Sexism still surprises me. I don't know why. It shouldn’t since I encounter it a lot in the music industry – as I’m sure many women experience in their own field. I can’t tell you the number of times male sound technicians talk down to me during sound check. Many think that, just because I’m a woman, I don’t know the ins and outs of live sound. The again, maybe it's the pin up curls, freshly steamed dress and ruby red lipstick that give the impression I don't know how sound works? Either way, they are mistaken: Yes, I know what a DI box is. Yes, please change the EQ on my guitar: there are too many high frequencies and it is causing feedback.
I put my foot down using my well-rehearsed sassy (and classy!) responses. Thankfully, some technicians have the decency to apologize (though they usually do so after they’ve heard us sing!). Most sheepishly just avoid eye contact.
I was in Québec recently and surprised by the sexist controversy surrounding Safia Nolin – a francophone singer-songwriter who was getting a lot of flak for the clothing she decided to wear to the ADISQ awards (like the Juno’s in Québec).
The short of the issue: rather than choosing to wear a designer dress to the gala, she chose to be herself and wore what made her feel comfortable, what was distinctly “Safia”: a pair of jeans, a cardigan and a t-shirt on which was printed a photo of Québécois rocker, Gerry Boulet.
I watched in disbelief as I read statements like “How disrespectful to the awards!”, “How disrespectful to women!” and “What a terrible role-model for feminists!” appear on my social media feeds. Lise Ravary, a journalist for the Journal de Montréal even tweeted: “If Safia Nolin is a feminist icon, I’m turning in my membership card!”
What disappointed me most was the reminder that both men and women can be sexist.
My heart went out to Safia.
The criticism drove her to publish an open letter on Urbania’s website to defend herself with authenticity. Parts of her letter echoed the acceptance speech she gave at the awards gala during which she encouraged girls to do whatever they want, that they can do men’s jobs and don’t need to give a hoot! (while everyone else seemed to be distracted by her wardrobe). Safia spoke to girl power in 2016. It was inspiring.
Experiences like these reinforce the need for more feminism: more advocating for women's rights and cultivating an understanding that men and women are equal.
And so, my heart smiles for Safia and recognizes her courage to dare to be herself. Women have the right to wear what they want. Clothing doesn't measure a person’s integrity and self-value.
p.s. I also wanted to share Brendan Kelly's thoughtful commentary published in the Montreal Gazette about Safia.