[Hey, guys: Remember VISIONS OF MANLINESS WEEK? I sure do! Because, during that week, I was e-mailing a bunch of dudes! And, in my e-mails, I made jokes to dudes. About how they should write about things that dudes cared about, and were good at. Like comic books! Or sports! Or opening pickle jars! Or… music. For some reason, I kept referring to the process of listening to/writing about/collecting records of/playing music, specifically The Indie Rock Music, as a “dude thing?” Like, OVER AND OVER? And I was like, “wait a second, Sady. You are revealing some fundamental fucked-upness in these here jokes of yours. Because you personally listen to/write about/play music, often The Indie Rock Music, ALL THE TIME! As do lots of ladies! So, like… why do you still think of it as a thing reserved for dudes? Because these 64,000 jokes of yours would seem to indicate that you do!” Well: It turns out that there are some answers for these questions. And, for the purpose of answering them, we institute LADYPALOOZA (less stupid title TBA? No, it’s not TBA. This is the title, and it’s stupid), a Tiger Beatdown Theme Post Party specifically for talking about the Ladies and Music thing. It is much like Lilith Fair, except it is going to melt your face! From a variety of perspectives! First up: We start it hard, with a post by the exciting and rock-enabled Silvana. Who, it turns out, some of you may know!]
I used to be in a band.
I used to be in a band with a bunch of dudes.
People are always shocked when they hear this, if they know me, because they have a very specific sense of “women who play in bands” and it is most emphatically not me. In order to be a woman who plays in a band you have to be, first and foremost, hot. Preferably hot in that slightly NOT ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CONVENTIONALLY ATTRACTIVE way, so that dudes can believe that they are the only guy in the world who really, truly understands how hot you are, and can correspondingly believe that by bestowing upon you their belief in your paramount hotness, they are giving you a sweet gift which will make you so ecstatically happy, and can therefore believe that, because all you want in the world is for dudes to think you are hot, you will sleep with them.
You can be slightly not one hundred percent hot by doing something out of the ordinary, like wearing glasses, having a tattoo, or wearing clothes that don’t match. Just like how overalls made Rachel Leigh Cook not-hot in She’s All That, wearing striped socks with checkered shoes will get you into the dudes-love-you-because-you-just-don’t-UNDERSTAND-how-hot-you-are club.
I am not one of those women. I am, plainly, fat. I am mildly cute. And I do not look like In A Band Woman. Guys seem to have a really hard time projecting their fantasies onto me! Go figure.
But this piece is not about how I look. No, basically it is about how I hate guys who are in bands, I hate dude music, I love lady music, and I love ladies who are in bands.
You want a poster child for the “feminists hate men and they are sooooo very mean” contest? I’m it! Because when it comes to music, I am sick and tired of dudes and their guitar riffs and their opinions.
When I was in a band, I wanted to rock out so hard. We rehearsed in a storage shed with a bunch of other bands down the hall. There was no bathroom. We would drink beer and the guys would go outside and piss on the tree. I was the only woman I ever saw at that storage facility, and I would go around the corner of the shed and piss on the pavement, hoping no one came by to look at my butt. It was not a woman-friendly environment. I thought I was in the band because I was good. It turns out I was in the band because they were tolerating me, since I was dating one of the guys in the band. After I broke up with him, they kicked me out. Apparently, I was not “committed” to the band! You know, because I was applying to law school? And trying to do something with my fucking life? Never mind that all the other band-dudes were pursuing regular careers so they could, like, make money and rent apartments and buy diamond rings for their girlfriends. But no, I was to have no ambition other than being in the band or I would be bandless.
I cried. And then I realized that I hated being in the band, because I had basically zero chance of ever getting any part of my creative vision into any of our music. I had dreaded going to practice. They wanted me to try harder! Try harder?! You’re not good enough, by the way. And also, try harder at doing the things that we tell you to do, even when you object to what we’re saying, but we don’t care what you think, because LADYBUSINESS.
That was the year I really got into Le Tigre.
I had moved to the United States when I was seventeen, and I didn’t know anything about music. Everything I knew was out of date. To my mind, Nirvana was still new and this was in the year 2000. And so I fell in with all these Band Dudes who were very serious about music and took each other’s opinions about music Very Seriously. Everything they listened to was made by men. The Pixies had Kim Deal; that was basically it. As far as they were concerned, Kim Deal was the only woman in the history of women who didn’t suck at music. My only frame of reference for women making music was when I had listened to TLC and the Pocahontas soundtrack back in the eighth grade (“how high does the sycamore grow…” I can still sing that song top to bottom). So I felt like I was the only young woman in the world who felt like making some goddamned rock music.
