How not to talk to a woman at a music festival (or anywhere else)
As I stood outside a show at last weekend's Underground Music Showcase, immersed in a nice conversation with my friend and former bandmate, we were the victims of a walk-by insult. But not the regular old street harassment kind of thing -- no this was hollering of a different kind.
You see, my friend and former bandmate is a man (emphasis here on him being a biological man and me being a biological woman). The perp was a (male) promoter we have had the unfortunate displeasure of working with in the past. Even though I have had to book shows and talk money with this gentleman, he still forgets my name, refers to me as someone's girlfriend or ignores me altogether in social settings. In this particular situation, he walked up to address, gave my friend a "What's up, dude!" greeting, looked at me and then looked back at my friend and said something along the lines of "Didn't mean to interrupt you talking to a pretty girl!"
I know, I know. We feminists are so touchy about accepting assumptions screamed at us -- I mean, "compliments." But there I was, at the closing of day three of this four-day music fest, feeling like my experience was going fairly well on the feminist/human dialogue front -- and I had to have consent-lacking interaction with the shitbag of all shitbags.
To be fair, this dude is universally a pain in the ass to work with regardless of your gender or orientation, and many a male friend has told me that if it weren't for business needing to be handled, they wouldn't deal with him, either.
I went to Twitter to air my grievances after the incident. A few minutes later, two women replied that they had been similar positions at the festival. One who was running the damn show was asked if she was an assistant; the other was also running the damn show was assumed to be an intern. Whew. It was good to know I wasn't alone in this particular fight (that I didn't know still existed) to be taken seriously.
Is there anything wrong with being a girlfriend, a fan of a band, an assistant or an intern? Nope. But there is something wrong with assuming that someone is an anything. Especially when you're dealing with a large concentration of people over a period of four days at a place like a music festival, where it is likely that you might run into a woman or several dozen of them who are musicians, sound people, door people, operations managers, writers, photographers, stage crew, bartenders, etc. Or maybe the person in charge of said music festival.
In most social situations, it is polite to ask someone their role if it is necessary that you know this kind of information. But in a lot of cases, it is not pertinent to the situation at hand, so it is best to keep your predetermined bias to yourself so that everyone can have a good time. A woman might in fact be a girlfriend or a wife or a fan of the band -- but again, I cannot stress enough how irrelevant it is to most conversations.
Earlier in the weekend, I was completely cut out of a conversation when a new dude entered a circle of dudes I was standing with and everyone but me was introduced to him by name and occupation. I just walked away from that, which is something I often have to do when I don't feel like making everyone else as uncomfortable as I am. But walking away is not the answer.
In order to make this a proactive conversation, dear reader, I ask this of you: If you are a woman and you are interrupted, ignored or brushed off because someone assumes something about you in a social situation, do yourself and humanity a favor and call the perp out. And if you are a dude and you see this happen, please, call your fellow dudes out.
I know, it might make you and others uncomfortable to spotlight misogyny. But that's the thing -- women have been made to be uncomfortable for centuries, so that single minute of discomfort you're having? We can empathize.
It is easy to be on the same page when we actively choose to respect each other in public spaces.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies
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