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A History of GST

Page history last edited by todd.rosendahl@gmail.com 8 years, 12 months ago

A History of the Gender and Sexualities Taskforce

By Sidra Lawrence & Todd Rosendahl


     The Gender and Sexualities Taskforce (GST) is an official section of the Society for Ethnomusicology. We represent a group of scholars and activists invested in the study of gender and sexualities in musical contexts and are committed to advocating for the rights, needs, and agendas of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. These interests take a wide variety of forms and formats. Many of our members work and research in LGBTQ communities. Others utilize queer theory as an analytical frame for the study of musical cultures. Our members often combine research and activism to work towards the rights and political goals of the communities within which they conduct research. Whatever form the research takes, we are committed as a group to raising awareness of gender and sexualities as a crucial aspect of ethnomusicological work, both in theory and in the lives of ethnomusicologists.

     We encourage music scholars -- particularly those who care about the broad range of issues falling under the rubric of ethnomusicology -- to incorporate the study of music and sexualities into their research, writing, and teaching. Our aim is to sponsor regular forums on music and sexualities at annual meetings of SEM. We welcome the participation of scholars conducting research in music and sexualities cross-culturally as well as within their own societies. Our goals include promoting communication and diversity within the Society for Ethnomusicology with special regard to the concerns of scholars, students, and public sector advocates identifying variously as, but not limited to, LGBTQ. We are concerned about widely diverse issues, including increased personal opportunities and professional advancement, for members of these constituencies across lines of nation, religion, gender, race, class, and ethnicity. Our goal is to serve as a springboard for activism and as a harbinger of hope for scholars throughout the world as we address issues of sensitivity at our various places of work and learning. Taskforce membership is open to all SEM members.



     The GST began with a founding steering committee in 1996. The first members were Ingrid Monson, Zoe Sherinian, Eileen Hayes, Gillian Rodger, and Roberta Lamb. Thanks to the work of these members, the GST held its first section meeting at the Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting in 2004. Past co-chairs of the GST include Maria Johnson, Eileen Hayes, Amy Corin, Juniper Hill, Boden Sandstrom, Kiri Miller, Henry Spiller, Roberta Lamb, and Tes Slominski; the current co-chairs are Sidra Lawrence and Todd Rosendahl. The GST maintains the format of two co-chairs, an incoming and an outgoing chair, each serving a two year term. Professors, graduate students, and public intellectuals are welcomed to participate as co-chair, section secretary, panel coordinator, or as a member of the section’s sub-committees.

     Shortly after the GST’s first meeting as an official SEM section, the group developed a web page that contains valuable resources for members and non-members. Thanks to the efforts of Tes Slominski and Lawren Young, the website includes section news, contact and membership information, SEM reports, SEM meeting minutes, a list of all committee members, and prize announcement and information. Each year preceding the SEM annual meeting, all gender and sexuality related events, panels, workshops, roundtables, and concerts are compiled and posted to the website. Additionally, Members of the GST collaborated to compile bibliographies of scholarly works in the areas of gender and sexuality studies. These extensive bibliographies, available on the Bibliographies page of the website, are a valuable resource for research and teaching.

      In 2008 the GST was excited to work with the Section on the Status of Women (SSW) to co-sponsor the “Feminist Ethnomusicology at 21” celebration in honor of the twenty-first anniversary of Ellen Koskoff’s edited volume, Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective. This celebration acknowledged the rich history, hard work, and groundbreaking scholarship of ethnomusicologists working to promote gender, sexuality, and women’s studies in ethnomusicology. Recently the Taskforce has started organizing more informal networking events at the annual SEM meetings. The first Annual GST/SSW Fabulous Networking Cocktail Party was held at the SEM meeting in Philadelphia in 2011. This new tradition continued in New Orleans in 2012, and we have all intentions of repeating this event each year at the annual meeting. The Fabulous Cocktail Party represents the efforts of both sections to create a space for those interested in gender and sexuality studies to meet new people, connect with old friends, and form collaborative projects.

      Beginning in 2012, the GST has been proud to co-sponsor with the SSW the Fieldwork Mentoring Program, a new initiative that brings issues of gender and sexuality into the conversation of fieldwork. The purpose is to create a forum for students and junior scholars to be paired with an experienced mentor to discuss all gender and sexuality related concerns, questions, and experiences in a safe and confidential environment. The Fieldwork Mentoring Program details can be accessed from its SEM website as well as from a Facebook page. The GST also established a separate Facebook page in 2012 to be used as an interdisciplinary forum. The group, “Gender/Sexuality/ Music: A Forum for Scholars, Performers, Educators, and Composers,” is intended to connect members of different music societies and those engaged in all forms of the study of gender and sexuality in music. We encourage everyone to share calls for papers, news stories, and class ideas, as well as begin discussion threads on a variety of related topics. Membership is open to anyone interested in gender, sexuality, LGBTQ, and feminist topics of music scholarship.


Panel Sponsorship

     The GST has sponsored a number of panels at the SEM annual meetings. We strive for collaboration with other SEM sections, interest groups, and committees. We welcome topics that address a wide range of goals, interests, and approaches. In 2005 we co-sponsored two panels with the SSW, a roundtable, “The Mentoring Networks for Women” and a paper session, “Women on the Verge of a Gender Breakdown.” Both of these panels reflected the experiences of women in academia, within music cultures, and as ethnomusicologists. In 2006 the GST organized a double-panel for the SEM meeting in Hawaii. This panel, "Non-Normative Genders and Renegotiated Performance Processes," included "Part I – Challenging Norms of Gender and Sexuality On and Off Stage" and "Part II – Reconfigured Gender Identity through Popular Music Performance."