You know what? I really, truly, believed that I sucked because I was a girl, that I must have some weird thing about me that I could just not understand how to write songs or to play guitar or to rock out or to sing angry, because of my vagina. Dudes made me believe it. Because all through college, they refused to listen to women making music, refused to listen to women’s opinions about music, and regarded women who were really into music as “cute.” If one of their girlfriends happened to like one of the dude-approved bands of Dude Music? It was, oh, isn’t that cute, until, oh god, she is copying me GET YOUR OWN MUSIC.The number one thing I learned from being in a band and hanging out with a lot of guys who were Very Serious about music is that basically the worst thing that can happen to the music you love is for too many women to like it, or for one woman that you know to like it real hard. Music that is good is not music that women go crazy for. If women go crazy for it, it must suck, because women have terrible taste and like all that chick shit and like shave their legs and stuff but oh my god it’s disgusting when they don’t.
Did you get that? You are a shitty music-lover because you do not like all the same music that they do. But if you start liking it, then the music is shitty and they stop. I remember when I started liking a Pavement album a real lot. It suddenly became the least favorite Pavement album of my fine dude friends.Back to Le Tigre. One summer I made a wonderful friend who happened to be dating a guy who, magically, did not hate women, and he had made her a mix CD with some Le Tigre songs on it. She went crazy for Le Tigre and bought all the albums. And then she made me listen, and I went crazy for Le Tigre and bought all the albums. Oh my god. Women making music. Women screaming. Women kicking ass.
I brought the albums, and Sleater-Kinney, who I also discovered through my same friend, to my dude friends. They were unimpressed. They couldn’t say why. They weren’t stupid enough at that point, or even self-aware enough, to say that they didn’t like it because it was made by women. They just happened to not like it, even though they liked ALL THIS OTHER MUSIC THAT WAS LIKE IT. I don’t know, it just doesn’t do it for me. It’s boring. It’s whiny. It’s screechy. Oh, it’s repetitive. Or is it derivative?
Whatever it is, it sucks.
Being a feminist who is into music and cares about feminism and women in music is a giant pain in the ass, because music is the greatest haven of all time for ITSJUSTMYOPINION-ism. Because, you see? Music is art. Which means if you try to criticize someone’s personal taste, especially if you are suggesting that they don’t like woman-made music because THEY HATE WOMEN, you will get nowhere. There is almost no argument you can make that will have any effect whatsoever, because it’s just my opinion, man. And people believe, they believe with all their hearts, that they are entitled to their opinions when it comes to art, even if those opinions are stupid.
My personal favorite is “I just don’t like women’s voices.” Have you ever heard, in the history of time, anyone declare that they just don’t like men’s voices? No? That’s because there are so many different kinds of men’s voices, guys! Duh! Guys screaming, and guys shouting, tenors and baritones and bass, guys yodeling, guys crooning, guys singing slightly-out-of-tune, guys rapping, guys singing in that weird Pearl Jam voice and I know you know what I’m talking about. But women? Women’s voices. I don’t like them. They are high and whiny. I put them in the box of things I automatically don’t like.
I went to your concert and I didn’t feel anything
I went to your concert and I didn’t hear anything
I went to your concert and I didn’t feel anything
I went to your concert and I didn’t see anything
For me, this song was the ultimate piece of feminist music, more powerful than the songs that explicitly talked about feminism and feminists, than songs that talked about sexual assault, objectification, about the history of the struggle for women’s rights, about sex. This was a feminist song about music, about de-prioritizing men’s voices in music, about rejecting the music that men make as being kind of fucking boring.
This is what I call “dude music.” To clarify, just because music is made by men doesn’t mean it’s dude music. And just because music is made by women doesn’t mean it’s not dude music. No, dude music is music that prioritizes the status quo, that prioritize men’s voices, men’s experiences, and the experiences of people in power and who benefit from the current power structures in our society. Dude music is music that can ever be described as “noodling.” Dude music is post-rock, and prog-rock, and rock that exists not to say anything, but to showcase how awesome the men in the band are at playing guitar. Dude music is music that has nothing to offer people who are disenfranchised or oppressed, because it either is totally uninterested in their disenfranchisement/oppression, or actively profits from it. Dude music is “I went to your concert and I didn’t feel anything.” Because it is made by men, for men to enjoy, for men to profit from. Women have three roles: 1) to serve as inspirations for songs; 2) to be sex objects who, hopefully, also make music men feel good about Their Art; 3) to be someone who is dangerously standing in the way of men acheiving greatness (see, e.g., Yoko Ono and Nancy Spungen, Sid Vicious’ girlfriend). Women do not make the music. Hopefully they buy the music, but not too many of them because then your music is Not Serious.
But hey, dudes who make serious, manly music? I went to your concert and I didn’t feel anything. Also, fuck you.
[Silvana is a lawyer and freelance writer who lawyers and writes in Washington, D.C., and blogs as “M. LeBlanc” at the blog Bitch, Ph.D. She likes ladies who make music, hating on the prison-industrial complex, and french fries.]