Who says women can't be drummers? It's about time for society to abandon traditional gender norms once and for all, and a new project by Red Bull, the MAVENS video series, is seeking to do just that. The first season of the web series, which debuted on Thursday, Nov. 17, is comprised of three short films profiling creative women and their respective journeys to break the glass ceiling within each of their male-dominated fields. "Our gender is often represented in the media landscape through the male point of view. Oftentimes, we don't get to see ourselves the way we want to seem in the media," says filmmaker Vanessa Black, who directed one of the episodes, in an interview with Bustle. "I think MAVENS was the opportunity to tell stories about real badass women and talk about female heroes."
Every episode of MAVENS feature a different woman and her story of rising to the top, bringing along others who want to make a difference as well. The first season features Jocelyn Cooper, partner at AFROPUNK Music Festival; Mindy Abovitz, professional drummer and founder of "Tom Tom Magazine"; and Magda Love, a global street artist and social activist. Plans for filming the second season are already underway.
Black, who directed the episode titled "MAGDA LOVE: A Global Street Artist Plans NYC's Biggest Mural," defines a maven as "someone who is pursuing something that no one's done before and doing it in a way that's really exciting and inspirational." She says men are often associated with taking part in extreme sports and hardcore music, when in reality there are plenty of women who have accomplished just as much, and even more, in those same fields. "It's really fun to be a female filmmaker and to work with other women who are taking really exciting approach to life," Black says.
Black's team began shooting the episode on Magda Love in February, and they only just wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. "Magda has such a larger-than-life personality," says Black, a New York City-based independent filmmaker. "The way she approaches her life is so similar to the way she approaches her art. Her work is full of imagination and dreams and hope, and kind of calls to the community. That's how she is in her own life."
Black says she especially enjoyed shooting scenes of Love with her son. "It's also really cool to see such a strong woman raising a man and instilling valuable principles that I think we need to definitely keep reminding our kids of for the next four years," she says, alluding to the new presidency. "It's important to (raise) respectful men who admire strong women and see that women are valuable."
Like Love, Jocelyn Cooper has made a name for herself through creating AFROPUNK, a platform that provides a space for people of color to express themselves freely and be proud of who they are through art. Her episode, "JOCELYN COOPER: The AFROPUNK Partner on Creating a Festival for People of Color," looks at how she was able to build something from the ground up and guaranteeing its success. In doing so, she's become a music industry pioneer with triumphs under her belt that few have accomplished, men or women.
Another episode of provides a glimpse into the life of Mindy Abovitz, a drummer and drum machine programmer based in NYC. In 2009, Abovitz, who's been drumming for 16 years, founded Tom Tom Magazine, the world's only magazine that focuses on female drummers, beat makers, and percussionists in the music industry. She hopes that her MAVENS episode, "MINDY ABOVITZ: Pushing Female Drummers To Make More Noise," will inspire a new generation of female drummers.
"When I tell people that I'm a drummer, usually they think that's cool. Other times, in my past, I've felt there was some sort of doubt in my ability as a drummer," says Abovitz, 37, in an interview with Bustle. "As a publisher of a drum magazine that focuses on female drummers, I often get this sort of comment like, 'Wow, that is a really niche subject. Do you have enough drummers to cover? How do you afford to run this magazine?'"
Growing up, Abovitz says she often felt confused by and even resentful toward the gender roles imposed on her and other kids. Did gender roles serve men and women in some way, or the majority of them socialized, rather than inherent? "Once I had been drumming for about seven or eight ears, I realized there was no reason for it to just be a male sport," Abovitz says. "As far as drumming is concerned and music in general, the gender barriers that have been put up for women and girls are arbitrary, unnecessary, and potentially hurtful for society at large."
Even though her episode is focused mainly on female drummers, Abovitz says she hopes it shows both men and women that "music is a gender-less creative art and experience," she says. "And through watching these women and their stories and my story, ideally it inspires people to feel confident in themselves, even if that means going against the grain."
Check out the complete MAVENS series here.
Image: Courtesy of MAVENS/Red Bull Music