genre but because I’m not the front woman. This seems completely backwards to me.

What’s making more of a point - a women absolutely smashing it on the drums or a woman singing upfront?

I get that the showcases have to feature women - of course they do! So I get it if an all guy band got turned down. It’s not a competition and of course bands who have a woman up front are the more obvious choice but without that drummer, what would the band be?

It’s a struggle for a lot of women musicians to be recognised in the industry, in front of and behind the scenes, never-mind just being in a band and now it has become difficult to be recognised by organisations that are set up to support you.

I feel like it’s a shame that such amazing organisations are limiting themselves of putting on some of the best acts across the UK because they are mixed sex. It seems narrow minded to me.  I actually feel saddened that I can’t be a part of any of them, especially when I am so passionate.

I’m aware that there are a couple of promoters and nights who do try and gain a line-up of bands with women in, no matter what their role in the band is, but I am talking about the larger, more well known organisations that are taking the wrong stance.

For feminist shows, festivals and campaigns amazing female musicians are being ignored for the complete wrong reasons and are defeating the entire concept of equality.

I can play a gig no matter what the cause and have a fantastic time, I love gigging so much, I love being in a band so much and I can deal with not taking part in shows that claim to celebrate women in music as, I guess, it doesn't actually matter.

I’ll still be making a point of being some bad-ass girl guitarist in some cool band and at the end of the day, no matter what any festival says.

Roanne Wood

Check out our truth piece about women in music here.


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