I publish a sexy calendar for feminism
A few weeks ago I posted about looking for talent for the Accordion Babes Pin-up Calendar online and an older man commented that my calendar is sexist. He said that it exploits women.
In theory, we could be a sexist publication; since we publish sexy photos of female accordionists. There are plenty of reasons that we’re not.
1) Female editor who is an independent artist and life-long feminist
2) Female art director who is a professional independent photographer
3) Tiny independent publishing outfit rather than a big corporation with shareholders
3) Artists produce and maintain ownership of their own photos and songs
4) Requirements to join the Accordion Babes include submitting a high-quality recording
5) No age limit, we encourage older artists to apply
6) No sexist weight requirements. Dress in a way that you think is sexy and fun, use great lighting and makeup like the pros do, but no one on our team gives a damn if you’re fat or skinny, short or tall, young or old. We care if you’re a good musician, we care if you have the intelligence, planning, personality and dedication to produce a calendar-worthy sexy photo.
We are re-defining sexy to include older women and people with a wide range of body types. We are showing that using your brain and your heart are actually the biggest elements in the new definition of sexiness. It angers me, but doesn’t surprise me, that some people mistake this mission for exploitation. Sex is used to promote everything from cars to toothpaste. Now somebody is using it to distribute accordion compilation CDs. Artist exploitation! Real feminists reject all notions of sexiness!
For the record, I never asked to develop a big pair of boobs and a curvy body. When I was a kid, I hoped I would grow up to be like the warrior maids in my fantasy novels. Strong, independent, tall, (whoops didn’t happen), athletic, funny. (Hopefully sometimes I’m funny. My real friends laugh at my jokes.)
Can you imagine what it’s like, being a child nerd, a book-loving intellectual, completely shut off from the culture around you because you’re a weirdo black sheep in a tiny town who takes no joy in sports or bland socializing, always feeling like a lonely misfit, but at least having friends in books, friends in an expansive vocabulary, friends in other times and worlds, daydreaming of meeting your favorite authors or being an astronaut some day, observing the actions of other kids from a distance because you’re unable to have fun with what they think is fun … and then growing a large pair of boobs at the age of twelve, and being changed instantly in the minds of boys around you, from “bookworm” into “sex object”? Oh, and then all decent people want you to hide that you have any notion of what sex is about, they tell you to focus on your schoolwork. Good girls aren’t supposed to have any idea that the boys are undressing us in their minds, staring at our cleavage, treating our young child bodies like pieces of meat with no soul.
This is what bothers me so much when people criticize the Accordion Babes Pin-up Calendar for being sexist. My entire society is sexist, and obsessed with youth and beauty. I’ve noticed on my own that sexiness comes in many kinds of bodies, old and young, and that the women I meet who are professional musicians are heroes, worthy of being celebrated. They are worthy of being role-models for young girls. They give me hope for a brighter future where women can express their true selves, whether they are horny or pure, funny and outrageous, clever, strong and fun; sassy or silly, sweet or nasty. Every year I produce an album to go with the calendar even though this significantly raises the cost of the production without promising me any greater return on investment. This is because I’m not a corporation. I’m a woman and I was born into a world which treats girls and women like shit. I want to change this world and make it more welcoming for the curvier sex.
As a woman, I’m supposed to be sexy, have the tiniest waist and biggest tits possible, but act like I have no idea that I’m sexually attractive. If I act like I have any idea of what’s going on when men look at my body, I’m a narcissist, I’m an attention-whore. I if publish pictures which celebrate sexuality, I’m exploiting people.
If you think I’m being too simplistic, just turn on your TV with a new lens in front of your thoughts; the adult role models for girls and women in cartoon and film all share certain key points:
1) They have a skinny yet boob-ful body which is nearly impossible to have except AS A PRE-TEEN or WITH SURGERY.
2) They never look older than 25
3) They always maintain an air of innocence i.e. they have no participation or awareness of their own sexuality
4) They are perfectly safe fantasy objects for boys and men, their deeper and darker character traits are noticeably absent. All women who have deeper passions or awareness of the male gaze are characterized as villains. If you want to be a good girl you can express “healthy” emotions like anger and violence but you had better just blush and act like an idiot when a boy whom you like looks at you. Having power and awareness is for bad girls only.
Meanwhile… older women and non-skinny women are almost completely ignored in our culture. I think this does a huge disservice not just to older women; (hey, I’m still here, my vagina didn’t go away!) it also puts enormous pressure on teen and pre-teen girls. Sorry honey, in your life you will go from being an innocent child to being the sexy ideal of womanhood in about six months… unless you are fat in which case you can expect to be ignored and teased no matter what you do, and feel like maybe there is nothing you can accomplish with your life other than motherhood. No matter what body you are born with, we expect you to not have any of your own thoughts about sex and sexuality because we don’t want you to become a slut.
This is why I publish a sexy calendar because FUCK THAT WORLD. I want a world where fat girls feel like they can matter, they can be formidable sources of sexiness. I want a world where girls don’t have to be afraid of getting old and having all their power and charm disappear overnight; I want them to have sexy older role models too so they can look forward to the gifts and confidence (and enormous musical repertoire) which age can bring. I want to take some of the pressure off the too-sexy-too-young girls who still need a few more years of being kids rather than sex-objects. I want young women to take their power and dress like sexy superheroes if they want to, make an album if they want to, find the exciting community of the indie-arts world and dive right in.
