Rock Music: Enduring the Double Standard, Part 2423707d

I have a habit. An irritating habit. I like to share YouTube videos on Facebook on even the smallest pretext. This leads to me basically spamming my own FB profile with videos each time I stop there. So far, I’ve managed to refrain from sharing The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson every time I burst out laughing.

Lately, I’ve been profile-spamming with Rory Gallagher videos every so often. Or rather, every time I go to YouTube in search of a Rory video. I’m in the mid-period stage of New Obsession, and it’s just as well that YouTube wasn’t around when I went through the same with The Beatles, or with Led Zeppelin or with Thin Lizzy or with The Doors, or with Dean Martin.

Amongst the videos I posted the other day was this:

I added the note"I wasn’t going to clutter FB with any more tonight but the end of this is astonishing in its grand fabulousness." If you want to accuse me of being over the top, hyperbolic or just plain nuts, that’s cool. I happen to think it’s a very cool live exploration of the song that reaches a thoroughly satisfactory climax (oh, matron, etc etc) but part of my excitement was bound up in the newness: it was the first time I’d heard it in such an arrangement.

Now one of my friends on Facebook, the Fabulous Marie, clicked ‘Like’ on a few of the videos and I was glad that someone – anyone – had seen then. I get quite preachy when I fall down the rabbit hole for a musician, I know this. "OMG YOU MUST LISTEN! NO REALLY!". I know, and I’m at least less awful than I used to be (just ask anyone who was around when I fell down the Doors rabbit hole).

I posted a bunch of videos, and also, while I’m at it, the profound FB status message "RANDOM SCOTT GORHAM ON TV!" so it’s fair to say I was in a particular frame of mind: the oh my god, rock music is all I care about and all I can think about frame of mind. Haven’t been there for a while, and it was fun. So imagine the mixture of emotions the next day when I read an email alert that someone had replied to my posting of the above video.

"It’s not as if he’s the best or anything – do you just fancy him?"

On the face of it… it’s just a slightly stupid, shallow remark. There’s more to this than meets the eye, to borrow a phrase from the movie Help! (more on that later).

Let us examine this, because I’m still angry two days later. Leaving aside the quality judgement, because that’s not the issue and is always going to be contentious in rock geek circles, the question…. do you just fancy him?

Exsqueeze me, baking powder? (another quote from another rock music movie). What did you just say? It was a boy who said it, for the record, called Adam. I have had several online discussions with him about music, the blues, Clapton and Gallagher. I know he falls on the side of Clapton. I do not. I only know him via my brother, so I can’t claim to know him at all well. I can’t speak to his motives or meanings behind the remark. I can only speak to how it feels to read such a remark. And I’m fucking well going to speak to it.

How dare you.

I was immediately put in mind of a fascinating feminist post over at Shakesville: The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck. If you, men and women, read nothing else about this post, click the link and read. I was put in mind because the question that came to me as I read the comment from Adam was: Swallow shit, or ruin the afternoon? As the article suggests, moments that wear/cut away at a woman’s sense of self, worth, importance have already ruined the proverbial afternoon for them. So fuck it kids, I’m going to ruin the afternoon.

I am sick and tired – oh so weary – of being treated in a particular way for being a rock fan with a cunt. The number of times I’ve had men (and some women) patronise me, scorn me, outright mock or attack me for it… I took a Pop Music Culture class nearly a decade ago in which I had to stand up for myself – and all the other female rock fans – for wanting to love the music.

So let me ask a question. If a man posted four or five videos of a musician they liked a great deal, would ‘do you fancy him’ be a question that even occurred to anyone? Rock music is still so skewed towards men. That’s fine, as long as they’re good at it. I mean come on! My absolute favourite musicians are all men! This may be due to a conspicuous lack of choice in the female rock department.

Who is there? In mainstream rock music, I mean. There are the Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl types who are to be respected and commended, but you can’t call it mainstream… Who is there who ROCKS THE FUCK OUT while in possession of a vagina?

You’re having trouble, aren’t you? Don’t worry, you’re not the only ones: Rolling Stone’s Immortals list has only four women in the top fifty, and Aretha (number nine) is a soul singer, Madonna’s (36) a clotheshorse bandwagoner. Only the other two, Janis Joplin and Patti Smith, can even reasonably be considered to share the same space as the guys. I don’t say this to deride the Queen or Madge, just to point out that they’re not rockers. Janis and Patti are at places 46 and 47 respectively. The bottom fifty has six females/girl groups.

