Furor over jazz sexism (continues)

Kitty Margolis, Bay Area jazz singer, Facebook and in-person friend, fired up followers re guest blogger Paul Lindemeyer’s comments on jazz’s historic bias towards men, which I contextualized with reference to Michelle Obama’s White House jazz night. Here’s what Kitty’s people wrote (names obscured except for her own and Alfonso’s — they ask to be id’d) — 

Kitty 8:42 pm Tuesday: 

Massive kudos to Michelle Obama for her inspiring and
personal introduction of Jazz music at the White House. As for this Paul
Lindemeyer nimrod, I’d like to individually and assertively wipe the floor with
his sorry, sexist ass on the bandstand of his choosing.

[HM: Nimrod, in its derogatory sense, is traced to Bugs Bunny’s charicaterization of Elmer Fudd)

A_M_ (woman’s name) at 9:25pm June 23

Yeah, sucks to be a woman. I so envy men, not only for their
phalli but for their “expressiveness,” “individuality” and
“that combination of proficiency and assertiveness we call
‘prowess.'” Thank you, whatsyername, for defining what I lack so clearly.

S_S_(man’s name) at 9:57pm June 23

That Paul guy’s essay on jazz encapsulates every reason I
drifted into playing everything but jazz. The (largely male) company was
dreadful! I met more Bill O’Reilly fans playing jazz than I did playing
country! The individualist ethos is not the perfect expression of jazz; it’s
just the dominant one.

Kitty Margolis at 10:02pm June 23

Surely this profound thinker had in mind lily-livered
shrinking violets such as Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Mary Lou WIlliams, Bessie
Smith, Melba Liston, Anita O’Day, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Teri Lynne Carrington,
Carla Bley, Marian McPartland, Cindy Blackman, Regina Carter, Allison Miller
and Ella Fitgerald. Clearly they could never hold their own with someone with a
Y chromosome like…what was his name again?

Alfonso Montuori at 1:32am June 24

If this is his definition of jazz, and if he plays his horn
the way he writes, it’s not surprising it’s uncool. It’s over for jazz as a
boy’s club of grumpy old men. What jazz needs is more women, not less. More
diversity, not less. Cutting contests? Sure. But with a tight, supportive
rhythm section, not a bunch of flailing fools. The individuality… Read More
is always tempered by community–it’s unity in diversity, women AND men, black
AND white (and brown and beige and…) not either/or. In the meantime, it must
be Lonely at the Top for the (multi-) talented Mr. Lindermeyer…

Alfonso Montuori at 1:35am June 24

Go Kat Go!

And bravo, Howard Mandel:

 “Isn’t Mrs. Obama sending a straight-out message that
jazz is back — enjoyable, relevant, hip, not Black and White but American
multi-culti? Is the “helping, communitarian ethic” that might be as
characteristic of jazz as it is of Barack Obama’s overall governing approach
read as essentially feminine or has jazz turned it macho? Could powerful women
such as Michelle and cool cats like Barack lead the populace back to

 Hell yeah!


Kitty Margolis at 2:21am June 24

I leave home for a few hours and you guys are having a jam
session on my page. Love it. Bottom line: this exclusionary paradigm is dying
and the people that were at the top of the food chain have the farthest to
fall. Be afraid, Lindermeyer, be very afraid. The ladies are lining up to take
a few choruses in your cuttin’ contest and our chops are ferocious.

K_ G_ (woman’s name) at 4:25pm June 24

Kudo’s to Michelle and to Kitty. This guy’s head is so far
up is own *** that he will never get what jazz really is all about. This is the
exact mindset that keeps me at the microphone preaching the word.


L_ B_ (could be man OR woman’s name) at 1:38am June 24

Dizzy Gillespie reminded us all often that there’s room
under the tent for EVERYONE.

I do have very little patience for people who think THEY
have “the word” be it about music, religion or politics. That includes musicians who play music that is “too
cool for school” who grumpily complain that people who play sets that
people enjoy get “all the gigs”.

HM: Yeah, it’s a big tent, there’s music for everyone, music by everyone, now let’s chill out. Here’s the new (?) rule: Further discussion by argument, not villification ONLY. (Or is that not what Facebook is about?)

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  1. says

    When we see Facebook style comments in a different context such as this more academic setting with its longer comment format, those statements seem informal, less crafted and might come off as not as intelligent and thoughtful. Facebook brings out the snarkiness in groups of friends and that can be what’s fun about it.
    IMO, the biggest problem with your blogger’s stance is that he isn’t really addressing “jazz’s historic bias towards men”, he is standing behind that bias wholeheartedly with his list pseudo-scientific list of reasons women just aren’t cut out to play it. His reasoning is so silly it almost doesn’t deserve the electrons we’re spending on it.
    Try this: Substitute some other group’s name in this argument (say an ethnic minority) and see how it reads. I think that’s the reason people’s buttons got pushed.
    HM: I’m not trying to fan any flames, and Kitty, your point about the different mediums making the comments look different IS relevant. I haven’t heard from Paul about any reaction to these reactions, but if I do I’ll post his comment. I first came upon his writing, by the way, because it was a comment on my blog posting — I haven’t met him or talked with him, but thought his comments deserved airing, and that people would be interested, as turns out to be true.

  2. says

    One big problem with Lindemeyer’s piece is that it’s based on a lot of half-baked pseudo-science. A few years ago everyone was talking about women’s math deficiency in connection with the Lawrence Summers affair.
    And, well, lo and behold, a few years later and it looks as if that “deficiency” isn’t biological at all. Better to drop the “science” and just speculate on your own account.
    For instance: I’d speculate that there are fewer women in jazz audiences because women aren’t as likely to pretend to like something just because they’re supposed to. A great many of those male jazz fans are posing, and women must have something better to do than to listen to and pretend to enjoy content-less cutting contests or obligatory drum solos.
    The question isn’t why are there so few women in the audience. The question is “Why is there anyone there at all?”
    HM: You don’t like (good) drum solos?

