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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Gibb Sahib Should women sing chanties (203* d) RE: Should women sing chanties 30 Apr 19


Hi, Wm,

In the briefest way:
Singular reinforcement of sailors/sailing ships as the site of chanty practice contributes/ has contributed to gendering chanty singing as particularly masculine *and* racializing it as particularly White. To the extent that masculinity and whiteness are attached to the idea of sailors, we tend to (usually inadvertently) reinforce those qualities when we endeavor to reinforce the sailor-ness of chanties. There is a paradox somewhere in there, in that chanties were certainly a tradition of sailors. It comes down to what is emphasized and what is neglected. What are we seeing and what are we not seeing, in the discourse that has come to shape our current perceptions of chanties?

While we have made progress with the latter (I think, because we have developed a better toolkit for discussing race), discussion of gender lags behind, remains more "invisible."

That gender and race also intersect can perhaps be illustrated by considering a question (to ask ourselves, rhetorically—not to be answered here): How many people, when envisioning a woman as a potential singer of chanties, were envisioning a White women? Were they envisioning a Black woman?

In this way, I consider the project of re-imagining the chanty genre an aid to gender and racial equality. In my opinion, it is a more deeply rooted sort of change that opens the space to women etc. performing chanties that, in the long game, can be more effective than simply asserting that "anyone should perform anything they want." The desired outcome (inclusion) may be the same, but the way of approaching it is different. More difficult, but I think more effective and long-lasting.

The examples I would most like to share are on the Cultural Equity website, which appears to be down presently. Perhaps in the future.


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