It’s not because girls don’t like rock music. It’s not because they can’t play it. It’s because they’re told they can’t, or just plain told not to. I remember why I asked to learn the guitar when I was seven years old. I was watching Top of the Pops (a very long time ago, when I could still find something on there to like). I made the connection between rock music, guitars and cool pretty easily. I was a kid who had her own record player at the age of six and listened to Buddy Holly records. It was 1989. I wanted to play the guitar. The electric guitar like all those cool-as-fuck musicians. Can you imagine the disappointment I had to hide when my mummy took me to the music school and introduced me to my classical guitar teacher? I wanted to ROCK OUT but it had been assumed (I assume in turn) that it would be classical. I turned out to love my lessons and stuck with them from the age of ten to nineteen, and I only stopped them to go to university. (Sidenote: Mr Burden, you’re a fucking legend.) But the assumption hurt.

For the record, I’m sitting within two feet of two guitars: a Fender California series electro-acoustic slice of gorgeousness and a gold copy-Strat. There’s a bass (Fender jazz copy.) (rarely played) sitting in my spare room.

So anyway, I’ve been dealing with this shit for twenty years and it still stings. I wouldn’t be writing this if Adam’s remark didn’t hurt a little. How can I explain without seeming like An Irrational Female or A Bitch? I can practically hear the TVTropes names forming. How can I adequately explain the shredding of my heart every time some ignorant tossmonkey suggests that the only reason I could ever love music is because I fancy the musician? My God, it still hurts, every single time, and partly on behalf of the musicians in question. What an insult it is to them to suggest that I could only love them for their face and body? (There is an argument to be made that Robert Plant asked for it).

I suppose it couldn’t possibly be because of the music, could it? Or them as humans for being charismatic or intelligent, or funny? It couldn’t be because of a MONSTER RIFF or a STONKING BASSLINE or a PROFOUND LYRIC? God, the mere idea of loving the Beatles for the music! Why didn’t I think of that before? Whyever would I like Led Zeppelin for Jimmy’s fourteen track guitar solos or for Bonzo’s extended Moby Dick drum solo? (for the record: I actually love the version of Moby Dick that’s in The Song Remains The Same).

I couldn’t possibly like Rory Gallagher for his mad guitar skills, could I? Or his often excellent songwriting? There are a couple of his songs that are such excellent examples of their type that I assumed they were covers. ‘Goin’ To My Hometown’ is a particularly excellent example. It couldn’t possibly be because he brought an Irish lyricality to the blues and a deep authentic feeling that I have never once believed from Eric Clapton, could it? It couldn’t be his dedication to the music, or the simple-but-effective live shows? No, I must fancy him.

A far more stinging and accurate mockery would’ve been to suggest I only like him for being Irish. It’d be more accurate than ‘oooooh, you lurrrrrrve him!’ but it’d still be wrong.

Why are women still barred from being considered ‘proper’ fans of anything? Why are we still having our motives questioned? Are we still tagged as groupies, no matter what we do? Are we all supposed to be crazy fangirls, as if my love of rock music is the same as a tinhat Supernatural fan’s love of J2? Even if it is, what would be wrong with that? A guy can own thousands of records and be a fan, a girl could own the same and be tagged as a crazy fangirl.

I appreciate that the screaming girls since the Bobbysoxers have not helped the cause. However, you don’t know what it was they loved, and not all fangirls are the same. Twihards right now are not helping, but it’s possible – just possible – that they love the books above loving Robert Pattinson. Have you even asked?

Oh hey, Fact Fans! For all the crazy fangirls that clutter the internet and the world, it was a white man who killed John Lennon. To extend this further, a white man killed Jim Morrison, when you think about it.

I sit opposite a rock fan called Phil at work. We routinely drive everyone else mad by bickering, for one thing, and for droning about rock music for another. We also quote A Hard Day’s Night and Help! at each other for a good portion of any given day. Swine flu has been particularly good for this: He’s a swiiiiiiine. Phil can speak at length about the differences between the stereo and mono mixes of the Beatles records and on Friday spent some time waxing truly lyrical about the new remaster of Abbey Road. He is almost as much of a fan of several other bands. He dislikes my ironic love of Xanadu because that’s when he finally gave up on ELO. He’s seen Clapton tons of times. I don’t believe he’s ever been accused of being in love with any of the bands he likes.

Go over to YouTube and read the comments on Rory Gallagher videos:

Do please pardon my language.But Goddamn fuckin amazing … 5:49 … with the bass … and the … the … oh god i love it …..  by someone called Brianlovesiobhan on the video above.

ah for feck sake!!!!!!! that was just unreal. Vids of Rory blow me away everytime! thanks a million for sharing! from someone called MonkeyMan198599, video and comment linked in quote.

