Story on Undermining

City: Los Angeles

Industry: Musician

You’d think we’d never set foot in a studio before.

Recently I was booked to play an in-studio music video session to promote a new single. I had just spent almost a year recording my album, For the Feminine, by the Feminine, and had been working exclusively with womxn. I had gotten very used to feeling heard and respected in studio spaces. Now that the album was rolling out, I had to start allowing men back into my professional life for the sake of promoting it, so I went into this session assuming the environment would be, as always, male-dominated.

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and was met by the lovely man running the video session. He was warm and inviting and seemed to like our “crazy” outfits — silky fabrics and long lace veils — and commitment to doing something unique.

Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of the studio owner/engineer running sound. Right away we were spoken to as if we had never set foot in a studio before and didn’t understand the way our own instruments worked. Each of my band members are highly trained musicians who have spent ample time in recording spaces, and the way he spoke to us was frankly laughable given our resumes. We exchanged annoyed glances and collectively understood it was going to be one of those sessions. Whatever.

But the mansplaining was some next-level shit. He continuously badgered my drummer (who plays for Iron & Wine btw) to play in a ridiculous, unnatural way. He offered me his “services as a producer,” which he “normally charges a lot for,” for free “to help us.” He made totally inappropriate suggestions about arrangement and song structure. I politely but firmly declined and tried to keep him focused on the task at hand, setting up sound, which he was doing a pretty sub-par job of. On and on it went. The more we declined his unwanted “advice” the more hostile he became. Clearly, he wasn’t expecting us to be so ungrateful.

At one point, I was adjusting my veil, which had become tangled in my guitar strap, and accidentally bumped a vocal mic with my guitar. I looked up to apologize for the minor offense, but before I could say anything, he snarled at me, “Oh GREAT, you just HIT my $3,000 mic. THANKS.”

Whoa. It really was a super light tap… Most engineers wouldn’t have even looked up. But the context behind his words and the disgust in his voice were clear. What he meant was: “You dumb bitch! While you were playing with your stupid girly costume, you hit my expensive microphone.” He was being an asshole, but it still stung.

The resulting performance was not up to the standard I hold myself and my work to, due to the mansplaining fatigue, as well as the lack of skill on his part. I left the studio feeling angry, defeated, and oddly embarrassed. I felt myself second guessing my own artistry, which a few hours before I had been steadfastly sure of.

I wish I had some big take away or lesson learned to offer, but it just made me feel weird and sad. I wish that instead of me having to "learn" how to better deal with shitty men in the workplace, men could just... be less shitty.