How Do I Handle My Sexist Bandmate?
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
I am in a guy-girl duo with a decent amount of success behind us. The guy has an extensive touring history and audio knowledge. I come from a very different background, but I have owned businesses before, and have written several extensive business plans. I also enjoy networking, so I have been a big asset when it comes to radio, touring etc. (I do all of our social media, interviews, merch, outreach to radio, and tour managing.)
But when we have a disagreement about something band-related (like a music video or photo shoot) he tends to talk down to me and act as if I don't contribute to the band. He always acts like his experience is more important than my opinions. The thing is, he has never had this much success in music before. But it's hard to give constructive criticism and still get respect from him. I am proud of all I have been able to contribute to the band but it seems like he can't acknowledge or appreciate that. How do I get the respect I feel I deserve from him? How can you be heard and respected as a woman without being labeled a bitch or told you're on your period?
Dear LL Cool Lady,
No matter how small or reasonable your ambitions may be, there will be dudes around you in the "music industry" who will be unsettled by them. The world tells boys and men that their experience is definitive, that their knowledge and feelings are more important than other peoples, their authority is ultimate even on topics they know nothing about; their entire lives and social grooming pressures them to be confident captains, to "know best," to provide and never be vulnerable or without answers. So, someone who challenges that authority really disrupts their whole universe of self-conception and for some dudes, the way they deal is by steamrolling and gaslighting you, to undermine your sense of power and peership. That's my experience and sense of what is happening here.
So, what to do about your bandmate's patriarchal damage and mansplaining? It's really the eternal question isn't it--what is the paradigm shifting magic retort that you could say or do to shuts him down AND makes him respect you AND makes him see the error of his ways? It would be amazing if I knew--this would be the most read column in the history of the internet and I might even pull down a Nobel in the process. That said, let us first try the route of love rather than the route of cynicism in how we broach a solution, even though it feels a bit counterintuitive.
Next time you two are talking and the conversation feels energized, positive--when you are in the throes of your creative bond--address what's up. Your "argument" for why he should respect you (sad) could start on the simple fact that you're half of this band, and you are putting in work and while, sure, no one can argue with the road dog experience he has, that you can both see the soft skills you bring to the band and that balance is what's making you thrive as a band.