Yes, and: Why I Play in a Female-Fronted Rock Band

(Photo: the black umbrella)

LXRY is a successful experiment in gender justice. It is about two people coming from backgrounds where full self-expression was hindered, by the army, by communism, or by society itself. It is about the luxury that we have in the West to be able to say what we want, when we want, how we want. And so we do this.

As many musicians in the city, I have gone through what I call the “craigslist” phase. This is a period of any musician’s life when scouring the classifieds in search of a musical connection seems like the appropriate thing to do. Sure, I had gone to open jams, and connected with folks here and there, but there was something that clicked when I met Bandana, on craigslist.

At no point in the time it took to correspond together did I ask myself whether working with a woman, working towards a collective goal with a woman, or working towards collective artistic fulfillment with a woman was ever worth it. It just seemed normal. We connected through our love for early 90’s grunge, community- and youth-oriented initiatives, and being loud.

We met, and we played. It was that simple. We used the improv principle of yes, and to facilitate our sessions. The yes, and principle is simple: whatever the idea, you treat it with the same approach, no matter what. You work with it until it either doesn’t make sense, makes perfect sense, or is just a moment in time. In this way, we’ve naturally established a safe working space for our collective creative process to thrive, be stifled, and exist.

There is nothing special about me. I simply believe that we should all be treated as equals. This is what LXRY is to me.

(PS: Bandana has this to say about her experience, in music, in uprooting and moving – lots – and in creating safe spaces for self-expression. You’ll be happy that you read it.)

recent article by Derek Clifton suggests that there are 11 rules to consider in being a male feminist – which I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself. It is a timeless article. Yet, while each rule is important – and each on its own merits a discussion – in one regard or the other it’s just too complex to approach this conversation this way. If we truly want to work towards gender justice and a happy-feel-good place where everyone is accepted for who they are, compensated equally for equal work, treated fairly from one situation to the next, etc., we need less rules. The rules, norms, and stereotypes of such a rubric – specifically one that is attempting to war with the pervasive power dynamics of gender – hinder this kind of thing from happening.

We need to rethink what it means to be human, and to coexist with each other without preconceived notions of what that entails.

To do this, it’s much more simple:

1) Open Your Ears, Expand Your Perception – listen to what people are saying while they are saying it. Stop thinking about what you want to say while that is happening. No dialogue happens this way. Use the yes, and principle. Learn to discover, be surprised, and be open to all that is around you.

2) Humility Wins Every Time – Consider (and this may be hard for most of us) that the way you do things could be tweaked. That’s hard, even for me, but 7 billion people makes for a whole lot of perspectives.

That’s it.

Oh, yeah, and the shameless plug for our band, in case you were wondering: lxry.bandcamp.com

Anyone out there have a similar story? Have you worked successfully or unsuccessfully with a member of the opposite sex? What lessons did you learn? Would you add any points on coexisting?

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9 comments

    1. I don’t hesitate in forwarding equality yet the label itself can be somewhat restrictive. Clifton’s article is full of rules and constraints in which a ‘male feminist’ must navigate the discussion and I find that, ironically, myopic. It may be semantics, but I prefer to be called a progressive man.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Are you taking the term to mean exactly what Clifton is suggesting? Even I found his rules restrictive. But if we take Adichie’s definition of what a feminist is “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”, and if you are a person who believes this and just happen to be male, doesn’t that make you a male feminist? I know it’s a ludicrously simple way of seeing it, but feminism, by its own meaning, should give us the agency to define the label for ourselves.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Simplicity in this case is not without its merits, especially given such an important topic. I suppose it would make me a ‘male feminist’ and at the same time, as long as the actions are consistent (how we treat each other, not just in words, but in work, and in life) it really doesn’t matter how I’m labelled. I think Adichie would agree that as long as the conversation is being had, that is the first step. Just saw this today in the Huffington Post, an interview with Joss Whedon on being a Male Feminist:

        “Action is the best way to say anything. A guy who goes around saying “I’m a feminist” usually has an agenda that is not feminist. A guy who behaves like one, who actually becomes involved in the movement, generally speaking, you can trust that. And it doesn’t just apply to the action that is activist. It applies to the way they treat the women they work with and they live with and they see on the street.”

        So call me what you will. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Such an interesting discussion. I find it frustrating when well-meaning people say that they believe in all the core values of feminism: equal rights, respect and opportunites regardless of gender, but then refuse to call themselves a feminist, because to me that implies that they think feminism is about something else (man-hating, or elevating women above men being the most-oft cited), which of course, is exactly what people who enjoy the status quo and the restrictive gender roles that feminists work against, would like people to believe about feminism.

    I, for one, would love to hear more men refer to themselves as feminists (and behave accordingly)!

    Man, nothing can get me writing run-on sentences like this topic. 🙂

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    1. Totally valid. The reasons I don’t call myself a male feminist simply because it’s just another day being me. I grew up sharing in the division of labour at home, and treating all women (and men) with respect. For the purposes of this topic, I have a one-sided perspective of the entire movement, having experienced life as a man, and cannot remove myself from the power and privilege I have (and have had) in relation to women. So what good would the label do, that simply being an ally wouldn’t?

      The biggest issue I take with Clifton’s article (11 things), is the patronizing tone he invokes in forwarding these ‘rules’ to men who are forward-thinking, intelligent, and interested in supporting the equal rights and equity movement. That’s obviously a subjective interpretation – based on my own values, etc. The article is necessary for folks that believe in Julien Blanc, though.

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  2. Ha! I can see why the article would come across as patronizing if these are things you grew up taking for granted, and I really wish it did to more men. I guess the good wearing the label would do, would be to be an example of a feminist who doesn’t fit the stereotype of a man-hating, bra-burning woman. I totally get and appreciate your thoughtful approach and taking into consideration your position of privilege though.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could drop Blanc through a trap door every time he was about to give a hideous seminar and replace him with Tony Porter? Surprise, would be PUAs! You’re learning something positive!

    Liked by 1 person

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