Friday, January 28, 2011

Not-So-"Literary": A Feminist Musician's Rant

Note: The following post is not at all literary, except for this: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."  Oh and there's some potty language.  I'm feeling much better now, by the way.

I am so freaking pissed at the way our culture treats girls--specifically with regard to the way that they are discouraged from playing musical instruments.  Think of a musician off the top of your head.  I'd bet pretty good money that whoever you're thinking of is a man, and that kills me.  Boys are told to want to grow up to be rock stars, which requires years of practice and talent and patience.  Girls are told to want to grow up to be pop stars, which requires a spray tan and autotone.

Don't believe me that girls are encouraged to be pop stars? While trying to find evidence that girls are subtly encouraged to pursue other interests, I accidentally googled "girl music" rather than "girls and music."  The first two search results? Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" and that "Crush on Obama" music video featuring that chick in a bikini.  What the hell is that?

And those girls who want to play instruments are at a severe disadvantage.  Let's re-wind to around September of 1995, when my parents and I went to pick which instrument I should play in band.  How can it be that the sexes fall docilely into line without some kind of encouragement from parents and teachers?  We might as well be telling kids, "Girls, over here to pick up your flute or clarinet.  Boys, over here to pick out whatever you like... except for the flute, of course.  Only girls play that."  Is it any wonder, then, that the number of girls taking part in band and orchestra slowly dwindles throughout the years?  (And yes, I'm using anecdotal evidence here but I'm far too irritated to sift through online articles looking for hard numbers.)  If a boy gets to pick an instrument he's passionate about and girls are given an either/or option, is it any wonder that girls lose interest?

In addition, most of the instruments that society deems are "cool" (I'm thinking guitar and drums, here, but I could be wrong) are thought of as generally being masculine in quality.  Stop me if you've heard this one--Lindsay-with-an-A is carrying her rather large guitar in its hard case through downtown Denver and someone feels the need to tell her she looks like a dyke and should probably trade it for a flute.  Imagine I were someone who actually gave a shit what other people thought: do you think for a second I wouldn't have been mortified and taken the man's advice? 

For those of us who manage to find and cling to an instrument we're passionate about, we're often treated like morons by the men who work at music stores.  I literally could not get service at the Sam Ash in Hollywood.  "Got a vadge?  Well, then we won't bother making eye contact with you while we harrass all the men in the store because we're just going to assume you're here with your boyfriend.  You might want to just wait in the car."

And what sucks even more about all of this is that there is quite a bit of evidence to support the benefits of music for brain development and other life skills.  Half of our children are basically being denied these benefits and it's fucking pissing me off.   

God, I'm irritated.


Homero said...

Friggen browser, I press backspace, and the long response I wrote disappeared because I went back a page. Grr...Anyway, lemme try to recall what I can...

I'd be interested in hearing about the catalyst that spurred this response. What made you snap?

The guitar and the drums are considered the cooler, sexier instruments, with everything else, save the bass guitar, trailing behind. But from my personal experience, I've always been in awe of people who can play an instrument-- any instrument-- I've always been too uncoordinated to play anything other than the recorder in the fourth grade.

I have seen that sort of treatment at music stores. My wife and I have gone with a friend of ours to Musicians Friend in Oxnard (I think that's where it's at)and my friend got asked if he needed help, I got asked if I needed help, but Kelley didn't. Very noticeable. And that's not the worst I've seen. Tons of business lost because the dude is too shocked that the girl reads comics/knows music/plays video games/ etc. I've seen the same sort of thing at comic stores and game stores-- it would be comical if it wasn't irritating. And that's coming from someone with a pener.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

What finally did it (this time) was the fact that when I went into a couple of music stores in search of clarinet reeds (a stereotypically feminine instrument), I could not find one store that carried anything intended for a musician who's been playing more than a year--but they all have WALLS AND WALLS of drum sticks and guitar strings. And these are not guitar stores, they're "music stores" advertising "musical instruments."

And not only that, but when I decided to wander through the guitar sections (since I was there, anyway), I got nothing but condescension and a kind of amused indulgence from the clerks. Not. Happy.

Daniele said...

They do exist, I promise! They're just not as well known as their male counterparts. These are a couple of my favorites-

Piano-Diana Krall, Sara Bareilles,
Guitar-Patty Griffin, Miranda Lambert (who interestingly enough covered Patty Griffin's song "Getting Ready")

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Oh, I know they EXIST, but they're never given the kind of attention or air time that men are, which chaps my ass...

I haven't heard of Miranda Lambert, though, so I'll have to look her up. Thanks for the recommendations. :)

Daniele said...

She's country, which isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you like her she's going to be playing at the rodeo next month. I saw her in Chicago for my 24th birthday and she was incredible. It was pouring rain and we were in an outdoor venue and she steps out onstage, cool as a cucumber, and opens with a cover of CCR's "Have you Ever Seen the Rain?" She has this great ability to connect with her audience that's almost reminiscent of Dolly Parton. It was also the first time I heard her song "The House That Built Me" and I seriously got all choked up. Definitely look her up, if I'm any judge, she's a name that's going to be around for a while.

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