Skip to content

LADYPALOOZA PRESENTS! The World At Large: How Privilege works in Rock Music

[Hey, dudes and ladies! Guess what we're still up to? Yes, it is still time for LADYPALOOZA, the badly-titled Ladies and Music and Whatnot THEME POST PARTY on the Tiger Beatdown. We tried to stop it! (FULL DISCLOSURE: We did not try to stop it.) But it was JUST TOO GOOD. For example, you may remember that one of our posts, the first one, by a lady named Silvana, got quite the reaction. Often from prog-rock fans, for whatever reason! Because we have learned that you can write about overthrowing The Patriarchy and de-privilegizing the dudes and also racism and how probably more people are really fucking racist than they realize, and also we're really into QUEER people having rights TOO, and we maintain that you shouldn't make fun of fat people because it's dehumanizing and gross, and you shouldn't use "retarded" as an all-purpose insult because folks with disabilities also matter, and trans issues are really fucking important and central and your "tranny" jokes are just NOT SO WITTY AS YOU MIGHT SUPPOSE, we can do all of that and people will basically pay us no mind -- it's the Internet, women be shopping and/or conspiring to overthrow the entire culture as it is currently structured, whaddayagonnado -- but, whatever you do, DON'T GO AFTER A MAN'S RUSH RECORDS. Because that business IS IMPORTANT. Well, it turns out that when a post gets over 100 comments, we like to do a follow-up! And, you guys, guess who's back?]

Sometimes, you post something that you know is going to cause a shit storm. But most of the time, when you write something that ends up causing a shit storm, it just hits you like a ton of bricks and makes you think “Dude. I really must have been on to something there, because why else is everyone freaking the fuck out.”

I was not just surprised, but kind of floored at the response to my first guest post here on Tiger Beatdown. One hundred and fifty-nine comments, people. As of right now. I’m not just bragging. I want to know–what is it that my post is tapping into that has heretofore been un-tapped-into, why haven’t we been talking about it before, and what the hell are we going to do to dislodge this righteous anger and put it in a pot where it comes out SOMETHING AWESOME? Because I am ready to rock, I think.

My post was linked by Yglesias. And by Amanda Marcotte. And by Amanda again. You’ve got to read those two posts by Amanda, because they’re great. Also read this post by Spencer Ackerman. While you’re at it, you might as well read this post by Spencer, because it’s a good kick-off for what I want to talk about today.

I have a reputation as a hothead, and it’s pretty well-deserved, if I’m honest. But I have a steady job with an income at a place I love that lets me, for instance, blog at FDL and cover my beat my way. If I was a woman and was half as intemperate, I would not be given second and third chances. I just wouldn’t be hired. I wouldn’t be considered passionate. I’d be considered difficult and hard to work with. I say this thinking of a currently unemployed friend who’s a vastly superior thinker, writer and reporter. Guess what her gender is?

Spencer’s writing about journalism, but I think what he’s saying is so widely applicable that I’m really sorry it didn’t get more attention at the time. I’ve known a lot of men, and I’ve known a lot of feminist men. A lot of those feminist men are willing to acknowledge “hey, I’m privileged.” You’d have to be a real sociopath to think that despite the widespread privileging of men’s bodies, men’s art, men’s opinions, and men’s power throughout cultures and human history, you, personally, had managed never to be the beneficiary of it. No, those admissions of privilege are so banal that they don’t even really get my attention any more. What Spencer’s doing here is acknowledging the specific way that privilege works, and how it has worked for him, using real qualities that he actually has.

The phenomenon he identifies is at the heart of the way privilege works in rock music specifically, and in art in general, which is this: As a woman, you don’t get a break for the negative flipsides of your good qualities.


No one’s perfect. Everyone does some grade-A annoying shit. People who make great art, or write good books or journalism, or fight for social change, are going to do even more annoying shit than your average person just because you’ve got to be different from the norm in order to do anything that’s remotely ground-breaking. The privilege question is: how do people deal with your grade-A annoying shit? Do they cut you a break? Do they respect you in spite of it, because they know that the flipside of your annoying hotheadedness means you’re going to go after a story like that story never knew which way the hits were coming from?

