Nadia Elkharadly: Lovin’ on the Road

One day last week, I was bored at the office.  A shock to all, I’m sure.  Thank God for the internet and thank God for Alancross.ca.  As an avid Edge 102 listener for years, Cross’s soothing voice and captivating stories on the Ongoing History of New Music were a staple of many drives, study hours and simple radio listening time.  Having been so entertained and educated by his radio broadcasts, his website was a viable alternative to help alleviate my workplace doldrums.  While perusing his many posts I came across a section that caught my attention:  “The Wife Says”.  The mysterious Mrs. Cross, never named on the site or in any of the posts, had a voice.  An opinionated one according to her husband, but a voice nonetheless and I was very interested to hear it.

The opinionated piece that caught my eye initially was called Good for the Female Musicians who can’t get laid.  Now, as someone who is currently learning to be a musician (yes I did get myself that Bass for my birthday), and who is also female, this statement caused some alarm.  The original inspiration for this piece was actually from Nerve.com, written by another opinionated woman (and bassist) Ellen Campesinos! from Los Campesinos!  Inspired by a tweet from the wonderful Neko Case in which she states “Ladies in bands don’t get ANY action”, Campesinos shared her own views on the matter, based on her own experience as a lady in a band.  In five years, she’s gotten lucky only four times while on the road (this is Campesinos and not Neko Case as Mrs. Cross’s article seems to say).  Why the dry spells? A number of reasons, she says, lack of options being highest on the list.  Mrs. Cross opines that for someone in this role, proximity is key, hence why so many female musicians end up with a fellow musician, a tour manager, a roadie.  The other choices, while available, are not as appealing.  Fans, friends of fans, randoms that appear at shows, she dismisses these as viable options for several reasons.  “Fan is short for Fanatic” says Mrs. Cross, which, to this female musician, was the biggest turnoff of all.

This attractive and talented woman comes off as rather shy, and with a lack of confidence belying her station as a successful musician.  Her reasoning for not wanting to hook up with a fan is “I wouldn’t want to sleep with someone whose lust is solely driven by the fact I’m in a band they like.”  This statement really struck me.  She says very clearly that she’s not after meaningless sex.  She’s older, no longer driven solely by lust and passion.   Therefore the casual fling on the road isn’t what she’s looking for.  It’s not what Neko Case is after either.  And it got me thinking.  Female musicians aren’t after the hot hookup with a crazed groupie after a long sweaty set.  Is this simply maturity speaking or is this something that divides the genders, as so many other things do.

Being a successful musician requires embracing a sort of freedom and independence that is not normally associated with that traditional feminine stereotype.  That archetype states that women crave stability and safety, two things that a musician living on the road must eschew.  Campesinos herself even admits to there being many more men touring as musicians than women.  It’s just reality.  It goes back to the travelling salesmen concept of yore, and beyond that, the male hunter vs. the female gatherer.  Men venture far out, women stay close to home.  Women want to settle down as they get older; men seem to be able to wander until their very last step.  But are these just stereotypes, or is there more to the story?

Traditional gender roles have tended to puzzle me.  Mommy cooks and cleans while daddy goes to work.  Daddy takes out the garbage and fixes things around the house while mommy takes care of the babies.  My parents fulfilled these roles to a T.  So it wasn’t that I didn’t grow up seeing these things play out in front of me, I did.  And they were passed down to a degree.  I helped my mom around the kitchen while my brothers got to barbecue with my dad.  But there are some notable exceptions.  While other girls dreamt about what their wedding would be like, I dreamt of being in a famous rock band.  Most girls read YM and Seventeen; I read Spin and Rolling Stone.  Beyond the rock and roll obsession, I never imagined that my future entailed being a wife and mother, living in a house in the suburbs behind a white picket fence.  Working, making my own money, owning my own home, car, whatever; these are the things that were always important to me.  My independence is one of my most valuable possessions, along with my ingrained faith that I can do anything that I put my mind to.  And anyone who knows me knows that if someone, ESPECIALLY a guy tells me I can’t do something just because I’m a girl, well, he better watch his back.  So you can probably see why the idea that a woman, a rock musician no less, can’t get any action on the road if she wants it, but a man can, may puzzle me as well.

I’m not going to try to convince anyone that men and women aren’t different.  On the contrary, I think men and women are VASTLY different.  That’s what makes life the adventure that it is.  It’s also what makes dating incredibly annoying.  But what is it that makes male musicians embrace the promiscuity that comes with that, that women like Campesinos and Neko Case can’t bring themselves to adopt?  I have a few ideas, and would welcome feedback from you, my wonderful readers.

1)    Ego:  Campesinos wrote that she didn’t want to sleep with someone who was only interested in her because she was in a band.  “When it comes to meaningless sex, I couldn’t possibly enjoy myself wondering if they had my band’s songs mentally soundtracking our foreplay.”  Having someone want you based on your accomplishments, especially as a musician, is probably the house of ego stroking.  And let’s face it, men love having their egos stroked.  And who better to worship a musician than a fan. Or even better, a groupie:  a fan that sleeps with musicians on the regular.  Groupies are, in short, a sure thing, who are ready to ooh, ahh, adore and revere.  Women enjoy being complimented, sure.  But abject worship is not something that most women enjoy.  It made Campesinos downright uncomfortable.  She preferred the challenge, the flirtation, the back and forth, in short, the chase, and being chased.  There was no shortage of fans on the road to cater to her primal needs, but it wasn’t going to cut it for her.

