Why I’m Sick Of Hearing Complaints About Sexism In The Music Industry

I’ve written a guest blog for Female Arts Magazine! You can read it on their site or for your convenience, I am posting it here as well 🙂

LeeSun, still from Mother Dear music video
Do you think that by and large, in today’s modern enlightened society, we have got sexism pretty much in hand? Are you tired of hearing people complaining about inequality? I’m tired of all the complaining too. I really wish there was no need for it.

I’m not here to convince anyone that sexism is still woven through the fabric of our culture, and apparent in all industries, including the music industry of which I am a part. Because that is not up for argument. It is too blindingly obvious and if you are in denial of it, that is your issue, not mine.

The question is not whether sexism and inequality exist, but rather what is the best response?

Well, that’s really up to each individual to decide for themselves. But believe me, if you do not make a conscious effort to be aware of the situation, and make a conscious decision on how you will respond, you will have it decided for you, by the media, by people with an agenda, by organisations and corporations who will feed you ideas and assumptions based on what is most profitable for them, and not what is best for you.

So what is the situation in the music industry? What are the signs that all is not okay?

Why does Annie Mac, talented electronic dance music DJ and TV presenter, feel the need to say, “Stop Asking Me Questions About Being A Woman“?

And why does Clara 3000, another talented DJ, have to say, “I’m not a girl DJ, I’m a DJ“?

Why does Charlotte Church, whose beautiful singing came to worldwide attention with her debut album as an 11 year old, tell us in her BBC John Peel lecture that as a 19 and 20 year old, she came increasingly under pressure, usually by middle aged men, to wear outfits that were more revealing than she would like?

Josh at Crack In The Road (music blog) posted an image earlier this year of what the Leeds Reading Festival line up would look like if only bands with at least one female member were playing. There were only 9 acts on the entire poster. The image went viral. There was no message with the image, just the facts of what it was. People were shocked, angry, and very very defensive.

Josh followed up eloquently in a blog called “Where Are All The Women“. I would highly recommend reading this article.

At the end of the day, like Annie Mac, Clara 3000, and Charlotte Church, I just want to get on with the business of creating great music without being judged for being a woman, or treated like a novelty due to my gender, or pressured into marketing myself as a sexual object. And like Taylor Swift, I don’t want to be frequently treated as though the most important thing about me is the man I am dating. Like Adele, I do not want my weight to be a topic of public interest. Like, seriously? How many world class male musicians have to put up with this sort of nonsense?

I want to play at festivals where women are represented equally amongst the participants. I want to go to a music panel event, and find as many women on the panel as men. A world where an all female music industry panel is not a freak occurrence that only happens at the BBC 1Xtra Women In Music event. (Yes, I did attend that event this year, and yes, it’s the only music industry event I’ve ever attended with an all female panel.)

And this is bigger than the work I want to do, bigger than my musical projects. This is about longing to live in a world where there is no need for the Everyday Sexism Project. The sort of world where on a first date, an educated young man doesn’t think it is perfectly acceptable to try to compliment me by telling me that I am exactly what he needs at that moment, and that he bets I would give a really great blow job. Ew. A world where a woman’s main value is not linked to how well she serves the needs of men.

That’s the world I want to live in. And every song I write is a step into that world.

You can hear my upcoming single by clicking here.

It was featured on BBC Introducing Mixtape last weekend.  The show can be downloaded for free until 22nd December.

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How To Be A Better Parent

So I have a brand new vlog! My first vlog ever. It is called LeeSun, Truth Teller.

I began last Thursday, and so far have posted

1 How To Tell If Art Is Good
2 The Truth About Being Good Looking
3 How To Be A Better Parent

This vlogging business is a steep learning curve. At first I was horrified to see myself on video. But here I am, 3 days in, and I am actually starting to get used to it! Anyway, here is my post from today. And here is to exploring truth in this lovely way, and seeing what there is to discover!

BBC Introducing and Me

So yesterday, I was driving KO to kung fu, listening to BBC Leeds in the car, when in a surreal moment, Andrew Edwards started speaking to Kate Hardcastle (Insight With Passion) about me??!!! (“LeeSun, an artist whose track we played a few weeks ago”).

He went on to relay how he’d downloaded my song and I’d got in touch with him and offered to send him a bonus track. He called this “good customer relations, a new way of operating”. And Kate agreed, and said how one has to be “business savvy” now in the music industry!