If you’re a man, they do. And if you’re a woman, they don’t. If you’re a person of color, they don’t.

Because when you are a member of the dominant group, the group that has power and privilege and primacy, people are looking for ways to like you, ways to lift you up, because your being good reinforces the status quo that benefits them. And when you are a woman or a person of color, the people that run the show are looking for ways to discount you. Even when they themselves are members of the same disadvantaged group as you. Because of a nifty thing called horizontal hostility, women are called as lieutenants in the patriarchal army of cutting a bitch down to size when she gets too uppity for her britches.

I do it. You do it. We all do it.

But I’m not here to bring you to a come-to-Jesus moment where we all admit that we are bad feminists because we judge women more harshly than we do men, critique, snark, compare, and put other women into our woman-status hierarchy. No, I’m here to talk about rock ‘n roll.

Yesterday, I was driving, and listening to an old favorite, the Modest Mouse album Good News for People who Love Bad News. Yeah, ok, I know that Isaac Brock might be a rapist. And they really are a horrible band live. But I still love Modest Mouse. Especially Lonesome Crowded West, which, if anyone asks, is obviously the best Modest Mouse album. To get the full effect of my point, you need to listen to the first track. Listen to Brock’s singing. What a weird kind of vocals those are, right? He sounds kind of like a 12-year-old boy. Wavering, uncertain, about to break. Kind of annoying. Now listen to the second track. Whoa. Who is that? Same guy. Totally different vocal styling. Also kind of annoying. Really open vowels, overly dramatic flourishes.

What Brock is doing on both of those songs is not “good” singing. It sounds weird. It takes getting used to. But the more you listen to it, the more you like it, the more you find the color and timbre of the vocals compelling and you find yourself imitating his voice when you sing along because that’s what sounds good with the song. And I’m guessing he figured it out as a result of a lot of vocal experimentation

That’s the kind of experimentation that is hard to do when you are a member of the oppressed sex class that is women. Because for women, prettiness reigns. Being pretty, sexy, fuckable, is of paramount importance. This extends not only to appearance but to action. Which is where rock ‘n roll comes in. Because in order to make good rock music, you have to be able to do things that are not pretty. Pretty is not interesting, pretty is not groundbreaking (unless it’s juxtaposed with things that are not pretty), pretty is boring. And pretty is the thing that our culture enforces on women with a vengeance. The prettiness problem excludes women from rock ‘n roll in a three-phase process.

1. The prettiness imperative is self-inhibiting. I can only speak from personal experience here, but I’m guessing a lot of women agree: not-pretty is hard. I’m a trained singer with an incredibly versatile voice. I can imitate just about anyone’s singing style. But my own voice, my own sound? It’s pretty, and therefore boring. I can imitate non-prettiness, but I can’t come up with it on my own. Making music is a physical act, and it’s very difficult to let your body do things that aren’t pretty when you’ve spent your entire life trying to make your body be as pretty as possible. Especially because (and I can’t find a link for this, so you’re gonna have to take my word on it) women artificially raise their voices around the time of puberty, limiting their vocal range and depriving themselves of full use of their from-the-gut voice. Ever known a woman who seemed to find it literally impossible to speak loudly enough to fill a room? It wasn’t a physical problem. Also, the thing that teens start doing where you are constantly sucking in your stomach? Not good for talking loud and singing in interesting ways.

2. Defying the prettiness imperative gets you punished. If you can manage to do something that’s experimental, interesting, and against the prettiness imperative (or, even crazier, subverts the prettiness imperative, see, e.g. Joanna Newsom) then, you are ridiculed, your music is weird, and you are a fairy/witch/slut/whore/weirdo. Or it’s just simply not good. Because people don’t like the way it sounds, since they are not used to women doing things that are not-pretty, and they don’t like it.

3. Not defying the prettiness imperative is boring. See how that works? You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Because if you violate the standards, go outside your comfort zone, and do something really new and interesting, people don’t find it palatable. But if you don’t, then what you’re doing isn’t noteworthy.