2)   Slut Shaming: Ah, the old double standard.  Men who sleep with a lot of women, especially without emotion and attachment are playboys.  Women who sleep with many men, without emotion or attachment, are sluts.  Writer Soraya Chemaly came up with this definition: “It’s embarrassing, insulting or otherwise denigrating a girl or woman for her real or extrapolated sexual behavior, including for dressing in a sexual way, having sexual feelings and/or exploring and exhibiting them.”  Her article in the Huffington Post on the subject is not written from a female musician’s point of view, but rather from the view of a feminist, and a mother, but all women, including musicians, can relate to what she’s talking about.  Female musicians are on stage flaunting their power, their talent, and their sexuality.  Whether or not they are being overtly sexual or not, the passion and energy they put into their performances, into their music, can be incredibly sexy.  For that alone they may be the subject of conjecture about their sexuality, whether they are promiscuous or not.  In our society a woman’s sexuality is seemingly always up for discussion, and that’s even before she takes anyone into her bed.  Many women are confident enough to disregard these judgements, as they should.  The judgements of other, usually petty people should have no bearing on a woman’s decision to sleep around or not sleep around.  But shirking judgement is not as easy for some as it is for others.  As a result, some of these women will go without, for the sake of appearances.  Even rock stars care about their image.

3)    Feelings:  There have been a number of romantic comedies dedicated to the idea of sex without emotion.  Can men and women be friends?  Can men and women have sex without emotion?  Any number of men will tell you yes! Of course!  All the time!  I’m sure Gene Simmons didn’t develop any emotional ties to the quadruple digit number of women he’s claimed to have engaged in relations with.  But many women cannot have sex without emotion.  The mechanical physical act is often not enough for some women, regular women and musicians alike.  Campesinos talks about the tension that built up between herself and a guitarist on tour.  They convinced a hotel to let them take a room for an hour to simply satisfy the urge, but she found herself unfulfilled.  The physical release of the tension was not enough for her in the end, and the experience was not nearly as satisfying as she’d imagined or hoped it would be.  Was the male guitarist satisfied by their little tryst? Chances are, most likely.  A quickie here and there in a tiny tour bus bunk, a gas station bathroom or a grungy motel may be enough for most men, but, as Campesinos and Case tell us, it’s not enough for them.

The fact is women in music are likely not getting as much lovin’ on the road as their male counterparts.  The reasons outlined above are superficial, and just the beginning of a lengthy and in the end, quite interesting discussion on the differences between men and women.  It’s not a competition about who can get the most notches on his or her guitar strap.  In the end, what matters is that women are breaking into worlds that used to be dedicated to men, and have been for decades, even centuries.  Ellen Campesinos(!) could probably get laid every night on the road if she wanted to.  In the end, it’s her choice not to.  She’s learned what she wants, and has the freedom not only to choose it, but to go after it, or not as the case may be.  And in the end, it’s that choice that is the most fundamentally important thing of all.

Until next time,

xo

N

We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: dbawis@rogers.com Please use it to ask questions,  tell us what you’d like to read about, send links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

3 Responses to “Nadia Elkharadly: Lovin’ on the Road”

  1. Another reason women musicians on the road go without, is because most fans, and friends of the band, assume you’re already taken. They see you up there, in the lights, taking control of the stage, and just figure “I’ve got no chance with her!” It’s like ‘beautiful woman’ syndrome – the best looking woman you know probably spends a lot of time dateless.
    On the other hand, I’ve had two long term relationships with my guitarists … still with Shawn after 30 years, on and off the road. We have so much more in common, speak the same ‘lingo,’ and have competitive, ambitious natures. Like goes to like, a lot of times.

  2. Now from a man’s perspective: when the standard rock chick role model is Courtney Love (a drugged out hag) or Bif Naked (a ball buster), men will never make the effort to hit on or approach them. There’s a certain preconception that road warrior females are ‘lived in’. They’ve been around the race track so much that there’s a fear that it will come with a need for penicillin post-coitus. Meanwhile, I road managed a small tour with several solo artists – one was a talented female piano player/vocalist. After each show she disappeared and we’d find her with a book and a bottle of water in a corner somewhere…completely detached from the camaraderie of the men – which might as well be a neon sign that says “unavailable”. Was this to avoid temptation or was it to maintain a professional distance from the guys? Could have been a bit of both. Romance is not anyone’s friend on the road, I’m afraid.

  3. I agree with Roxanne regarding the “must be taken” idea. I’ve known a few female rockers and they either had a guy at home or dated a band member…and that is what I would have figured at the time.
    My feelings now…being in my 40s…are probably different than 20 years ago. Back then I likely would have been very happy to have a one-nighter with someone like Lita Ford. And, if I was 25 that would apply to Amy Lee or Hayley Williams.
    Today, if I had the chance to meet Neko Case (and I am a fan of hers) I’d be more interested in just chatting, maybe having dinner and if anything else happened, great. I’d be wanting to discuss her music and find out what she’s like as a person.

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