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Positive Feedback ISSUE41
Women in Audio
So …what do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was in the first grade my class took a field trip to the fire station. At the time I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, the firemen got to live at the station and when there was a fire they got to slide down a pole …inside! I was enthralled with the whole idea. I came home and told my mom and dad,
"When I grow up I want to be a fireman!"
Granted, this was in 1964, and back then little girls didn't aspire to be fire fighters. Prior to that field trip I had said I wanted to be a nurse, a model, or a ballerina. The key thing about my proclamation however was the choice of words …I wanted to be a fireman. In my mind, that was the name of the job, and it didn't mean you had to be a man to do it.
Within a few years after that feminism became a hot topic again, and the belief was fostered that women could do any job they set their minds to. By then I realized that if I wanted to slide down a pole I could go to the park, although an outdoor pole didn't hold the same allure of getting from one floor to another in a matter of seconds. Besides, by then I'd changed my career goal again and I wanted to become a famous dancer like Isadora Duncan.
Now that I've hit that "grown up" part of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I am a teacher. Along with that I am also an audiophile. And firemen are called fire fighters.
Chair shot to the head
The germ of this article has been sprouting in my head for quite some time, but as always I let it stew before finally sitting down before the keyboard. During that stewing process I decided to see if I could draw an analogy between women in audio and women in my second passion: wrestling.
I have been an audiophile a lot longer than I've been a wrestling fan. I remember that same year I wanted to be a fireman my parents bought the 45s "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles. My sister and I played them at top volume on our trusty Show 'N Tell and pretended to play guitar on a toy broom.
Sure, the sound wasn't that great, but that began my love of music. The love for the equipment didn't start until 1980 when Dave showed me that music sounds better when it's played on better equipment. There was no turning back from the day he and I spent my fist paycheck of our married lives on DCM Time Windows and an NAD integrated.
Wrestling is something I have only followed avidly for nine years. In January of 2000 I walked my students behind the cafeteria and one of them got a whiff of the garbage and said "Do you smell that Mrs. Clark?" Before I could respond one of the boys dropped into a perfect imitation of The Rock, "If you smell what the Rock is cookin'!" Of course, when I went home that night and watched wrestling it was Chris Jericho who caught my attention, not The Rock. But just like the Beatles and a wacky record player that looked like a TV, once I saw Jericho wrestle a love of wrestling was born.
That's a picture of Jericho from the first live wrestling show I ever attended, three years into the addiction. Oddly enough The Rock came out to attack him shortly after I snapped this picture, thus completing the circle.
Ask an Expert
Before I look at women in audio I'll take a moment to look into women in wrestling. While I'm considered a journalist when it comes to audio I can only consider myself a fan when it comes to wrestling, so I decided to pose some questions to a journalist I respect. PWInsider has been online for five years this month, but the staff there has been covering pro-wrestling for more than a decade. I started up a subscription with them early on in their first year, and they are the site I trust the most when it comes to wrestling news. I regularly log on every morning, just to "see if the world has come to an end" because they usually have the news first. Over the years they have grown and added some new sites PWInsiderXtra for independent and MMA news and pwiPOP for arts, culture and more.
Dave Scherer is the man in charge, and through the years I have emailed back and forth with him several times, so I posed a series of questions to him.
Beth Phoenix is the current woman's champion, and is a powerhouse. For those of you who remember Chyna, she's not quite that masculine looking, but she is able to take on men and win. Eve Torres was a winner of the WWE Diva Search and is currently working as a backstage interviewer. Scherer mentions Kelly Kelly, and in a lot of respects she combines the two. She's a beauty, yet she is a good wrestler. I typically don't watch the women, but I do like Kelly Kelly.
However, now you can see why I drew the parallel as he says the wrestling audience is predominantly male, much in the same way the crowds at audio functions are primarily male.
This is one area that doesn't apply to audio, but I included it because he makes the valid point that one has to be knowledgeable. For example the other day Dave said something about a new NOS DAC we received for review, and I said "new old stock?" Turns out it meant, "non-oversampling and non-upsampling" but he was impressed I knew the terms. Along with that during CES there were many times we walked into rooms and I recognized the gear without even asking.
