I really hate the category, “women in rock”. I don’t get it – “Ooh, look! The guitar player has boobs! Obviously this must affect her playing greatly.” And yes, I think that music produced by women often is different, but I think that is just because men & women have such different experiences in society that their music is going to come from a different place. But I do have a special place in my heart for really badass female musicians. Lynn Breedlove, Joan Jett, Ari Up, and my personal idol… Kathleen Hanna. Kathleen Hanna is often credited as one of the founding mothers of the Riot Grrrl* movement in the 90s as part of the band Bikini Kill (along with equally awesome Tobi Vail, Kathi Wilcox and Billy, whose last name I can never remember.). If you go to the Bikini Kill archives, there are a buttload of comments saying how Bikini Kill changed their life** and made them realize that women can, in fact, be musicians.
When I first became interested in the Riot Grrrl movement, I really identified, but I honestly didn’t get the motivation behind making girls realize they can play music too. I’d always sort of thought, “well, duh, if I want to play music I’ll play music. Obviously.” And I didn’t think too much of it, mostly because I’ve not really encountered much sexism when it comes to women and music, at least. Except this one time, which pissed me off extremely.
When I first got into Bikini Kill, I went through a bit of an obsessive phase. My friends got sick of me talking about Kathleen Hanna and my chants of, “Rebel girl! Rebel girl! Rebel girl you are the QUEEN OF MY WORLD!” It’s entirely possible I lost a great deal of my hearing blasting “Demirep” and singing raucously along. And then I met this guy, T, who is really cool. I don’t want to sound like he’s a jerk (even though this was an asshole thing to say) because T is really awesome and understanding. When we went to go see The Green Hornet (which I hated but anyway.) his first comment upon seeing the main character with his one-night-stand in the opening scene was, “he’d better respect her”. Needless to say, the boy got a high five. T also has really good taste in music. Not many of my friends are into the same kind of music I like, which in some cases is understandable. But it’s always good to meet a fellow music lover. So I tried to tell T about Bikini Kill around the time I first met him. Our conversation went something like this.
ME: “So there’s this really cool band, called Bikini Kill, and the singer is badass” (I’ve mastered the art of speaking in bold and italics)
T: “Oh, really? Is he cute?”
Dead silence. Um. Hoo boy, you have no idea how ironic it is that I was talking about Kathleen Hanna when you said that.
ME: “Well, she’s pretty cute.”
So boys, next time, do not assume that a musician, just because they are badass, is male. Because I will send my flying monkeys after you, and what remains will not be pretty.
*A great book? Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus. It’s effing fantastic.
**I actually heard a great story about a girl who drove around blasting “Suck My Left One”. I can’t drive yet, but I DO have really massive headphones that you can hear from about a mile away. Suburban jocks, beware!