WORDS BY ALISON ZHUANG
In my first year at UNSW, I joined a music ensemble which focused on studio and recording practices. We had to form our own smaller groups in the first week of semester. Although the class had a fairly equal gender split, I joined a group where I was the only female.
I remember feeling quite intimidated by the males I was working with at first- they were throwing around technical music terms I wasn’t familiar with, and I didn’t speak up about it. I thought that if I stayed quiet, I wouldn’t have to deal with all the mansplaining and direct sexism that I assumed would occur because of some of the experiences I had heard from my friends.
One day, when we were setting up a recording space in one of the music rooms at uni, I remember opening up a case containing a set of drum mics- I didn’t know how to attach them to the drum kit. One of the guys took a drum mic from me and went over to the kit. I was going to just let him do all the work, but I was surprised when he told me to come to the kit- he then proceeded to show me how and where to place each drum mic on their respective parts.
It was because of this seemingly ordinary experience that I decided to open up to my group- and it was because I felt like I was in a safe learning environment. Throughout that semester I asked many questions, learned a great deal about the studio and recording, and helped where I could. And I wasn’t the only one learning, the whole group was.
Today, I am able to throw around the same technical music terms that I didn’t know at the beginning. I am glad that I was able to learn and grow with the group who I can gladly call my friends. I can’t wait to share and help others with my knowledge.
However, looking back at this experience in hindsight, it also makes me feel sad.
Because I grew up with this stigma- this idea that women would always be inferior to men, despite how hard we fight for equality not just in music, but every day. And the thing for me was that this was also a subconscious thought. I had heard of terrible experiences from some of my friends, but never actively thought about it.
This experience has made me hopeful.
It has taught me that it is crucial for us to educate one another on equality and sexism. Many of us might have fear or anxiousness instilled in us because of negative past experiences, but instead of using these experiences to build walls around us, we should use them to pave pathways to open conversations about equality and sexism.
For more information on The Everywoman project, go to: https://theeverywoman1.wixsite.com/project