I increasingly find myself talking about gender. The issues about gender pay-gaps, equality and discrimination seem to be topical in my musical life as well as my sporting and travelling life. For example, I'm involved in the recently created Society of Women Organists which was formed to promote women in this drastically male world. Reception to the new society hasn't been wholly positive - some men have reacted negatively, I speculate (because I don't know), but I would guess this is because we are criticising the status quo, pointing out the inequality in the age-old world of church music. No-one likes to be told that they are wrong. I think this is where anti-vegan reactions come from too.
This isn't confined to the music profession either. My canoe and kayak club runs women only nights which were set up during the launch of the #thisgirlcan initiative, which aims to encourage more women and girls to participate in sports. Men sometimes don't see why a female-only space is necessary, as is the case with Girls that Scuba - the clue is in the name. Male divers have questioned why there needs to be a group excluding them, but if nothing else, do they really want to hear about how to manage periods on a liveaboard or which wetsuit brands account for women having breasts?
I was recently asked to write about how I had ended up being an organist. It was largely down to having exceptional female role models. As well as having a female choir master as a teenager and a female organ teacher during my A levels, my Grandma, who sadly died this year, was a strong influence on me and the overall atmosphere of the family. She was one of the first women to be ordained a priest in the Church of England. She did things that women weren't supposed to do - and she made it look normal. I grew up not realising that there were some things that girls didn't do. Maybe they just hadn't done them yet. Which brings me to Dorothy Wordsworth.
Born on Christmas Day in 1771, Dorothy was an exceptional walker and writer. Her poet brother William regularly used her detailed diary accounts for inspiration for his poetry. The amount and scope of Dorothy's walking habits was criticised by her relatives for not being socially acceptable, to which Dorothy writes:
"I rather thought it would give my friends pleasure to hear that I had courage to make use of the strength with which nature has endowed me, when it not only procured me infinitely more pleasure than I should have received from sitting in a post-chaise – but was also the means of saving me at least thirty shillings."
So, the moral of the story? If you want to do a thing, go ahead. Figure out a way around the obstacles. Provide space for everyone to try their thing, maybe sometimes that's a single-gender space. Lift each other up and be kind.
Have you had experiences similar to mine? Let me know, comment below.