Business savvy? Customer relations? More like expressing gratitude for a drink of water in the middle of a drought!!! It probably is very bad marketing to confess this, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have downloaded my music over the past 12 months. And I have the common number of digits on each of my hands.

When someone downloads my music, I feel such amazement, surprise, and gratitude, that I usually send an email gushing my thanks and offering more music for free. I’m not at all business savvy. I’ve just been working hard for quite a long time with very little acknowledgement from anyone other than myself. So the smallest gesture of appreciation touches me deeply. I will remember these small gestures for the rest of my life … how a few very special people encouraged me when I most needed it!

Here’s yesterday’s show, containing the most startling and surreal moment of my music career so far — turning on the radio and by chance, hearing someone talking about me??!:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02j8byk

Anyway, so much has been going on since I last posted on here.

MILESTONE: I did a radio session on Michelle Dalgety’s Yorkshire Music Collective Show on BCB Radio.(My first radio session ever!)

MILESTONE: I also did a session on Alan Raw’s BBC Introducing show. The remarkable Toby Noble played guitar for me for both of those sessions. (My first BBC radio session ever!)

And I’ve been working on recording the new album with Si McGrath at Eiger Studios with a few sessions here and there each month since last August. Finding time when 1) Eiger is not booked 2) Si has time 3) I have time is a bit like mining for gold. It is a challenge! But we’ve been persevering, and we’re nearly finished 19 tracks!!!!!!

The trickiest part, for me, is letting go of a track, saying, “Okay that’s done, I don’t need to do any more work on that.”

MILESTONE: Last week, I said that, with great reluctance, pain, and exhilaration, for THE FIRST TRACK to be signed off for mixing!!!! It’s “Mother Dear” which Toby and I attempted at 3 different recording sessions before I finally got a take I was happy with. That happened in November. And then came the task of getting children into the studio to sing on the track. And that happened earlier this month, over spring break!! So …

MILESTONE: Recorded a children’s choir on one of my songs!!!!

The track is sounding SO CLOSE to how I imagined it when I wrote it. It is incredibly weird to hear it, this thing that was born inside me, and is now alive and kicking in the real world. This is the closest I’ve ever come to producing a bit of music that sounds like how I imagined.

But I digress from the original topic. What I REALLY want to say is, THANK YOU BBC INTRODUCING. You are an oasis in a desert, a morsel of sustenance in a famine, and I am so grateful for all you do, for all the risks you take, to champion new music.

Clarity Comes From Doing and Non-Doing

 

[You can listen to the audio recording of this post if you prefer. Just click on the big PLAY button on above!]

Marie Forleo says something like, “Clarity comes from doing, not thinking.” And I really like this idea because it is so easy to get stuck and you cannot get unstuck unless you actually do something. So this idea that you don’t need to have clarity in order to do stuff, you can just go ahead and try things and find clarity, is a really interesting idea to me.

But like all of these things, where you have a concept that rings true in certain situations and can be really really helpful when you realise them at a specific moment when you need that particular concept, it’s also NOT USEFUL or relevant in lots of contexts. And those would be the times when you actually need to do the OPPOSITE of act, when you actually need to NOT act in order to find clarity.

So I guess what I’m saying is, sometimes clarity comes from doing not thinking, and sometimes clarity comes from non-doing and also not thinking.

 

Clarit does not come from thinking

Whichever way you go at it, I agree that clarity does not come from thinking. Because thinking is about control and if you’re trying to control something you’ve got an agenda there and you’re biased. You can’t be open in the way that you need if you want clarity.

So why am I talking about this right now? Well, I’ve been having a pretty rough time lately.  And it’s not due to anything going particularly wrong in any area of my life. Like, my ebay business is going fine, and I’m writing songs, and I’m generating new material, I’m creating stuff which is what I get my joy from. And so that’s all good.

But I’ve been struggling with the amount of chaos in my life. And what that looks like is a really messy house. Now this is not a new thing. I’ve struggled with mess around me for as long as I can remember. And it’s something that I feel like I’m gradually getting better at.

I believe that ANY skill can be learned and I believe that I can learn to be tidy. However, I’ve got to find a way to do it that is congruent with who I am. So I can try to be super-focussed and really disciplined and I can say, This is something I really need to do today. That is it. I am going to draw a line in the sand and this mess is going no further.” I can do that but that is probably not going to be very effective for me.

So I guess the ongoing struggle for me is finding a way to bring order out of this chaos.

