Girls Behind The Rock Show: A year in attempting to fight sexism in music


About a year ago, a friend of mine and I decided to start a company called Girls Behind The Rock Show. We catered it towards high school and college-aged girls who wanted to work in music. The goal was to raise money to help girls get internships who were both in and out of school. We worked really hard to get everything together, but as the year went on I started figuring out just how improbable our cause was.

In the beginning, the company started out extremely strong. We had a lot of push and a lot of people speaking out for us. I was extremely excited. My parents gave me a bit of seed money, I took care of all the proper incorporation and tax refund issues with it, and bought flights to Texas for our contest with So What?! Music Festival. At first, I didn’t realize the opposition this cause was going to have with all the support surrounding it. I didn’t realize that not only would I be fighting against the small town players, but that the big time scene companies didn’t want anything to do with us.

After So What?! my then business partner and I started planning for what was next. I tried to work with a popular publication but was told that they “have women on [their] staff so [they] aren’t part of the problem.” I was also told that they were wary to work with us for fear of who we might work with in the future—specifically Front Porch Step.

I was completely floored. After, any remaining relationships I had there seemed to slowly dwindle. While there were a lot of supportive people remaining, any big difference we were looking to make seemed to completely halt. I remember sobbing over it because I was just trying to make a difference. It was around this time that things with my business partner also started to unravel. I wasn’t looking for a job because I had gotten one with a member of the aforementioned publication’s staff as a personal assistant, but he slowly just stopped speaking to me. It was terrifying; I had a budget and a plan for Warped Tour that completely fell through once my business partner refused to even try to do it. I had nothing. Throughout this time I was also left homeless. My business partner and I ended up no longer speaking, and even though we attempted multiple times to keep her in the business, it just wouldn’t work.

Read more: Good Girls, Bad Guys: Our scene has a serious misogyny problem, and it’s time to address it

So here I was, most of my relationships destroyed, the message I was trying to convey no longer being supported by pretty much anyone who was behind me in the beginning, and living out of my car in Los Angeles. By the end of August I was ready to shut down the company, give up and go back home to Ohio. Maybe it was the Coyote Ugly marathon I had, or maybe it was the fact that I just really fucking hate Ohio, but I didn’t do it. A friend offered me a couch, I got a new job, and I officially started looking for girls with the right mindset to restart Girls Behind The Rock Show. As of now, we are going to be rolling out a ton of content in the month of December, will have new merch available, and we’ll be returning to So What?! Music Fest in the spring.

But what I’m most proud of is the young women who are helping me fight this ridiculously difficult fight. Everywhere I’ve looked to gain help, I’ve found none. There are people who want to work with us because it’ll look good for them. There are people who started using me to get girls to do free work. There are people who told me that my cause isn’t one “of importance” compared to other causes going on in music.

What’s scariest about this—and what’s terrifying about calling out people who did mistreat my company—is that women who work in music are treated as less every day. They go into offices primarily led by men, where they do just as much work, and aren’t held to positions of power. Even some of the best companies and people I know “bro out” and have guys running things while there’s a girl working her ass off practically doing the same job for less pay.

I’m not writing this to whine, or to tell you all that you need to “be nicer.” I write this as a message. We have the right to music just as much as men do. We have the right to work around it, love it, want to party for it, to live it, to breathe it, and to own it. We make up 50 percent or more of all attendees at the average music festival or show. We work just as hard, and we bite our tongues. We keep our hands to OURSELVES and we support each other.

Read more: Speak Up, Speak Out: 3 easy ways to make our scene safer and more inclusive

The women who work in music don’t do it because they want to be cool. We work in music—we put up with the bullshit of being a woman in music—because we love it. It’s a pure, unadulterated love from every woman I have ever seen work in the industry. Ask about their favorite band, they’ll talk to you for hours. Ask them to support their friends? They’re on it.

I’ve seen the good and bad in a lot of people in this industry. But the true fight comes in when people stop seeing sexism as one subject, but as a a giant web with many different paths to be taken. There are so many things to fight against. We can spend time calling out people, and we can show men that they can’t just get away with things, but there’s a point where we have to get off our keyboards and start demanding the respect we rightfully already own. When I think of all the horror stories of nasty comments, getting fired for being hit on, being ignored, being warned about “fangirling,” I get sick.

I get angry that all these women have put up with all these things for so long, and still we don’t fight. We don’t tell people off; we stay quiet and we bite our tongues. I’ve had people message me asking me to take things down because they might get in trouble at work for speaking out. It’s sad—it breaks my heart—but also it angers me. It angers me that while we preach a safer scene, we don’t fight to make the workplace safe for the people creating that safer scene.

For me, Girls Behind The Rock Show isn’t something that I started because I wanted to be involved. It was something I created as a result of the poor experiences stacking upon each other that I’ve noticed while being involved. As a woman who has wanted to work in music—as someone who has gotten in trouble at a job for talking with a band about football—I hurt. I hurt for this scene, for music at large, but mostly I hurt because of the necessity that is Girls Behind The Rock Show.