On Being a “Female, Chic, Woman, Girl, Grrrl and Lady” Musician

So, as many of you may have noticed, I use some labels a lot on my blog relating to gender. Relating to the female gender that is. This is a women in music blog. I use terms like “Female Guitarist, Chic Singer, Grrrl Band, Woman Artists” but not in the ways you may think. I am VERY aware that these labels are used to point out the anomaly that is women in music, the fact that “musician, guitarist, singer, band” all are normally coded as male, man, and masculine. It is the same with other professions. Doctors, lawyers, and soldiers are coded as male, where as nurses, secretaries and dental assistants are coded as female. That is why many must say “Lady Doctor, or Male Nurse.” It is because we assume one gender over another, and therefore must point out the difference, hence in some ways policing those who do not fit the “norm.” It is one of those horrible results of androcentrism. We gender everything, including jobs, including instruments, including music. However, usually what ends up happening is “female” means “deficient,”  “lacking,” “less than.” Well, I am here to change that.

So, why do I continue to put female, woman, chic, girl, grrrl, lady, ect, in my blog when I am talking about certain bands or artists. Well, for a few reasons…

1) When oppressed and minority status groups do not actively proclaim their status, they become invisible, because the norm does not recognize them, and will continue to do so unless challenged. So, to become visible, to have a voice, and be recognized on your own terms, you must proclaim your identity. That is the essence of the “We’re Here! We’re Queer!” mantra. This often gets understood as “shoving your lifestyle, ideals, ect, down someone’s throat, but only the people who are in the privileged statuses in society think this, because their gender, class, race, ect isn’t in the front of the discussion 24/7. I say grow up, you don’t get all the damn cookies. So, I use these terms in honor of the female gender, to proclaim that status in the face of being defaulted to male. I use a feed reader to find info about women in music. I feed all major music sources, and even then, most of the “news” is about male artists. Out of 100 feeds, 80% of them are about men in music, and half the time if it is about women, it focuses on their latest BF or outfit. Ugh.

2) It is very hard to find women who happen to be musicians otherwise. It is sad, that female musicians are labeled as such to point out their difference from the “norm” yet, that is the only way I can find them. You have to google search “girl bands” because if you just search “bands” you’ll see nothing but men. This goes true for “greatest guitarists,” “rock bands,” “jazz drummers” and so on. There are no all-female musician magazines, (ROCKRGRL ended in 2005) and a handful of websites that function mostly as databases and resources about women in music. They unfortunately are not comparable to the same content as big magazines like Rolling Stone who offer reviews, insights, and news (ideally).  So, the only way I can find other women in music is by deliberately looking for them and labeling them as such. I may not always like it, but otherwise I can’t find what I am looking for.

3) Finally, there isn’t anything inherently destructive or oppressive in labels. We can find common ground and community in them. How can we know anything about anything unless we name it? The power of naming is huge! They are only detrimental when they are unwanted, rigid and not allowing for change/fluidity, and used to silence and discourage others rather than empower and inspire. When someone else gets to define you, they are in control, not you. So, if you want to use “grrrl band” go for it, if you do not, that is cool as well!  You have the right to define yourself as such, even if you do not always have the choice, because others think they know better.

This is what I hope to do with this blog. I want this blog to be the place people go to find out about women in music, because there isn’t much else out there.  I want to fill the void in regards to respect, exposure and diversity with women in music. But I can’t do it alone! It is a lot of work! So, if you are a female musician or band, let me know! If you have some links, let me know. If you just want to say “Hey awesome blog!” or “Thank you!” let me know as well. Rock on!

Photos by don’t expect art, luku, Emma Daly, and erichhh via flickr.

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Posted on February 19, 2010, in Pick Guards - Music Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Entertaining story about this very subject… Yesterday I got a message from the Ebay seller that sold me a chromatic pedal tuner (for the ease of tuning on stage of course;) and it said:

    “I thought you were some guy using his girlfriends account, but, you’re a GIRL guitarist? Wow.” (the rest of the message was predictably cutesy)….

    It’s interesting because I see it as totally normal (sans the normal BS while performing) and my son Cash sees me play the guitar so much that I just explained to him: “Honey, boys can play guitar too” he looked relieved….

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