There are a lot of female wrestling fans, teenagers or a little older, that do primarily watch wrestling for the "hot men" aspect, much in the same way that a lot of men watch for the scantily clad ladies. This doesn't really carry over into audio, but I know there are many times when audiophiles on message boards don't give me half the respect that Scherer did in that last comment. I don't have a dense background knowledge of wrestling, and maybe that doesn't show when I write in, but he regularly suffers my feeble observations and even posts some of them at his site. Audiophiles, on the other hand, poke fun at my articles, and would probably never say the things they write on the boards to my face.
Wrestling can be as expensive as audio in certain cases. I spent a lot of money to go to Wrestlemania 21 live, but didn't sit on the floor so didn't bring home a chair.
Scherer is right; the W.A.F. is not the same in wrestling as it is in audio, so I'll delve into that a little later.
Herein lies the major difference. Serious audiophiles are predominantly male, but that might be a matter of semantics.
Stepping on toes
Now that I've got the wrestling out of my system (sorry Dave, it's not that easy, I still call dibs on the TV Monday and Friday nights) let's get down to the meat of the matter, women in audio.
In December the Los Angeles and Orange County Audiophile Society held their annual Holiday Gala in honor of fifteen years of operation. Dave and I founded the society with Larry and Carrie Fisher over a few bottles of wine in our living room. Who knew it would ever grow to what it has become today.
During the Gala the society president Bob Levi introduced "powerful women in audio" who were present at the event. EveAnna Manley of Manley Labs and Colleen Cardas of Cardas Audio were introduced, and undeniably both of them have made their mark in high-end audio, I definitely consider them powerful. Then he said Carol Clark. This was my reaction:
I don't consider myself a powerful woman audiophile at all, and sadly I'm not eye candy like a female wrestler. In my own mind I'm a woman that likes music and acknowledges that components make a difference in sound. The fact that I've been exposed to all things audio for the last twenty eight years makes me realize that it isn't just the loudspeakers, it is every component in the chain right down to the interconnects and cables.
While I don't consider myself powerful, I do acknowledge that I am an audiophile. I have also made enough in-roads into the business that I am not viewed as a tag-along wife anymore, and many times when we attend CES or other shows I am treated with as much respect as Dave is (what... they treat me like dirt! - Dave). I just wonder if that's true for all women.
The Dreaded W.A.F.
One time Dave and I were trudging through a show, there have been so many of them that I can't remember which one this was, and we ended up in a room that featured turntables. I was listening with half an ear; counting the hours until the show was over when all of a sudden the exhibitor pulled me away and said he had something to show me. Honestly, I can't remember who it was, but what he showed me with great pride was a pink turntable because See! It's pink! We know what women want!
At first I was shocked, but then I realized there might be people out there in the world who like pink, I just don't think this manufacturer realized that not all of them are women. One of those big burly wrestler guys I mentioned before stated in an interview that pink was his favorite color.
I don't believe in the wife acceptance factor mainly because Dave and I don't have that kind of relationship. Remember that we once owned Apogee Caliper Signature loudspeakers, and we were regularly asked when people visited us, "Are those heating panels?"
Our listening room is our living room, I agree to keep it set up for optimal listening and he agrees to let me keep a picture from Wrestlemania 21 on the sideboard in the dining room. We make decisions together based on our own eclectic style that we've been perfecting over the years. If it sounds good, and we can afford it, it goes in the room, many times regardless of what it looks like.
Hearing someone espouse the W.A.F. is still like nails on a chalkboard, and in my humble opinion if men really wanted more women in audio they would stop using sexist terms like that. Audio should be about the joy of listening to music, not setting up barriers or making it like a members-only club.
What it all boils down to
Ever since first grade when I wanted to be a fireman, I haven't seen the world divided by lines of gender. I yam what I yam, and that's all that I yam. I don't want to be treated differently than male audiophiles, and I don't want to be patronized.
Just because I get lost in conversations about the efficiency of loudspeakers in comparison with amplifiers doesn't mean I can't appreciate system matching. Maybe I don't want to spend an afternoon comparing cables, but I am capable of distinguishing differences between them. I don't want a pink turntable, and I don't mind having speakers that look like heating panels. I'm not living with an audiophile, we're two audiophiles living together.
At the end of the day, the bond that all audiophiles should have in common is music.