A reflection on Gals in the Game by sophia bartholomew.
Gals in the Game was presented by Flourish and the Shifty Bits Cult as part of this year’s Shifty Bits Circus.
Gals in the Game starts gradually, somewhere around noon on the Saturday of the Shifty Bits Circus. Non-male identified musicians from the festival have set up electric guitars, keyboards, bass guitars, and drums in three of the studios in the Fredericton Art Building (384 Queen Street), and other non-male people trickle in over the course of a couple of hours, some of them trying out an instrument for the first time. People move around between studios: teachers become students, and students become teachers.
The cult’s serving curry and chill in the alleyway out back, so people wander out, eat some lunch, wander back. At two o’clock the Mazerolle Studio opens up for a community discussion, and what this discussion will be hasn’t exactly been determined in advance, which is nice. It kicks off with Ohara Hale singing a few songs. She talks about how she got started in music, and shares her songwriting process, but quickly turns over the floor so that others can share their songs and stories too.
Kirsten Palm tells about her approach to writing, and sings us some songs in English and in French. She talks about how the people she first played music with taught her what it meant to be a part of a caring and respectful community. Meagan Underhill plays for us, and describes how it is to sing and play guitar now, after years of classical piano training. Indigo Rain Poirer plays a composition on a little Korg Volca they’ve brought and shared with everyone for the afternoon, and they talk about first learning to play music on their home computer, because they didn’t have access to any other instruments.
Jane Blanchard’s grown up playing rock music, but at some point in high school she realized she was the only one, and so started making an effort to encourage her female friends to play. Heather Ogilvie shifts the tone musically, and talks about the excitement and terror of formulating her own project now, after years of playing in other people’s bands.
There’s some trust built up between us, filling the cracks. There are new things to aspire to. Everyone shares stories of being talked down to and treated as if they don’t know what they’re doing because they’re non-male, but no one is disheartened. If anything, this acknowledgement of adversity seems to strengthen everyone’s resolve.
We talk about how sharing new things, learning new things: these are acts of great uncertainty, vulnerability. More so or less so, depending on who you are, and who you learned to be, growing up. Being non-male identified (femme, female, non-binary, trans, gender queer) is a part of that complex equation, but income is also a part of it, and so is disability, and being of colour. This discussion emphasizes the importance of supporting each other’s learning and experimentation.
Because the truth is that we’re all learning, and we’re always learning, everyone in the room agrees. Tamara Sandor stacks her hands one over the other, showing all of the layers: you move up, you move up, but there’s always further to go. Tessa Kautzman also talks about the freedom of being able to move laterally. In her case, she’s moved away from writing with a guitar, and into playing the drums and electronic music.
Penelope Stevens summarizes it so succinctly when she laughs and says “So what if I’m not doing it right. I’m doing it, right?”