When I woke up this morning, I knew that there was a lot of chaos awaiting me downstairs. The chaos level isn’t always the same. It varies. Sometimes I do tame one little section of the room. Sometimes I actually tame an entire level of the house. That’s not super often! But generally if I’m going to have a party, or a load of people over, or if I have some really strong social motivation to do that, I will suddenly find myself amazingly capable of tidying up at an incredibly fast speed.

So sometimes my house is very tidy (ish). But when that’s not the case there’s a sort of natural deterioration into chaos that happens kind of gradually, or sometimes remarkably quickly, where I can create an incredible amount of mess in a very very short space of time. Which kind of reminds me of what very young children naturally do. They just create mess as they go along. And in a way I guess I’m quite child-like in that respect and I just haven’t learned those skills yet that would get my place tidy and maintain it at that level. But anyway, it’s really boring to talk about ways in which I’m stuck. It’s a lot more exciting to talk about ways that I can become unstuck!

So I woke up this morning and I just knew that the first thing I needed to do today to get back on track was to do a meditation. Mindfulness meditation is something that I feel quite passionate about. It’s something that I started last year and when I began doing it I had some incredible profound experiences. So even though that doesn’t happen for me every time I meditate, knowing that meditation can lead to that kind of growth keeps me passionate about it.

So this morning when I woke up, I knew that I had to do a meditation. But for some reason, instead of coming downstairs and meditating, I just stayed in bed. And I picked up my phone and started playing Sudoku on it. And I kind of rationalised this. I thought, “Oh well this is a good way to warm up my brain.” Which … I don’t know. Maybe it is.  But really, I was just procrastinating. So I played a couple of games of Sudoku.

And after that, I thought, “Well, I really should go meditate.” But that was a deadly thought for me because I am not motivated by thinking that I should go do something. I should never have paused to think that thought. I should’ve just come downstairs and done the meditation. Either that, or if I was going to stop and actually think about something, I should’ve just imagined myself doing it. That kind of visioning exercise is motivating for me.

So anyway, I chose to do the thing that was going to make me procrastinate more and that is, I thought to myself, “I should go downstairs and meditate.” Instead of doing that, I started playing a Snake game on my mobile phone which was not a brain warm-up in any way. It’s just a game where you move a snake around collecting little balls and the aim is to collect as many as you can without running into yourself (because the snake gets longer and longer as you go along). So it’s a fairly banal sort of game. I did that for … I don’t know … I think I played 3 games … maybe. And I’m pretty good at it. So that took … probably awhile. I don’t even know how long. Maybe 20 minutes. And then I looked at the time and it was 9:30. So at that point, just seeing the time on my phone made me get out of bed and come downstairs and do the meditation.

In order to tame the chaos

It’s been a long time since I have meditated. And this has been hugely unhelpful to me. This is actually directly linked to the amount of chaos in my life because in order to tame the chaos, I need to start by being still and doing nothing and finding clarity.

I know from experience that if I meditate every single day, first thing in the morning, whether that’s 10 minutes or 20 minutes or 40 minutes, it has an incredible impact on my day, on my week, on my month, on everything. I know this.

But the problem is that since I know that, I’m very tempted to think, “I should meditate.” And like I said, that is the worst thing that I could possibly think. So I need to find an approach to meditation that doesn’t involve my thinking that that is something that I should do.

One thing that I’ve learned is that if I want to implement something into my daily routine in a consistent sort of way, well first of all, the first thing I’ve learned is that that’s almost impossible for me. However, I know that I’ve got to MAKE IT POSSIBLE if I’m going to be the person that I want to be, and if I want to achieve the things that I want to achieve, if I’m want to do the things that I want to do.

So knowing that it’s important for me to be meditating every day, I need to find a way to really enjoy the meditation and also to love doing the meditation. And I need to use my imagination to conjure up these associations which are going to compel me to meditate.

And at the end of the day, for me, if I look at anything that is really good for me, that I really need to be doing, those things always turn out to be an expression of love for myself, a way that I can love myself. For me, those things go hand in hand. What’s good for me can always be viewed as an expression of love for myself. And that’s what motivates me. That’s what I need to tap into.

