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I was going to call this piece of writing ‘QWIM: Questions – Women In Music’. I backed down on the grounds of it being a) a bit crude and b) a pretty shit acronym. 10 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have given a fuck. 10 years ago, probably no one else would either. When Donita Sparks was flinging tampons at festival crowds, then a crap play-on-words about cunts was hardly anything to be worrying about. Okay, that was more like 17 years ago. Shit. I’m getting old.

When I started to listen to music in earnest, I was probably just a bit too young and too bogged down in surviving adolescence in a middle-class town to have been caught full blast by the riot grrl movement.  But I quickly became aware of it. The politics and debate that it inspired informed the records that I bought, the way I thought about music and the way that I thought about myself. It only took one listen to Pussy Whipped to become engulfed in the flames of my own potential.

The music papers that I bought in the newsagent next to my school were bursting (or at the very least, bubbling away) with comment about feminist politics and making gigs inclusive spaces for male and female alike. When my friends got into Nirvana, I bought ‘Doll Parts’ on “7. A few months later, I bought myself a record player so that I could actually listen to it (I was already acutely aware that my cassette player probably wasn’t going to be sufficient equipment for the record-buying mission I would shortly embark on).

I saved up and bought myself a Fender JagStang. The boys were jealous and I loved it. And no fucker was carrying my amp anywhere for me. And you know what? I had an army behind me. A stack of fanzines, emblazoned with feisty women in babydoll dresses, I had people speaking to me in the ‘alternative’ music press, I had Polly Jean Harvey, I had Patti Smith, I had Bikini Kill and most importantly, I had Courtney Love (though it’s hard to believe it now).

Fast forward though jobs, university, playing in bands, debt, writing about music, more jobs and even more debt.

What I see around me now makes sick to the marrow. Ladies, it would appear that we had our voice in the 1990s. Now it’s back to playing nicely for the boys.

I recently half-heartedly engaged in an online debate about what I considered to be an overtly macho, testosterone-heavy culture at Leeds festival. I think I was supposed to be happy because Brody Dalle was allowed to play, and they let Karen O run riot on the main stage. I was very kindly informed (by a girl, if that’s relevant, which it probably fucking is) that liking music just because it’s made by a woman is just as sexist as not liking it because it’s a woman.

Brick wall? Head? Bosh.

It’s hard to be intellectual when you’re seething with rage.

Oh, and apparently, the lineup at Leeds Festival is kinda cock-heavy because, you know, that’s just what the industry’s like…

UUUUGH… Yerrrr, (adopting Bill Hicks-style microphone-halfway-down-gullet-technique)…(ready for the distortion, now) …THAT’S MY FUCKING PROBLEM!!!

This whole thing runs deeper than what we like and what we don’t like. It’s about what we ALLOW and what we prohibit. And women aren’t allowed, right now, to be anything other than polished, pretty, well-dressed and utterly, utterly marketable. I’m listening real hard and I can’t hear any of these trussed up starlets saying anything I want to hear about, nothing I care about. None of it relates. None of it translates.

In fact, what I am hearing, is this: “I know that there’s far more ways to be sexy than to dress in a miniskirt and a tank top… I think you attract a certain kind of man by dressing like that…Women wonder why they get beaten up, or having relationships with arsehole men. Because you attracted one, you twat.” (ripped from www.thequietus.com)

There you go, girls. There goes Elly Jackson from La Roux: your new role model. Good luck with that one. Hope it works out well for you.

At the start of 2009, a group of people (the dudes that hold the strings… purse strings, puppet strings… they just like strings, really) decided that the Next Big Thing was going to be… Women!!! Women that sing! Women that play instruments! Well, fuck me sideways. Now, excuse me if I’m wrong but I was under the (clearly-misguided) impression that we’d been around a little longer than since the arse end of 2008. So I see headlines and cover shots documenting this new phenomenon. Where is the backlash? Where is the argument? Where is the voice of reason? We’re a gender, not a genre, douche-bag.

I never really felt like I fitted in with any of the feminist / grrl / queer groups around. I’m not queer, for a start. And I always figured I’d wasted too much of my early 20s shagging my way to enlightenment, rather than learning to DJ, putting a ‘zine together or throwing tampons at people. But it was always kinda reassuring to know that they were there, fighting their (our) corner, being kinda pleasant when I did show my face. Now they just feel like a dying breed. I’m not digging deep enough because I’m not used to having to dig so fucking hard.

I know, girl, do I know that there are girls, ladies, women, whatever, out there, out here, making music, fitting in seamlessly with the boys, the men, whoever. I can think of a bunch here in Leeds. They don’t stand out because they’re female, they stand out because they’re ACE. But you know, the scales are still tipped, it’s still fucked up. And there’s no discourse anymore. It’s not cool to talk gender politics anymore.

We just make do. Make do and mend.  Fuck you, La Roux.

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One Comment

  1. WOOOO!!! Well done, well fuckin’ done.


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