Friday, 7 July 2017

Hungarians and female composers

I worked on a quiz yesterday in another girls' school. I wasn't running this one. I was working as Abbie's little helper. I was, therefore, slightly perturbed to note that the teacher who had booked the quiz, saw us both setting up and immediately assumed that I was the quizmaster. It was a female teacher as well. It is moments like this when you realise there's still a way to go in the search for equality, and that, sadly, the problem is as much to do with women's perception of themselves.

On that front, a fair amount of articles are presently being written about the lack of female composers in musical theatre. As many as 9 out of 10 musicals, we're told, have male writers. Now obviously, if there are women musical theatre writers out there who fee their gender is preventing them somehow from getting their heads above the parapet, this is something we need to tackle. It's pretty clear, however, that a shockingly high percentage of the high percentage of male musical theatre writers are gay. And this opens up a can of worms which could legitimately lead to straight male writers of musical theatre screaming inequality. More than this, if you're going to try to readdress the balance of women working in musical theatre, you're essentially going to have to take work away from a minority group who are hugely under-represented in other fields of employment.

Gay men have traditionally been attracted to musical theatre, often as an escape from difficult and lonely childhoods. The "cheesiness" of the art form doesn't seem to bother us as much as it might a more aggressively heterosexual man. In fact, most of the female writers and composers I know would run a million miles from musical theatre. I just think it appeals more to gay men. We feel safe in its world. It's our world. It's where some of our biggest role models can be found.


I don't bang on about the under representation of gay men in sports, because I'm well aware that gay men don't tend to be drawn to that particular area. Yes, of course it's appropriate to ask why gay men aren't traditionally interested in sports, and there are many unanswered questions regarding why sports men don't tend to come out, but the fact remains that there are certain areas which simply attract people of a certain gender or sexuality and I'm struggling to understand why this is a bad thing. Trying to bash down the walls of equality in an area where one minority group is thriving feels a little bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul. No one, after all, tries to claim that gospel music should be the pursuit of fewer black people!

There's even a lobby which refuses to acknowledge the G in LGBT and now talks about "issues for the LBTQ+ community." So it's okay to be bisexual these days, but gay men are no longer allowed to be part of the community we fought so hard to build? We're apparently just too successful. So now, once again, I have to be ashamed of being gay, no longer because of the stigma it generates but because of the privilege being gay apparently now brings me. I could spit.

As far as I'm concerned we need to be promoting good writing, whether that's by women or men. And the problem with British musical theatre is that there's not enough funding regardless of your gender or sexuality.

I had a very pleasant evening last night with Michael, first at a do at the Hungarian Embassy, where my only topic of conversation was Eurovision, after it became embarrassingly obvious that I knew sod all else about Hungary. I kept imagining my brother being really ashamed of me, as I repeatedly said to one of the ambassadors, "I really loved Katy Wolf's song!" The alternative was telling her I'd once looked at Hungary on a map and thought how similar in shape and size it was to Austria. "Have you been to Hungary?" She asked. I giggled nervously and told her that I'd been to Poland. Like that was the same thing. At that point she either got bored or took pity and introduced me to someone from the Polish Embassy so I could be on slightly more familiar territory.

We had tea at the Groucho club where, once again, I bumped into Philip Sallon. He must think I'm always there. That or that he himself is always there! He was with our mutual friend Jo who was looking hugely glamorous in a beautiful pleated summer dress. Philip, as usual, talked the hind legs off our proverbial donkeys, and wanted to sing Jewish songs, Dona Dona and Jerusalem the Gold. He's never happier than when harmonising with someone. I don't blame him for that!

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