Rocking with the girls
"Women in rock" is sort of a clouded phrase. While being "in rock" makes us think of women actively contributing to the legacy of rock and roll, more often women are thought of "in rock" in the form of sexualized lyrics and post-concert groupies. There is definitely a long list of females contributing to the history of rock and roll, but so few have garnered the respect of the industry like their male contemporaries. So what the hell is going on?
Let me just state that this isn't a male bashing article, because I'll be the first to admit that almost all of my rock favorites are male, and many of them have explicitly sexist lyrics somewhere in their repertoire. I just don't understand why there aren't more women contributors in rock. I don't understand why there has to be a special issue of The Rolling Stone dedicated to women in rock every year (I won't even get into the ridiculousness of the cover this year). And I certainly don't understand why men dominate in every single field in the music industry.
Is it our society's refusal to judge both men and woman on the same criteria? Tommy Lee is a drummer and one that has not changed the face of contemporary music. Motley Crue sucks. Madonna, whether you like her or not, has undeniably shaped the face of rock. She's faced extreme prejudice throughout her career because she is extremely open with her sexuality and viewed by many as a slut. Tommy Lee makes a porn video with Pamela Anderson, and his status is never questioned but heralded by many. I'm not judging either. In fact, both of these artists' (I can't believe I just referred to Tommy Lee as an artist) sexual products probably kicked up their marketability ten-fold. So, influential girl rocker makes explicit Truth or Dare video and is deemed slut, mediocre male drummer "mistakenly" lets out a video of him having sex and becomes worthy of discussion. Hmm.
Regardless of the validity of that controversy, Madonna is one of the longest standing female names in rock history. I'm not denying that Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and others didn't help shape the history of rock, but if I listed the most influential rockers of modern times, the male side would cripple the female side. Females seem to have gotten the shaft. Sure there are about four hundred million songs written about us and how much we suck, how we are sluts, or how we are goddesses, but it's like women are talked about and never heard in the gloriously patriarchic rock world.
There are women in the music scene today, but I just don't know why actual women rockers are not in popular favor. So we've got Norah Jones tearing up the charts, but a pretty voice and Billboard status does not qualify one as a rocker. There are a lot of gorgeous female voices out there making a lot of very bad choices.
Enter Sheryl Crow. She has a great voice and accompanies herself on guitar, but any individuality to her style left soon after she left Las Vegas in Tuesday Night Music Club. The most popular female chart rankers today are Celine Dion and the entourage of teenage girls who don't really need to be distinguished from one another because they don't make an effort to distinguish themselves anyway. Oh, oops, I'm talking about ROCK, not complete crap. Yes, good female rockers do exist; just don't look for them within a 100-mile radius of the radio.
Women in rock have been treated like second-class citizens, and it just doesn't make sense. If I asked how many girls at Bowdoin have been in a rock group at some point in their life, I bet the number would be pretty small. If I asked the male population, I'm sure the number would nearly triple, if not more. Why is this? We can play guitar, we can take music theory, we can be consumers of good music but more than often we don't, and it sucks.
I think Bon Scott sums up the gender division in the rock and roll world quite eloquently when he rasps, "I've got the biggest balls of them all." Well, I bet that there is a girl rocker out there who could give AC/DC a run for their money, at least metaphorically speaking, although I'd bet a female version of Bon Scott would have a much tougher time getting the chance.
She can earn her status being judged on her looks, body, sexual prowess, age, and ability not to speak her mind too loudly in the areas of women's issues. Then maybe, if she passes these completely necessary criteria, she'll be evaluated on how hard she actually rocks.