Sunday, October 3, 2010

Women as Fans, Women as Critics: Round Two

(I saw this story linked on Feministe yesterday and my comment got a bit long, so I turned it into a post.)

"'Wordless, intensely emotional and undeniably sexual -- this is the state in which teenage girls are understood to connect with music, and with those performing it,' writes Crawford, an Australian journalist known for her feminist music criticism. 'It is all in their bodies: they do not intellectualise; their opinions are instinctive rather than considered.'"
- Critic Anwyn Crawford in an article on the lack of women in music criticism courtesy of On The Issues

On another website a few weeks ago, I reviewed a book by a well-received rock critic. I overwhelmingly like and respect his work. He does an amazing job communicating the zeitgiest of the 80s and 90s indie music scene, but still has a healthy appreciation of all things pop. A good review should have been a given, save for one little problem: his reliance (the brunt of the book, actually) on the idea that women are not "serious" music fans. But that's okay girls, 'cause we can still dance and stuff. See, our non-serious fandom allows us the freedom to squee and swoon and wet ourselves and we don't have to worry about looking at music, or pop culture as a whole for that matter, with a analytical eye.

Of course, none of this really matters unless you are a music critic, but women are grossly underrepresented as critics. If women, as the article states, are trained from a young age that they are emotional rather than rational, reactive and instinctive rather than thoughtful, how are we to see ourselves a capable of critical thought? I know from experience, being around fans and critics alike, it's not so much that I think I'm incapable, but convincing others I have a brain and am not just into a band because "the lead singer's hot." (Yes, I have known male rock fans who reduce it to that.)

"Having more female critics is important because women need to see more examples of what they can do, but also because women, particularly feminists, bring a much needed perspective to bear on the cultural subjects they are discussing. The same is true with people from different races, cultural backgrounds or sexual orientations."

Some of the best cultural critics, I've found, come from within the feminist blogosphere. I never grew up with fantasies of being my generation's Lester Bangs or Robert Cristgau, so doing what I'm doing now, even on a micro level, is still quite alien. Hearing other women's voices provides a well-needed sense of validation, but go to any mainstream music blog or magazine (what few of them are left), and men still outnumber the women.

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