Classical Mansplaining

My post made it onto Academic Men Explain Things to Me! Yay!


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This scene happened several months ago, and it still irritates me to think about. I’m a classical musician, and I’ve been playing viola in this particular small-time orchestra for about five years now. I started there when I was relatively young (19), but the fact that I’ve kept the job should say something about my abilities and professionalism. 

We had a new principal player this season, and during the first concert (which included the very piece that had won me the job), he kept giving the bowings (and all the other information on how to play the piece) to the man on the third stand, skipping me and my (female) stand partner entirely. Now, I usually sit third or fourth chair, which means I’m always second stand—pretty high in the chain of command. And I definitely outrank the guy he was giving the bowings to, who is much older than me, but does not, to my knowledge, have a contract. He’s only a substitute. So, I was already irritated, but when Third Stand Guy miscounted repeatedly and blamed me (by leaning over and whispering, “Don’t rush!”), I was primed to say something. 

At the break in the rehearsal, I went up to New Principal Guy and told him, very politely, that he was giving the bowings to the wrong stand and that we weren’t getting the information. He apologized profusely and said it was an honest mistake—we were all sitting in a row behind him, and he just hadn’t realized. But Third Stand Guy overheard our conversation and interjected. “Oh, don’t worry,” he said to New Principal Guy. “I’ve been making sure she’s been getting the bowings. She’s just kidding.”

I gaped at him as he walked away. New Principal Guy, to his credit, asked me if I really was kidding, and I told him no. But thanks, Third Stand Guy, for speaking for me. I needed that.


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