There has been some chatter around the local Twitter hub of late about that old thorny issue of women in music. Last week when a music website decided to publish a Daily Fail style reader-trolling/baiting review that ‘ironically’ rolled out that old ‘hilarious’ observation that having a vagina means having no musical taste and that that’s the general opinion of the whole of mankind, it got me thinking (in a non-Carrie Bradshaw style) about my own life within the music game as a non-penis owning person.
When I first decided I’d quite enjoy writing faffy, fanciful articles about music things and pop people, I, like Nora Barnacle deciding to run away with James Joyce, did so without hesitation. There were no teeth gnashing times of indecision in my pre-internet, bedroom scribbling days of yore, wondering would I be ridiculed for having such boisterous opinions about topics like the latest Super Furry Animals release, as a lady-woman. I had many lady-women journo heroes to inspire me, after all. From 8 years old I was laughing myself into a snorty- stupor at the wondrous Sylvia Patterson making Climie Fisher singles sound worthwhile in my fortnightly Smash Hits. In my prolonged phase of awkwardness during which I graduated to the Melody Maker and the NME, I was lucky enough to have the sass, wit and verve of Caitlin Moran, Bidisha, Carol Clerk, April Long and plethora of others as models. They made me feel that attempting to describe the technicolour magic of music was a thing I could do despite not being born with a penis which would obviously denote my God given right to throw my opinions about liberally like a bucketful of freshly pumped sperm.
Having a vagina and loving music was never an issue growing up in a house full of girls. The sounds that wafted from my older sisters’ bedrooms could be anything from SKA, 60s Rocksteady, and obscure 70s disco to folk troubadours, blues and soul legends and the latest pop smashes. Music was everywhere, never out of bounds, always something to be talked about, talked over, dissected and argued about until the last groove skipped to its tremulous finale.
At school I befriended other musically inclined girls, some who would practice the latest dance routines in their sitting room at tea-time and others who would learn guitar and start bands with varying degrees of success. Even when I encountered boys they seemed evolved enough as teens to know that there was no real superiority in this music malarkey. The obsession was the drug and we enjoyed the youthful wonder of sharing coyly made mix-tapes and the thrills of chatting about the bands you love until your jaws got tired (sometimes it was even better and more passionate than the actual kissing…). There was no quiz, no test of b-side knowledge like having to recite the off-side rule, no sucking the fun dry, our addiction to music was completely equal, everyone brought something to the party , everyone discovered something, sometimes shock horror, I even introduced some boys to some music they’d NEVER HEARD OF. Just like Justine Frischmann introducing Damon Albarn to the Fall and to Can, and Yoko introducing John Lennon to civility and Feminism along with avant garde soundscapes …sometimes women can be influential. Imagine.
Before this sounds like growing up being a female obsessed with music was like a montage from Empire Records, there were moments of mind squashing sexism that still shock me. From the time a giant, grown man shouted torrents of abuse into my 14 year old face until a weaker, more scared me dissolved into mascara drenched tears at a Manics gig (really missing the point of a band who wore eyeliner and called themselves sluts…),to some horrible attempted fumblings in various mosh-pits, or the continuous texts about me ,the only female music reviewer on a weekly radio show that routinely told me to ‘shut the fuck up’ or asked that the show’s presenter ‘stop the girl talking’, whilst the boys remained utterly shielded from this abuse. Frustratingly, music is still the playground populated by the usual brigade of Statto-like nerd boys who attribute all music loving girls to having had a Svengali -like boyfriend whose record collection they appropriated along with his soul. Music is still an industry in which when a girl is in a band she is judged on her appearance first and her talent second. I am constantly informed in surprised tones by blokes that my friend who is in a band has a ‘great guitar technique’, like she should be put in a Petri dish and studied. Music like football, is still the domain where some men make you feel like a cat walking on its hind legs when you utter something that is challenging or perhaps know a little bit more than them about their sacred topic of interest.
When will this die out? When will the sad lads become a dying breed, huddled together in a bunker somewhere playing Spiderland on a loop and weeping dementedly into their copies of High Fidelity? Can we round them up? Because if they’re still allowed to roam free in society, spreading their useless, impotent, muck, then ‘ironic’ redundant opinions about music loving girls will still be uttered as the only truth – a full stop to a sentence that should have remained unwritten.
Originally published on fanny.ie