So anyway, I eventually came downstairs and did the meditation.  I haven’t meditated since the 4th of June. I know this because on my calendar, I circle the dates when I do a meditation and exercise. So this means that it’s been 2 weeks since I have done any exercise or meditating. Before that, it was probably another 2 weeks. So my mind is in really bad shape at the moment. I was using a guided meditation by John Kabat-Zinn called “sitting meditation” which is a 40 minute sitting meditation. And my mind kept going all over the place. And that’s okay. It’s just a reflection that I haven’t been training my mind.

So my mind was going all over the place, and I kept doing what you do when you do mindfulness meditation, which is, you bring your mind back, again and again, gently you escort your mind back to the breath, to the sensations in the body, to the present moment, to simply allowing yourself to be, to this active non-doing where you’re not striving to get anywhere or achieve anything. And every time you do that, you make a note of where your mind has gone to and you give yourself a little bit of love: you just acknowledge that your mind has gone to that place and you gently bring your mind without judging, without criticising, just accepting that your mind is doing these things. And you just keep bringing it back again and again and again, like you might teach a child.

So I was doing this and quite a ways into the meditation, I started feeling more still. And as that happened, and as I started dwelling and being more in the moment, and being still, my mind started looking like a vast blank canvas where a couple of colours were swirling around. And an image came out of this.

It was like a painting. It was a wood. It was quite Avatar-like. You could see no houses, no buildings. You could see it from a distance. And it was zoomed out so you saw this huge tree and at the foot of the tree there were what looked like little stone steps, a really wide set of stone steps. And there was a tiny figure on the stairs. And that figure was me. And I could just see the back of me. It was almost like seeing a tiny stick figure, it was so far in the distance. And I could see I was standing quite straight, and I was walking up the steps. I was not too far from the top of the steps. And I looked very calm and very deliberate. And this huge massive tree was in the middle of a big forest. And from near the top of the tree, which was at an immense height, probably about a hundred times as tall as I was, you could see filtering through the branches, this glorious warm golden light … filtering down.

That reminds me of one of my newest songs which I just uploaded last night onto leesunmusic.com (you can go there and get a free download of it)! And it also made me think of who I am and where I am in my journey. It was such a beautiful and powerful image. And it rang true.

If I just sit

It felt as though it was a picture that my heart had painted.

And as this image came to me, I realised that I can only hear myself in this way, that I can only know my heart in this way if I take the time to be still and really listen, really pay attention to myself without asking anything of myself, without trying to do anything, without trying to get anywhere or be anything. If I just sit in complete acceptance of who I am, then I can see and hear these things which help me to know who I am, and know the desires of my own heart.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this morning.

I actually wanted to write a blog about how to tame the chaos. Because it’s something that I’m in the middle of, and I feel that for anyone who can relate to really struggling with this particular process of taming a chaos that seems to naturally result out of just being yourself, … if you can relate to that, then maybe, I thought, it might be helpful for you if I share what I’m doing about that and what my experience is with that.

But I’m going to leave that for another day because I think this is a good place to start: just the idea that clarity comes from doing not thinking, as Marie Forleo says, but also, clarity comes from non-doing not thinking, as I say!

I hope that’s helpful for you!

Please leave a comment below, or say hello, or let me know what you think!

I would really love that 🙂 Thanks!

xx

Why I Am Still Single and Why The Lego Movie Made Me Feel a Bit Ill

I’ve been single off and on for the past 4 years. Sometimes, single men ask me (in a chat up sort of way), “So … why are you still single?”

To me, that question is absurd. It comes from a worldview that sees people as needing a reason for being single. And that makes no sense to me. I am my own person, and perfectly capable of managing my own needs, you know, like a GROWN UP. I don’t need to be part of a couple, and I only want to be in a relationship if we love each other. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but if we unpick what that means, it’s a bit tougher than it sounds. Because love is something that is freely given. And if I’m in a relationship because I need that person to somehow fulfil my needs, then I’m no longer in a position to freely give love. Because I’m dependent on them. That’s not love. That’s dependency.

So it’s really important to me that my default “okay” position is on my own, as a single person. Because it’s only out of that strength that I’ll be able to freely offer love to someone, with no strings attached.

So anyway, this assumption that somehow I have to be in a relationship otherwise there must be some extenuating circumstance or reason for my not being so, seems pretty weird to me. Actually, that question, “Why are you still single?” is pretty useful as a filter. Because if someone asks me that, I know straight away that I’m not interested in him. Not romantically, anyway.