This is why all the stuff I was saying at the beginning of my last post, where I was talking about how women in bands have to be pretty and sexy, is relevant. If the taste-makers and the cd-buyers who influence the trajectory of women in music have their say, the defiance of the prettiness imperative is only going to be palatable if it comes wrapped in a visually pretty package. So, they’ll listen to a woman whaling on the guitar and shouting, maybe, but only if her work is technically flawless and she is extremely conventionally attractive. That’s what I meant earlier by getting breaks. If you want to be a woman who’s successful in rock, you have to be so much better than the men who are your peers, because you aren’t going to catch a break for your shortcomings, whether it’s in your personality, your music, or your appearance.

It’s a shame, really, because having an outsider’s perspective is an extremely good way to be in the mental head-space that making really good, original music requires. It’s no accident that most of the men who are successful in rock are outsiders in some way, and view themselves as part of various marginalized groups who have been subjected to ridicule. So they feel like, by making music and kicking ass and being awesome, they are engaging in a kind of subversion.

I think it’s the subversive flavor of my original post that got so many boxers in a twist. Women have been made fun of for trying to make daring, original, non-pretty music since the day they started trying. What I was doing, in addition to being angry about the way I’d been treated by male musicians and male music fans, was mocking them. That, somehow, is not okay. With mockery comes a certain amount of power, and if a woman like me (or Sady) does an unseemly power-grab by using mockery to make a point, she’s very mean and bad (and pathetic!).

I was not sufficiently reverent about Dude Music. I painted with a broad brush. I made generalizations, in order to make better jokes. In that way, like the women who defy the prettiness imperative, I was going off-script, outside the lines drawn for acceptable female behavior. I was commanding authority and making definitions. Like commenter Paul on one of Amanda’s posts says:

Defining from the center, aka “I know it when I see it” is a position of power. Traditionally available only to old white men wearing black gowns, er, robes. So pretty obviously any guy who is into Dude Rock is going to be mortified and furious when a woman defines Dude Rock from the center.

Defining at the edges is what less-powerful people are pushed into doing, because the process implicitly marks everything outside the edges as the territory (cognitively or politically speaking) of the people doing the pushing.

To get to the heart of it, that’s what makes male rock-makers and rock-fans so uncomfortable about women in music. When you make daring, original music, you are a taste-maker, you are commanding. Even if you say nothing, you are positioning yourself as an authority figure. You are saying, I made this music and it is good and you should listen to it.

I don’t have a pat lesson or theory to take from all this. But I think it’s important to remember that what you’re doing when you assert your taste in music, when you choose women artists, or choose to make music yourself, you are acting as an authority, and are therefore subverting male authority. Think about that. And then do it more.

[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.]

54 Comments

  1. NickS wrote:

    I appreciate the follow-up post, and it’s gotten me thinking again about my reactions to the original post. I liked first post but, reading it, I was conscious that I wasn’t the target audience, and so I didn’t try to read it as analysis, I just appreciated it. Reading this, stirs up those responses that I had let lie.

    I don’t know how to say this, because I’m not sure that I’m the target audience for this post either, but I liked the first post better. I feel like re-visiting the issues at a higher level of abstraction misses something.

    One of the lines in the first post which struck me as debatable, but very powerful was, “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.” The thing that was made obvious by that comment, was your opinion that the sexism in the music industry mattered to you in a profound way.

    You weren’t just saying, “the music industry is sexist and it’s a big deal.” You were saying, “music is a key tool that people use to construct their identity and the sexism in the music industry is a big fucking deal.”

    To me that’s a more powerful and provocative message than detailing the ways in which that sexism creates double binds, though elaborating on the latter is necessary.

    Just my 2c.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Angela wrote:

    Hurrah! I love Joanna Newsom!

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink
  3. NickS wrote:

    Hmmm, I feel very self-conscious leaving the first two comments on this post. But I wanted to make sure that I didn’t mess up the tone of my first comment.

    I don’t want to sound too critical, since I enjoyed both posts. Additionally, I thought the effort of re-visiting the first post in light of the resulting conversation was a good idea.

