Unfamiliar Cultures: The Feminine Side of Drumline & Masculine Side of Color Guard

For those of you reading who are not involved with music, specifically the marching arts, I would like to enlighten you on some of the specific section cultures. In the marching arts world, two sections stick out when it comes to gender equality, or lack thereof. Those would be the drumline and the color guard.

Let’s start with the drumline. When you think of drumline, you probably first think of the movie Drumline starring Nick Cannon. Or if you are a part of the marching arts world, you probably think of the section most known for toxic masculinity.


Historically, drumlines around the world are predominantly male. Which has, in turn, lead to a pretty toxic environment full of name calling, unnecessary comments of masculinity, and inappropriate behavior all around.

Now imagine being the only girl on the line.

Immediately, if you are not “one of the guys” you do not fit in. The first assumption made of you is that you are a lesbian. And if you are not a lesbian, you are generally seen as “too intimidating” or “too manly to be a girl.”

Last year, the JMU drumline was made up of 29 members. Out of 29 only 5 of them were girls. And this is not just a JMU problem.

JMU vs. William & Mary (Band Day)

Being a girl percussionist throughout any part of the marching arts is pretty uncommon. Two summers ago Jersey Surf, a corps that is a part of Drum Corps International, had 3 girls on their line and made a video showcasing them, ironically named “One of the Boys”.

On the other hand, the exact opposite problem is happening in the color guard world. Color guard is a female dominated activity where the males are the minority. Last year, the JMU color guard was made up of 50 members. Only 1 was a boy.

If you are a boy in this activity, you are usually called derogatory names. Just like how drumline girls are assumed to be lesbian, color guard boys are assumed to be gay. And no matter if you are gay or not, you are a “pussy” or a “little bitch” because of the uniforms/makeup you wear or the dances you have to perform.


In reality, color guard is difficult. Now, I personally have never been a part of this activity, but I have been to quite a few competitions including Winterguard International World Champions. So I have seen the work that goes into this firsthand.

The men in this activity are strong and graceful, which is more than I can say about most men I know including myself. The work that is put into this activity is that of precision and grit. It takes a level of athleticism that not everyone can handle or attain.


On the flipside of all of this, for the younger generations of girls wanting to play drums and boys wanting to do color guard, they have role models to look up to.

Like last year, when warming up before one of JMU’s football games, there was a little girl watching the drumline, specifically our female bass drum player, with curious, wide eyes. I even saw her say “Mommy I want to be like her!” and point over to our bass drummer. Another example of these role models is when I saw little boys stare in awe at the boys spinning at color guard competitions.

JMU vs. William & Mary (Band Day)

The bottom line is, music has no gender. No matter what you identify as, you will always have a place in the music world.







One thought on “Unfamiliar Cultures: The Feminine Side of Drumline & Masculine Side of Color Guard

  1. This is a great article, and it addresses an issue that most people are not aware of. During high school, I loved watching the marching band, but I did not think anything of the gender roles. Unless you are a member of the marching band, then you aren’t aware of these problems. This article gives the readers a different perspective that is rarely addressed. Thank you for this article and enlightening us about these problems that surround the marching band.


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