Laena Geronimo (Feels)
PREPOSITIVE PREFIX SPECIAL OLYMPICS QUALIFIERS: AN OPEN LETTER
Girl band. “Girl” to modify the definition of “Band.” What is a girl band anyways? I realize that most people don’t consider what they are saying when it just rolls off the tongue in such a familiar way. Aside from the click provoking efforts or maybe just sheer laziness of many music journalists, I hear people whom I respect say it all the time.
People say it to me, often sandwiched into something intended to be a compliment, without blinking an eye. I cringe every time. Sometimes I ask who their favorite “boy band” is, if I’m in the mood to risk pissing someone off… it’s funny when you flip the table, it sounds so ridiculous. That’s because it is.
I make music. I don’t make girl music. FEELS is not a girl band. We are a band. Gender plays absolutely zero role in a person’s ability to play any instrument, write songs, freak out on stage, or any other aspect of being in a band. I personally feel that art itself is beyond gender, or race or sexual orientation or any other physical/social identity. It is fluid, limitless and free roaming, without walls, ceilings or floors. It is a shape shifting mirror, for everyone to relate to in their own personal way.
There is literally nothing especially amazing about girls, or women, being passionate about making art. There is no inherent physical handicap being overcome, no gender-centric obstacle conquered which deserves special recognition. I grew up playing violin in symphony orchestras where the thought of gender never noticeably crossed anyone’s mind… so the fact that anyone is shocked that girls can be great at playing guitar or any other instrument is completely insane to me. I cannot accept this; I refuse to participate in the special Olympics of music, in a sub-category small pool where the rules are different and the bar standard has been adjusted to be easier to surmount, in order to compensate for some imaginary affliction that I and all other women uniquely share.
There are wonderful people out there who choose to curate art made specifically by females, and of course I’m cool with anyone being a fan of the female voice, but it’s a fine line and I personally don’t like to be celebrated for anything that I have not worked for. I’ve been approached after a show with intended compliments like, “It’s so awesome to see girls making music. I love girl bands.” Good for you I don’t care, and actually I find this offensive and it seriously makes me consider for a moment wearing a burlap sack on stage and masking my voice. Which is not cool. I should not need to hide my femininity in order to avoid being pigeonholed in such a grandiose way. I don’t want to be introduced and then held within the backdrop setting of my gender; I want to be viewed purely as an artist and let the work speak for itself.
Yes, some will argue that women have been systematically suppressed and underestimated in the past and that it is important to encourage and commemorate the power of female artists today, but honestly I didn’t personally sense any of that in the world of music that raised me and I don’t feel that I am entitled to any kind of retribution or gender-centric pride for the previous injustices suffered by those who’s sex I share. Of course I do encounter sexism from time to time, but I think that the only cure for it is to prove that ignorance wrong; to just blow people away on a level playing field free of context. I am future driven and I believe in equality. There is a trend in the music scene today where I think it’s actually easier to get attention and opportunities as a female; it seems to me like the exploitation of the female musician has only swung from repression to glorification. Has the fetishization of females playing rock + roll proven lucrative for bands who work it and to music journalists? Im pretty sure the answer is yes, sex sells and girls holding guitars is hot and this is why the focus on our gender remains. I don’t want to play into yet another rethinking of the chauvinistic game of objectifying women; I don’t want to be easily packaged and categorized, and I sacrfice certain quick successes because of my principles. My bandmates and I agree, we don’t need fans who are into us because there are sexy girls in the band, fuck that. We just wanna make good music and have fun losing our minds when we play live!
I believe that to make real progress we must move forward with the banner of equality held high and never look back. We must be in it for the long fight. To truly strive for equality we must demand to be treated exactly the same as our peers, and to me that means non-participation in events that are sexist against males too. We must focus on being confident in ourselves and our work and uncompromising in our viglance against discrimination. We must go out of our way to encourage young girls, boys and everyone in between to feel equally comfortable to express themselves in art and music without limitations or exclusions. Feminism is not about celebrating women, it is about defending women’s rights by advocating equality. As long as the artist’s gender continues to be the focal point in relation to the description of their art itself, regardless of intention, we are propagating sexism.
After all, separate but equal is inherently NOT equal.
With love, Laena Geronimo