    I just also thought that, to me as a reader, this post highlighted a strength of the original post by virtue of taking the conversation in a different direction. I wanted to mention it to keep that energy as part of the conversation.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink
  4. Kathy wrote:

    2. Defying the prettiness imperative gets you punished.

    I was just writing about Patti Smith and that one of things I like most about her is that she’s unafraid to sound “ugly.” (Like the guttural “Eat! Eat!” in “Summer Cannibals.”) But she’s always aligned herself with me; her idols are overwhelmingly male. Do you think it’s given her a buffer against some of the criticism usually leveled at women whose music falls outside what’s considered acceptable?

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 7:38 pm | Permalink
  5. Samantha b. wrote:

    When you make daring, original music, you are a taste-maker,
    I dunno, this elision continues to make me really uncomfortable. As an artist and designer (who is not a musician,) I actually feel like the act of creation and “tastemaking” are pretty valuably distinct. I fucking hate, hate, hate the notion of “authority,” and I’m not remotely convinced that I have a gendered stake in that position. I’ll point to Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie’s TED talk, “The Danger of a Single Story:”
    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story.html

    “Tastemaking” reads to me as very much presenting a single story, something that I personally as an artist and designer strive vehemently against. I passionately aspire, myself, to a multiplicity of creative sources and of interperative readings. The last thing I would ever want is for something to be fixed into an authoritative “taste.” And I will maintain that it makes me pretty uncomfortable to read that if you do that, you’re less than fully committed to feminism and to progressivism.

    That may very reasonably come down to taste about taste. I do think, though, that it’s worthwhile to note that there are fully legitimate feminist voices that will dissent. Adichie makes a damn fabulous counterargument, per my own take.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink
  6. XtinaS wrote:

    If you want to be a woman who’s successful in rock, you have to be so much better than the men who are your peers, because you aren’t going to catch a break for your shortcomings, whether it’s in your personality, your music, or your appearance.

    Nrrrrgh.  I could hear the arguments coming up already for this.

    “Tch, no, you need to be more conventionally pretty for this album to sell.”

    “But [dude rocker] isn’t attractive at all!”

    “He doesn’t have to, he’s a guy!  I mean, I respect what you’re trying to do, but you’re trying to sell albums, aren’t you?  And people* aren’t going to be open to this whole… not-pretty thing.”

    Arr.

    *Men.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  7. leila wrote:

    i think these conversations about (white) male privilege in rock music are great, and super important to have. i’m also really dismayed at the ways that nontrans men feel comfortable taking up space in these conversations.

    but i also feel a little bit icky about feminist analysis that focuses so much on the problem of prettiness, but doesn’t address the ways that women of color, disabled women, trans women and men, queer women, and so on, might be differently affected by norms of prettiness that they’re (we’re) excluded from – but still told to measure up to – from the outset.

    and sady’s intro is great for drawing attention to the fucked up ways that we as commentators feel engaged and enraged (or not) about various topics…but it doesn’t change the fact that the post itself still leaves race, disability, and queerness basically out of the equation.

    just a thought. :) i like this blog so much more than the other blogs run by white, cisgendered, straight women, i don’t want it to go down a more exclusionary path! :)

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  8. K. wrote:

    You’re right, Lonesome Crowded West is the best Modest Mouse album. Is “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” the first track on that? (I should just answer my own question by clicking your YouTube link, but am having one of those bouts of link-laziness.) I love that song. I love being in my car and sing/screaming, “Let’s all have another Orange Julius!” (even though I hate drinking them.)

    I have had a weird vendetta against Modest Mouse since I got kicked in the head by an errant crowd surfer at one of their shows. (I was helping a friend get out of the way so they wouldn’t get hurt. It was not a good night.) Modest Mouse shows are DUDE SHOWS with DUDE CROWDS and I hate seeing them live because of it.

    Also, Isaac Brock looks sort of like a sloth.

    I don’t have a pat lesson or theory to take from all this. But I think it’s important to remember that what you’re doing when you assert your taste in music, when you choose women artists, or choose to make music yourself, you are acting as an authority, and are therefore subverting male authority. Think about that. And then do it more.

    I really, really like this. A lot. And am with you 100% on it. I feel weirdly shamed when my partner talks down my taste in music (“girl bands,” “gay bands,” “[the record store we frequent] doesn’t order that because no one likes it.”) Even when he is joking, these jokes hurt a lot. They feel shaming and invalidating & I think a big part of the “why it hurts so much” is that I see the music I like as an intentional expression of who I am, so to have that shut down so cavalierly is really painful, especially when the shutting down is being perpetrated by a white, heterosexual, cis dude who refuses to acknowledge how his privilege can play into something as “simple” as taste in music.

