Thursday, March 8, 2012

Woman as Genre

It's not the first time I've said this, and surely it won't be the last, but as much as I try to keep the narrative of this blog free of reductive statements like, "Here's another aspect of the music industry where women are underrepresented or marginalized," it's an unavoidable fact.

The Guardian's Charlotte Richards Andrews echos what a lot of women who love and write about music for a living have been saying for years: women themselves are not a genre.
"When virtuoso female guitarists appear on the rock radar, they tend to gain the spotlight in the lulls between dominant, malecentric scenes (Britpop, grunge, glam rock), celebrated in isolation as brief, intermittent flashes of brilliance that flare up between the wider, collective scenes. When these women are innovative enough to operate successfully outside a zeitgeist, and gain an audience without the legitimacy and safety of a wider scene, they are seen as ancillary to rock's larger, holistic pantheon. They are rounded up for "women in rock" trend pieces where "gender is genre", a rock press narrative that creates a separate, and implicitly lesser, form of rock. [...] Creating a separate (slow) lane for women, where rock matriarchs, however hallowed, are women's only forebears, keeps rock divided. It divorces female musicians from their privileged forefathers, denies them their artistic lineage, and creates a system where women with electric guitars can only be as good as the women that came before them, celebrated on pedestals but never shoulder to shoulder with favoured male peers. If rock learned to celebrate more than one image as authentic and valuable, maybe that old death bell wouldn't ring quite so regularly."
Recently Rolling Stone published its "100 Greatest Guitarists " in rock and barely a handful of women made the cut. Looking at the lists artists who voted for their peers -- barely a handful of women made the cut. It's easy to draw parallels with the Vida report showing the lack of parity in literary and political magazines. If women can't be seen as peers -- or only as the peers of other women -- their contributions to music will never be held in the same regard as men's.

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