"even if you pass all their tests, you're probably just a gimmick"
September 15, 2014 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Women are called upon every day to prove our right to participate in music on the basis of our authenticity—or perceived lack thereof. Our credentials are constantly being checked—you say you like a band you've only heard a couple of times? Prepare to answer which guitarist played on a specific record and what year he left the band. But don't admit you haven't heard them, either, because they'll accuse you of only saying you like that genre to look cool. Then they'll ask you if you've ever heard of about five more bands, just to prove that you really know nothing. This happens so often that it feels like dudes meet in secret to work on a regimented series of tests they can use to determine whether or not we deserve to be here. The "fake geek girl" test is one, door guys stopping female musicians carrying gear to make sure they're actually in the band and not just somebody's girlfriend is another. Big rock magazines that interview male musicians about gear and female musicians about sexual harassment—that's up there too.
—Meredith Graves talks about musical authenticity and gender, taking Andrew WK and Lana Del Rey as her examples. Graves is in the noise rock band Perfect Pussy. Here's a video for their song "I", a live performance and a short segment where Graves and bandmate Ray McAndrew buy books.
posted by Kattullus (54 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bikini Kill was pretty awesome. I don't recall anyone at CFUV ever asking about their authenticity. We just played the damn records on the rawk show.
posted by Nevin at 5:01 PM on September 15, 2014


Dang, she is a really talented writer.

The persona thing is really interesting to me; I'm an introvert and I talk about introversion a lot with my dad, who is, among other things, a journalist, and one of the things he talks about is "Being John Fleck"; the way he says this out loud, it sounds like he's giving his name extra capital letters. It's tiring to have a public face of any kind, I think.

I think of it a lot in terms of the Stephen Colbert with two Wikipedia entries, one for "character" and one for not, and how much they bleed into each other; his character might have conservative wingbat opinions but he still is a total nerdy fanboy, and even with all my bad feelings about Orson Scott Card, I think of Demosthenes and Locke. I think of Avasarala, a character in The Expanse, and the way her poet husband calls the persona she wears during her political job "the mask", and she wonders if he's right in thinking the one she wears at home with her grandchildren is more real or another facet or the true mask itself.

It's a good subject for fiction, this look for authenticity in a person with multiple sides they show to the world. It gives most standard superheroes the conflict between secret identity and cape that can drive their story and it creates a different kind of character out of the exceptions to that rule; it allows a superhero's name to become a mantle tied to a set of tools and ideals that can be passed down after death, disgrace or retirement.
posted by NoraReed at 5:07 PM on September 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


i went to music school with Annie Clark AKA St. Vincent and never got tired of watching the shred guitar bros minds melt from sheer disbelief as it slowly dawned on them that not only was she a Pretty Girl That Plays Guitar, but also that she was technically better and more musically knowledgeable than them. Whats interesting is that her style at the time was WAY more "showy", i think specifically to shut people up as quickly as possible.

Similarly, i have a friend now who is a TINY girl in a shred metal band and an absolutely incredible guitar player. before almost every single show when she is loading in she gets guys who dont know who she is trying to "teach her to play" something on guitar. i always try to remember to look for their faces when shes on stage later as the headliner tearing up huge solos in their faces, but never do.

as a guy, i think fragile male egos and "authenticity insecurity" are one of the most pathetic, embarrassing things imaginable. its never about anything other than people trying to cheat a feeling of superiority without having done anything to deserve it.
posted by young_son at 5:14 PM on September 15, 2014 [44 favorites]


She's got bronies all wrong ("He was a motivational speaker at a Brony convention, lecturing about positivity and the good, healthy community surrounding a creepy, reprehensible and disgusting fandom known for appropriating and sexualizing a cartoon made for little girls") , according to the recent brony thread.
posted by thelonius at 5:26 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


O god i could write a wall of text about this.

In my formative years, i was one of these guys. It was just so generally accepted as fact/canon/whatever that there were somehow tons of "poser girls" in it for "attention" or whatever.

And then i made friends with a bunch of musical ladies, and realized that you know, other than being ladies and getting tons of shit non stop 24/7 there wasn't any actual difference between them and these guys. I would say besides that they didn't do this, but several of them totally internalized it and did it to others as well.

