B.C. performers discuss sexism in music ahead of Women of the North showcase

A trio of female performers discuss sexism in B.C.'s independent music scene and the conversations happening to change it for the better.

Event comes as entertainment industry grapples with problems

Concert organizer Britt Meierhofer says it's often assumed female musicians are using guitars for decoration rather than knowing how to play. (Dave Rogers/Instagram)

On Nov. 18, five solo female musicians and an all-woman choir take the stage in Prince George for an event titled Women of the North.  It showcases female talent as discussions about sexism and gender disparity in entertainment take place around the world.

CBC's Daybreak North spoke with some of the performers about their experiences in a field often dominated by men.

The musicians

Britt Meierhofer is the concert curator. She performs as Britt AM and with the indie band Crones. She is also the organizer of Girls Rock Camp North, which introduces girls aged 9-17 to the world of music.

Naomi Kavka, Amy Blanding and Britt Meierhofer are all solo musicians based out of Prince George, B.C. (Composite)

Amy Blanding is a solo performer and member of the Nova Voce Choir. She was also a performer in the now-defunct Black Spruce Bog.

Naomi Kavka is a long-time performer in Prince George, both solo and in groups, as well as the Prince George Symphony Orchestra. Her first solo album, which was recorded on Haida Gwaii and in Fort Fraser, was released in September 2017.

On assumptions

Meierhofer: ​"When someone finds out that a woman is a musician, it's often assumed that they're a vocalist."

"It seems like we have to work harder to be taken seriously in the craft of wielding a guitar or any sort of technical sort of aspect that goes with being a musician ... whereas male musicians are kind of automatically assessed as capable with a guitar or behind a board or whatever."

Amy Blanding said she's was lucky to work with supportive men in the band Black Spruce Bog, but realizes other female performers are not as lucky. (Black Spruce Bog)

Blanding: "One of the biggest things is a presumption that women don't understand the technicalities behind music."

"I know women who have been touring for 5, 10, 15, 20 years and still get on stage and get sound engineers asking if they want their guitar tuned because they presume they don't know how to do it."

On sexism

Kavka: "There is a lot of obvious sexism that happens, from people in the audience saying inappropriate things or people you're performing with or venue owners."

"They don't happen all the time but they happen enough that they can really wear on you."

The performers say it will be unique to share the stage with all women when they are used to being one of just a few female performers among men. (Elizabeth McKiel)

Blanding: "I've been really lucky in that I've worked with a lot of open and really collaborative men in my time as a musician, but that's not always common." 

"When I was in a band with a bunch of guys, we got paid what we were worth, and I hear about female counterparts who have been in the business longer than we were and frankly, they got screwed."

On speaking out:

Blanding: "Female support in the music scene has just skyrocketed ... there's just this really beautiful group of women that just want to pull each other up and support each other."

"I have musician friends who just actively put it out on Facebook, like 'what are some of the worst things you've dealt with? Who would you work with?'... That's invaluable for people just starting out."

Women of the North turns the microphone over to female musicians in northern British Columbia. (CFUR Radio Soceity)

Kavka: "The plight of women in entertainment ... it's good this conversation is happening because I think it's opening the door to other conversations."

"I think it's opening up perspectives to other women's rights issues and starting there is good because having more role models helps." 

On showcasing female performers:

Meierhofer: "Just show people a woman doing these things that aren't typically expected of us — I think that's the best way to combat that sort of benign ignorance, is by showing that women do this too."

Blanding: "Focusing just on women and what women can do and the diversity in that fold is really exciting."

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