Strewth! #39: Re: Sexist Queers
I originally started this website almost out of a laugh, and there was meant to be as much humor as there was music, but while my aim is still to make people laugh, it has evolved into more of a place to just show off really good music that is being made by real people. However, the more and more I got deeper into these bands, the more and more I found myself becoming a feminist, even if subconsciously. There are tons of really amazing bands out there with females in them, but it never comes across my mind, nor my writing, that there are women in these bands, because there’s no need to think of such a thing; good music is just good music, whether you’re male or female. But it horrified me just how sexist the majority of music journalism is as I saw how fellow music journalists handle these bands.
However, it wasn’t until I read this absolutely brilliant article by Bree McKenna of TacocaT that I started to feel the need to speak up, to say something, because I almost never see a single music writer say anything about this, or even think there’s anything wrong with it. The double standards in music are glaringly obvious and even despicably commercial, and you need not look hard to see them. TacocaT is an example of this, McKenna writing that they’re often attacked for not being a “serious” band while Wavves are allowed as much as they want to write about smoking pot and partying on the beach.
The variance of it all ranges from the deceitfully cunning to the strikingly blunt, but it is neversubtle. It seems like female musicians automatically have a set of rules set up for them, while men are allowed to experiment to the extent that we let Frank Zappa release 89 studio albums of nonsense, and he won Grammys for it too. Not A Grammy, GRAMMYS. But Cassie Ramone of Vivian Girls brought up a really good point:
“Why is there ANY pressure whatsoever on women in rock to have great singing voices?… because many of the men lauded in rock don’t have “good” voices. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Daniel Johnston, the list goes on… Obviously all those guys are amazing. It’s just such a double standard. Fuck everything”
While Dylan is often called “the voice of a generation,” (I know they don’t mean literally), Patti Smith or Anita O’Day are never found at the top of “professional” best musician lists, while Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald are. As “classically” great singers as these two undoubtedly are, they don’t exactly help break the mould, and admittedly, I’d rather listen to “Pissing in a River” or Anita’s cover of “Tenderly” over Franklin any day, just as I would Neil Young. Yet at the same time, Young and Dylan are often found in the top ranks of these best musicians lists as Sinatra or Orbison.
Of course, it also seems like every female must also have a pretty dolled-up American Idol face or they’re just as equally ignored, but have you ever actually gotten a look at Barry White, or even worse, Kansas?
Forgetting the eye patch and the fact that for some reason they’re in a field doing god knows what, people will even go as far as verbally looking past their looks. They’ll say something like “sure, he’s fat, bald, and toothless, but man can he sing,” but forget a women cracking the top ten if she happens to wear an eye patch.
You expect someone to badmouth a band, or even of all things their looks, on a video of them on Youtube, but, perhaps, some of the most disheartening things to happen are when people will say things straight to the face of a hardworking musician. I get upset enough when someone won’t buy merchandise after a band puts on an amazing show, especially if they can help it, but to say something directly to them is an entirely different beast altogether. What’s amazing is that the same people who won’t say anything to the band if they didn’t enjoy the set, will go up to the girl in the group, say something shockingly sexist, and believe there’s nothing wrong with it.
I strongly believe that the White Wires and Peach Kelli Pop are two of the greatest and most ingenious groups out there today. I’ll even go as far as saying they’re saviors of punk, and Allie Hanlon of both of these groups is one of the most vocal about said occurrences after a show. She has actually gotten so used to it, she recently said on Twitter, ”I guarantee at least one bro will be amazed that a girl is playing drums and say a stupid comment at me… or maybe give me some drumming TIPS. Gosh I love that!” It’s such a shame, because we shouldn’t get used to it. It shouldn’t become something of daily life, but as sad as it may be and as disgusted as I still get, I’m no longer shocked when I hear something like this, and I can’t imagine female musicians are either.
Music journalists are just as bad as the concertgoers, perhaps even worse. Jess Darlin of Those Darlins summed it up perfectly when she said:
“When people describe the music (and) say, ‘Oh, it’s girls,’ especially in writeups when they write about us and the only thing they really say about us is that we’re girls, it’s like, ‘Well, you didn’t say what kind of music we play or what we sound like or anything.’ So what do people have to base off of?”
I see reviews of albums, indie albums especially, that were most likely sent to the reviewer for free, albums that could otherwise have made the artist or label a profit, but if they can’t even be bothered to write more than two paragraphs of only three sentences each, which is more often than not, at least they should make it meaningful, even if they didn’t like it. Instead they can think of nothing to write except that it’s a group of girls, perhaps, even conveniently forgetting that the bassist is actually a dude.
But it doesn’t merely end at the fans or writers, because it goes all the way to the top with the artist’s managers and publicists. I cannot tell you how many press releases I’ve received where they’ll say things like “featuring one groovy chick on the keys!” What does that have to do with the actual music exactly? I guarantee you they would say nothing if she were instead some overly hairy musician named Harold on the keys. In fact, the time and space spent on talking about her sex and her fashion sense would be spent describing his “wonderfully skilled jazzy Rod Argent-like playing style.”
People should go to concerts and listen to records simply because you want to hear some good music; to be entertained. I’m not a musician, I’m only a music writer, so I can’t speak for the groups themselves but I do know when I see something wrong. I just can’t wrap my head around why music writers won’t speak up. Maybe they are all oblivious. But I’ve always believed the works of Charles Dickens can provide the answer to almost any situation, and with a little adhering and adjusting, in the end, this quote from the Chimes may sum it all up:
“I’m not a cross-grained man by natur’, I believe; and easy satisfied, I’m sure. I bear no ill-will against none of ‘em. I only want to live like one of the Almighty’s creeturs. I can’t — I don’t — and so there’s a pit dug between me, and them that can and do. There’s others like me. You might tell ‘em off by hundreds and by thousands, sooner than by ones.”
I’ll leave it at that. -Cody