“Fangirls Don’t Exist” and how women are treated in the music industry

Ashley Winward

As March came to a close, so did Women’s History Month with a panel discussion on women and their role in the music industry. The Women’s History Month events committee, run under Wanda Tyler, put on an intimate discussion with two panelists, moderated by student Cassidy Burt.

The panelists included University of New Haven professor Meryl Sole, and front woman of the band Candy Hearts, Mariel Loveland. The two women gave insight on their experiences in the industry where male dominated situations can feel overwhelming.

Sole has her doctorate in Music and Music Education from Columbia University as well as two Masters Degrees; one in Music Education from Columbia University and one in French Horn Performance from Boston University. Prior to teaching at UNH, she taught brass, music theory, music history and appreciation at Adelphi University in New York. Along with teaching, she also does research on music and its effect on toddlers, and still freelances as a French horn player with local symphonies and performance groups such as the National Opera Center and the Cosmopolitan Symphony.

Loveland came out of school with a major in creative writing and a minor in song writing before interning in the music industry and working on a DIY label. She went on to form the band Candy Hearts, working with New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert on his imprint label Violently Happy Records to produce their EP The Best Ways to Disappear. She shared the love of French horn as well, though noting she was “forever last chair” as well as a placeholder with her mellophone in the marching band.

In a classical setting, Sole found it commonplace to be the only female on her instrument, or even in the entire brass section. At times, she would walk into auditions and wouldn’t be given more than three seconds nefore being thanked for her time. “Being a female brass is really tough,” she added.

In the punk rock scene, Loveland found one of her biggest struggles was being taken seriously. Her first band kicked her out because having a female lead “wasn’t good for their image” and to this day has issues at times getting on stage at her own shows. “The Rock scene expects (girls) to be with the band, not in the band,” she explained. “You’re under a microscope that others are not, judged for things that a man might not. A lot of the problems I have are because I have a female body.”

Some examples brought up in this respect were the idea of promiscuity; that a women who sleeps around is viewed as trashy, while a man might get a high five from his buddies. Sole noted a double standard that she faces as a woman with a family, “A man is not immediately seen as a father, but a woman is immediately seen as a mother and when she spends long periods of time away doing work it’s seen negatively.”

While there was a lot of discussion about negative experiences, it was an open forum full of solutions to improve. When asked for advice to give the women in the room, confidence and self-esteem were impressed upon heavily. “It’s all about how you carry yourself, whatever the kind of person you are, own it, ” Loveland stressed.

Sole supported the idea by telling girls, “Have the drive to work your butt off for what you want.” However, both felt that positive role models in the industry were necessary for increased female success. “Students need to see positive images of strong female teachers for women to aspire to,” Sole said.

Loveland also interjected that there needs to be “bad” role models too. “There need to be some girls that aren’t that great at succeeding. There are male role models who are quirky and charming, but when a girl sees success, they see Beyoncé success. We need some more quirky, charming girls that aren’t perfect!”

As for the men? “Be supportive of your female friends,” Loveland advises, “treat them as an equal, but also understand that women are different.” Sole also mentioned not judging a book by its cover. “Never underestimate the women you’re surrounded by, you might not know just how much they’re capable of.”