Thursday, April 30, 2009

Call Me the Party Pooper

You know how when you learn a new word you start to hear it all the time?

That happened to me recently with the word “busker.” I live in a major city with street musicians all over the place and I never knew that word until a few weeks ago. Then a few days after that this video appeared and has been flying around the interwebs ever since:

Yes, it is beautifully produced and heartwarming, but something struck me. In a video with the goal of showing the global community of buskers, women appear only once as a group.

Get over yourself, I thought, you’re putting too much into this. It’s a nice video and beautiful song with a good (if a bit naïve) message. But then this one started going around:

Another wonderfully produced video and this time with more women. Wait, a few more women. One woman, a group of women, and another group that was in the first video--yes, they also repeat some men. But wait, there is a third video that brings in yet more men, but the same women…So what bugs me about this, other than the fact that I’m totally jaded?

It’s not that it neglects to show women buskers. One can assume that there are fewer women singing and playing instruments on the street than men, because there are many reasons why that could be true. In some places women simply can’t stand out on the street and sing to make their living. And pretty much everywhere in the world, a woman on the street in a performance role will have more to contend with than a man. I spent 8 months on the streets of one of the most progressive areas of the world as a canvasser and let me tell you, my experience was far different than my male counterparts. But, I know there are women doing this. I see them every day. I know women who have paid their bills this way here and in other parts of the world.

Ah, there's the rub. What really bothers me is that whether the folks behind this intended to or not, they are supporting the idea that global wanderlust is a community of brothers. Yes there are women, but they are that hot Israeli girl you hooked up with, the women who lived near your Ashram, and the African women you can’t help but fetishize because you were raised on “Graceland” and The Lion King.

Yep, you are looking for an “authentic experience,” which also means that the American artists you highlight are black men, just more characters in your personal narrative. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve kind of failed in your message. Your mission is on target, congratulations for bringing music to children and assisting refugees. I applaud you for that, but why’d you have to go and wrap it in this western privilege of the great adventure?

Hey, maybe I’m just jealous. Because all of the reasons that I assume there are fewer women buskers (though there are probably more than three) are the same reasons it makes it harder for me to travel to those exotic locales. A girl can only get proposed marriage in so many languages before her wanderlust is over.

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be nice.


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