This is Part II of the on-going series by rocker Freya Wilcox on her experience as a female musician in the alternative music scene. You can read Part I here.
By Freya Wilcox
Let’s start with something light-hearted.
While I would love to begin this journey by dragging you through my experiences at the hands of aggressively sexist and/or flirtatious men who either want to possess or destroy the screamy girl that they don’t quite understand, I don’t want to jump straight into an us vs. them conversation that gives their behavior too much priority. Men can be shits in this industry, but we’ll get to it.
What I want to talk about is how much of an experiential disparity exists between the lives of men and women on the road, or at least men and this woman, whose self-care routine is marginal in comparison to most.
I will address this properly in a later post, but I do want to caveat what is to come by saying yes, there is a significant amount of pressure to conform to twisted beauty standard when you’re a woman in ANY spotlight, and in my experience, people are most compelled to buy your records when they’ve just come to the conclusion that they’d like to fuck your brains out. The thing is, while I do take advantage of this detail often, my own "beauty" routine is not for drunk guys in bars, it’s for me.
My dark eyes, wild hair, and torn clothes are my armor - they make me feel strong, and when you’re in strange places, surrounded by people you don’t know or trust, that armor could be the difference between a good night and an awful one. Basically, I don’t wanna catch any shit for adhering to societal pressure or some barely-existent stereotype, I’m using my body the way I want to, and you can do as you like with yours.
1. The Razor's Edge
We'll start with shaving. Jesus, who the fuck likes shaving? You know what’s worse than having to remember to spend ten minutes every day ridding yourself of body hair that most likely no-one is ever going to see? Trying not to cut yourself while navigating a series awkward showers, and rushing, because you know, there are four dudes who need to have a wank in there after you.
Last tour I took a strip of skin 3” long off my ankle in a clean sweep and bled into my boots for a couple of hours. The guys cut themselves shaving, too, sometimes, but that’s mostly nicks smaller than any pimple I’ve been lucky enough to sport. Sadly, my male counterparts will probably fail to understand the wave of fear and remorse that washes over you when you CUT YOUR GENITALS SHAVING, too. Christ.
2. Sexy Time
Now actually, back to the wanking part. Traveling with men, you’re pretty aware of the fact that they’re having their "special self time" pretty often. It’s probably a good thing since it’s stressful being stuck in a metal fart-box together all day, but the pain point is while they can get through an entire pornographic fantasy with a faceless blonde girl in about 3 minutes, I don’t have 20 minutes to spare waiting for Olivia Wilde to get to the part where she puts her hands in my Levi’s. Between traveling, playing, and sleeping in a bed with a bunch of dudes, there’s actually no good time to do the dirty, and despite the collective burgeoning frustration, it’s not really a sexy situation. Yes, I know we’re not meant to talk about female masturbation, but it's a pitfall if I ever saw one.
3. Painting the Flesh
Now let’s talk about something that shouldn’t disqualify me from future employment. Wanna experience makeup on tour? Try writing on your eyelid in the back of a van on a rough road, your only reference point a mirror the size of a quarter; then see if how you go blending eye shadow when you’re pouring with sweat in said van while doing vocal warm-ups after carrying a bunch of 50-pound amps up and down stairs.
Guess what? You’re going to fuck it up. A lot.
Luckily, now that I’ve had eyeliner on just about every part of my face, I’m like, really amazing at doing my makeup on the run. I’m a goddamn smoke-eyed ninja; it takes about thirty seconds for me to get a face on and make sure it says, "talk to the other guys, I’m mean." This isn’t precision work, it’s rock’n’roll, and it’s just ONE MORE THING to do each day that my bandmates will never have to worry about. What they DO have to worry about is me coming at them with the facial cleansing wipes at night, but life could be worse.
4. Personal Safety
Actually, on a more serious note, touring as a female musician–especially one who is gay as pink suede–does present a whole lot of its own safety concerns. To begin with, I rarely play a bar without getting hit on by two or three dudes who think they might just be the one for me. It’s mostly harmless and I know that for the most part it comes from an admiration for my music and onstage performance, but we already know that the "not all men" argument is flawed, and there is a very real risk of assault in any venue, in any state, at any time.
Some of my very best friends have been sexually assaulted on the road, and given the vulnerability you wear when you put yourself on a stage, sweating and drinking in a strange place with strange people, staying in strange houses, it’s sadly no surprise.
At this point I’ve dealt with a lot of seedy men (old guys especially LOVE me), and I normally have a pretty high success rate just walking away or even physically moving a dude out of my personal space, but you are constantly aware of the risk that you could disappear all too easily.
There certainly is an upside here, which is that despite being a gay woman (a detail that is often ignored), a lot of men like and identify with me and my music, but the thing is, you never know, and it makes me crazy sad to think that this particular aspect of my life would be SO different (and so much less terrifying) if I was a man.
On top of it all, I’m strong, scowly, decked in leather, and surrounded by men who not only don’t let me out of their sight, but would never hesitate to fight tooth and nail for me; I can’t even imagine how much riskier this experience must be for "girlier" girls, especially on the road alone. My recommendation - learn how to fight dirty, stand tall, be vigilant, and get yourself some big ass boots.
5. Period Stuff
Okay, one final (lighter) note and I’ll stop making you all grossed out and sad…
Tampon swarms will take over your life if you let them.
I don’t know if this is a thing for anyone else or just me, but one day you’ve got a box of tampons in your bag, the next the box has miraculously disappeared and you find yourself digging through tampons to retrieve your possessions for the rest of your life. You’ll start finding escapees in the van and someone’s going to remember that women bleed and freak out if you let too many get free. Keep your tampons restrained and your tour life will be better, you’ll know where to find them, your bandmates won’t have to wonder what they’re for, and once they’re all together they make an excellent hiding spot for… well, whatever you’re hiding. I ain’t judging.
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