Professional Sound - August 2022 | Page 42


Conversations with Women in Music Production : The Interviews
The following is a short exclusive excerpt from Kallie Marie ’ s new book , Conversations with Women in Music Productions : The Interviews , which is published by Backbeat Books ( an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield ). It is currently available through all major book retailers , including Chapters Indigo and Amazon .
I wanted to find out from these engineers and producers how they had handled working where there might have been perceptions that they couldn ’ t do the “ tougher ,” “ harder ,” or more “ technical ” style of music . Because many of these women draw from different time periods in the industry and different genres of music , they unsurprisingly had varied experiences . Notably , the women working in rock music developed coping mechanisms ( to my own surprise , they were some of the same tactics I employed when I started as a recording engineer and producer , not only because that ’ s the music I liked , but also because I wanted to make sure that no one thought I couldn ’ t make rock records because I was not tough enough [ i . e ., a woman ]). It does , however , raise more questions about presumptions ; indeed , Ebonie Smith made a good point about people wanting simply to make records with people they identify with or like hanging out with , and there is no changing that . ( There is a large social component to music and music making , and areas like semiotics shed light on how music can be examined under the scope of being , in its own way a unique cultural language with cultural signifiers .) This is indeed a facet of the music industry and is very much why there ’ s a substantial amount of reading the room that most engineers and producers do on a daily basis with their clients . Simply put , if you are going to be locked in a room with no windows for twelve hours with someone , you had better hope they ’ re enjoyable to be around . That being said , are women given the chance to be colleagues and not secretaries , groupies , eye candy , and so on ? It ’ s more about subverting the expectation of who women can be than it is about a social grouping of who likes hanging with whom because while you must have mutual visions to work together on creative projects , women are too often overlooked and not thought of for roles or are not trusted to be skilled ( read technical , which is discussed later ) enough to do the work or not seen as an equal one would casually spend time with ( which is a larger societal issue ).
These topics came up in passing with many of the people interviewed here . Abhita Austin and I took a small detour at one point to talk about being misremembered . I ’ ve gone to many trade shows and had great interactions with my colleagues about very technical subjects , regarding acoustics , recording , or the gear , and so on , only to have them run into me later and misremember me as a singer ( I am not a singer ), completely forgetting that I am an engineer . Fair dues : We all meet a lot of people , but after repeat renditions of misremembering , as well as finding out that many other women in your field ( which is still rare ) also experience this same specific misrememberence , one does start to notice a pattern . The act of misremembering someone has a substantial psychological background to it . Angela Saini , in her book Inferior , explains :
American psychologist Diane Ruble and gender development expert Carol Lynn Martin have explained how , by the age of five , children already have in their heads a constellation of gender stereotypes . They describe one experiment in which children were shown pictures of people doing things like sawing and cooking . When a picture contradicted a traditional stereotype , the kids were more likely to remember it incorrectly . In one instance , instead of remembering that they had seen a picture of a girl sawing wood — which they had — someone said instead that they ’ d seen a boy sawing wood .
It ’ s not surprising , then , that many women recording engineers get misremembered as singers . That ’ s the gendered stereotype , and that ’ s what psychologically gets replaced .
How insidious is this pattern , and how does it affect women when it comes time to figure out whom to hire ? Let ’ s try for a second to draw a parallel to another creative industry . Imagine for a moment that you are a film director at some sort of networking event to meet other directors . You meet a woman and talk about doing that job and that role . The next time you meet her , you
ask her how her modeling or acting gig is going — because that ’ s how you view her . She ’ s not your peer , but she might be talent . If she ’ s attractive enough , maybe you can make her a star ! Maybe you can discover her !
It is hard to get work if the people in your industry forget you exist because there is such a deeply ingrained cultural assumption that women do not exist in this field and are not technical . Furthermore , even if you claim to be an engineer or producer , you are either misremembered or told that you are not those things , making it even harder to obtain opportunities for work . Try to imagine this happening to men in any field , and it may highlight this strange phenomenon . Are men constantly asked whose boyfriend they are when they try to show up at work ?
A personal anecdote of my own to add to these women ’ s stories is an experience I had working with a rock band . More than once I was asked ( not by people in the band ) by industry people around the band whose girlfriend I was , or I was mistaken for a “ party girl .” When people are used to seeing women only as potential dates or sometimes as a singer , you practically have to wear a sign around your neck declaring your job , and even still people will file that away with a grain of salt .