It also really helped me see a serious dark underbelly of it that though i had lots of friends in a variety of scenes/genres, i was pretty much always an electronic music guy... and holy shit that scene is the goddamn worst. Several of my ladyfriends are part-time DJs when they aren't doing other music/art stuff, and there's a constant low drone of people who don't believe that they're "really" DJing, or are by default way more critical of them when the guy who played for an hour before them sucked and they nodded along like it was totally legit, and as soon as a lady gets up there it's meh and critique city.

The entire thing seems to be built on a castle of insecurity around the fact that they have an inflated sense of the skill it takes to do what they're doing, and that women don't really take this stuff seriously and aren't that skilled, so if they acknowledge a lady can do it as well as they can then they're acknowledging what they do isn't that hard because if it was then women couldn't do it.

Or... something.

There's definitely a huge element of "she's only in this for male attention" which is like woah that's a lot of projection there bro, and also a huge other thing. This, at least in the electronic space, wasn't helped by the fact that a lot of the high profile women in the scene mostly did stuff that was collabs/"produced by"/featuring/etc.

Which of course totally ignored the fact that most of the guys i know who made stuff did it with their friends over beers, or in their friends basements when several people were hanging out and people would constantly drop pointers/show them stuff/make suggestions... but somehow that's totally normal, and actually acknowledging you made the track with someone if you're a woman just means someone else made it for you.

It's weird to reflect on how much i bought into that and how legitimate it seemed to me as some kind of attention conspiracy when i was younger. I can't relate to it at all now. Even trying to write about the logic of it makes no sense to me, and reveals how moronic it is(and was). But was like, the constant elephant in the room.


There's also an interesting flip side to this. I'm not going to say it's a positive thing because it's just part of a result of the violence in the system or whatever. But the really determined people who just kept coming back for more despite all the bullshit were giving it like, 120% and ended up being some of the most tightly practiced/skilled/creative people. When i was a resident DJ at a certain event, the women who would get booked at the event/locals who would ask to play/etc were always top tier. All of my friends who got tons of hate were generally a lot better technically than the people who were hating on them. The "fuck you i'll prove i'm not full of shit" batman-like drive definitely produced some good stuff.

Doesn't justify it's existence, in any way at all, and is actually really fucking sad. But nonetheless i liked watching people succeed and prove they really were not only nothing the haters said they were, but often better than the haters.
posted by emptythought at 5:29 PM on September 15, 2014 [27 favorites]


Nobody did this in punk rock as far as I know. Maybe some super asshole nerds but in pop punk women were in bands or not and nobody had to prove you weren't a poseur you just belonged if you wanted to belong. Not to say their wasn't crappy behavior, more like it was the opposite misogyny where if you were a girl in a band you had to deal with guys assuming you were this cool punk chick who loved talking about your boobs and hearing dick jokes or whatever plus drooly middle aged scene guys filming you at shows and all that ok I guess punk rock wasn't that great either.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:37 PM on September 15, 2014 [13 favorites]


Whats interesting is that her style at the time was WAY more "showy", i think specifically to shut people up as quickly as possible.

No doubt that was a part of it, but I think that showiness also comes with the serious student of guitar territory, especially at a school like Berklee. Women who can do that well provoke some serious castration anxiety, if you believe in that kind of thing, I bet!

I think the world is stocked like a trout stream with incredible technical guitar players, most of whom are boring to listen to after 3 minutes, and what's really impressive to me about St. Vincent is that she has huge talent as a writer and singer and arranger and producer, in addition to being able to play guitar well.
posted by thelonius at 5:44 PM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I should like Meredith Graves, since she's a really good writer and she likes Hal Hartley and Zen Arcade. And then I am reminded that her band name is (ugh) Perfect Pussy and she mixed menstrual blood in with the vinyl of her album.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2014


I should like Meredith Graves, since she's a really good writer and she likes Hal Hartley and Zen Arcade. And then I am reminded that her band name is (ugh) Perfect Pussy and she mixed menstrual blood in with the vinyl of her album.

yeah but why don't you like her
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 5:50 PM on September 15, 2014 [47 favorites]


I saw two articles about Courtney Love recently:

One stated she was equally famous for being a musician as for "all the famous men she's dated."

The second positively reveled in an isolated "terrible" recording of her voice, despite the fact a) it was on an admittedly off-night for her and b) rock musicians actually play with a band and their goal is to sound good in the context of a band, so what their artificially-isolated vocals sound like doesn't actually prove anything or mean anything.

