Subtle Sexism: Don’t all Female Musicians know eachother?

Whenever I meet someone from Chicago, I immediately say, “Oh, do you know my friend so-and-so from Chicago?” Similarly when I meet a musician I ask him about other musicians; if I meet a tenor player, then I ask him about tenor players, or if I meet a really swinging bassist, I ask him about other really swinging bassists. Then, if we don’t know any of the same people, I ask about records, books, movies, locales, even food. It’s a natural human response to meeting a stranger. I want find out about them so they are no longer a stranger. I want to find if we have anything in common.

Usually when people meet me, whether they are music fans or musicians, I am always asked the same question. “Do you know so-and-so?” And so-and-so is always a girl. Not a girl who plays my same instrument, or a girl who is from my same town. Quite often we don’t even play the same style of music or even run in the same circles. We’re just both female musicians. And if I don’t know the first female so-and-so, they ask about a second and sometimes third. But ONLY about other female musicians, not any male musicians.

Strangely enough, it is the older musicians (age 65+) who can sometimes be the exception to this rule by asking me about other pianists or musicians to whom I am stylistically related, regardless of their sex.

I know I am a woman in a field that is dominated by men. When I hang out at a club, most people assume I am dating someone in the band, and when I tell them I am a musician they are shocked that I play an instrument and don’t just sing. After all that, I still get funny looks when people realize I am the bandleader, and not just a sideman. Even though there are more women in Jazz everyday, I know being a female Jazz musician still makes me an oddity, and that’s the problem. Often, when a female musician is seen, she is seen not as a musician who is a woman, but as a woman who is a musician.

Just sharing my thoughts, what are yours? 

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