Now, I can’t be sure that these people (there are hundreds of similarly adoring comments on most of RG’s videos, but I’m not going to spam you with them now) are men… but I can surmise it. I suppose that they too must fancy Rory? Or am I to understand that only men can be obsessive about music and that women must only be obsessive about musicians?

It’s entirely possible for a woman to fall in love with a rock and roll musician. It’s just as possible for her not to. It’s actually a pretty complex set of emotions for me, so for someone to reduce it to do you just fancy him is infuriating. Even if I did explain, I don’t think most people would be interested, which is fair enough, but don’t reduce it to the lowest common denominator. I’ve sat for hours watching old concerts for these people, I’ve lost days of my life to listening to their records. I’m poor because of them. I’ve travelled the globe for them, I’ve stood at their graves. I’ve danced around the living room alone at 2 o’clock in the morning because of a funky song. I’ve read books. I’ve written dissertations and blog posts. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’ve watched great documentaries and shit documentaries. I’ve defended and attacked them. I’ve fought their corners. I’ve sung their songs on stages. I’ve written songs about them. I’ve done all this because of the music.

To quote briefly from a long-ago post I made that was nominally about the Phantom of the Opera but was actually about Jim and Me:

It is a handy little extra that Jim Morrison is Adonis. It makes putting pictures of him up on the wall a genuine pleasure. It’s always nice to have beautiful things to look at. But you don’t get pictures when you’re listening to a record. When it’s just you and the vinyl, the only thing he has to win you over completely is his voice singing his words. No pout, no smirk or smoulder or trousers. There’s none of the slumping onto microphones or falling into a heap. Only a voice.

Would I love Jim Morrison if he were ugly? I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a choice in the matter.

Note the phrase ‘would I love’ rather than ‘would I be in love with’. To me, they’re not the same thing. In fact, I believe I use the word ‘love’ as shorthand a lot of the time, because everyone understands love but they don’t necessarily understand the rock fan – musician relationship. ‘Love’ is an easy way of avoiding exactly what I mean.

To quote briefly from a post I made in July 2007:

Without music I’d be dead. Or at least very, terribly hollow and dead inside. I might still live and breathe, but who would I be? I talk music most of the time, I think music even more. The only things that distract me from music are writing, movies and myself. That’s it. There’s nothing else.

I’m not saying you can’t crush on musicians, can’t be in love with them… it’s just that it’s not why a lot of us women love the music first and foremost and above everything else. To suggest that I could only love the music because of the man makes my stomach twist itself inside out because I love the music so much for itself. Yet, it’s hard often to explain adequately how or why a piece of music is so important… but it’s relatively easy to talk about people. I have talked about how I love Jim Morrison or any of the others – but it’s not a crush. It’s not romantic and never was. It was a depth of affection for someone who gave me that music. If Jim hadn’t written those songs, I wouldn’t give a flying rat’s arse about him in or out of a shirt. I love the music, so I love them for the music. That doesn’t give them a free pass to make shit music and it doesn’t mean that I sit here daydreaming about them.

Wouldn’t that be a waste of fucking time in my case, given that most of the bastards are dead?

I don’t want to fuck or marry these people. I want to see them live in concert. When I hear the music I love, I feel alive. I feel like there’s meaning to the world. I feel like there’s wonder and brilliance in the world. I feel like I could fly. My heart soars or dips depending on the song. I get songs stuck in my head. Some songs make my blood run hot, some turn my blood cold. Some songs make me want to die. Others make me want to live. That makes you and me and all the other rock fans pretty much the same, whether we have a cock or a cunt, something else or none of the above. Amazing, right?

I’m going to leave you with a few choice quotes that, depending on your point of view, should leave you squirming and uncomfortable or punching the air triumphantly, mostly from women in music, because the only real difference between the person on stage and the person in the audience is what side of the security guard they can see.

People don’t want to see women doing things they don’t think women should do. Joan Jett

Girls have got balls. They’re just a little higher up that’s all. Joan Jett.

Aggressive, tough and defiant may describe me, but that leaves the impression I’m mean and I’m not. Joan Jett, again.

I figured out it was a social thing, what women were allowed to do. At a very young age, I decided I was not going to follow women’s rules.  Joan Jett, once more. Has she had to spend her entire career explaining and defending her choice? (answer: Yes).

As far as I’m concerned, being any gender is a drag. Patti Smith.

No, my work does not reflect my sexual preferences, it reflects the fact that I feel total freedom as an artist.  Patti Smith.

