Women’s rights have been at issue in some form or another since the inception of our country. Whether it is the right to vote, to serve in combat, or to receive equal pay, the fight for gender equality has been around for a long time and I don’t suspect will be going away any time soon.
But recent, and very public, announcements of illegal and immoral behavior by some in the public eye have emotions running high on the subject. And rightfully so!
To be clear, I have little standing on this topic. Being a 50 year old white male, and no threat to unseat George Clooney as the world’s handsomest man, has had me squarely in the majority my entire life. In fact, my demographic profile has me far likelier to be the transgressor than the victim.
What made these men behave in such awful ways? Was it power, vanity, arrogance, stupidity? Was there no fear of accountability or recrimination? Were they never taught the value of human life regardless of race, color, creed, or GENDER? More over, do they not have spouses, mothers, or daughters?
One of the relatively unique benefits of music education is that it not only gives all students opportunities to lead, but perhaps even more importantly to be lead by people very different than themselves.
In particular, I am speaking of women. While I have no empirical evidence, my anecdotal and experiential data suggests that in high school music ensembles, females hold a disproportionately high level of leadership positions.
Statistically speaking, virtually every student growing up in America today will have a female teacher, instructor, or administrator. But, will they have the opportunity be led by one of their female peers? Will they have the chance to see themselves as a subordinate to a strong and capable women? Will they see that gender has nothing to do with one’s ability to lead? For many students outside of music, the answer is likely no.
In sports? No, those activities are typically separated by gender. In academics? Not likely. Academics are more of an individual pursuit. Student council? Perhaps, but I am not convinced it is really leadership that is happening there. Work? Definitely possible, but studies show that fewer and fewer students are taking on part time jobs. Where will young people gain these valuable experiences to lead and be lead by a diverse group of people?
During the teen years, in which norms and behaviors are being established, music provides one of the very few opportunities for students to not only lead but to be led by people very different than themselves. Whether it is leading from a higher part, higher ensemble, or higher position, music provides students with very real experiences both receiving and delivering leadership to others very different from themselves, including women. I can’t help but believe that it is has to have some impact on how people learn to lead and how to be led.
Keep in mind, this is not to say that those who do not participate in music are misogynistic misanthropes. I am simply pointing out that those who are these things probably weren’t involved in music.
Something to think and talk about.