Essay: Getting the Rhythm Right

Mindy Abovitz Tom Tom Magazine Editor-in-Chief by Bex Wade

I can completely understand if a woman wants to identify as a ‘female drummer’ but I have to admit to being in two minds about this. For myself as a drummer and drum kit teacher, I’ve spent the better part of my career trying not to call attention to the fact that I’m female. But since being involved with Tom Tom Magazine, both as a reader and contributor, I’ve altered my thinking a bit.

I would venture to say that most of us simply want to be known as drummers. But this is not always straightforward.

On her Facebook site, Kim Thompson identifies herself as ‘Kim Thompson [Female drummer],’ using hard brackets and a capital F for what I imagine to be strong emphasis. This accentuation is audacious and deliberately focuses attention to her gender.

In addition to celebrating and representing female drummers, the ethos behind Tom Tom Magazine is to tip the balance so that being a drummer who happens to be female will no longer be an anomaly. Yet even if we did live on planet equality, I believe Tom Tom Magazine would be missed because it speaks to female drummers in a way that mainstream drumming magazines simply do not.

The majority of the covers of the ‘big’ drum magazines are of guys in ultra masculine pose. Inside the magazine you can be guaranteed to see at least one drummer (usually a pro) flipping the middle finger. What does this say, ‘I’m a drummer so f-you?’ Is that supposed to be cool? I find it tiresome and uninspired. One does get the overwhelming impression that these magazines are geared to fellas between the ages of thirteen and twenty something.

I’ll never forget a certain issue that put me off buying a particular magazine ever again. The featured article was about ‘wild drummers’ and their off stage antics. It was crude and loutish and had nothing to do with music or drumming. It only served to encourage the myth of rock star prowess. The interviewee made some horrendous comments about even sleeping with ugly women because they may have had a certain physical proclivity. Boorish twaddle.

I wrote to the editor of the magazine and received no reply. I haven’t bought it in two years.

At least 50% of my students are female. How can I suggest they buy one of these magazines with that kind of content? How does that encourage their participation in music and drumming? These magazines barely represent female drummers. You might see a woman on the cover every several years. More often than not these magazines do not speak to women and in the case of this particular issue it also denigrated them. It promoted age old stereotypes for both men and women.

It is true that the big magazines are having more female contributors and features about female players — there is a shift in the tide. But it continues to be a predominately male sphere.

Even if the gender balance is tipped I would still like Tom Tom Magazine to exist. It presents women with esteem and respect and through our own eyes. And I think it might be a while before we see that kind of celebrated representation in the big rags.

By Kasey Peters

Photo of Mindy Abovitz by Bex Wade

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