I’m sure there are parents out there reading this who are very uncomfortable with me describing their child in sexual terms. Maybe they hate my irresponsible attitude, my influence which is worldly rather than godly. Consider this; it’s only natural for every young person to get a crush on somebody. Love comes to everyone at some time, the desire to be seen as attractive to somebody special is something which every human feels. It is completely unfair that young girls are raised in a society that teaches them to become a clueless sex object while they are in high school. If you don’t think that the Disney princesses are clueless sex objects then watch the movies again, look for a fat heroine, or an older heroine, look for a princess who doesn’t look like some version of Barbie. Disney princesses are allowed to be smart about certain things but they’d better be dumb as nails when it comes to sex… or be labeled as a villain, a slut.
I publish the Accordion Babes calendar for a lot of reasons. It has brought me in touch with many of my favorite people, women who are amazing artists whom I’m glad to now call friend. They are women who inspire me every single day. I don’t publish this calendar to make a lot of money, I don’t do all this work with recruiting, art direction, fundraising, printing, album mastering, distribution, in order to exploit people. I publish this calendar because I’m a feminist and I want to fix my world’s broken ideal of femininity and celebrate the real heroes in our culture. I also want to celebrate accordions because they are really, really fun and cool. More people need to know about that!
If you know of women accordionists who are perfect for this calendar, who are ready to celebrate their unique bodies and their beloved accordions in front of the camera, please send me links to their websites, or give them my email address which is [email protected] There are a few places still open in the 2018 edition. If I don’t get enough photos and songs by mid-August then I have to wait another year to publish. So… now is a great time to reach out and let them know about the Accordion Babes!
July 12th 2017
-Renee de la Prade
The Accordion Babes Creative Team
Editor/ Producer: Renée de la Prade
Art director: Julie Nagel and Renée de la Prade
Graphic Design: Vicki Moriawietz and Roman Korsch
Calendar Cover drawing: Rosie Steffy
Web Maven: Maggie Martin
CD Mastering: Mr. Toad’s Recording, Vallejo, California
What is the Accordion Babes Pin-Up Calendar about? Why does it exist?
The Accordion Babes Pin-Up Calendar is the brainchild of Renée de la Prade, who was working as a street performer, professional Irish musician and accordion repair technician in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008 when the first Accordion Babes calendar was produced. Through her job at Smythe’s Accordion Center, and through her gigs with the celtic band Culann’s Hounds, Renée got to meet hundreds of accordionists who travelled through California. One day, she was invited to do a photoshoot in the San Francisco Mission district by photographer Keith Brown. The resulting photos featured her accordion prominently, and they were sexy and raw and rebellious, very different from the accordion’s reputation as an instrument which is only for grandpas. That’s when the wheels started turning in her head. There was no place to publish these accordion photos, but there should be… wouldn’t it be great if someone published a pin-up calendar with sexy accordion photos? Wouldn’t it be an amazing vehicle for promoting indie artists, if it also came with a compilation CD?
Renée kept this idea in the back of her mind and handed out her business card to dozens of female accordion players whom she met at gigs and at Smythe’s Accordion Center. When she earned the interest of two phenomenal artists, Big Lou the Accordion Princess and Isabel Douglass, she decided to go for it. Who wouldn’t want to be in a calendar with their heroes? Smythe’s Accordion Center agreed to put up some money for an ad in the calendar… and that started a whole path of creating ad spaces, to pay for the print run with sponsorships. The first editions of the calendar relied heavily on the go-getter nature of all the Accordion Babes, who had to promise to distribute 50 copies, and sell advertising to be participants. Today it’s a little different, the print run is funded with crowdsourcing and pre-sale orders.
The calendar has always been a lot of work, but it turns out, the world is a better place with the Accordion Babes Pin-up Calendar in it! Female sexuality usually gets defined by a male-dominated publishing industry which values an ideal which only a few young, thin white women can try to achieve. Sexiness is a much broader concept than you see in magazines, it encompasses things like confidence, creativity, intelligence, uniqueness, passion, zest for life, real curves, and a young woman who knows nothing is NOT always sexier than a seasoned performer with a shining soul. Renée very much wanted to prove that the strong musicianship of the Accordion Babes was even sexier than their collection of photos. She also wanted to show that a variety of body types and ages can be sexy; and in order to do this, she invites all talented, committed female accordionists to give it a shot to be included in the calendar; but she upholds very high standards for the production quality of the photos and the album. The calendar stands on its own as a high-quality product which is sensuous, funny, fun, and not demeaning to the artists; which empowers their very unique beauty to shine for accordion-loving audiences around the world. Hopefully, young children will also get to see the calendar, and be exposed to a different beauty standard which can accommodate different skin tones, different philosophies, different brilliant minds. We don’t all have to be Barbie dolls in order to be sexy.
There is nothing which is more fun than a room full of Accordion Babes. These women are smart, fun, talented, and they have amazing style. Each one can be the life of the party on her own. Together, they’re irresistible; and we hope that one day, you’ll come see the Accordion Babes live. Each artist in the calendar is a professional independent musician; you can read about their bands in the bio sections of each calendar. Sometimes, these multi-talented women get together for an Accordion Babes Revue, learning each other’s music and forming an awesome woman-powered band.
Vive la différence!