Sunday, October 17, 2010

Record Store Girl

If there are any female collectors out there, we have some bad news to report: Sorry, but you don't exist.
Vinyl Junkies

I am a female record collector and self-professed geek. If I were a character in High Fidelity, I'd be Barry. We do exist.

Although a lack of funds keeps me from pursuing the vinyl part of my hobby more, I was pretty deep into trading "field recordings" (I've always preferred this term to bootlegs) with guys twice my age I knew only from fanboards. There's a definite hoarder aspect to collecting bootlegs: the feeling of obtaining something very few others have, tangible proof that you are a more "serious" kind of music fan. (I mean, who takes pride in a collection of drunken Replacements shows recorded by equally drunk fans?) Women may be few and far between, but we are there.

I'm lucky that I have a couple really good brick-and-mortar record stores in my city, and more than a few decent used cds stores. In the pre-iTunes era, had it not been for used cd outlets (and libraries), I wouldn't have a "collection." I have never experienced any overt sexism, except when I'm pushed aside by guys whose wingspan is thrice mine digging through crates of musty old vinyl that's been sitting in someone's basement for decades. It's the covert, "is it or isn't it?" unexamined, unpacked kind of sexism that's the most infuriating. It's the constant "schooling" I'd get when I placed my purchases on the counter. (I think I know what I'm buying, thank you very much.) It's being serenaded with Big Star's "I'm In Love With a Girl" when I really just want to get out of there. It's this sentiment, which seems to be shared by fans and male rock critics alike:

"To some extent, male record collectors wear their geekiness as a badge of honor. There's a certain pride that goes along with self-deprecation. Hell, no woman could be as obsessed as we are. Take away cheap sexism, and you're left with an idealized attitude. The idea that isn't women are inferior, but they've got better things to do."

No, take away any cheap sexism and you're left with... more sexism. To posit that women are underrepresented in a subculture because they have "better things to do," is just kind of lazy. When you're continually thought of as less knowledgeable or not doing fandom right, you really don't want to be part of the club.

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