And let's not even get into the perennial myth that "everyone knows" that "Billy Corgan wrote all her songs." Which always makes me marvel at the immense generosity of Mr. Corgan, since he apparently gave Hole 15 or 20 different songs that are all measurably better than anything he has ever done in any of his bands.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:53 PM on September 15, 2014 [18 favorites]


I should like Meredith Graves, since she's a really good writer and she likes Hal Hartley and Zen Arcade. And then I am reminded that her band name is (ugh) Perfect Pussy and she mixed menstrual blood in with the vinyl of her album.

sounds pretty metal to me. I mean, Metallica mixed blood with semen for the cover art of Load and pretty much every metal vinyl you get now has someone's blood in it. if anything this just cranks the authenticity to 11.
posted by young_son at 5:56 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I totally agree with Graves' assessment that what is called "artistic reinvention" for males is called "fakeness" for females, and what gets written off as "different tastes/new to the scene" in guys is labelled "being a poseur/fake geek girl" in girls.

That said, I think she assumes a whole lot of honesty and openness in places I don't. Both Andrew WK and Lana Del Rey, in my read of their music (fan of both), act as something like representatives for a particular human emotion, almost a shamanistic thing. They're "honest", but in the sense that a screen actor is honest*, not in the sense that your date is honest over dinner. Maybe Graves looks for that kind of honesty because Graves' music comes out of the punk tradition of personal honesty, I don't know. I think her invocation of Robin Williams hinted that she'd thought about music performance vs. screen performance, and I'm sure she's thought about it as a performer herself. I'd love to read more from her on this.

and damn, the Perfect Pussy album is so good

*Nicholas Cage is honest as fuck, in a certain light.
posted by DGStieber at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2014


Yeah, I just don't want to handle something that came into contact with menses or semen.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:07 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


i am a girl and this article is probably as close of an articulation as i will ever get of why i am so extremely hesitant to make music (despite wanting to So Bad)
posted by ghostbikes at 6:48 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Billy is a true artist.
posted by fraxil at 6:55 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nobody did this in punk rock as far as I know. Maybe some super asshole nerds but in pop punk women were in bands or not and nobody had to prove you weren't a poseur you just belonged if you wanted to belong. Not to say their wasn't crappy behavior, more like it was the opposite misogyny where if you were a girl in a band you had to deal with guys assuming you were this cool punk chick who loved talking about your boobs and hearing dick jokes or whatever plus drooly middle aged scene guys filming you at shows and all that ok I guess punk rock wasn't that great either.

Things are hopefully a lot better now but when I was young and very much in that scene it wasn't great for the girls/young women at all. The ones who could handle the assholes were awesome, strong feminists who were my favorite people, but I can only imagine how many more equally amazing women were turned off by the overall jerkishness.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:56 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Billy Corgan wrote all her songs."

I think you mean Cobain wrote all her songs?

/allhamburgerallthetime
posted by jeoc at 7:18 PM on September 15, 2014


There's a pretty interesting article in the The New Inquiry on how the music industry tends to perceive and portray female singers as mere vessels which emanate music, rather than as artists who consciously shape their works through creative mastery (a job left for the men):

"We listen to women the same way we look at them. Like beauty, a woman’s voice emanates from her body without visible effort. Listeners don’t hear the voice as an instrument, but as a primal extension of the singer herself, a through-line from her anatomy to yours. The voice is a component of a woman’s affect—never learned, never forced, but something she’s born possessing."

And this crazy anecdote:

"Weeks before the release of her second album Kala, M.I.A. confronted Pitchfork in an interview about male journalists’ tendency to assign male producers credit for her beats, her lyrics, and even her politics. “There is an issue especially with what male journalists write about me and say ‘this MUST have come from a guy,’” she told Paul Thompson in 2007. “Yesterday I read like five magazines in the airplane– it was a nine hour flight– and three out of five magazines said ‘Diplo: the mastermind behind M.I.A.’s politics!’” While Diplo had two tracks on the album, M.I.A. clarified that, along with co-producer Switch, she had self-produced the whole LP."
posted by adso at 7:38 PM on September 15, 2014 [17 favorites]


i am a girl and this article is probably as close of an articulation as i will ever get of why i am so extremely hesitant to make music (despite wanting to So Bad)
posted by ghostbikes at 6:48 PM on September 15


Not that you need my permission, but make the damn music.
posted by themanwho at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


ghostbikes, in case you don't already know here's how to make music.

