RMM: What are your dislikes, either musically, or in the music industry, or even in real life?
LO: Oh boy. Dislikes. In typing out this answer, it kinda turned into an essay. Aren’t email interviews the best? Here we go.
As a woman making music and posting it on the internet, I’ve grown pretty weary of the different standards applied to men and women and the contrasting reactions to very similar products from both. The older I get, the less patience I have for it. I’ve put a lot of videos on YouTube over the years (which one could say is “asking for it”, but fuck that), and it’s unfortunately been pretty illuminating.
Sure, there are people who are trolling and say awful, sexist, sometimes violent things, which is inexcusable. Everyone knows this. What I’m more bothered by is the people who think they’re being complimentary, or at least neutral. It’s mostly comments about my appearance. When I’ve put so much work into this song and video, arranging and playing these parts, mixing and mastering this song, it blows my mind that anyone can think it’s appropriate or relevant to talk about my hair, or weigh in on which of my outfits was the cutest. Tell me the vocals were too loud. Tell me the bassline sucks. Tell me you loved/hated the song and you don’t know why. The visual element can matter, sure. Watching someone perform and be expressive can affect your reaction to the song. But my hair? I’m trying to communicate something, and it has nothing to do with hair. To tell me that you walked away from my video thinking about hair is to tell me that I’ve failed.
But how can I change this? As a musician who is trying to present music to the world, it begins to feel like a lose-lose. How do I make all of this stuff not matter? Is there a way to dress on camera in order to not have people comment on my clothes or my body? My guess is no, but if there were, should I have to conform to that in order for my work to be front and center? It’s hard to know if I’ve succeeded with a message when it’s inevitably weighed down (or raised up, or dragged a thousand miles east or west) by something else that I never wanted to communicate at all.
If a woman desexualizes herself entirely, then that becomes the focus. If a guy is playing music in a hoodie or his pajamas, he’s down-to-earth and it’s awesome (no really, it probably is), but for a woman to dress in unflattering or frumpy clothes is for her to somehow spit in the face of the universe and its gifts (e.g., gossip magazines shaming Ellen Page for wearing sweatpants to the gym). The gifts imparted by the universe unto a woman, it is understood, are intended for the entire world and for her to hide them is selfish and ungrateful (unless of course she’s ugly, in which case a shapeless outfit represents the merciful gift of invisibility). The desexualized woman is either lowering herself or unworthy of interest in the first place.
I also hear from people saying that I should show my face and smile more. If you are my grandmother, this request is acceptable. If you are not my grandmother, I can only assume that you’ve never heard my music.
Then there is the assumption that women are incapable of (or uninterested in) anything requiring technical prowess. When I recorded an EP with my friend Nataly Dawn a few years ago, people were asking who produced it. We did. The recording process was transparent as we filmed it in our home studio, but some viewers assumed they were missing something. If you observe other examples of this video format (known as a “VideoSong”) on YouTube, this is not a question that men are asked. It is assumed, usually correctly, that it is a format for the DIY artist. Apparently DIY for two women just means that we did our own hair and makeup.
To be clear, the world has plenty of people who are listening to music intelligently and not perpetuating these issues. I’m fortunate enough to have many of them as fans. A lot of them do post thoughtful responses to my music on YouTube or on other forums. What’s more, I also try to remind myself that a large number of these listeners who “get it” are not people who comment on YouTube videos, so perhaps the observable ratio of relevant to irrelevant feedback does not represent people’s reactions on the whole. All of this gives me hope. Still, we have a problem.
In conclusion, I dislike that it’s difficult for a woman to have her work be valued as a separate entity from her appearance or sexuality. To be visible at all as a woman, it seems, is to encourage people to miss the point. None of this is news, obviously, but dammit, I dislike it.
Also olives. Never been a fan of those.
this is how you make a music video, by the way.
rob cantor - all i need is you