    & a quick detour back to Modest Mouse, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about their song “Edit the Sad Parts,” with its lines like “sometimes I’m angry that I feel so angry” & have been wondering what the critical response (along with the general dude consensus) would be if that song were written and sung by a woman. I feel like Brock is, in many ways, praised for his openness and honesty regarding the MYSTERY OF MALE EMOTIONS re: that specific song, but I wonder if the critical response to a woman’s version would be more along the lines of “What do you have to be so angry about?” with a dash of “It’s pathetic that you’re wallowing about your unjustifiable anger.”

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  9. Liza-the-second wrote:

    That, somehow, is not okay. With mockery comes a certain amount of power, and if a woman like me (or Sady) does an unseemly power-grab by using mockery to make a point, she’s very mean and bad (and pathetic!).

    Thank you for that little moment of clarity. That’s what my brain has been trying to say since the whole Sady Fucking Doyle thing, and I couldn’t get it into a neat little phrase like that.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  10. Gayle Force wrote:

    I really love that comment about how making daring, original music makes you a taste-maker, someone with authority. It’s not just women taking authority that is threatening, it is also that they never bought into the idea that they shouldn’t assume authority that is so scary. It means the constant messaging about being less than didn’t work. The paradigmatic narrative failed, and that challenges the way privilege works. Because while dudes may let women hang out with them in the center sometimes, those women should never forget their place really belongs at the margins and said women should thus be appropriately thankful to the dudes’ graciousness for allowing them some limelight. Token female authority, as power granted by dudes, is less scary. What is frightening to dudes making dude music is not just losing authority, but also that maybe those in the margins will stop believing they belong in the margins in the first place.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Permalink
  11. Britte wrote:

    I literally was JUST thinking about this earlier today… like, why don’t many of my male friends know who Patti Smith is, but they know Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and Iggy Pop, and other acts that really challenged audiences, were great performers, and had different voices? And then I realized; they are men. Smith is so outspoken, not traditionally beautiful, and her voice isn’t pretty. In fact, there isn’t much “pretty” about her. She is straight up power; total freedom and independence. I have no idea how she got the little fame she did, being such a badass and all.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  12. Lizzie wrote:

    First of all, I adore this article. As a female musician (in a serious/committed relationship with a male musician), this is the stuff of my every day life.
    On the topic of the prettiness imperative, I think St. Vincent (Annie Clark) is a really interesting character, because as she’s said in multiple interviews, part of what she’s INTENTIONALLY ALL ABOUT is juxtaposing really pretty melodies and vocal parts (not to mention the fact that she fits the beauty standard quite well herself) with really rough, grungy, ugly instrumentation–i.e. super distorted electric guitar.
    Just an interesting observation/connection =).

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Permalink
  13. emjaybee wrote:

    It’s funny, too, how the reaction to asserting yourself can be disorienting to a woman–as a woman, you might actually have swallowed enough propaganda about how you aren’t important/intimidating that you believe it. And so when someone reacts to you with what, let’s face it, is a fear/anger reaction, it can be bewildering. “I thought I was Just a Girl? Why are you freaking out about what I say?”

    The shit we internalize can really fuck us up.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Permalink
  14. Brimstone wrote:

    “If you can manage to do something that’s experimental, interesting, and against the prettiness imperative (or, even crazier, subverts the prettiness imperative, see, e.g. Joanna Newsom) then, you are ridiculed, your music is weird, and you are a fairy/witch/slut/whore/weirdo.”

    Joanna Newsom’s imagery is pretty conventionally pretty, even with the ‘fairy’ thing… especially the press shots for new new album. Doesn’t really change anything about how groundbreaking the music is, though

    There’s this Australian band called Magic Dirt that might be worth checking out. They’re a female fronted rock band, and they’ve got a parallel existence as a generic if-good pop rock band (with Aussie chart hits) and an underground noise band known for their awesome live shows.

