Savina Kim is short, Asian and a woman. “That’s three strikes,” she laughs.
She also happens to be the Event Coordinator at Auckland Live, the Vice Chair of the Programme Advisory Board at the Music and Audio Institute of NZ (MAINZ), and the brains behind a mentoring programme supporting teenagers to put on their own gigs. Casual Queen alert?
The motivation behind Savina’s IGNITE programme was to enable the next generation of music lovers to meet the need for all ages music shows in Auckland and the wider New Zealand music scene. However, an unintentional feminist aspect also crept into the mix and very nearly stole the show.
Of the 10 participants, eight were women. Of the 10 industry mentors, only three were men. It’s far from an accurate representation of the gender dynamics within the industry, but hopefully an insight into the future.
“I didn’t fully realise how under-represented women were until the media release for the IGNITE programme went out and people started commenting on the gender ratio within the programme, and how rare and great it was to see,” says Savina.
Teresa Patterson, Ami Holifield and Kat Saunders (my mentor), were just a few of the experienced and nurturing women who signed up to work alongside the participants.
Kat is a publicist and a low-key event organiser, as well as a member of the Super Rad Babes – a 200-strong collective made up of mainly Auckland-based women in the creative industries. Online, the Babes post about gigs they’re going to, projects they’re involved in and discuss issues they’ve come up against in the workplace.
The Super Rad Babes began running club nights with all female line-ups over a year ago, raising money to support charities like Rape Prevention Education and Women’s Refuge. The club nights are designed as a safe, supportive space for women to DJ and have fun.
Kat explains that men still tend to dominate the tech stuff. “Women can find it really intimidating trying to break into areas of the industry like DJing out of fear of being undermined or patronised,” she says.
When asked about her experiences, Savina also concedes that as a woman in a male-dominated field she’s found herself wondering if she’s too emotional to ‘rationally’ oversee a team of mostly men. But it’s there, she says, that you have to stop and ask yourself whether it’s coming from a place of honest self-observation, or whether it’s a result of the outdated, intrinsic belief that women and effective leadership are mutually exclusive. Hint: It’s probs the latter.
Speaking about leadership and female-led forums, Kat gives the women at Secondskin Collective a shout out. They’re dedicated to giving a voice to marginalised people within the alternative music scene and have most recently put together public panel discussions focusing on venue safety. Savina attends meets for Women in Events, which she finds hugely encouraging.
Femme clubs! Girl bands!! All-women collectives!!! It’s all going off.
But wait. Here is where the age-old questions come in to play. Are we being inclusive in our pursuit of equality? Is it ok to start female-only workshops and forums? Are u guys man h8ers or…? Before integration, we’ve got to establish support and solidarity within the minority. Both Savina and Kat stress that they respect and appreciate the men who’ve stood with them against workplace sexism. And there are plenty. Kat says, “There’s room, and there should be room, for everyone here.’
One thing’s for sure - you can’t take on the mainstream ‘man’ if you’re Nancy No-Mates.
One of IGNITE’s participants, Lucy Eldby, is a young Māori woman in the sewer punk/metal scene. She’s also a long time fan of Miss June, a fellow kiwi feminist punk band fronted by Annabel Liddell, and she starred in their i-D premiered track Anxiety On Repeat.
In Lucy’s experience, the New Zealand music industry is on its way to fully embracing all genders, sexual orientations and races. In terms of performing, she hasn’t personally come across any major incidents of sexism. “Being in an all-girl band myself (Slumbug) or being the only female in a band with four other dudes, it’s still kind the same. We’re all just making music.”
As for the gender balance within the audience, Lucy says, “In recent years there’s been an overtake of females down in the pit. I fucking love to get in there in my platform boots.”
The inclusiveness Lucy’s seeing could be evidence of a generational shift towards the acceptance that gender is a fluid concept. More and more young people are identifying as gender-fluid or non-conformist, preferring to use gender-neutral pronouns and actively supporting the belief that how a person chooses to associate or disassociate with pre-conceived feminine/masculine traits is up to them and should not restrict them in any way.
Ultimately, I think we can say change is in the air. Five years ago, groups like The Super Rad Babes and the Secondskin Collective simply didn’t exist. And for Kat particularly, it felt like there were few networking spaces that women in the industry could turn to for support. New Zealand’s now got a flourishing feminist music scene, with strong young female acts like Miloux, Peach Milk, Hex and Courtney Hate popping up left, right and center. And Savina’s been noticing that the bosses of the business are hiring young women as their right hands – fantastic news for ladies, young people and the ever-evolving music industry.
Today, the internet is breeding a new generation of self-procuring, self-promoting sound makers. The egalitarian nature of the current digital distribution system means there is little need for aggressive business tactics carried out by alpha male promoters. Artists and music lovers alike are finding their tribes and exploring their identities – politically, aesthetically and sonically – within the nooks and crannies of the interweb.
Female creatives are redefining gender norms and sex appeal or deliberate lack thereof – think Grimes, FKA twigs, or Auckland’s very own badass girls, Slumbug. And women behind the scenes are banding together to redefine what it means to be a skilled engineer, a producer, or simply an emotionally invested leader.
IGNITE was established this year to support the personal and professional development of young people, giving them a stepping stone to further education pathways and discover the various careers that exist within New Zealand’s vibrant creative industries. Alex was part of the first intake of young Aucklanders to participate in the programme.