Female conductors vs the patriarchy

Directoras de orquesta vs el patriarcado
Photo: https://www.women-conductors.com/

By Cristina Vázquez

Spanish version

Before entering the pandemic, women were going through a very strong social annoyance and it has not stopped. During the pandemic, inequity has become more visible than ever. Thanks to feminist movements and in favor of women’s rights in the world, today in Mexico we can see the opposition generated by the candidacy of Félix Salgado Macedonio as Governor of Guerrero, who is facing a complaint for rape. Another similar case is that of Andrés Roemer, writer, communicator and co-founder of the Ciudad de las Ideas festival, reported by a dozen women for sexual abuse and assault.

Now, the world of the performing arts has been a territory in which women have been gradually recognized, but in the case of classical music it has taken longer to stand out. This is why, concerned about the invisibility of women in numerous professional areas, including hers, conducting the orchestra, the Brazilian Ligia Amadio founded the International Symposium Women Directors in 2016, which has been held every two years since then.

The first edition took place on October 15 and 16 in São Paulo. In 2018 it was held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from October 19 to 21, but the third edition, which was moved to the virtual sphere due to COVID-19 , from September 17 to 20, 2020, is of special importance to me because it involved Mexico’s participation for the first time.

Some 23 Mexican women were present thanks to the coordination of Hilda Saquicoray, founder and head of the Youth Symphony Orchestra of the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico with 20 years of experience within the children’s and youth orchestras.

One of the great achievements of this third symposium is that it allowed the Mexican directors to get to know each other and form an alliance, because when they understood how their colleagues both from their country and abroad came to excel in the professional field, they realized that they were not as lonely as they thought. They made connections so that they were invited to direct, to give master classes or to program women composers in Latin America and the United States.

This third edition was closely linked to the raising of the voice of women that was happening in March 2020 in the world. In Latin America, especially, the #NiUnaMenos movement against gender violence and femicide gained strength with massive demonstrations of women occupying the streets and shouting slogans.

Positive impact

Ligia Amadio, the first woman to direct the Montevideo Philharmonic Orchestra, tells me that, during its existence, one of the main impacts of the Symposium has been the awareness of the directors themselves about the discrimination suffered, a problem to which the musical community can no longer be indifferent.

I agree with Lidia that if the symposium has contributed to strengthening the presence and union of women in the musical environment, it is due to the topics addressed, the space it provides for discussion and reflection, the feeling of sisterhood experienced, the level of exposure of the experiences of discrimination faced and the diagnoses made.

One of the most important debates during the third symposium was on cultural policies for the inclusion of women in music. Brazil and Argentina have traveled a good stretch and Chile is following suit. Last year, in Argentina, the first female quota law was achieved worldwide for musical events, whether public or private, in which at least 30 percent must have the participation of women and includes sanctions and fines for those who do not. They adhere to these regulations, as stated in various newspaper articles.

The Mexican composer and conductor Gina Enríquez was impressed with the experience of the Chilean women, who created the Orquesta de Mujeres de Chile (OMCH), under the baton of Ninoska Medel, based on the 2018 university feminist mobilization, and has a foundation through which it raises funds for the assembly’s activities.

Although Mexico is behind in promoting equal opportunities for women in music, it has a clear example in the progress made by its South American colleagues. The union that emerged between the Mexican conductors should lead to a joint manifesto, so that the budget and the actions of the cultural authorities benefit women and stop being focused on groups headed by men. It is necessary to promote a cultural policy on gender equality in cultural entities in the country, to work closely with legislators to develop parity initiatives not only in political parties.

The International Symposium Women Directors is a project sponsored entirely by the directors, managers and agents participating in the movement, and therefore organized civil society. They cover the functions that an organization should have on its staff. However, they have obtained support from public and private institutions in countries such as Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, the United States and Spain. It is clear that it is a long-term task for this symposium to generate deep-rooted social processes, that its social impact can be measured and can, in addition, count on more resources so that its effect is even greater.

It should not be forgotten that gender equality is among the Sustainable Development Goals that must be achieved by 2030, according to what was established in 2015 by the heads of state, government leaders, various non-governmental agents and representatives of the UN meeting in New York for the 70th edition of the United Nations General Assembly.

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