First a couple of admissions, one is that I have very little music by women in my collection. I do own records by some of those Riot Girrrl bands, but they only get a play once in a blue moon even though I do enjoy some of their music, 7 Year Bitch, L7, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, The Gits et al. I also have a huge amount of respect for the likes of Aimee Mann and Julianna Hatfield whilst I think Bjork is a musical genius even if she is totally bonkers (though given my previous dating history that is probably part of the attraction). My second admission would be that I have a very sketchy knowledge when it comes to the history of women in music whatever the genre, so if there are glaring inaccuracies and/or glowing omissions you’ll know why.
The reason for me braving such a topic originates as with most things from a Facebook discussion. An article had been posted up about Kim Gordon and her life post-Sonic Youth and it got me thinking about the roles of women in Music and about my own preference for bands that seem to be dominated by men. This is of course not a conscious decision (cue furious backpedalling); I don’t really care about whether there are women in a band or are female fronted in the same way that I don’t care whether someone is gay, black, Jewish and whom choose to play music. The point about music is that its’ open to everyone that wishes to either perform it, listen to it or both. It knows no boundaries nor should it. But it does interest me as to why I don’t feel as compelled to check out predominantly female music. In all honesty I’d take Television over Patti Smith any day, The Dead Boys over The Runaways and Curtis Mayfield over Aretha Franklin. So why is it that with a few exceptions that I seem to choose mainly male bands?
I like to think of myself as a reasonably open-minded and nice person but for some reason a lot of female fronted acts just don’t float my boat. If I was to look through my music collection as it stands I would say roughly 15-20% of it features a woman, if that. Maybe in the eyes of some radical feminist that would mean I’m intimidated by ‘strong women’ but I would say that’s bollocks. I think it has to do with the fact that the music I like that for the most part doesn’t for whatever reason feature women too prominently. Genres such as Hardcore Punk and Stoner/Doom Rock are not exactly genres renowned for featuring huge numbers of female musicians which is a real pity. Could it be that girls don’t like to ‘rock’? This can’t be the case though when you look at the likes of Lori S from Acid King and Kira Roessler of Black Flag, the latter played in the best incarnation of Flag I reckon. Both of those could easily give men a run for their money and no mistake. However if truth be told I would struggle to list 10 bands from either of those genres to feature women. Could it be that women just aren’t keen on those genres? What is it? Is it that the music is too heavy, slow, angry, fast or aggressive? Living in a town like Lancaster I have struggled to meet many if any women that dig bands of that nature. On the other hand I have been to dozens of doom/stoner gigs in Manchester where at least a third of the audience were women. So clearly ladies do have a fondness for the heavier end of the musical spectrum. In fact I remember a member of L7 in an interview expressing a love of bands such as AC/DC and Motorhead as opposed to all that ‘women’s music’, which I gathered to mean of the singer-songwriter persuasion. Clearly there has to be another reason…
…Sexism. That is the only reason I can think of for the lack of women in those particular genres. Even someone like me who holds a great passion for those genres has to admit that there is a problem. Hardcore has always been seen by journalists such as John Savage as very ‘boy’, whilst the Doom/Stoner scene is mostly dominated by men with beards. It is music that has some of its’ origins in Metal after all and Metal isn’t always known for being the most embracing when it comes to women. Not being a musician I’m not exactly up to date regarding the current status of women in music but I have to assume that there must still be some level of inherent sexism kicking about which is disgraceful, especially in 2014. I recall an ex-girlfriend who happened to be a musician bemoaning the sexist attitudes she had to endure whenever she played gigs such as various demeaning remarks made by drunken knuckleheads in the audience, catcalls demanding she ‘get her kit off for the lads’. Women clearly suffer from this more which saddens me a great deal; as no-one should be demeaned or humiliated.
Or maybe it’s simpler than all of that, maybe it’s because I don’t think the music is as good. And before you all wish to tear me a new asshole, I’d like to point out that there is just as much music made by my male brethren that I’m equally as unimpressed by. It may be for me that Bjork has set the bar so high as far as being an exciting, experimental and challenging female musician goes that anything less is nothing short of a disappointment. She doesn’t need to dress provocatively or ram sexually charged lyrics down your throat in the way of people like Beyonce, Madonna, PJ Harvey and Shirley Manson. Hey, it was embarrassing when Robert Plant used to do it never mind these ladies. It doesn’t ‘empower’ you, it makes you look downright juvenile and is the sort of thing you should have grown out of by the time you hit your 30’s. Take Bjork’s example and let your music do the talking, then maybe I’ll start taking an interest in yours.