(Not that you don't already know how but I really like that grimes blog)
posted by chrchr at 8:21 PM on September 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


it feel like still today after all these years people cannot imagine that woman can write, arrange or produce electronic music. i have had this experience many many times that the work i do on the computer gets credited to whatever male was in 10 meter radius during the job. ... p.s. just read that pitchfork.com credited nico muhly for the choir arrangement of “hidden place” from vespertine. also that he has done string arrangements for me. this is not true.

--Bjork, 2008
posted by jokeefe at 8:33 PM on September 15, 2014 [15 favorites]


pxe2000: I should like Meredith Graves, since she's a really good writer and she likes Hal Hartley and Zen Arcade. And then I am reminded that her band name is (ugh) Perfect Pussy and she mixed menstrual blood in with the vinyl of her album.

Yea, it's like, it makes me roll my eyes and bugs me but i just shut up because i don't want to get shouted down about it, and more importantly i don't want to be another stupid "ur doing it wrong voice" and no one should actually care what i think. I'm just some sweaty nerd on a laptop somewhere.

Every time i think something like that, and it bugs me or i think it's eye-roll-tiresome/forced/ugh(and i really have had an oversaturation of that kind of "menstrual blood painting" thing from having gone to a really radical alternative school, and being woven into the evergreen state college scene, and lots of alt art, and bla bla bla) but it's like, if it bothers you then maybe:

a. the point was that it was supposed to make you uncomfortable, so that maybe you'll examine you know why that is?

b. close the tab, and open something else. You're not required to like it, and despite what some weinerheads might say you're not some lesser person for not liking it unless your primary reason is EW WOMEN AND VAGINAS R GROSS.


Basically, it's ok not to like it, regardless of how tough and thick the circlejerk in here gets. A lot of people here might think it's badass or punk rock or whatever(and frankly... i agree with that, it's crushing a thick-ass pull tab/churchkey beer can on your forehead levels of rock n roll in the purest sense, we just don't usually see the lady version), but you're not a Shitty Progressive or whatever if you don't.

ghostbikes: i am a girl and this article is probably as close of an articulation as i will ever get of why i am so extremely hesitant to make music (despite wanting to So Bad)

For what it's worth, none of my lady friends have regretted making art or music and showing it to the world when they were driven too. I mean, they've had hard moments with it, but it always returns to "Nah fuck it lets go". It helps to have friends who enjoy it and are with you, but even if you don't, as was said above, do it.
posted by emptythought at 8:53 PM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wow, what a great article. This is brilliant: "His drum machine is so loud and determined and violently annoying that it makes Big Black look like a high school AV club meeting." Also this: "...real women with fake names are somehow considered exponentially less authentic than completely fake men harboring a real, hidden sadness..." I haven't yet checked out Perfect Pussy but if she writes music as well as she writes prose I'm in.

As an aside, I absolutely love Mlny Parsonz from Royal Thunder. She carries that band.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:13 PM on September 15, 2014


And sadly, the youtube comments for their video for I (which fucking rules) prove her point in spades.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:17 PM on September 15, 2014


The fandom equivalent of this is the guys wanting to photograph The White Queen without being able to name who she is. I've also heard (speaking of bronies) at least one reputable case of a male Brony calling the cred on someone who has been a fan since she was in single digits.

The tendency exists in other venues, too - philosophy, science, journalism, etc... There's always this quick retreat that can be made into "you aren't a real X" for any woman. It's like a trap society lays that none of us can escape.

I really think a lot of the tendency I have to NOT question what women say is an attempt to rebalance this innate distrust of women's authority and authenticity.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:30 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Youtube comments are always shitty but any band that inspires that level of petty complaints and "it's just noise/no musicianship/it's all been done before anyway" shit talking is guaranteed to be worth a listen.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 9:34 PM on September 15, 2014


ghostbikes: I'm not a musician, but I hear ya. I seriously wonder if it's worth my life to bring on this inevitable level of male hatred just to do something I wanted to do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:24 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Big rock magazines that interview male musicians about gear and female musicians about sexual harassment—that's up there too.

A better idea.
posted by klausman at 11:03 PM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess, I dunno... All this feels like odd alternate reality stuff to me.

Not that I'm saying I have any clue what it means to be a female trying to make music in today's music culture. I have zero experience with any aspect of that above scenario.