  3. Matt Waldman says

    It’s clear Mr. Lindemeyer is writing from his life experience. Unfortunately, his commentary makes his experience appear rather limited or a lot of it just flew over his head. I’ll also hold out hope that he’s better with notes and phrases than he is with words and sentences.
    Sure, societal factors dissuaded some women from making Jazz their life and historically, jazz was more male-dominated because our society frowned upon equal rights for women. However, society evolved.
    Jazz doesn’t require a feminine approach any more than it requires a masculine approach. Sometimes these perspectives add to the medium, but it comes down to artistry and technique, which is not specific to gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.
    Maybe Mr. Lindemeyer was trying to express that sociological factors dissuaded women from performing jazz more than it did men. Anecdotally speaking, I can see some validity. However, It appears he was saying it wasn’t environment as much as genetics and I couldn’t disagree more.

  4. Bud Spangler says

    Since I initially read Mr. Lindemeyer’s comments on the 26th, several people have covered the ground I planned to discuss.I still have to ask if his pseudo intellectual language is intended to say that women can’t or shouldn’t play jazz. It’s hard to believe that anyone is still entertaining that kind of backwards attitude in 2009. It simply isn’t true and it never was. Paul, I invite you to consider this very partial list of women in jazz that begins in the ’20s. I purposely omitted most vocalists, even though many singers are also excellent instrumentalists and composer/arrangers. All of the great singers also use their voices with as much facility as an improvising instrumentalist. However a serious discussion of the contributions of women vocalists deserves a significant space of it’s own.
    Here you go: Lil Armstrong, Renee Rosnes, Maria Schneider, Virginia Mayhew, Terry Pollard, Dorothy Ashby, Ali Ryerson, Mary Fettig (who toured with the Kenton band), Mimi Fox, JoAnne Brakeen, Ingrid Jensen, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Geri Allen, Lynn Arriale,Patti Bown, Alice Coltrane, Sylvia Cuenca, Barbara Dennerlein, Elaine Elias, Katie Cavera, Anita Thomas, Dorothy Donnegan, Carol Kaye, Tania Maria, Regina Carter, Mary Lou Williams, Jessica Williams, Esperanza Spalding, Melba Liston, Cindy Blackman, Terri Lynn Carrington, Allison Miller, Marian McPartland, Myra Melford and many, many more, including at least a dozen resident musicians whose names may not be familiar to you.
    I can also report that at least 50% of the club and concert goers in the greater Bay Area are women, and KCSM, our 24/7 Jazz station is staffed by 50% women, including the General Manager, the Program Director, the Development Director and the Operations manager. After 50+ years as a jazz drummer, producer, and radio host I’m well aware that men and wormen often have different tastes in jazz…just like Detroiters and San Franciscans have.
    Food for thought? If so, Eat hearty.
    Frankly, Mr. Mandel, I have long enjoyed and respected your work, but your comment to Ms. Margolis that Mr. Lindemeyers’s blatantly sexist remarks “deserved airing” struck me as a little disingenuous. Naturally, it had the effect of stirring the discussion pot, but nothing he said added value or even veracity. I enjoyed no enlightenment or enrichment. If a writer says something similar about Jews, African-Americans, Homosexuals,or Disabled instead of Women, would that person also deserve an airing?
    Yours Truly,
    Bud Spangler, Oakland, Ca.
    HM: Dear Mr. Spangler, I must admit Mr. Lindemeyer’s comments didn’t strike me as blatantly sexist; if they had I wouldn’t have published them. I thought he was earnestly trying to confront the bias in jazz that has kept many women from involving themselves in the art form. The basis of that bias remains to be discussed and explained. I thought Lindemeyer made an attempt to point out or reiterate some possible reasons women are at least perceived to be less involved, less welcome in the music than men, without justifying them as “good reasons.” I was sceptical of some of his analysis, specifically the gender-identification of individualism, etc. He didn’t deny that there have been some very talented women in jazz, among them those you mention.
    But read the jazz magazines, with almost all writing by men about men for younger men, or look at the best known blogs and see who’s writing about music. Consider that Lindemeyer’s efforts were stimulated by a woman asking why women weren’t more prevalent in jazz audiences (at live events, such as clubs — not in radio audiences). Did I want to stir the pot on this discussion — well, yes, because it seems like a hot topic, one neither men nor women who like jazz should shy from. Noting differences among people and different peoples’ different participations in accessible activities does not in itself, I don’t believe, demonstrate discriminatory or prejudiced attitudes.

  5. Paul Lindemeyer says

    “Facebook style” or not (I wasn’t even on FB at the time I wrote, tho I am now), I obviously reckoned without the sensitivities of the jazz community when I posted.
    My basic reaction is than any of you who concluded I wanted to SUPPORT or ARGUE FOR any sexist, masculinist, essentialist, genetic bullpucky in regards to who plays or listens to jazz is either reacting first, thinking later, or itching for a fight I have no intention of joining. Anyone who wants to wipe a stand with my ass, have at it; it’s going to be a one-sided contest.
    Thank you all for the crash course in real-world artistic/political debate. You’re all busy, serious people, and I shouldn’t have presumed to waste your time playing devil’s advocate or setting up strawmen in a context so loaded that one should say only what one believes, then STFU.
    As for what I believe: There ought to be less sexism in jazz – all jazz – but if we want to really address it we’re going to have to confront some uncomfortable prejudices, some of them our very own.
    That’s all I have to say.