Women Piping

I had the astounding good fortune to MC an International Women’s Day event on the weekend. It was called Eve-olution 3.

You should have been there. There were women on bagpipes (I’d never seen women playing bagpipes, and never asked myself why.) There were fabulous singers and dancers (ballet, modern, stepdance, African dance, Jamaican dance), there was poetry, and visual art streaming on a couple of screens beside the stage. By women, in celebration of women.

And there was an audience filled with women, men, and children celebrating with us.

It made me think of the women in my family.

My grandmother couldn’t hear women. I mean it. She said it was a special kind of hearing loss. I’m sure it began while her kids were kids, but toward the end of her life she just stopped hearing all women. If a man left the room to go to the bathroom, or grab a sandwich or go home, she just stopped talking to the women still with her. No point, she said.

This woman raised my mother, who has done pretty well, considering. My mom practiced piano four or five hours a day, as a kid, while her brothers played outside. That’s what girls did. Later, she raised six kids, feeding them, cleaning up after them, and having my father’s drink and dinner waiting for him every evening, like some Rob and Laura Petrie imitation, but without the humour. (My dad is wonderful, but is completely a product of his generation of men who Worked to Support a Family he Didn’t Often See. He is no longer taken care of by my mother.)

These days my mom is a painter who also sings in a great choral group.

My daughter, to skip forward in time, is doing a Masters degree in exercise physiology, studying the differences between male and female responses to exercise.  (When i called her about all of this, she’d just finished a day in the lab, slicing rat fat, if you can believe it.)

She loves the fact that we are an enigma.

My mom would say that being a woman is better than it used to be.

My daughter says that she loves being a woman, though it hasn’t been an effortless love.

I’d love to say that I am not sexist at all, that I think each of us as human beings, period. I’d be lying.  If I were not sexist at all, I’d have questioned the bagpipes being a man’s instrument.  I’ll bet I make all kinds of sexist assumptions that I can’t hear coming out of my own mouth.  (Not a bad thing to remember when I’m making fun of my gran.)

I don’t know what International Women’s Day means to you.

Are you celebrating? Are you piping?

Do you love yourself effortlessly?

Are we as independent of our mothers’ and grandmothers’ beliefs as we’d like to be, or have we inherited a kind of patina of their beliefs about being women? Can we drop those beliefs and allow ourselves to be a mystery?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for the conversation,


What she tells me is that the more science learns about women and exercise (and science only began to care very recently), the greater the mystery becomes. Nothing they’re learning begins to explain our differences, says my daughter.

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One Response to Women Piping

  1. Pat Stamp says:

    I live with a piper and I know a few women pipers. It is a difficult instrument to play. Not so very long ago women were not “allowed” in pipe bands. I am proud to say my husband’s band was the first in the area to encourage women to join. Now you see lots of pipers and drummers who are female. And why not? If men can wear a skirt (they hate it when a kilt is called a skirt) then women can pipe.Your Gran sounds like my mother. She did not hear women either but I think it was because she just preferred men….. and wanted them to prefer her.I loved your performance in Waiting for Godot. Congratulations on winning Best Production and on your adjudicator’s award. It was well deserved.

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