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 . . .