So you wanna be in a rock band?: Call it a case of penis envy
It was 1984, hair metal was all the rage and The Scorpions had just launched their latest album Love at First Sting, which launched them on a successful tour across the greater parts of the Western world. Joan Jett, recently parted from her all girl group The Runaways, and generating buzz for her hit single, a cover of The Arrows’ classic, “I Love Rock’n’Roll” was given the support slot for over 20 dates on the European leg. But instead of being met with praise, recognition and applause for being one of the “founding mothers” in rock’n’roll, audiences not only responded to Jett with aversion, moreover, they made sincere attempts to injure her throughout her performances.
Throughout her sets, Jett was subjected to aerial assaults of garbage and debris, including pieces of metal, batteries and virtually anything else that the displeased audiences could find. During one show, the attack reached such heights that shortly after her performance, Jett collapsed and had to seek medical care for sustained injuries, which included two broken ribs that came close to puncturing her lungs. Despite all of this, she never revealed even the slightest moment of weakness, she just kept on rocking through it all, and that is why she is known as the one, and only Queen of Punk Rock.
Though both greater society and the niche of the music biz has made giant leaps in terms of embracing female artists and bestowing upon them the same respect that all musicians deserve since the aforementioned horror story of Jett’s mainstream debut, I wish I could tell you that sexism in the music biz has been eradicated, but the sad truth is that it still exists, but now tends to rear its ugly head in more clever and veiled ways.
To demonstrate, I’d like to call upon some of my own personal experiences from just a few years back in 2005 when my band ANTI-HERO made its debut.
Before we had established a reputation for being a legitimate hard-hitting female fronted rocking ensemble, almost every time we played a new city, the other acts on the bill and the audience members alike, assumed that myself, and my female counterpart Nic our bassist, were the tag-along band girlfriends and/or groupies. Moreover, when we got booked on metal or hardcore bills, before we were allowed to even strum a single chord on our guitars, the spectators, particularly the males, would make snide remarks toting us as being a group comparable to the Spice Girls. However, the worst of the offenses committed against us in our early career, undoubtedly goes to a Toronto concert promoter who blatantly told us, prior to our performance, that he only put us on the bill because he thought of female fronted acts as “novelty items.” Essentially, to him, women who played guitars were subhuman, just sex objects with no real talent whose sole purpose was to act as objects of male fantasy.
There is still a heavy stigma alive and well towards women in rock, and unfortunately, because of the sort of sexism that female artists often encounter, it discourages many women from pursuing this route therefore making hard rocking chicks a rarity and so, subject to continued discrimination.
As Naomi Less, a proud Jewish chick rocker notes, “I have been searching for some time now for seriously talented lead guitarists and bassists who are women - and in NYC [an entertainment capital, no less]. And they are so just hard to find.”
But, after all, the electric guitar is a natural extension of the penis right? Women don’t belong in rock bands, they should limit themselves to what they do best: shaking their asses and tits like Shakira.
Well, sorry mates, but if this is the perspective that you’ve got, you need to time-warp back to the ‘50s, because even though fem rockers and riot grrls, like myself, may encounter this b.s., it just makes us even more motivated to prove all of those who’ve prejudged us wrong, and whether you like it or not, female fronted rock is gaining ground all over the globe.
Next Week: Sexism in Music Pt 2: Dissecting Discrimination Toward Women Rockers in Its Many Forms