|BYU Marching Band|
I’ll start with the easy part, the numbers. There are 145 members of the band (excluding the color guard which I will discuss later), 90 of whom are men or approximately 62%. This is rather significant. Why is it more acceptable for men to be in the band? Do women stay for less time because of gender socialization? There could be a historic military aspect driving some of this inequality which I will consider later.
I expected there to be a larger portion of men in leadership positions than women. Of the 17 leadership positions (which include president, records, logistics, Rocky Mountain committee, uniforms, and drum majors) there are eleven men or 64%. This roughly matches the overall division of men in the band. Six out of the nine section leaders are men or about 66%. Out of 36 squad leaders, 22 are men, about 61%. Including all leadership, there is about the same proportion of men as the band in general. Looking only at numbers in leadership positions, there is gender equality.
Now I’ll look at the quality of some leadership positions. The most prestigious leadership positions in the band are the band president and the drum majors because they have the most power in the band. This year our band president is a man and we have two female drum majors and one male drum major. So the most esteemed jobs are evenly split. While band members continue to see these positions as vital to the band, the women seem to command less respect. Members of the band often indicate their view that the women are more annoying. The implication is that one of them seems bossy and rude and the other is incompetent. This seems to be a stereotype in many places. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8gz-jxjCmg] Women in leadership positions are seen as either too masculine and rude or too feminine and incompetent. If these were men I don’t know if the band would view them in the same negative way. Our male drum major is probably about as competent as the “incompetent” girl but he is not viewed as being inept at his job. Gender does seem to play a role in how we view the quality of the drum majors.
Besides drum majors, the only other committee where women outnumber men is in uniforms. In the uniforms committee there are four women and one man. This reinforces the idea that women should be in charge of uniforms as if all women are automatically more capable of taking caring of clothes than men. I’m on this committee and anyone who knows me can attest that this is not the case. Fewer men asked to be on uniforms committee which implies that the individuals in the band see uniforms as a job for women but the band members seem to listen to our male colleague as much as they listen to the rest of us about uniforms. In general I don’t think women being more qualified to be in charge of clothes is a stereotype supported by the band.
Our color guard is made up exclusively of women. The nineteen color guard members are there to dance around the band and to make us look better while waving colorful flags and looking pretty. The fact that there are only women doing this seems to indicate that only women can show off their bodies by dancing around us. It is interesting that we don’t put men in a “look at me, I’m so pretty” position. This would be seen as frivolous and girly, implying that girls are air headed because they think about their bodies too much. The band does support this gendered idea that women are around as eye candy.
Now for my favorite part, how gender affects how individuals are treated. Recently I heard the terms “piccabros” (referring to men in the piccolo section), “tuba chicks”, and “bone babes” (meaning women in the trombone section). The fact that there are terms for when someone differs from the norm emphasizes that there is a norm to differ from. I’ll use the two extremes, women in the tuba section and men in the piccolo section. While a woman deviating from social norms is seen as cool and encouraged, men are viewed as kind of wimpy. Whenever it comes up that I play the tuba in the BYU marching band, I get positive reactions. I’ve gotten comments from other band members that they are proud of the girls who play tuba. Part of this is a physical achievement; it is usually harder for a girl to carry around a 35 pound instrument. On the other hand, the one guy in the piccolo section is kind of ridiculed. The piccolo section in general is made fun of by the band. This may be because it is seen as a silly girl section. One example is that they put glitter under their eyes for game days. This goes back to the idea that little kids and empty headed women like sparkly things. Even women are criticized for being too dainty and girly, so it is no wonder that men are judged for doing what is seen as exceedingly feminine.
Overall it seems to be socially acceptable in the band for a woman to adopt masculine traits, as long as she isn’t too masculine. On the other hand it is almost impossible for men to act feminine at all without suffering some social consequences. There are not even allowed to try “feminine” things in some cases. All of the gendered issues in band are not institutionalized, except color guard, which means that while implied these are not hard rules. Many of the gendered issues illustrated in the band reflect larger society values and norms. Until society changes, many of the issues found in the band will not change.