      The Taskforce continued to honor their commitment to work closely with other SEM sections, as well as across societies, at the 2007 meeting. The GST co-chairs established a relationship with the International Council for Traditional Music’s Music and Gender Study Group to create a mutually supportive collaborative network. At the SEM meeting, the GST co-sponsored a panel with the Education and History Section, “Gender, Education, and Music Traditions,” as well as the roundtable “On the Road through Tenure” with the SSW, the Professional Development Committee, and the Crossroads Committee. In the following years the GST sponsored panels that represented the varied interests of its members. In their diversity, we see the nuanced perspectives represented in the variety of geographic locations, approaches, methodologies, and theoretical positions. Examples include, “Opening Up Queer Musical Spaces,” “Experimental Subjects: Women in the New York Avant-Gardes,” “Undergirding and Undermining Gender Ideologies through Musical Performance,” “Popular Music History and the Body,” “Female Masculinities in Cross-Cultural Perspective,” “Parenting in the Field: An Ethnomusicology Careers Roundtable,” and “Music, Movement, and Masculinities: Contested Masculinities.”

      Moving forward the GST is excited to continue collaborating with diverse SEM sections and interest groups to explore the intersections of our discipline. We welcome all suggestions for papers, roundtables, films, workshops, and performances that will enhance the visibility of gender and sexuality studies in myriad contexts.



     The GST honors exceptional work on gender and sexuality annually through the Marcia Herndon Award. This award was first proposed by Boden Sandstrom in 2005 to honor the legacy of the late Dr. Herndon (1941-1997), an influential scholar in the field of ethnomusicology whose research focused on issues relating to music and gender. The Marcia Herndon Award recognizes ethnomusicological inquiry that illuminates the significance of gender and sexuality. The description and requirements for the award were finalized and approved under the leadership of Boden Sandstrom, with great assistance from Eileen Hayes and Gillian Rodger, and with the blessings of Marcia Herndon’s partner, Billye Talmadge. The first Marcia Herndon Award was given at the 2007 SEM annual meeting to Sonja Downing. The award has been offered every year since 2007. Past winners are Henry Spiller, Stephanie Doktor, Sydney Hutchinson, Christina Sunardi, and David Kaminski.

     The Marcia Herndon Award is open to all SEM members. Submitted projects should have been completed in the two preceding calendar years. Works are accepted from any country and in any language (if a non-English work, contact the prize committee for requirements about providing an English translation or abstract). Eligible "work" includes a published article, book, edition, annotated translation, conference paper, or other scholarly product (such as film, CD, website) accepted by the award committee. Individuals may be nominated for and receive the award on more than one occasion. Self-nominations are acceptable and encouraged. The award committee consists of three to four members of the GST. Past winners are invited to serve on the committee for the following year. For further information on applying, please see the GST website or contact the current Marcia Herndon Award Committee Chair, Sidra Lawrence at sidra@uchicago.edu.


Activist Committee

     One of the most active sub-committees on the GST has been the Activist Committee. The Activist Committee was first formed at the GST business meeting at the 2006 SEM meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. This committee was created to work with the Crossroads Project and the SEM Board to support SEM members who are being denied basic civil rights due to gender/sexuality discrimination. The original members of the committee were Rachel Devitt, Sidra Lawrence, Gillian Rodger, Boden Sandstrom and Barbara Taylor. The Activist Committee began by drafting a statement to the SEM Board and membership for approval. This statement proposed that future conferences not be held in states, at universities, or in countries with discriminating anti-LGBTQ laws/policies. In 2007 the SEM Board agreed to issue a mandate to conference organizing committees asking that they avoid holding annual meetings in states, cities, or institutional settings that severely discriminate on the basis of gender or sexuality, and to include language addressing sexuality discrimination in the Board’s position statements regarding visa and immigration issues that affect ethnomusicologists and musicians.

      In 2008 Boden Sandstrom spearheaded the next stage of the Activist Committee’s concerns, which included how to support SEM members that do not receive equal benefits from their home universities/employers based on anti-LGBTQ policies, and are otherwise discriminated against. After numerous drafts and much hard work over the course of several years, the GST’s Activist Committee completed and submitted a position statement on anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and sexual diversity to the SEM Board in 2012. This statement represents a significant amount of work from committee members and recent committee chairs Rachel Devitt and Todd Rosendahl, under whom the statement was approved by the Board in fall 2012. The full text of the position statement can be read on the SEM website.

      With the support of the American Musicological Society’s LGBTQ Study Group and the Society for Music Theory’s Queer Resource Group, the Activist Committee successfully lobbied for a gender-neutral restroom at the 2012 joint conference meeting in New Orleans. This important issue will be on the committee’s agenda for future SEM conferences. The committee intends to continue working towards more inclusive language, policies, and actions in the society and in all institutions where ethnomusicologists work, conduct research, and teach. For further information on the Activist Committee, please contact the current chair, Todd Rosendahl, at todd.rosendahl@gmail.com.


Vision for the Future

     Moving forward, the GST hopes to increase visibility of gender and sexuality scholarship both in academic forums and public works. We hope to increase our membership and encourage scholars and activists at all stages of their career to join the group. We support the intellectual pursuits of scholars identifying as LGBTQ, and are committed to creating a space where the needs, experiences, and projects of those interested in gender and sexuality are prioritized. We look forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary as a section in 2014!



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