Talking Sexism Backstage

Back in September, I started speaking with women working in the music industry in Colorado. My first interview was with Lindsey Dubey, the assistant production manager for z2 Entertainment in Boulder, aka the Boulder Theater and Fox Theatre. Lindsey’s duties range from hiring and managing production interns at the Fox (my own old beloved unpaid internship throughout undergrad), to being the stage manager and point of contact for bands; loading equipment in and out of the venue; setting up the stage; and managing crews and the house (meaning the whole venue, more or less).

Lindsey does just about everything imaginable in the music venue. That means if a band specifies no brown M&Ms on their rider, she’s the person who’s either picking out the brown M&Ms or telling the band to go suck it and eat their chocolate.

Lindsey’s a badass in essence. She deals with absolutely everyone imaginable and at 26 years old, that’s quite a lot of pressure. She’s surprisingly humble and down to earth while maintaining the confident air of someone who has everything under control, and that is her job. Even if older, physically bigger men around her undermine her on a daily basis, Lindsey keeps everything under control.

Those often physically bigger men and the issues they tout around with them were the topic of our conversation when Lindsey and I met up. As a production intern at the Fox, I dealt with backhanded compliments and outright sexism on occasion. But as an intern, I also got to hang out in the shadows at times.

Lindsey gets it more in her face:

“I definitely have many days when the touring crew will walk in the back door and they see myself and three other crew guys. They almost always go to the male and I’m like, ‘Hi, I’m your stage manager. I’ll be your point of contact. Anything you need comes through me. I also advanced the show with you we’ve been emailing for weeks.’ And then they’re like, ‘Whoa. OK.’

I get that all the time.”

Is this a specific type of music or band? Not at all, says Lindsey.

“Maybe those guys are just insecure; maybe they just don’t like seeing a girl on stage?” she suggests.

Because Lindsey deals with everyone in the venue, including hiring the newbies, she tends to hire more female interns. She lets them know about the road ahead, she says. It’s not easy, but it can be worth it.

“When I hire female interns, I give them a heads up right away and I tell them, ‘This is extremely intimidating in this industry, but if you can hold your own and basically absorb everything they’re saying and just keeping learning, you’re only going to go up. Because you are a female on your own on this stage, surrounded by men who’ve been in this industry for thirty years who are all doubting you at every turn… Don’t be afraid to jump in. Keep going and don’t quit.”

I was admittedly one of those women who quit on production. I was working as an intern throughout college and by my senior year, I eventually transitioned into doing office work for z2‘s production staff (or as the production crew called it, the “Dark Side”). I didn’t know what I wanted out of the industry at the time. I knew it took a tough skin to be there, though; it still does. And I know I’d like to see more women step up and do the work they love without being cast aside or asked if they’re someone’s sister by a drunk opening guitarist (my own personal experience – nothing unique).

“We all have a huge part,” Lindsey says. “And there are some men who are so caring. There are tons of men who are so supportive, but of course you’ll have tons of people stuck in their ways, just like any other industry.”

I’ve gone through bouts of “maybe I’m crazy”s throughout this project and maybe it is just me, but are women in any other field constantly asked to prove their right to be in a location or career based on a boyfriend/brother/husband/etc… ? (p.s. The answer I’m looking for is a big fat yes.) Is this seriously a legitimate question to be asking in the current Western world? And why is Time suggesting we ban the word feminism in a day of blatant sexism (even in the arts – a medium that is supposedly liberal, open, and carefree)?

Each time I return to my initial conversation with Lindsey, I get worked up about this issue. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

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