It's just... I've been listening to female musicians much of my life, many of whom seem to be completely respectable and not some sort of packaged product and who are quite excellent musicians and songwriters and who, I dunno, from where I sit as a fan looking in, don't seem to be dealing with much of what this article seems to find as a universal experience.

Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Tori Amos, Kate Bush... heck even Amy Grant. Just to name a few off the top of my head.

Maybe it's because this article seems to lay an emphasis on heavier music, "the metal scene" or something? Like it's acceptable to be female and do introspective folk music (even if a lot of those folkies actually rock pretty hard more often than their stereotype might suggest).

Maybe this is a newer thing that's arisen in the post Lilith Fair era?

And, I dunno... maybe this has been going on for a long time. Amy Ray (of Indigo Girls) wrote a song for her first solo album, Lucystoners, (lyrics) which is a pretty heavy backhand slap against Jann Wenner. (And yeah, she can rock.)

All I know is, I love the music I have in my life made by women. And the music made by men. Maybe I pick and choose a bit more carefully than the pop marketplace wants me to, but I believe pretty strongly in the GIGO theory of media consumption, and I try to make sure I'm taking in the good stuff.
posted by hippybear at 11:37 PM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Those spectators being, in many cases, the party-hard, ham-headed, get-wasted dorks who are willing to stand out in the rain to count backwards from 100 with a man whose entire career is built around tricking those morons into thinking he’s one of them.

I really don't think there's any need to insult the audience of a rock gig. You're supposed to 'let go' and 'feel it' at a rock gig and feel at one (at last!) with the performer (see: all the threads about how annoying it is when people use cellphones at gigs rather than lose themselves in the moment). 'Morons' can be allowed to feel this too.

And Lana Del Rey has hardcore fans easily as devoted/obsessed as these poor young guys in the rain.

The essay rings very true in most passages, although she doesn't mention the world's biggest female star at the moment being Adele, who seems to avoid pretty much every pitfall listed for women artists.

Adele is famous for the main reason LDR is: memorable songs. Nobody really gave a crap about all that 'Gangster Nancy Sinatra' stuff until they'd been hooked by 'Video Games' and it had racked up 100 million views on YouTube.

It's in the absence of any kind of vocabulary to discuss music, or incentive to create one, that a vacuum forms allowing both rampantly sexist attitudes and nonsense about the Illuminati to fill the gap.
posted by colie at 12:25 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


there's definitely lots of this in industrial and noise, which have far fewer women involved and i get the idea that the women who *are* involved get a relatively higher level of crap (than women who would be playing folk music for example). although discussing with my bf, he thinks it's a little more universal than that, like there's a higher than average level of authenticity-snobbery in some music scenes and it gets averaged out among everyone, and the 'poser prevention' type garbage just sort of comes with the territory.
posted by ghostbikes at 12:40 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Prepare to answer which guitarist played on a specific record and what year he left the band.

So people actually do this accusatory pop quiz stuff? I've never witnessed it (I've never witnessed lots of things that happen) and it seems like a level of pathological obnoxiousness and dorkiness on a level beyond the usual mansplaining. "Answer this trivia for me now, prove yourself," that seriously happens outside of high school? On one level my brain resists it, and I want to say that it's an urban myth (along the lines of record store clerks being openly contemptuous if they don't approve of what you're purchasing from their store.) On the other hand, there's no reason to disbelieve Meredith Graves or anyone else, and I guess there aren't really any limits to indie/scene dorks being the worst. In conclusion #killallmen yet again.
posted by naju at 1:01 AM on September 16, 2014


Growing up as a musician (started piano lessons when I was eight) and playing/singing in lots of different choirs/orchestras/bands/etc exposed me to a myriad of talented players, male and female. It never occurred to me that a woman who performed any particular style might be faking it...the very idea seems so absurd! Playing any kind of music takes effort. If you are doing it there's an extremely good chance that it is precisely because this is the music you want to make, this is the art that compels you.

What kind of asshole questions that?
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:04 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


So people actually do this accusatory pop quiz stuff?

Nerds sure as hell do; the men (and boys) do it to each other as a sort of dick-measuring contest sometimes but they tend to be worse about it around women. I think gamers and comic book fans tend to be, as in many things, the worst, but I'm biased on that score.

