What's sex got to do with...band?


1429313-L.jpg I have been playing the flute in band since I was ten years old. I noticed that some band instruments tend to be played by girls and some tend to be played by boys. I think this is because flutes, clarinets, oboes, etc. are known as the pretty and delicate-sounding instruments. They are thin and small and not very loud and therefore more "feminine." Brass instruments and percussion instruments, on the other hand, are bigger, louder, and more dominating in sound. They are thought to be more "masculine." It is silly to think that an inanimate object such as a flute can be attributed gender traits, however, it is the nature of our society. I remember going through grade school in a flute section that had all girls with the exception of one boy. This boy was always the outcast, ignored by the girls in my section because he was not thought to be manly enough and ignored by the other boys in band because he was thought to be too feminine. It's interesting though because the girls that played instruments such as the trumpet were never made fun of. Why is it that it is more acceptable for girls to cross gender lines than boys? Why don't band directors encourage beginning players to try out instruments that typically played by the opposite gender? Could our society potentially learn to see non-living objects such as band instruments in a non-heteronormative, unbiased manner?


I always found this to be interesting as well, but at our school, the band teachers encourage you to play whatever instrument you want to play. I've known guys who have played flute and never have been made fun of, but in some cases they only picked it to sit with the girls, which kind of bothered me because they weren't that good and I enjoy playing my flute.

Also, fun fact, boys are actually more capable of playing wind instruments while girls are more capable of playing brass instruments due to the way our diaphragms are built. Isn't that ironic?

I can't say much about the specifics of gender discrepancies with instruments, but I've noticed that in many different areas it is easier for women to do things that are traditionally perceived as masculine than it is for men to do things that are traditionally perceived as feminine. Women can cut their hair short and wear pants, but men typically don't grow their hair long and wear skirts or dresses. I think it might be because our society views men on top of the gender hierarchy, so if a woman takes on "masculine" traits, that's more acceptable than if a man takes on "feminine" ones.

It would be interesting to compare sound and femininity/masculinity. Are there masculine and feminine sounds that exist? Is it the sounds made by certain instruments the reason they are classified into "boy" or "girl" instruments, or is it because some are easier for a certain gender to play? This somewhat reminds me of American Pie, and how they tried to sex up the "band nerd."

I've always thought this was weird in band as well. I can't count the number of times in high school when I witnessed guys playing around with my or one of my friend's flutes, and then getting made fun of because of it. I know when I started band when I was 12, my director didn't put boys on any woodwind instruments except for saxophone. I had never noticed that until I thought about it again a few years later. I don't know if it was intentional, but the fact that there was a split between which instruments boy and girls played makes the whole of being in band a much different atmosphere.

It is really interesting that men are better built for playing woodwind instruments-- I think that's why we often see professional flute, clarinet, etc. players that are men. Kate-that's a good explanation for the whole hierarchy between males and female. It makes sense that society is more willing to let women take steps up while men are discouraged to take steps down, so to say.

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