HerStory: Sarah Jean.
Updated: Jul 25
Every woman has a story. Telling our story empowers us and inspires others. Taking time to hear another woman's story can introduce new ways of thinking, fresh ways of being, and oftentimes theses stories come to us as critical moments, right on time. I originally reached out to ask how this community can best support female musicians. Instead of replying with links for virtual tip jars and invitations to come hear her perform, she shared her story. Reading her words gave me a greater sense of the power of story and I realized how listening is often the best support we can offer one another in these times.
This is Sarah Jean's story.
Hi I'm Fiddlin Sarah Jean. I like turmeric and cream in my coffee. I enjoy poetry and thrifting. I collect depression era colored glass and my die hard pastime is soaking these bones in a natural hot springs.
Marcus Aurelius said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” I tend to agree. He also said, “You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” In a world that presents itself increasingly difficult to thrive in, we endure a global pandemic, a racial revolution, and the explosion of the infamous cancel culture. While we buckle in for one hell of an election cycle, how can we support each other amidst what feels like eternal discord and chaos? I will tell you how. We take what we have learned and we move forward in love.
My Experience My name is Sarah Jean, my friends call me SJ. I am mother to a very zany two year old named Juniper. Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, I am the oldest of five, whom I had a large hand in raising. My parents were addicted to methamphetamine. If you don’t know, the drug basically renders you useless as a parent. I am happy to say that I have overcome obstacles my daughter will never have to face. In childhood, neglect, starvation, and even molestation made me highly aware of what it was to be a survivor. I now face a very different set of challenges, but with my toolbox, I am still surviving. Too often I find that my perspectives don’t fall in line with the popular ones. Perhaps this is because my personal experience has shaped me, and that personal experience is unique to me. If I’m not virtue signaling as hard as you are, it doesn’t mean there isn’t change happening. Internal progress is not always tangible. I was asked to shed light on how this community can support female musicians. As a woman who already feels valued, empowered, and supported by her community, I will share my perspective. This musical community saved me. It has made me who I unapologetically am today. I know we have a long way to go, and I want to help. This is my story. Sexualizing Females My high school counselor told me that, based on statistics, I would be addicted to meth and pregnant at 15. Sorry statistics, I had other plans. I left home when I was 16 and have been performing live ever since. You can find me on stage 3-4 nights a week with a number of different bands playing a variety of genres. When I look back at video footage of my first few shows, I can see that I was a far cry from the outgoing woman that I am today. I was shy and still grappling with survival mode, but being around musically minded individuals and feeling the love in a room full of people gave me confidence. It all but took away my childhood insecurities. In my previous life I was accustomed to feeling invisible, but when I stepped into the spotlight I finally felt seen. I loved it, I craved the attention. Until being seen reared its ugly head and left me feeling unheard.
Standing on a stage automatically puts you on the receiving end of many derogatory comments and judgements. You are out there and available for the public sphere to freely comment on. But for a female performer, it is infinitely more tedious than that. Your art will not only be criticized and critiqued, you will often be openly sexualized and objectified. Body shamed. Called a slut. You will have your ass grabbed. You will be brought drinks that are spiked. You will be stalked. You will be criticized for what you do, and you will be criticized for what you don’t do.
I embody a strong, passionate and motivated character. I have spent years crafting my skill, putting thought and creativity into my music and appearances. I do this to share my gifts and create happiness, not as a prop, or a novelty that you can fantasize about. I fake a smile up there, but your comments still boil in my blood until tears betray me and I find myself hidden in a bathroom stall wishing I didn’t have to go back out there with mascara down my face. Disillusioned yet? The show must go on.
Christianity and Forgiving How do I succeed? I don’t let hate hold me back. I don’t engage in “cancel culture”. If you choose to, you won’t receive criticism from me. Jesus said, the truth will set you free. I am a free thinking conservative christian woman. That must taste like sawdust to the heavy presence of opposing ideologies in the circle that I frequent. Christianity has given christians a bad rap. I aim to change that. The majority of my friends are not self proclaimed christians. They are liberals, atheists, feminists and gays, and I actively love them. I don’t align myself with feminism but I will love and celebrate my feminist friends. I will support their movement even if they don’t support my freedom of difference in taste. To hate me for this would be counterproductive, and even anti-feministic ,but amidst the current oppression of free speech, I find myself afraid to publicly admit who I am. And who I am is damned well capable of being a follower of Jesus and best friends with my transgender coworker.