It's also combined with a lot of raw misogyny: if the woman carrying the band's equipment around was a girlfriend of somebody in the band, that's still, you know, a good reason to be there. Sometimes people help out their SOs with stuff; they deserve respect too. Like, what's the worst that can happen, you accidentally have a smalltalk conversation with someone who ISN'T in the band? Whereas when you're an asshole to people because they are women, the worst that can happen is you actually end up looking like a misogynistic douchebag, because you were acting like a misogynistic douchebag.
posted by NoraReed at 1:16 AM on September 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


I definitely think there's a peculiar kind of male enthusiast socialization that revolves around facts, figures, statistics, all kinds of meaningless minutiae. I've never cared about that sort of thing, but I've heard that sort of back-and-forth at parties. Sometimes it doesn't come across like dick measuring so much as "dudes enthusing about their shared specialized knowledge!" I wonder if guys talking like that around women reads to them as "treating her like one of my dude enthusiast friends I respect" (which is pretty fraught gender politics in itself, yeah) when it reads to the women like quizzing and intimidation. I wonder if there's some sort of disconnect in the (totally weird and alien to me) male camaraderie being applied in these situations.
posted by naju at 1:27 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's possible that's part of it, but they tend to be more dismissive jerks about it around women with the "only doing it to get attention" thing, which is ironic, because most women really, really don't want attention from those kind of assholes.
posted by NoraReed at 1:31 AM on September 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


hippybear > Maybe it's because this article seems to lay an emphasis on heavier music, "the metal scene" or something?

Certainly not. It may take different shapes and have varying degrees of emphasis depending on the customs of that particular genre and subculture, but it is pretty common, as far as I can tell, to come across certain categorizations and comparisons women are expected to conform to, from which most males are exempted. Take this excerpt from an interview on Pitchfork with the astonishing folk singer-songwriter Nina Nastasia, for instance:
Pitchfork: I think a lot of people have trouble interpreting Nina's music; there's this expectation that female singers will either be totally ballsy or totally fragile. Does that get to you, or have you separated yourself from it?

NN: I've separated myself a bit. I think it gets...you start to do shows and people come up to me and say, "I wish more people were here, how come more people aren't here?" and that just starts to get a little. But yeah, in order to survive that whole thing I just separate myself it.

KG: Nina had never heard Cat Power before she started getting compared to her; she had never heard PJ Harvey, either. We just weren't in the music world that much. So it was a bit like...Wow, it's a pretty sexist world! Females are just compared to females.

I don't think she sounds anything like Cat Power or PJ Harvey, whatsoever. It used to make us really angry...or at least, annoyed, but I understand it.
NN: I'm very distant from that. I find it very hard to be in the game, you know? It kills a lot of inspiration when you start getting involved with that part of the business.

Pitchfork: I think that's also a need to essentialize the talents of female singers, to take the emphasis away from the craft and the songwriting. Nina, I think you have a perfectly nice voice, but I'm always kind of surprised when I read something about how you have this totally, totally amazing singing voice...

NN: I'm always shocked by that! I'm not the singer, I'm the songwriter who sings.
Or this paragraph from one of Grimes' tumblr posts:
I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if i did this by accident and i’m gonna flounder without them. or as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology. I have never seen this kind of thing happen to any of my male peers
posted by procrastinator at 3:07 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I guess, I dunno... All this feels like odd alternate reality stuff to me.

Not that I'm saying I have any clue what it means to be a female trying to make music in today's music culture. I have zero experience with any aspect of that above scenario.

It's just... I've been listening to female musicians much of my life, many of whom seem to be completely respectable and not some sort of packaged product and who are quite excellent musicians and songwriters and who, I dunno, from where I sit as a fan looking in, don't seem to be dealing with much of what this article seems to find as a universal experience.

Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Tori Amos, Kate Bush... heck even Amy Grant. Just to name a few off the top of my head.




You could argue that those female musicians have been established for some time, growing during a period where speculative music articles didn't really exist, or at least they wouldn't have been so widely available as they are now.

Granted, there are recent female musicians who have established themselves in a respected manner just fine, like Best Coast, Jesu or Janelle Monae, but they haven't quite gotten the exposure that they could (should?) have.

The idea that musicians like MIA and Lady Gaga couldn't possibly be the main driving force behind their growth seems to dribble down to men feeling threatened by the notion that women can not only hold their own, but grow beyond what was 'allowed'.
posted by bumcivilian at 3:26 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


So people actually do this accusatory pop quiz stuff?

