Not the merch girl, groupie, girlfriend, or someone’s sister.

My facial reactions have prompted many ex-boyfriends to tell me they don’t know how to read me. They’re a topic of conversation among my friends and family. A guffaw, shake of the head, and under-the-breath remark of, “Your face!” amounts to me laughing off my twisted brows, knotted forehead, squinty eyes, and a possible visage of horror, disgust, or bemusement.

"I can't read you," is something I get quite often and never understand.

“I can’t read you,” is something I get quite often and never understand.

I don’t usually realize I’m making these faces, but one fall night in 2010 around 1 a.m. after loading an opening band out of the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado, I’m guessing I was making quite the warped expression of disgust when I heard the following words:

“What’re you, someone’s sister?”

I looked up at whoever this rude person was, unsure of what to say or how to react in the moment, but thinking, yes, I am a few someones’ sister. What’s it to you? 

I’m sure my face said more than this, though. Rude Dude’s band mates stepped onstage from the green room below. “Sorry, he’s drunk,” said Opening Band Singer.

I ignored this comment as well – or maybe gave a slight smile and a nod –  and continued feeling as though I was in the way of the men towering above me. I hadn’t yet realized that my physical stature was not as big as my personality. The people around me clearly didn’t quite understand that fact yet.

I never did anything about interactions such as this. This wasn’t the only one of its kind, but this one in particular stuck with me. I’ve pushed hundred pound cases down back alleys in Boulder, broken fingers, been the first to show up for call times, missed class to help work shows (there was that one time the Killers played a secret show at the Fox with an 8 a.m. call time), and stuck with an unpaid internship for years just for the love of it. I paid my dues the same as everyone else. I was probably supported by more people than those who didn’t support me along the way, but I also made sure not to stick out. In the end, I knew I didn’t want to be roughing it with the men backstage my whole life; it wasn’t for me to be proving myself in that way every day (I do that in other ways).

Women who do this job deserve more, though. They’re intelligent, hardworking individuals.

Some artists bend to the whims of the mainstream; they fit themselves into the mold of what’s popular. They argue that they’re naked because they want to be; that it’s empowering. But it’s still what sells. It’s what the public wants to see and it makes money. It’s giving the record labels what they want. So are these artists doing what they want because of what society wants, or are they doing what they want because they are being true to their art? Only each individual can say for his or her self.

Whether the next big thing is fully clothed, naked, or demure; whether they’re twerking, or preaching feminism – what role does today’s music and the music industry play in teaching the next generation about what it means to be true to ourselves? To stand for what feels right and what it means to hold ourselves to a standard of self respect?

I don’t have the answers to this question, although I know plenty of university studies look into the matter after children have been affected by the media. Our society can offer positive role models, but infiltrating the media with those role models and getting the media to speak well of them is a whole other issue.

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