Women: It’s your month. Take charge!

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume 114, No. 3March, 2014

Siena Shundi, LCSW-R

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, housing, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at or (212) 397-4802

March is Women’s History Month. As a woman, my mind goes in many directions about what women at Local 802 might want to hear when it comes to women’s issues. There are changing gender dynamics (and not so changing experiences) for women in the entertainment industry. We offer resources for women here in the Musicians’ Assistance Program (MAP) and I’d like to share some general tips about what women should pay attention to in terms of self care.

What’s it like being a woman in this country right now?

We are more educated than ever – more women than men are completing college and going to graduate school. Both men and women are waiting longer to get married and have children, especially in New York City, with many young women forgoing formal marriage altogether. More women are out-earning men, and this is causing all kinds of re-thinking of gender roles.

What hasn’t changed: being a woman in the entertainment industry

I have spoken to some young, classically trained, female musicians at Local 802. These women are already successful in their own right. However, they have discussed the need to sell their image and promote a beauty ideal as part of their work. I’ve heard about the pressure they feel when they know their performances will be featured in close-up, high-definition videos, which means their appearance will be scrutinized. Women – and all entertainers, to some extent – suffer under the expectation that it’s not enough to be fantastic at what you do. You also have to look fantastic.

Health care resources

Women are often expected to care for others. But now’s a good time to turn some of that nurturing inward. In other words, take care of yourselves, not just other people!

For instance, when was the last time you got a physical? Did you know that heart disease is the number-one cause of death for women right now? Once you turn 40, you should be getting a yearly physical and a mammogram. If you are sexually active, you should be seeing a gynecologist for a yearly Pap smear. The Actors Fund will be offering a day of free Pap smears during Women’s National Health Week (May 11 to May 17) for all women who are uninsured or underinsured. Call the MAP office or see for more. (Remember, despite its name, the Actors Fund offers services for all entertainers – not just actors. This includes members of Local 802.)

Most insurance plans cover basic preventive services for women, but as a Local 802 member, if you are uninsured or underinsured and need to see a doctor, you can call the Al Hirschfeld Clinic at (212) 489-1939. (We can also recommend other low-cost health resources. Contact the MAP office for more.)

If you are a woman currently dealing with a serious medical issue, you can take part in a free, confidential, women’s support group. Social worker Allison Abrams, L.C.S.W., will be running this group as part of the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. Book your place now by calling Allison at (917) 281-5977.

Lastly, please remember that you are invited to call our office if you are experiencing stress in your relationships or work. We offer free, confidential, individual counseling for women (and men) in need of support or just a friendly ear.

You can reach the MAP office at (212) 397-4802. Services are free to members of Local 802.