Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Here's to the ladies

On Saturday I said, “Most ventriloquists are men and most ventriloquist dummies are male. During the so-called “golden era” of ventriloquism there were many well-known male ventriloquists but only one really famous female” A reader asked me to explain why.

I can't explain it. All I can do is speculate. There are many reasons why males dominate certain professions, and those reasons reflect cultural biases that go back eons. Let's look at that situation from the perspective of the entertainment arts.

Men dominate the arts from the first recorded histories of artists. How many famous women painters, composers, musicians, sculptors, etc., can you name from prior to the twentieth century? Female roles in the earliest Greek plays were played by male actors. The subordinate role that women play even today in some cultures is reflected in the evolution of the arts.

Ventriloquism as a purely entertainment art form flourished in vaudeville and in traveling circuses. Ventriloquism is a solo art. Most vaudeville entertainers who performed solo were men. This is probably because such performers traveled from town to town. In those days it was not considered proper, much less safe, for women to travel alone, and those salaries did not support an entourage except for the famous.

Those women performers who succeeded in vaudeville usually did so with a male partner. Gracie Allen comes to mind. A woman performer would not travel with and support a man, though. That would have violated rigid social mores of the times, which identify the man as the breadwinner.

These are, of course, generalities, and there were exceptions, but they begin to explain speculatively why males dominated ventriloquism in the golden era and, consequently, why we still do.

But to use an analogy to address the reader's question, why do males dominate ventriloquism, one might ask, why do women dominate quilting?

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