By Molly Mollotova
As a feminist, member of the LGBT community and woman, I pride myself on staying up-to-date on the topic of inequality. So, when I came across an article titled “Dallas Observer Editor Still Confused by Women Who Play Music,” I was intrigued.
The piece, written by Dayna Evans for Gawker, accused the Dallas Observer’s Music Editor, Jeff Gage, of sexism. The alleged sexism, Evans claimed, can be found in Gage’s review of a three-and-a-half minute performance by St. Vincent from the previous evening’s “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” which was posted by the Dallas Observer the next morning.
Evans took issue with Gage’s narration of the performance, which included, as reviews usually do, descriptions to help the reader visualize the performance. Evans asserted Gage’s description of St. Vincent was “another entry to his book on What Women Musicians Wore, a growing compendium of music-irrelevant analyses that he apparently reserves almost exclusively for female performers.”
In her article, Evans stated: “Gage could greatly cut down his stories if he got rid of the unnecessary fashion crit, because he rarely attributes the same disdainful categorizations to male musicians.” She then went on to reference two other reviews by Gage that she felt were also sexist.
Shortly after the article was posted, I began to see comments bashing Gage and rushing to the defense of St. Vincent. From what I have seen, the assault is not contained to anonymous Internet trolls. It is also coming from folks here in D-FW.
Dayna Evans is a gossip blogger whose most recent claims to fame include insinuating that 16-year-old Malia Obama learned to drive while drunk and detailing the latest news in Big Mac fashion. I do not mean to sound judgmental, but after sifting through several pages of Evans’ articles, I didn’t see a single review, let alone a music review.
My point is this: When writing reviews, it is imperative to describe the scene with as much sensory detail as possible in order to entertain the reader. That rule applies when describing anything or anyone, regardless of gender. Sadly, that aspect of writing is apparently lost on an individual who relies mainly on big-name celebrities and typical click-bait headlines, often involving nudity or drugs to capture readers’ attentions.
If you take time to read some of Gage’s other reviews, he does apply the same descriptive wording to male musicians. For example, when reviewing a Nickelback show, Gage described frontman Chad Kroeger as having a “down-home, frosted-tips charm.” In his review of Leon Bridges’ performance on “The Late Late Show,” Gage spent about the same amount of time describing Bridges’ appearance as he did of St. Vincent in his St. Vincent review.
In fact, on Oct. 9, 2014, Gage praised St. Vincent’s talent, saying, “Her latest album, February’s “St. Vincent,” is arguably the best of 2014, and her reputation as an artist is nearly impeccable. Remarkably, she’s managed to completely liberate herself and her art in so doing, and she’s done it all on her own terms.”
Gage has even tackled the topic of gender-inequality during his time at the Dallas Observer. On Feb. 6, he called out Dallas’ 2015 Homegrown Festival for its female-deficient lineup. Sam Villavert, bassist for local band Sealion, is the only female artist on the bill this year.
“It’s worth noting, however, that in some cases organizers might be able to blame such a gender imbalance on the selection process, since some festivals depend on bands to apply,” according to Gage’s article. “Not Homegrown, though: their curated lineup is hand-picked by the organizers.”
It is no secret that Gage is new to Dallas. Less than a year into his position as music editor for the Dallas Observer, he wrote a story pointing out blatant misogyny by local concert organizers – a story that may have something to do with the amount of local heat Gage received for his St. Vincent review.
It is completely acceptable to disagree with and respond to a critic’s review of one’s favorite artist. However, Evans failed to do that in her post. Instead, she opted to shroud her displeasure by deducing that Gage simply does not like women and makes a habit of bashing them in his reviews.
It has been 95 years since women gained the right to vote in the U.S., and we are still fighting for legal control over our own bodies, let alone for equality in the music industry.
Publicly attacking a music critic for describing a scene and the performance of an artist whom Evans described as a “perfect goddess and supposed ice queen” and then begging the artist for a phone call is not feminism. It is biased, unfounded nonsense shrouded in the guise of standing up for women. It’s posts like Evans’ that distract from actual sexism and misogyny that run rampant in this country.
Jeff Gage is not confused about women. Dayna Evans is confused about feminism.