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So you wanna be in a rock band?: Why ‘chicks with pics’ rock

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | November 10th, 2008



When life throws opposition in your direction, you can either stand your ground or sulk in a corner, and though expelling angst has its proper time and place, I’m sure you’ll all agree that very little has ever been accomplished, in terms of progress, from the mere shedding of tears.

If standing your ground is more your style, there are two distinct methods one can undertake:

1) to bulldoze through the front gates with weapons a-blazing or

2) to unassumingly gain entry through the backdoor and to change things from the inside out.

Of these two strategies, though I’m all for putting up a strong front, in the business world, it is the savvy and perceptive individual who is able to recognize that the latter plan of attack will bring into fruition the most desirable results.

Though the “sexism-fighting” contributions of popular artists such as Sarah McLachlan and Shiragirl with their “Lilith Fair” and all girls Warped Tour stage respectively, are commendable and worked to carve out niches for female artists in performance venues, neither endeavour did much in the way of shaking up the industry’s male-dominated infrastructure. At the end of the day, these artists were still left playing within a man’s game. Often in-your-face efforts, such as these, have perpetuated negative “man-hating” (and lesbian) feminist stereotypes, rather than actually addressing the real issues that feminists fight for: those being; equal access and rights for all, irrespective of race, gender, or any other minority difference. Consequently, over the years, as one can imagine, the fem rocker has garnered what Joan Jett refers to as a bit of a “bad reputation.”

Taking note of their own industry battles as former “rockstars-in-the-making” and learning from their efforts, three fiery ladies from the US recognized that change needed to work with, not in obstruction of the prevailing music marketplace. Frowning upon cattiness, and instead, encouraging female friendly communities and collaboration, the real forces behind a move towards ending gender discrimination in the music biz are unsung business women: Tish Ciravolo, founder of DaisyRock Guitars, the first ever guitar manufacturer to specialize in creating lightweight and manoeuvrable instruments with female physiology in mind, Carla DeSantis, creator of RockRGrl Magazine, a national music rag strictly devoted to featuring female rockers as its name suggests, and the very first of its kind, and finally, Madalyn Sklar, the brains behind the online female artist community, GoGirlsMusic, which assists artists in establishing networks, generating exposure, and obtaining performance placements at some of the world’s top annual music conferences.

Not only have these three women managed to gain greater respect and recognition for “chicks with picks,” but as well, they have empowered females not to be afraid to pick up an electric and rock it with the best of them.

When asked whether they still felt sexism was still a relevant issue facing contemporary female musicians, Tish, Carla, and Madalyn responded in unison with a resounding “yes.”

Though they all agreed that the indie market allows for more freedoms, and acceptance, amongst the majors, the beliefs concerning how to market women artists, in their eyes, have remained relatively unchanged, and the ever increasing global conglomeration of these labels is only making the problem worse.

In Sklar’s view, the male label reps aren’t interested in taking on anyone that is over 21, and unwilling to market herself as a sex kitten. However, she believes, that the labels aren’t exclusively at fault.

In fact, Sklar contends that female artists, often just as much as the male reps, buy into the “sex sells” mantra, and consequently, it’s proving more difficult to disrupt than one would have hoped. But, this is not to say that a woman shouldn’t embrace her sexuality and be proud to flaunt it like Madonna.

All three ladies, admittedly, cite Madonna as being highly influential, and groundbreaking in terms of her business skill and staying power. The difference, as DeSantis points out, “is that you know that Madonna is in charge – she’s not anyone’s puppet.” On that note, all three ladies chimed in that the most important thing for any artist, whether male, female, independent, or major, is to remain true to themselves, stay positive, and to listen to their inner critics.

As for the business side of things in the music biz, Carla and Tish offered their own personal examples as corroboration that sexism is still alive and kicking. When the first issues of RockRGrl were launched, DeSantis explained, that it was automatically assumed that the magazine was aimed at the gay community and was anti-men. In fact, some female rockers outright refused to be interviewed because they didn’t want this sort of association hanging over their heads. Likewise, when DaisyRock introduced its product line, Ciravolo received a seemingly unending mountain of hate mail that blasted her for having the “ridiculous” idea that girls should have their own instruments. Seven years later (and after a great deal of success I might add), she quips that the very guitar companies that criticized and lauded her for conveying the myth of the pink guitar have now ripped off her ideas…Go figure.

The point behind these stories that I want to emphasis is this: rather than dwelling on the adversity that each of them has had to overcome due to their visionary efforts, Tish, Carla, and Madalyn’s dialogues were full of hope, strength, sincerity, and compassion; skills that are praiseworthy for both rockstars and corporate suits alike.

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