“She’s my favourite female artist!”
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. International Women’s Day. I won’t name the BBC radio DJ who uttered this classic piece of patronising tosh live on air last Saturday night. My inbox has been deluged with female fronted masterclasses, women only playlists, tributes to women composers, in fact every form of tokenism you can think of.
Oh but, I hear you say, isn’t it good that female artists are getting a smidgeon of attention? Shouldn’t we all just be grateful for what we are given? Grateful for one day. Out of three hundred and sixty five. Not only that, it seems that even on International Women’s Day we don’t seem to be capable of refraining from making value judgements on art based solely on the gender of its creator.
On the live circuit it’s even worse. It doesn’t seem to matter which country you play in, there is a universal assumption that if you are caught near a stage in possession of a pair of tits you must be either a) someone’s girlfriend, b) someone’s assistant or c) intent on sleeping with someone else’s boyfriend. If I had a pound for every astonished man congratulating me on being able to play my own musical instruments after a show, I could have retired twenty years ago.
This is even more maddening for me as I actually identify as agender, although I’m painfully aware that society at large has me pegged as a woman. I knew something was up when I was turned away from the Scouts aged seven. Fast forward a decade to my university Physics lectures and I became one of only a select few students with boobs. Evidently I “think like a man, but look like a woman.” I’m still not sure whether this is meant to be a compliment, or indeed what it actually means.
We are all so intent on putting people into boxes. I’ve often wondered what this compulsive categorisation is all about, but now I understand that it is about power. Labelling a being gives you the power to make assumptions about it, the ability to reassure yourself that you know how to react to it, how to survive in a hostile world.
Yet nature’s true beauty is its ability to create an infinite variety of forms from incredibly simple fundamental rules. From the glittering crystals of a shattered geode to the glorious symmetry of a tree, all that complexity is underpinned by the inexorable geometry of fractals.
Simpler still, the first law of thermodynamics is the closest I have ever come to appreciating religion. There is a great comfort in the idea that none of the energy in the universe is ever wasted, just changed from one form into another. Death is merely the doorway to another form of being.
Deep down, all of us are the same. I hope I live to see a world where we are all celebrated for who we are, rather than the boxes we can tick.
PS If you’d like to read and listen to some of my work you can check it out here.