Do you think that female musicians live in one bubble, and male musicians live in another bubble?

Is being a musician or a female composer different, or is it the same?

Cecilia: Of course, it is very hard when we normally experience the world from only one perspective, except if you change that gender, but that is not so common. I have observed, for example, that Sweden is more sensitive to gender and equality.

When I moved to Sweden, I felt much more accepted, and my suggestions were heard more. My way of living there was very different compared to Finland. I had been to other countries as well. It made me think that my opinions weren’t bad anyway. Perhaps, my opinions have not been heard due to my gender. So it was a relief, because I felt like it was nothing personal. It’s about structure, it’s about culture. A type of structural sexism.

I think there is a very unconscious bias: it is more common to hear the opinion of a man, than that of a woman. If a woman has a strong opinion, she usually says “I think this is my opinion, and if no one is offended I would like to do this…” It is more of an apology. Yes, because you are often considered bossy.

I always thought I was a very bossy person. In Sweden I realized that maybe, I wasn’t bossy, maybe I’m a woman with opinions.

What was the first moment you felt treated differently?

Manca: I see it every day, actually. Maybe because I’m small, they tell me: “Oh, you’re a girl, how can you play the accordion?”. A simple and very stupid thing… Little things like these. And then also, when you have a strong opinion, you can feel these vibes like “Wow, you’re bossy.”

Cecilia: I remember having like 3 revealing moments: In 2014 I moved to Sweden. I was like 26 years old then. There I experienced for the first time that I was not authoritarian. As I have told before.

The second time was in 2016, when I started gender studies at the University of Helsinki. I finally started to have names for things. It was like, “oh, this is what’s going on, it’s a common phenomenon.” In 2017 there were two great experiences, such as “the #MeToo movement”. A great experience, which greatly changed how I feel.

Also in 2017, I was at the Kokonainen festival in Finland, which focuses on female songwriters. They played the piano quartet by Helvi Leiviskä, a Finnish composer who composed in a kind of romantic style. I had always thought that women had not become famous because they had not had the opportunity to compose. They had not been able to develop as songwriters. That is why her music is not performed…

So when I heard this piece by Helvi… (it’s a fantastic piece for me – sort of like a Finnish Tchaikovsky). Really wonderful music. I was crying because it was such beautiful music…

I was also crying because I realized that I had believed the structure of: “oh, it’s because of the quality that we don’t play works by female composers”. And it is not true.

Maider: Speaking of historical facts, I did some research and found that traditionally women played the piano. Thus, they could stay home. The men were wind musicians because they went out and played with the band.

Are there musical instruments for men and others for women?

Manca: When I was little, we were 2 girls in accordion class and it was always like that, except when I came to Finland. I don’t know, maybe, they would tell them the same thing they did to me when I was little: “ but the accordion is very heavy, it’s not for a girl“… These kinds of stereotypes, which are super silly. Even my mother, for example, would say “oh, but why did you choose the accordion and not the flute?” and I would reply “I love it”.

Even now, I don’t regret my choice.

Phrases like “oh, this is not a girl’s instrument, it’s heavy… 15 kilos” are stupid, silly… So maybe it all started from there, from whom they are now the high-level teachers professionals. Our instrument isn’t that old, actually.

But for example, here in accordion class in Finland, there are quite a few women. And I hope it continues like this! In basic levels there are even a little more girls than boys, but at high levels there are 3/4 female accordionists.

I see, for example, that in festivals or ensembles (professional ensembles) there are no female accordionists. (If you’re interested in the topic of historical female accordionists, read about Louise Reisner).

Cecilia: There are many stereotypes: “Treble instruments are for women, bass are for men“. Thus, the cello is more dominated by men. The flute is for women; the guitar is somewhat more masculine, and large instruments are also much more masculine… And everything that is more physical was considered more for men. But, also everything related more with a leadership position: directing and composing.

Cecilia: For example, there has been some research at Stanford about applying for a job in a laboratory. Sorry, it’s not music.

They sent the same request as a woman and as a man. They changed the name and the photo. Overall, the entire jury, both women and men, ranked men as 20 percent more efficient, and 20 percent more capable at doing the job, so suggested a better salary for them.

So, it was like when women get an eight, men get a ten. It is something very structural in our heads, we see, for example, orchestral programs, in which approximately 60 to 80 percent of soloists are men, and 96% of conductors are men, and 96% of composers are men

The registered female composers of music worldwide are only 20%.

Cecilia: I think that’s already going in a better direction, but I think it’s strange that we already have 20 percent of women composing, but we still only play four percent of female composers. So what’s up? Why can’t we perform at least 20 percent of compositions made by women? That would already be five times what there is now. A great change!

Does hypersexualization occur in music?

You have to be pretty, and smile all the time, be good…

Maider: “The 2 cellos” who are also very handsome and very famous, and they are men! Do you think it is also a trend in women?

Cecilia: That goes very from country to country. I think that in the Nordic countries maybe there is not so much…

Manca: I think people are definitely visual, and of course, sometimes we are judged on this: how you look, maybe you’re too fat… I think some pianists wear very short skirts, but I have nothing on against. If that’s what they are, then that’s okay.

Cecilia: It is true that there is pressure on women. You have to look good, maybe not hypersexual, but you have to be pretty, you have to wear at least a nice dress, hair and makeup.

Manca: Of course, makeup and hairstyle have been important for quite some years now, but in the end… It’s okay if it’s what you want to be. But that is where the standards of how women should be are formed. Women should have makeup…

I heard from a solo pianist, when she was pregnant, about 7 years ago, her agent told her “don’t let the conductor see that you are pregnant, it is bad for your career”. It was like saying to a highly professional musician: “oh, so you chose the family and you don’t take this profession seriously.”

No man with children is questioned like this, that I know of. Women expect this type of comment much more, in which you can never win: if you choose family, you do not really invest in your career, and if you choose career, you are a tough person, who does not love family. </ Blockquote >

Preparing the interview, I wanted to have a solution in mind…

Maider: I propose, maybe to share certain things with the couple, for example, not a month-long vacation, but a short vacation, or something that allows you to get back on track easily…

Cecilia: One suggestion has been that parents also have to stay home, so that parental leave becomes mandatory for both parents. That would make a kind of protection for mothers. And it would also be very good for children to have a close bond with both parents. Or quotas of 50%, when there is equal availability of men and women.

Manca: I also see in any other current profession, in music, of course, it is even more obvious, like orchestras, employees think “hey women, more problems are coming”. Just because at some point, when you hit 30-40, maybe you will have the desire to have a child, and there is nothing you can do.

Music can be an interesting way to change society.

And also something that can be done while enjoying.

The arts express feelings, reflections of society… this way, compositions are born.

I believe that to be aware of what is happening, we can open the way through the arts, which are essentially human. It is important to show equality, not only between men and women, but also between different groups and ways of living.

Something that remains for future generations.