In light of some recent culturally relevant controversies (Steubenville, Lena Dunham’s negative press) I’ve been doing some thinking as to what it means to be female. Why does it feel necessary to have a female-focused specialty show on our programming? Why should I feel the need to lump myself in a category, to defend not a minority but an entire half of the world’s population? Why was I pleasantly surprised at the number of women in bands at SXSW? I have a serious desire to know the answers to these questions. I think I‘ll take look at the schedule for women’s studies classes next semester.
I observed a female presence above and beyond my expectations at SXSW, not because I seeked it out but because most of the bands recommended to me had females in them. About half of the 33 bands I squeezed into my stunted festival (I got sick Thursday night and was out of commission for the last two days) had ladies, playing everything from drums to the cello. It seems to me that female instrumentalists rarely appear in a touring lineup. Whether this is due to a lack of female instrumentalists or a lack of willingness to tour I’m not sure. What I can say is that they often provide an element to performance beyond the ordinary for audiences, intentionally or not. For me, it’s nice to see women function as an integral part of the music rather than pretty faces present only to please the eyes. Not to say they don’t do that – people at SXSW tended to be pretty across the board. But as far as I could tell there were no singers in the spotlight for the purpose of blatant sex appeal.