As you mention in your follow-up, I do something that, when I screw it up, comes across as accusatory pop quiz. Let me see if I can explain what happens in that situation.

So a couple weeks ago, I was at a friend's house party. Host had asked people to run the music, so I'd brought some fun music to play. An acquaintance took over at some point, and put on a pretty obscure album. It's one I love, so I talked to him, and we started seeing what each other have heard in that genre. I knew some he didn't, he knew some I didn't - and the next day we'd traded links to the artists we'd discussed. And somehow made plans to watch the newest Studio Ghibli movie, because watching movies with people is fun and neither of us have tons of friends who would watch that. Win-win for us!

But, the line between "omg I'm excited about this band and want to share them with you" and "prove to me you know about this band or you're a poseur" is very fine, and if his temperament or interpretation didn't match mine, or even if my affect wasn't what I thought it was due to alcohol, then I could easily have given him the impression I was being accusatory. Like the question in both cases is "have you heard of XYZ?", the real difference is in the asker's response to a no. But by then you may have alienated the person. And of course if my acquaintance was someone used to being accused of not really caring about the scene, they're rightly going to be less charitable of where I'm going with my questions.

Absolutely not trying to say that the dismissive variant doesn't happen - I've seen it done, in my jerkier times I'm sure I've done it. More that even the "good" variant of that is dangerous.

I wonder if guys talking like that around women reads to them as "treating her like one of my dude enthusiast friends I respect" (which is pretty fraught gender politics in itself, yeah)

To me (a dude), at least, it reads as "treating her like one of my dude enthusiast friends I respect", and I am sincerely curious what about that is fraught gender-wise so that I can, y'know, not be a jerk. I'm not treating her like a guy-friend, but like an enthusiast-friend, of which some are men and some are women.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:28 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Comic Book Guy loves to oppress other males with trivia-quiz style conversations and has never actually spoken to a female.
posted by colie at 4:18 AM on September 16, 2014


Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Tori Amos, Kate Bush... heck even Amy Grant. Just to name a few off the top of my head.

These are all dismissed by the "serious" music circles in another way though: too lesbian, too feminist, too political, just making the same music for people not really into music but into their lifestyle, yadda yadda.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:19 AM on September 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


So this popped up on Rookie last night, and some of the points Brodie is making are adjacent to what Meredith has said in her presentation.

As a girl who worked in music retail at the height of the alt rock era, I probably internalized some of this misogyny, even though I didn't experience it a lot when I was on the job. I dressed androgynously so that no one thought I was a Paula Abdul fan who had wandered into the wrong area of the store, and I'd memorize the All Music Guide and Trouser Press entries about the bands I loved so that I could challenge or put to bed any beliefs that I didn't deserve to be there. I do know that on some level I policed other girls in a similar way ("ugh, she went to Lilith Fair, there's no way she'd be able to appreciate the back catalog of SST").

Also, since emptythought responded to me in good faith, I wanted to answer some of hir points in kind:

It's not so much that having a band called "Perfect Pussy" and mixing menstrual blood in the wax for your album made me uncomfortable so much as it struck me as really juvenile and attention-grabbing in the most boring, obvious way. Some of this stems from my own prejudices, since the bands I loved as a young suburban punk were X, Mission of Burma, Husker Du, the Minutemen, etc. ... bands that had good songs and funny or insightful lyrics and didn't have to rely on gimmicks to make their point. The name "Perfect Pussy" reminded me of the Butthole Surfers (towards whom I had/have a similar ugh reaction), and the menses-in-the-wax thing made me think of the Trash Humpers soundtrack. YMMV, of course.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:22 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


This reminds me somewhat of discussions I used to have back in the day, when I shared an office with Matthew Bannister while he was writing White Boys, White Noise: Masculinities and 1980s Indie Guitar Rock. One thing he said has always stuck with me: when music journalists want to dismiss someone (usually a woman), they just "anatomize them in terms of their influences." The crazy Pitchfork quotes above about women vocalists in rock inevitably getting compared to either P. J. Harvey or Cat Power are a case in point.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:35 AM on September 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Joni Mitchell has had the most absolutely serious bands accompanying her for a million years, and Kate Bush is almost universally revered as a goddess. Let's not spiral into incoherence here. These two people at least are massively well regarded.
posted by Wolof at 6:52 AM on September 16, 2014


My only complaint about the article is that she closes with the "But Doctor, I am Pagliacci" joke, which was widely associated with Robin Williams via a recent Facebook meme, but was never actually a joke told by Robin Williams, as she claims. Dubious quotations always leave a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:08 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I uh, hate to break it to you, Strange Interlude, but the internet is basically like 95% Dubious Quotations.

