Male-Dominated Subculture A: Emo.
This week, Tiger Beatdown presents “LADYPALOOZA: The Tiger Beatdown Lilith Fair Experience, But If Lilith Fair Didn’t Suck, And Also Were a Blog.” In other words, it’s ladybloggers talking music, both listening-to (check out this rumination on the “Cuomo/Phair conundrum“) and playing it (find out why being in a band with capital-D Dudes can turn you into a man-hating feminist!) In this edition of Sexist Beatdown, Sady Doyle and I exact revenge on the boys with Kurt Cobain haircuts, wonder why Ren Faires are always located within walking distance of the Train to Gropetown, and discuss how smokin’ hot St. Vincent is, am I right fellas? Plus, a bonus gallery of male-dominated subcultures!
SADY: Well, good morning! Are you prepared… TO ROCK??? I myself am underprepared to rock. But, for those about to rock: I do, in fact, salute them!
AMANDA: Same here! I have to admit that I’m perhaps not the best lady to be standing up for the rights of ladies to rock, because I actually really suck at playing music. The question is whether this is on account of my being a lady or not? Discuss.
SADY: Well: Here is the thing. When I was a wee young pre-blogger, of about the age of eleven or twelve, I discovered a variety of music! Such as the Juliana Hatfield (DON’T YOU JUDGE ME) and the PJ Harvey. And I was like, “ladies who are in bands get to yell about things that are personally offensive or troubling for them! A lot! Surely, this is my career path.”
AMANDA: Hahah. Almost!
SADY: Yes! So I got a guitar, and I told all of the boys in school with Kurt Cobain haircuts that if they wanted to help me learn this “guitar,” we could be in a band together.
AMANDA: Sounds reasonable.
SADY: And then one of them, the cutest one, the one that I liked best, told me why I was not getting any positive responses. He sat me down, and he said: “The thing is, we don’t play girl music.” And now I am a blogger, and still cannot play guitar, although my brother can, because I gave it to him, THE END. So, like: The question of ladies in music is one I like to think about, because (a) FUCK YOU TYLER FUCK YOU RIGHT IN THE KURT COBAIN HAIRCUT YOU WEREN’T THAT CUTE, and (b) I feel like, as a venue for angry or self-obsessed or confrontational expression, people have a VESTED INTEREST in barring ladies from the field of rock music, really!
AMANDA: I see the same sad sexism in a lot of different subcultures, and I think women are often drawn to these spaces because they’re outside of the mainstream – because the mainstream marginalizes them, but perhaps in a different way than it does sensitive rocking Kurt Cobain haircut boys.
AMANDA: So on the one hand, you’d think the subculture would be totally interested in accepting women – how rejecting of mainstream values is that! – but on the other hand, the subculture is also about building a culture around the primacy of the sensitive rocking Kurt Cobain haircut boy’s particular flavor of marginalization, and when women come in with some other shit to talk about it tends to threaten that dynamic.
SADY: Right. I mean, not to re-iterate an old cliche, but: The guitar is a tried-and-true way, not only for Wussy Guy to become Charismatically Sensitive Guy, but for men to sort of build hierarchies outside of the gym class where they are all getting wedgies. And I think women are drawn to rock or indie rock or whatever the kids with the cool haircuts are doing these days – and I’m not even trying to exclude other genres, this is just the genre in which I have the most experience – because, they think, “a-ha! Outsiders! As a lady, I am kind of BY DEFAULT an outsider, in that I am not a dude!” But the dudes are like, “you don’t get it. We WERE outsiders. But we built a WHOLE NEW INSIDE, for us specifically, so that we wouldn’t have to be outsiders any more. And now you are not invited.”
Male-Dominated Subculture B: Weed.
AMANDA: Exactly. But the same thing happens time and time again, which is that women are used in a very mainstream way in these subcultures, as a) prizes to show just how powerful the subculture has become, because these weird boys fuck all the hot girls now, b) uncool people that must be excluded in order to maintain the outsider vibe or c) tokens.
SADY: Right. I mean, who doesn’t like St. Vincent? Or Neko Case? Or that girl from Rilo Kiley who was in the Fred Savage video game movie?
AMANDA: Well, if you don’t like them, at least you think they are hot.
SADY: Yes! For also, who has not visited a publication of review for music, and seen the reviewer dedicate a substantial amount of time that could have been spent talking about music to, instead, talking about the lady’s sexual charisma and appearance, and/or the comment section devolving into a mass vote as to whether or not the male commentariat would Hit It? But when it is time to talk about these women musically, folks get shifty and bored and start derailing the conversation so that they can get into a conversation about folks who are doing this “better” and also happen to be dudes.
AMANDA: Yeah, it’s sad. And it’s not in any way confined to the world of music. You can find the same patterns with pot, and with comics, and with goth, and sometimes in the gay community (D.C. has like one lesbian bar and a jillion gay bars, and gay men are much more visible, perhaps because they don’t even require the girlfriends), and can I tell you about the awful things I’ve heard about what happens to some women who are into Ren Faire stuff? GROPE-CENTRAL, for when the male and female nerds congregate for their yearly olde-tyme fantasy shindig, the misogyny, it is also olde-tyme.
Male-Dominated Subculture C: Nerd.
SADY: Oh, man! And, yes: I think we even did a Ye Olde Sexist Beatdowne, about this, in Oldyn Tymes! My experience of lady-nerds is that they tend to be huge and fairly hardcore feminists. And I was like, “that’s funny, I never thought of feminism as a particularly nerdy thing,” but then I realized (a) I was on the Internet, and (b) male nerd subculture tends to be like INTENSE in its misogyny! Lady-nerds seriously grab on to feminism like it is a buoy and they are drowning, because it is! And they sort of are! And women in music sometimes do the same thing, see: Riot Grrrl, duh. Formed in reaction to dudes with floppy Kurt Cobain haircuts, at least one of whom was ACTUALLY KURT COBAIN. (Though he was a huge feminist, God bless.)
AMANDA: Yeah. It’s not that I don’t appreciate and understand men who are alternative in appearance or interest or values or whatever needing a space that’s outside the mainstream that’s their own.
SADY: Maybe they could all become Male Studies Majors?
Male-Dominated Subculture D: Male Studies.
AMANDA: BUT. I wonder if some of the disconnect here is in these guys thinking that their asymmetrical haircut or interest in Magic: The Gathering is like the most intensely othering experience that a human can have? And are unaware that there are some other people around who may have that experience of being othered no matter which subculture they attempt to access.
SADY: Right. Exactly. And, on that note, I think we’ve been talking about how women are viewed as Objects of the Male Gaze, or how they try to fit in to male-dominated subcultures. BUT, I think we should also note that women in rock music have been some of the most enduring models for female rebellion? Like, as in many cases, I find that the solution for not liking the scene you are in is to (a) make your own scene, which is (b) comprised of girls. Which is why we keep talking about Riot Grrrl in 2010. Or ladies who were never really IN a scene, like PJ, or Liz Phair, who wrote an entire album about how sick she was of the dudes in her scene, or Tori Amos, who was like, “well, I can’t play your fancy guitars, gentlemen, but I did take some piano lessons!” And the extent to which the ethos of Tiger Beatdown is informed by the PJ Harvey song “50 Foot Queenie” is NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED. Hey: I’m the king of the world. You wanna hear my song?
AMANDA: Haha. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.
SADY: Yes, no matter what PJ Harvey had to get through to become PJ Harvey, she did in fact record the sound of herself playing guitar really loud and screaming the phrase “YOU BEND OVAH, CASANOVA” and thus, I think, became a model for A Certain Variety of Conflict Management for many a lady person.