#MeToo: A collective call to members of our community
Editor’s note: The rising global awareness of sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination has been truly phenomenal in the last few weeks, touching virtual every aspect of society, including piping and drumming. Our recent Blogpipe article on the subject pertained mainly to issues and policies within our scene and associations overall. American-born piper Megan Canning, who has lived in the UK and Africa for more than 10 years, approached us with her personal and professional take on the matter. We are pleased to bring readers her frank and honest thoughts that integrate her own experience and observations, which will undoubtedly keep this necessary and constructive dialog going. Only through open discussion and asking questions about important issues and inequities will we gain answers and evoke needed change.
By Megan Canning
Like millions of other women around the world, I’ve watched as the words #metoo have flooded my social media pages.
Reading the intimate stories of friends and colleagues who have come forward with experiences of harassment, abuse and sexual assault, has unleashed in me a sense of collective rage, but also a feeling of collective empowerment. What I have not felt, however, is surprise. After all, like most women, I am among those who have also been able to write #metoo.
I can hardly imagine a woman who couldn’t write the same. For me, the timing of this rallying cry is apt. Only two weeks ago, I was sitting in a pub in Edinburgh with some pipe band friends, discussing the extent to which sexual harassment and violence is so normalized in our social world, that we often fail to recognize it at all. My female friend and I, who I’ve played with in pipe bands for several years, were jointly arguing that if men were to actually experience even for one day the kind of harassment that women put up with in so many facets of their daily lives, they would look at the world completely differently.
Fast forward to the #metoo movement – already in existence, but made prominent this past week by the high-publicity Harvey Weinstein scandal – and what we’re seeing is exactly that: the power of women coming forward in numbers, and the shock of men struggling to come to terms with the true extent of a violence that has always been right in front of them.
So much about the Harvey Weinstein case makes me think about my 23 years of experience in pipe bands. The pipe band world is not particularly worse for harassment than any other sector of society. (If anything, the plurality of women’s experiences documented in the last week alone highlights the pervasiveness of this violence across every conceivable context). However, the pipe band world certainly embodies a number of characteristics that mean that discrimination, harassment, and even abuse, sadly find an easy home.
pipes|drums published a Blogpipe article reflecting on the experiences of women pipers and drummers over the decades. From the early pioneers of women’s piping in the 1970s, to the modern-day women continuing to push the boundaries, it’s fantastic to celebrate the advances that women have made in recent years.
However, the article questions the extent to which we can really argue that things have changed – or, at least, it questions the pace of change – and I agree completely with this analysis. How can we celebrate the increased number of women in pipe bands today, but not ask why there are still so few women in positions of power? Where are the women judges, the women pipe-majors, the women lead-drummers? The numbers are scant.
And while there will invariably be a time-lag for judging panels whereby we might need to wait until the female competitors of today retire from competition and go into adjudication, there is no good reason why women shouldn’t be as equally represented in leadership roles, as they are in playing roles. Certainly, when we think about the thousands of . . .
Extremely well stated.
Thank you, Megan. I can certainly think of a few people whose behavior has been unacceptable yet never really challenged. I sincerely hope the current climate and words such as your own will help all of us, male or female, reject the behaviors you describe. No one’s talent in any arena is larger than the importance of decency and ethics.
Very well written and necessary article. This is a topic that almost everyone in pipe bands knows exists but too many are unwilling to outwardly acknowledge. Leaders, nay members of pipe bands need to step up and shut down this behaviour head-on, rather than pretend it doesn’t happen, accept it as ‘usual’, or hide it lest it reflect poorly on them. But protecting the harasser reflects poorly on them and the band. Those men who really think harassment and discrimination aren’t pervasive in pipe bands need to start having genuine conversations with their female bandmates.
Truer words have never been spoken ( to use a well- worn but very apt phrase). All this really hits home when you have a daughter in the game.
Brilliant article Megan. I registered with pipes|drums so I could comment. Obviously you cannot name names but we all know the score. However I do believe that nothing will change. You can be sure of it. The pipe band game absolutely stinks and you can guarantee that the people at the very top and also those lower down the chain will continue as before and will be enabled by all the lackeys around them. Hanging on their every word, back slapping and laughing at all their pathetic jokes. Go to any public piping event and take a look around you. It’s excruciating and sick making. The desperation for success or merely keeping a band on the road rules all, and as a result anything goes. Well done!