On stage I make love to twenty five thousand people; and then I go home alone.  Janis Joplin

Some nights I look out and want to fuck the whole front row. Robert Plant

The so-called feminist writers were disgusted with me. I did my thing, and so I guess by feminist standards I’m a feminist. That suits me fine.  Chrissie Hynde

I dig music. The fictional musician Russell Hammond in Almost Famous, a film which didn’t help the girl-fan (not fangirl) cause but was otherwise OK.

and a final word from one of our sponsors:

You know, people can’t fall in love with me just because I’m good at what I do. Robert Plant, 1977 (I’d be interested in the context of this quote if anyone has it).

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16 Responses to Rock Music: Enduring the Double Standard, Part 2423707d

  1. annearchy says:

    It’s entirely possible for a woman to fall in love with a rock and roll musician.

    Been there, done that, several times, and mostly it’s had nothing to do with fancying them, I just adore the way they make music.

  2. tn_tiger says:

    I found my way over here via Shakesville. It must by LJ day over there!) I’m Wordaddict in comments over there.

    Thank you for this. I love some of the quotes, too.

    I have to admit, I have my share of actors and musicians that I “fancy”. But I also have my share that I like because of their work, or also because of their work. The mere fact that I’m female should not give anyone license to belittle my opinion or make assumptions. (It’s not like guys don’t ever “fancy” anyone they don’t know.)

    I tend to like female soloists and male groups. Two of my favorite groups–Muse and Better than Ezra–I really don’t have the “fangirl” sort of connection to at all. Which is not to say that their music is never sexy. But the lack of the erotic factor almost makes me feel like that connection is…purer, somehow.

    Anyway, I’m friending you, if you don’t mind.

    • apollarock says:

      I have to admit, I have my share of actors and musicians that I “fancy”. But I also have my share that I like because of their work, or also because of their work.

      Right. I’d paint myself a liar to say that I never had a crush on a famous person… and there’s nothing actually wrong with that (the way girls are treated when it comes to crushes and fangirling etc is a whole other post!)… but it’s the assumption that it’s the ONLY thing it could ever be that enrages me.

      The mere fact that I’m female should not give anyone license to belittle my opinion or make assumptions. (It’s not like guys don’t ever “fancy” anyone they don’t know.)

      That’s exactly what I wanted to say, but I never use twenty words when 500 will do. This is why I hardly use Twitter.

      Friended you back: Welcome to my world!

  3. aoi_no_neko says:

    Just to put in my “Yup”
    (also saw this through Shakesville, which I first found about through LJ, circular)

    Been there, done that, can totally agree. And yes in all parts of the industry it’s damn hard to be a woman and to be considered as a person. Through my life I’ve been around musicians (a few well known), groupies, and have done a little sound engineering and yes. There are way more stereotypes in Rock and Roll than in many other fields.

    And as one gets older, it gets weirder. Because of that misguided notion that as a female you are only there at the concert because you are attracted to the body singing the music. And that’s not right for older women to be like that. No, couldn’t possibly be there because you want to hear the person sing and play live and enjoy that.

    Sadly both men and women propogate the myths.

    Thanks for putting that into words.

    • apollarock says:

      Sound engineering? Cool! My brother studied Music Tech at university – I have so much respect for that side of things.

      Actually, I do work in ‘the industry’ (more adjacent to it, perhaps) and where I am it’s relatively even-handed, but it’s notably administrative, not creative.

      The age thing… yeah. As a Thin Lizzy fan, I’ve been one of the few 20-something females in an audience of 2-3,000 and it’s strange. By the time I’m in the demographic for Mum Music (again, another post for another day), none of the people I care about will be in a position to play live at all – unless some new person comes along – but I suspect that I will either be outright scorned or just completely invisible…

      The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve remembered more examples of this nonsense from my life. Tomorrow, I’m going to call my dad and thank him from the bottom of my heart for giving me the music when I was a kid and not just thinking ‘she’s a girl, she won’t care about Elvis or Buddy’.

  4. Anonymous says:

    i can’t speak for everyone but honestly, if a gay man posted 4 or 5 videos of a male artist or if a straight man posted 4 or 5 videos of a female artist, then yes, i would assume they were doing it because they fancied him/her. likewise if a straight woman posted a lot of videos of a guy the thought she fancied him might cross my mind although actually, i would be LESS likely to assume that of a woman, because of course there are so few female artists and even fewer whose work is geared toward men that i guess it is more fair an assumption to make that a guy just thinks a girl is hot if he posts her videos a lot. where as with women, “guy” music is directed at everyone so it’s probably not as fair to assume that a woman doesn’t just like the music.

    • apollarock says:

      Hi!

