PLAG (Play Like a Girl) is a Los Angeles-based collective that empowers and elevates the voices of women and nonbinary people. The group takes empowerment to a new level, curating safe spaces in the arts through live performance, educational workshops, and other resources. PLAG is currently expanding from LA, holding their first ever event in NYC — featuring Scarlet Sails, Sharkmuffin, and Exgirlfriends — on February 23rd. We spoke with powerhouse Kimi Recor, a musician in DRÆMINGS, and the "smooth operator" of PLAG Presents, to get a better understanding of how important the work of an organization like PLAG is.
What inspired you to start PLAG?
I’ve been a musician for over ten years, playing in several bands and regularly touring and recording. I was always surrounded by men and was craving a community of women who I could share my experiences with. I was really inspired by the festivals showcasing female artists, but wanted to have a monthly event where I could meet other female or nonbinary artists, and they could meet each other. PLAG was—and still is—all about building a community of artists and creating safe spaces for them to perform, learn, and express themselves. It’s really grown from there.
What was pre-PLAG life like as a musician?
I was surrounded by men all the time. Most of the members of my bands, in the studio, [and] at all the venues we played. I was often the only woman. When it came to gender-based experiences, from sound guys addressing the male members of my band about my gear, to sexual harassment, to other sexist micro-aggressions, I didn’t have anyone to connect with or trade notes with.
What have been some of the biggest obstacles you've faced since PLAG started putting on events?
There have been a couple. The first is balancing being an artist with the business side. I’m a musician, and always have been. But at PLAG, a few other women and I are running a business. It’s a completely different mindset. There are days I’ll come out of a writing session, have to deal with corporate formation paperwork, or sponsor meetings for PLAG, and then go play a show.
The other major challenge has been scaling. PLAG has been around for just under two years, and, in that time period, we went from one monthly showcase to three to four shows a month, an educational workshop series, a record label, and a blog. Keeping the machine running with a small group of volunteers and juggling the big picture with the daily nitty-gritty has been a lot. All of our PLAG partners have other jobs—I’m an artist, one of our partners has a law firm, another is a publicist at a major agency—so it’s a balancing act that we’re still figuring out. Every day is a learning process.
What would you say cis women can do to create safer event spaces, and safer spaces in general, for trans and nonbinary individuals?
First, recognize that feminism is intersectional. A white woman will experience sexism differently than a woman of color who will experience it differently from a trans woman. There are a lot of layers and it’s critical to make sure that your activism is taking in and acknowledging diverse perspectives. Gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class, these all have an impact.
Second, expand your views of what a “woman” is. It’s beyond biology. Not all women have vaginas and not all women menstruate. While those symbols can be powerful, they may alienate trans women or nonbinary people. Anyone who identifies as a woman should be celebrated as one. There are plenty of other symbols we can include.
Third, actually create those spaces. As cis women, especially as white cis women, we are privileged and have access to more platforms. We need to use those platforms to elevate marginalized voices. When we’re booking shows or we’re booking panelists for PLAG workshops, we prioritize trans artists, nonbinary artist, women of color, and other marginalized people. They are fighting twice as hard as others are, and their voices need to be heard.
Next, speak up. If you hear someone making transphobic comments, say something. Say something even if it’s your friends or family, even if there isn’t a trans person around to hear you.
Finally, listen. Pass the mic to our trans siblings. Listen to their struggles, their experiences, and their solutions. Being an ally is about standing beside someone in their battle, not speaking over them.
PLAG has primarily held events in LA and now you're getting ready for your first show in NYC. What do you hope to accomplish with the NYC show?
While we love throwing shows, we are really focusing on our PLAG workshops this year. They’re artist-facing educational workshops where we bring in female and nonbinary panelists to talk about the music business, gear, or other related topic. A few of us realized that artists were asking us all the same questions, so there’s obviously a need for artist-level education, especially for developing artists.
Our first NYC show is this Friday at Rough Trade, and we want to use that as a springboard to come back a few times a year for more shows, but also set up some workshops here. The more artists that we can empower, the better.
top photo from Scarlet Sails
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Janeth Ann Gonda is currently the events and promotions manager at BUST Magazine, a singer, dancer, writer, and event planner living in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently the lead singer in the Gypsy Witch Rock Band Espejismo. After working in the Brooklyn music industry for several years she created her own event space Barranquilla Studios. Janeth has hosted hundreds of bands and fans alike and is an active member in the NYC music community.