I find that on the dating scene, whether that’s with people I’ve met in person, or online, I get a lot of questions like this: questions that usually indicate that the person asking them is not really a great match for me. Not that I’m super judgemental, passing out judgements (BAM!) on people who ask the wrong questions. It’s just that I’ve learned from experience that it really helps in a relationship to have some degree of ability to communicate with each other. And we all make so many assumptions that affect our point of view and the way we communicate. It really helps to be able to recognise those assumptions and own them as opposed to saying that’s just the way it is. And over the years, I’ve found that not a lot of people are able to do that … myself included at times, of course!

One thing I encounter a lot, in the UK, is a certain type of awkward searching for common ground, by men who when they see me, are obviously disconcerted by my ethnicity.

For example, last week, I was at my favourite spa (the Harrogate Turkish Baths), all on my own and there was a man there who after a couple of hours of passing by my vicinity, mustered up the guts to say “hello”. And he had seemed perfectly interesting until he started talking to me. And all he could talk about was a production of Miss Saigon that he’d seen, which featured a Thai lady in the lead role. He kept giving me meaningful looks as he mentioned that she was Thai (several times), and spoke of how much he’d admired her. Hmm. So he somehow thought talking about this Thai lady was a good way to connect with me. It was like he was speaking some alien language. I didn’t give him any encouragement, and I politely moved a good distance away from him after that.

So this kind of thing happens to me a lot. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably wondering how on earth I can resist the charms of these clearly worldly men who are highly attuned to the fact that I’m not white.

The thing is, this isn’t just about men who are awkward about human beings having a different skin colour to them. It’s men who are utterly unaware of the culture they’ve completely bought into, the culture that objectifies people, especially women. And this culture is pervasive and insidious.

A couple of days ago, I took a small hyper ninja turtle to the cinema to see The Lego Movie. I had heard nothing but good things about it. “It’s really good!” That’s what everybody who’d seen it said to me.

ninja turtle at the cinema

There were some things I really loved about the movie. The artistry was undeniable. The acting was great. The script was funny. I loved the overall message, that everyone is SPECIAL, no matter what others think. And that it’s important for each person to believe they’re special and to believe others are special too. Love that! And the whole “anything is possible” sort of awesome big dreaming thing that kids’ movies do so well.

But it chilled me right down to the depths of my being, that the Lego world which supposedly championed how special everyone is, had 90% male characters. (That’s not a precise figure. It just seemed like everyone was male. The only real main female was Wyldstyle, or Lucy, as we come to know her later on.) So Lucy, the only main female character was pretty badass, and she ends up being part of the “prize” of the main super dorky male character, Emmett. Not that I have anything against dorky guys. But I do have a problem with the function that Lucy’s character serves in the movie.

The way women are portrayed in The Lego Movie is just so fucked up. And over 93K people have given this movie an average rating of 8.1 (out of 10) on IMDB. I skimmed through the first hundred reviews and didn’t see a single comment even acknowledging that it’s not normal, it’s not a normal representation of the world around us to have all the heroes being men, or anyone commenting on the fact that the female lead is super hot, and is “won” or “earned” by the seemingly unspecial Emmett at the end of the film. Lucy is essentially, a trophy.

So judging from the reactions to the Lego Movie that I’ve heard in person from people, or seen online, it seems to me that the world that I live in is one where for many, it’s absolutely fine to portray women as either insignificant or as trophies. That is normality. No-one even notices.

And I’m not happy to accept that as normal or healthy. And I don’t want to be with a man who doesn’t even notice that the world around him has this totally fucked up attitude towards women.

So is it really that surprising that I’m single at the moment? To be fair, I’m often not single. So I’m not saying that my being single is an inevitable result of how fucked up the world is. But I AM saying that the state of the world makes it really easy to spot men who have got really fucked up attitudes towards other people and towards women. Because there’s a culture of that, and it takes an exceptional level of self-awareness and open mindedness to recognise, and step outside of, that.

In my experience, those men are rare. And of those men, if you narrow down the numbers to those who are single, and then narrow down the numbers again to those who are somehow likely to encounter me in my limited sphere of existence and get to know me, we’re talking about some pretty tiny numbers. And that’s before we even start considering if there’s any romantic chemistry there.

Really, the amazing thing isn’t that I’m single at the moment, but that I’ve known and been in relationships with anyone at all up to now!

So if you want to know why I am still single … well there’s the tip of the iceberg 🙂

So blessings to you, whatever you may be doing, wherever you’re at in your journey, whether you’re single, or whether you’re not single.   May you find what you’re looking for!