      That’s a fair point. However… if a straight man posted four or five videos of a female artist in which she is dolled up/dressed up/writhing – precisely because of the limited ways in which women are allowed to exist in music – it might be reasonable to suggest that he’s posting because the girl is hot. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t assume anything about it unless comments were made, you know? I’ve seen enough of The Box or new music videos generally to suspect that women in pop music are being presented in a very straightforward way whether they’re artistes or dancers.

      On the other hand, if a guy posted four or five Joni Mitchell vids, or Joan Jett or Suzi Quatro, it wouldn’t occur to me ‘oh, he fancies her!’ unless he said so.

      Now… if a girl (say me), posts four live videos of a blues musician who hasn’t even got set dressing on the various stages and looks like he’s walked straight off the street… when that girl is known (at least to those who have access to her Facebook profile and who would see the shared vids) to be a passionate music fan… Is it the same?

      “guy” music is directed at everyone

      This is one of the hugest problems I have with music – and popular cultre generally. Why is it still the case that guy music is for ‘everyone’ and yet women’s music must be ‘niche’? I don’t direct the question at you personally nor accuse you, just… it’s an interesting turn of phrase. Women make up half the world and we’re still ‘niche’…

      If this was the first time this had ever happened to me, I would’ve probably fumed but dismissed it. When I get patronised just for wearing the fucking t-shirt… or the time a guy at work saw the photos of Morrison and Philip Lynott I had tacked up (alongside photographs of Ireland and other such things) and we had the following exchange (retrieved from my LJ post from 2005):

      This bloke said, no word of a lie: “So, is your boyfriend in a band, then?”
      I blinked. Once, twice, possibly even three times. “What?” said I.
      “Your boyfriend. Partner. In a band, is he?”
      “I don’t have one.”
      “Oh, but you… how comes you know all about this lot then?”

      Fortunately for him, unfortunately for the conversation, my phone rang and by the time the call was over, he’d gone.

      My point – I know I had a point at some time – is that yes, I understand what you mean… I don’t think it’s as simple as that, and from my experience – with musicians, rock fans and civilians – your attitude is the exception, not the rule.

      • logansrogue says:

        You gave this anonymous way more time than I would have. I’d have said, “Oh fuck off!” and have left it at that! LOL!

      • apollarock says:

        Yeah, but you know me: I never use three words when sixty-five polysyllabic babies will do the job.

      • logansrogue says:

        You’re blinding them with science verbosity.

      • Anonymous says:

        yeah, i do see what you mean. :/ i do think there’s a different element with women rock ‘n roll fans, like you said they’re most expected to be groupies and that’s kind of fucked up. also i’m not really heavily into the music scene so i don’t know what the predominant attitudes are there. but yeah, i do think part of the reason guys aren’t assumed to fancy guys they admire is that people assume everyone is straight so they assume he couldn’t like another guy because he is a guy. however i also think that’s only part of it. i do agree with you that sexism plays a role as well, both in the way women are seen when they like a guy musician and in the fact that there are so few female musicians whose music is considered to be for everyone and not just for women.

        another thought that just occurred to me is i feel like some women may be more likely to express their feelings of platonic admiration for someone as a “crush” because that’s the only way they can have that admiration and stuff be seen as “feminine” or whatever. then their crushy behavior furthers the stereotype which furthers the pressure to disguise admiration as a crush and it goes in a nasty circle. *sigh*

        This is one of the hugest problems I have with music – and popular cultre generally. Why is it still the case that guy music is for ‘everyone’ and yet women’s music must be ‘niche’? I don’t direct the question at you personally nor accuse you, just… it’s an interesting turn of phrase. Women make up half the world and we’re still ‘niche’…

        yea i agree. it’s not just music, it’s book and movies too. you can direct stuff at a male audience and that = for everyone but if you direct it at a female audience that = specialty.

        – sorry for not signing my name but i don’t comment on these types of blogs much and i’m not ready to do so under a name yet.

      • apollarock says:

        another thought that just occurred to me is i feel like some women may be more likely to express their feelings of platonic admiration for someone as a “crush” because that’s the only way they can have that admiration and stuff be seen as “feminine” or whatever.

        I find the idea that women want to have such emotions be seen as feminine an interesting one… I’m sure some people do do that, but it’s not part of my experience, or of many female fans I know, precisely because the love of the music is nothing (or very little) to do with the people or anything even close to romantic.

        – sorry for not signing my name but i don’t comment on these types of blogs much and i’m not ready to do so under a name yet.

        Fair enough. Thanks for not living down to the expectations we’ve all come to have of anonymice.

  5. Saw this on Shakespeare’s Sister 🙂 You said it perfectly.

  6. Oh, yes.

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

    You put into words what has been bothering me so much lately, but I’ve been unable to articulate.

    Word.

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