Over the Labor Day holiday, teen band Kalliope Jones participated in the Battle of the Bands competition at the Three County Fair in Northampton, Massachusetts. Coming in third, they were pleased with their prize, but somewhat less so with their comment sheets¬†(near the bottom of the article), one of which docked them points in the ‚ÄúStage Presence – Showmanship‚Äù category saying that he “[heart] the sultry in bassist voice + Guitar singer‚Äôs too… Use the sultry to draw in the crowd.”
The three girls who make up Kalliope Jones, Isabella DeHerdt (16), Alouette Batteau (14), and Amelia Chalfant (14), are teenagers, and were understandably upset about the comment. Though they were also docked points in the same category for “Audience participation opportunities missed,” they believe the other comment was sexist and unfair, as they were also given a bonus point by the same judge because “Chicks Rock.” When they confronted the judges, two of whom were women, about the comment and asked if similar ones were made about all-male bands, the ladies of Kalliope Jones were told, “Oh, no. It is a completely different thing.”
Sadly, this isn’t uncommon in the music industry. Whether it’s Miley Cyrus twerking, Susan Boyle’s makeover, or opera star Angela Meade being told to lose some weight, there is an expectation that women need to look, act, or sound a certain way to be popular (or marketable).
Speaking for the band on their Facebook page, Alouette wrote
Today, we played at the Tri-County Fair at a Battle of the Bands for ages 12-16. Everyone played spectacularly.
There were three judges who decided who got first, second, and third place in the competition, and they ranked each band on different aspects of musicality and performance. They also commented on what each band’s strong points were and how they could improve. After they gave out awards, everyone received the judges’ sheets so they could look at the said comments.
We received third place, a cash prize and gift certificates. In the comments, we were told to “use our sultry to draw in the crowd.” We ended up losing points for not utilizing this aspect enough. As Amelia Chalfant said, “A woman’s sex appeal, or anyone’s for that matter, should not be the defining factor in their success in the music industry, and in addition to that, WE ARE CHILDREN! WE ARE 14-16 YEARS OLD.” The judges tried to say they meant it as a positive thing; that it was supposed to mean “soulful”. They did not understand why we confronted them about it.
From Merriam Webster –
: very hot and humid
: attractive in a way that suggests or causes feelings of sexual desire
We then asked if they had made similar comments to any of the bands that were made up of only boys. They said, “Oh, no. It is a completely different thing.” Actually, it really isn’t. This conspicuous act of sexist and stereotypical thinking was deplorable and pathetic.
The fact that they made these glaring and crude, sexist and stereotypical notes about our performance was made worse by the fact that they did so while drinking beer, blowing their bloated beery breath in our faces. It was astonishing, revolting, and VERY offensive. We are grateful to have ranked among the top three performers (who, by the way, besides us, were all boys), but to be judged on our sex appeal and told that we need to be more sexy in order to make it as musicians goes against everything we have been taught.
These three girls are amazing, not only for their incredible talent, but also for their willingness to stand up for what they believe in, and the articulate way in which they express themselves. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from them in the future, regardless of how sultry they may (or may not) be!
Social Media Manager
Girl Museum Inc.