Fair warning, I’m cranky because I’m still sick (but getting better). I’m to the point where I want to be doing things, but I don’t yet have the energy to walk to the post office. Baby steps, I know. And as a caveat here’s my bias for the rest of this: women and men have choices about their roles, and I’m not just talking about choosing between wife/mother/husband/father and celibate religious. Both very important vocations, but they aren’t for everyone. We all have different gifts.
I hate being a woman composer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being female (except for one or two days a month), and I love composing. It’s the combination of the two that I can’t stand. It’s as if I’m too delicate to compete on my own, so we need our own category. While I do understand the necessity of looking at early (read: before the advent of Nadia Boulanger) music by women as a special category (since they lacked access to conservatories and thus developed differently than the compositions of their male counterparts), I question the necessity for it now.
A well-meaning individual recommended I study with someone other than who is my Evil Overlord/doctoral chair, because she would have more advice as to what it is to be a woman and a composer. Nevermind that my chair is a much better match, with interests that mesh with mine. Before that comment, I hadn’t realized that all my composition teachers had been men. I don’t stop to ask for a genotype, when interviewing people. I would feel really horrible if someone wouldn’t study with me because I’m female, so why would I discriminate against someone else, just because they had a Y chromosome?
Similarly, I hate concerts of music by only women. Again, is our music so different that it can’t hold its own? Putting up with such things and festivals is akin to shoving us back in the ghetto-kitchen.
If women are being discouraged from going into certain fields, I think the problem must be addressed long before college and professional life. What kind of attitude does a girl face, if she wants to study composition, math, or science? How do her parents react? What about her teachers? Are they encouraging, or do they brush her off, instead giving attention to a boy who’s writing music? (As what happened to me.) “Smart” girls and boys have it worse–the message is reinforced daily that kids who’re too smart don’t get boys/girls. Why are people not being equally encouraging of talent, regardless of gender?