Turn it up! Grrrl style!
Check out this great new resource for those of you wondering what it is like to be a musician who happens to be female. It starts today with the online features, and on air segments on NPR. NPR asked hundreds of working women from all genres what it is like, and includes the results and other notable pages. I’ve spent about an hour so far just exploring and I am really impressed. The responses are amazing, and telling of what it is like to be a woman in still quite (que James Brown….no wait, Xtina’s version) a man’s world.
I am so excited and I look forward to hearing the on air segments, as well as, further exploring all of the online features. You can contribute your thoughts as well here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only thing I don’t like about the series is the “woman musician” part in the title. You don’t put “man” in front of musician do you? Nope. I know we are focusing on women, which is the point, which is awesome. But we need to say musicians who are also women, not “woman musicians.” Why? The default meaning for musician should not be gendered. I know that it is, and we need to take active steps in breaking that idea (thus this commentary.)
Musicians can be anyone! When we put “woman musician” and never do the same for “male musician,” you default musician’s meaning as male, and you maintain androcentrism with the notion that woman are not normally musicians. Therefore, women remain the marked gender that is not standard issue. So when they are musicians, they are seen as somehow abnormal, unusual, and the exception, not rule, because you are altering the word with a gendered signifier. And that’s not true, nor cool.
Women have always been musicians, they just haven’t always gotten credit or recognition for their craft. And I hope for those of you who are unconvinced check out this series and understand the awe and inspiring power that women have in their musical voices, hands, minds, and hearts.
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!