I am proud to wear what I please and I also know that a mini skirt doesn’t warrant your comments, or the judgments of a legalistic church. Engage in a civil conversation with me and you’ll find out just how similar we are. We all just want to love and be loved in return. We ALL just want to be accepted. Are you pro-choice? I accept you. Will I be accepted by the church for my open mindedness? I don’t care. What we decide is between us and our creator. When we die we will not ride off into a white light with our friends, our spouse, or our children. It will be us alone having a conversation with God.
You don’t need to justify what you do to anyone else. Perhaps I’m an anomaly among my peers as I shamelessly sip cold beer and play my fiddle at a honkey tonk bar, get home at 2am, and then play on the worship team bright and early the next morning. I don't give it a thought. I feel just as liberated as my feminist counterparts. When faced with sexism and unfair treatment, do I fight back? Yes I do. I expose what needs to be. My energy and charisma will not be stamped out by oppressive mentalities. But my way is another way. I choose forgiveness. My phone book is full of authentically good humans who would choose to love and fight, or forgive alongside me. Shaming our oppressors rarely ever produces the change we desire. Hate only hurts the hater. We are all human and highly capable of hurting others with our actions and words. I hope to receive this forgiveness when I am wrong. I welcome diverse opinions and ideologies with open arms, and I always will. The ability to disagree with others and still authentically love them, well, that is single handedly what is missing from the conquests of today.
Sharing If you want to support female musicians in this community, the answer is obvious. Support them. Pay the cover and go to a show. Buy their music. Buy their merch. The less obvious answer is, don’t sexualize them. Instead of saying, “wow you have really nice legs,” tell them how great they sound. Follow them on social media platforms. If you’re protecting yourself from Covid, stay home, watch a livestream and donate. This is a hard time for everyone financially, but my heart goes out to the musicians who can no longer perform and make a living due to this pandemic. It is a multifaceted depression. The despair I’ve felt from losing connection with my audience is humbling. I never recognized that the stage was and remains a way of life for me.
If you have a skill, share that skill. Are you a master networker, or graphic designer? Share your talent with a local artist. We can all donate more than just money. Are you a venue owner? Sound engineer? Teacher? Give a free online workshop sharing what you have learned. Ask a musician how you can help them. Reach out. We want to talk to you. Social media makes this easier than ever. When I started playing I didn’t have social media to network. I had only hard work and good will.
I would never have acquired my skill without the help of my mentor, JayDean Ludiker. She found me at age 13 playing my fiddle for some folks in a nursing home and she invited me to take lessons with her, for free. I was born again. Her kindness has shaped me. JayDean is an entrepreneur and nationally renowned fiddle instructor who holds multiple championship titles. She simply wanted to share her gift with a young girl who had an obvious obsession with fiddling. Her sharing changed my life. You could change somebody's life too. The opportunities that music can bring are endless.
This community will thrive when we share our resources. A competitive outlook only hurts the scene. I aim to dismantle the cliques. It's not about who gets booked the most or who has more followers on Instagram. I know this to be far from true. If you are emerging onto the scene, contact me. This community is inclusive. I have pockets full of musicians that will share their contacts with you or talk about gear. They would love to call you up on stage to sing a song with them. Music is about sharing. Performing isn’t about showing off. It is about you, the appreciators. It is about meeting you and hearing your story. It is about genuine connection and fellowship through a shared love of music. End Thoughts Music is a universal language. Celebrate your favorite female musicians by sharing their music. Post links and participate by inviting your friends to live performances. Success happens gradually, and primarily through word of mouth. The way to support anyone, anything, any movement, is through love. If that sounds like a cardboard cut out, just try it. I live by this mantra. Some cliches hold true. Love those who hate you. Change begins within.
Sam Harris said, “Remaining open to the powers of conversation- to new evidence and better arguments- is not only essential for rationality. It is essential for love.” I leave you with his quote to say, that those with ideas opposite your own still have valuable things to add and their voices should be considered. If a safe place is what you seek, spend some time there and begin the healing process. I have done this. Be attentive. Living inside an echo chamber will not bring the growth you wish to see in yourself or the world.
Ready to share your story? Not ready, but feel you need to anyway? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org ATTN: HerStory. We would love to share your experience. You never know who needs to hear what you've been through. ReplyForward