You might want to stop reading all web-based writing or you're gonna gave a bad taste in your mouth forever.

It's like that famous Bob Dylan lyric:

Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice

You can't get fooled again

posted by Doleful Creature at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's because this article seems to lay an emphasis on heavier music, "the metal scene" or something?

In my experience, the metal scene is pretty weird and contains multitudes. There's the meathead quotient, the nerd quotient, and even the social outcast/widely-accepting quotient. The nerd-quiz-challenge, particularly in the tech-death, prog, or instrumental subgenres, is embodied by 'fret-watchers,' who stand up in the front row and stare intently at the musician's fingers, judging their sweep-picking skills etc. Ever since Morbid Angel, metal musicians have been held to a really high standard of technical playing, which can really defeat the point of artistry.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:29 AM on September 16, 2014


I uh, hate to break it to you, Strange Interlude, but the internet is basically like 95% Dubious Quotations.

Oh, I'm all too aware of that. I see DQs and suspicious facts bandied about on social media and blogs all the time. I was the kid who spent most of junior high having to talk his bonehead friends down from the belief that hoverboards were real, and most of college having to explain that the forwarded email list of "George Carlin quotes" were actually a mix of Stephen Wright and Bill Hicks.

I just figured that "the editors of Talkhouse" (as they refer to themselves at the top) would have been astute enough to catch it even if Ms. Graves was unaware. The content of the article is great on its own, but some of the stylistic chrome could have used another pass. When writers (and their editors) don't check their own citations, it leaves them open to criticism.
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


To me (a dude), at least, it reads as "treating her like one of my dude enthusiast friends I respect", and I am sincerely curious what about that is fraught gender-wise so that I can, y'know, not be a jerk. I'm not treating her like a guy-friend, but like an enthusiast-friend, of which some are men and some are women.

I think part of the problem is if the default bar for enthusiast interaction is men talking with other men about stuff. Like, with the women I know in music scenes who are super knowledgeable, they don't often do the "geek out on minutiae about lineups and pedals and import-only EPs" specialist socialization, they're more into talking about the music and what's interesting about it and why it's worth listening to. That may be a generalization but that's my observation. To me at least, there seems to be a specific male way of nerding out over bands, and that male way might be assumed to be the default when it actually isn't. (And it might be assumed to be the default because men unintentionally push women out of the discussions, thus vicious cycle.)
posted by naju at 9:55 AM on September 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm in a band with a female singer and this kind of crap happens to her all the time. I can't ever remember having someone come up to me after a show and say anything that wasn't nice, I guess they save it all for her.

The worst part is she is very sensitive, and she listens to these people like they have something worthwhile to say. Usually it is enough to say "did you see his band?" because they almost always suck, but I hate seeing her down after we just had a good show due to some idiot's jealousy.
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:01 AM on September 16, 2014


'fret-watchers,' who stand up in the front row and stare intently at the musician's fingers, judging their sweep-picking skills etc.

You know how many guitar players it takes to change a light bulb? One, and then three or four to stand around saying "I could do that better".
posted by thelonius at 10:12 AM on September 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


pretty much every metal vinyl you get now has someone's blood in it. if anything this just cranks the authenticity to 11.

That's another form of authenticity that will die with the digitisation of music.
posted by acb at 12:44 PM on September 16, 2014


Joni Mitchell, Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, Melissa Etheridge, Tori Amos, Kate Bush... heck even Amy Grant. Just to name a few off the top of my head...Maybe this is a newer thing that's arisen in the post Lilith Fair era?

Lilith Faire was invented because Sara McLachlan wanted to to tour with another female band and was informed by the people who arrange tours that two female lead bands wouldn't sell tickets. She was pissed off enough to make an all woman lineup and refuse to do anything else, and had the influence to make it real. She did it for three years to make a point. I went the second year and it was AWESOME.

Sexism - it's everywhere.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:24 PM on September 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


pretty much every metal vinyl you get now has someone's blood in it. if anything this just cranks the authenticity to 11.

That's another form of authenticity that will die with the digitisation of music.


Not really.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:47 PM on September 17, 2014


« Older food IS a theme park   |   Everyday is Sunday Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments