From the Editor : A Great Year For Women

I am writing this just nine days into the new year, and from where I sit, 2018 looks like a great year to be a woman. I’m not the first or the only one saying that. Google “the year of the woman,” and two numbers pop up: 1992 and 2018.

In 1992, I was more worried about passing high school calculus than what bills were being passed in congress. So I didn’t immediately remember what was happening nationally at the time. In case you don’t remember either, more women than ever before were elected to congress. And many felt that was in direct correlation to the Anita Hill allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas for sexual misconduct.

The year 2017 began with women marching en masse in major cities throughout the country. Their message was wide and varied and a little unfocused, but united in protesting a newly elected president. The year ended with women marching on Hollywood, major networks, and Congress in the #MeToo movement, the message laser focused now: sexual harassment and abuse is wrong and will no longer be tolerated.

Those stories have been difficult to hear. It’s overwhelming at times to think that so many have been hurt and victimized. But, in its wake, things are changing—victims are finding their voice and predators are being removed from power—leading many to say 2018 is poised to be another “year of the woman.”

What about in our own industry? At the time of this writing, the Metropolitan Opera has suspended legendary conductor James Levine as it investigates charges of sexual abuse. But other than that, tales of abuse remain mostly that—stories and folklore without loud enough voices and subsequent investigation to reveal them as fact.

And, yet, in so many ways there has never been a better time in history to be a female classical singer. We have more freedom, more choices, more opportunities, and more voice than ever before. Is there still room for improvement? Without question. But so many others have already laid the foundation for women to act, to choose, to speak out, and to lead.

Not that long ago female singers were discouraged from having children. But soprano Anna Christy’s career demonstrates a new reality (cover story, p. 16). While maintaining an active and busy performing schedule, Christy lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. Family is important to the singer, and while managing a career and kids is a balancing act to be sure, Christy says her manager and opera companies are not only understanding but also hugely supportive.

Another soprano, Jennifer Rivera, made the choice recently to leave full-time singing and accept an administrative position with Long Beach Opera (p. 12) to both pursue her passions and better meet the needs of her son. Last fall Rivera attended the Hart Institute for Women Conductors at Dallas Opera. The institute receives major funding each year to further the careers of female conductors, an area where women have long been shut out.

Finally, in this issue Cindy Sadler gives voice to many victims of sexual harassment and abuse in her article “Ugliness in the House of Beauty” (p. 34). While these singers have chosen to remain anonymous, perhaps other victims, in reading these experiences and knowing they are not alone, will find the courage to speak out and name names. As Sadler details, the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) is taking steps to give singers a safe place to air grievances, call out predators and, hopefully, effect future change.

Just as Anita Hill paved the way for 42 women to be elected to congress, the #MeToo movement is paving the way for another “year of the woman.” Let’s seize the many opportunities that are already ours this year to make things even better not only for ourselves but also for those who will follow.

Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is editor of Classical Singer magazine. She welcomes your comments.