    Which says… something, I guess

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink
  15. Renee wrote:

    “But I think it’s important to remember that what you’re doing when you assert your taste in music, when you choose women artists, or choose to make music yourself, you are acting as an authority, and are therefore subverting male authority. Think about that. And then do it more.”

    I really liked this last part. I hadn’t really thought of it like that before. awesome follow-up.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 1:31 am | Permalink
  16. Alicia wrote:

    Making music is a physical act, and it’s very difficult to let your body do things that aren’t pretty when you’ve spent your entire life trying to make your body be as pretty as possible.

    This is interesting to me — I’m a singer myself, and I find it hard to get into a lot of alternative bands (Le Tigre being a notable example) because the very act of trying to sing along physically hurts. (This is also one of many, many reasons why I try to avoid anything resembling heavy metal.)

    Ultimately, I find I like traditionally pretty voices, though the stronger they are the better: Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Karen O, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Sara Bareilles. I have an enormous soft spot for Norah Jones, because she writes melodies that my voice can just wrap itself around like some kind of parasitic vine and then *inhabit* with no strain or wavering. The song becomes a territory I have carved out for myself through effort and attention.

    And I think this is because for me singing is all about control. Breath control, pitch control, executing a particularly complicated run of notes or a flashy little trill. Mostly I sing karaoke, and I’m the only one who cares how I sound — but I still practice, try to learn a song inside and out, so my voice can slide around it with comfort and aplomb. It’s a way of taking a body that I normally have a pretty ambivalent relationship with (I’m talking to you, jiggly belly) and using it to do something that is not only pretty, but satisfying. It’s immensely pleasing to hear my voice do something fancy on a microphone or hear the crowd cheer for a note impressively sustained and know that it’s something I own, that it’s not entirely a genetic accident.

    But then I wonder if this is how people with eating disorders feel about the diets they put themselves on. And I get nervous.

    I can admire bands that try to destroy prettiness, because I can see there’s a good reason behind the impulse. But I can’t love them.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 2:29 am | Permalink
  17. theviciouspixie wrote:

    Thank you, Silvana, for the original article and the follow-up, and thank you Sady for the series. Sexism in the music industry is an issue that’s very dear to my heart.

    You know something I always found odd? I used to be in a band (a prog rock band, no less), and I have a very high voice. And it turns out that, in order for my high voice to be heard properly in the mix on a rock stage, I would need to buy a super-special high frequency microphone, which at last check was about three times the price of a regular one. Without a super special sparkly microphone, my sound kept cutting out, and I suffered endless feedback and clipping at my top end. Standard microphones are not constructed to handle ladies’ nice high pretty voices, even though it’s perfectly possible to make microphones that do. How’s about that?

    I do find it very difficult to make anything approaching an unpretty noise. I am inclined to blame my classical training for that one. I would love nothing better than to be able to do a full-on metal growl, Angela Gossow style, but I am too embarrassed to even try it – probably because I am too worried about it sounding just plain ugly rather than awesome as defined by dude metal, which I guess pretty much proves your point! (Also, if I hear one more person whine about how Arch Enemy were so much better when the singer was a dude, I will be very cross. I love The Wages of Sin. Angela Gossow is awesome. Shut up.)

    Inspired by some of the posts further down this page I had a listen to Le Tigre last night. I won’t lie, I find that particular brand of unpretty a little uncomfortable, but I did find them interesting and I will persevere with it; moreover, it’s a kind of sound that I also do not get on with so well when the dudes do it. I prefer the Bjork and Kate Bush brand of unpretty, the “hey, I want to sound like a violin or a jet engine today” kind of unpretty. And also shouty-unpretty. I really like Jack Off Jill, and one of my favourite bands ever ever ever is Skunk Anansie – their frontwoman, Skin, is a queer black lady aged over 40 who just makes me hyperventilate with how fucking awesome she is. She is my hero. It’s sad that SA don’t seem to have crossed the Atlantic, though not particularly surprising.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink
  18. Dasha wrote:

    I think I’m officially in love with your brain, Silvana. I’d go steady with it if I could.

    How did I not know about Isaac Brock and the rape allegations? Now I’m almost as depressed as I was when Marty Crandall, keyboardist for the Shins at the time, was arrested for domestic assault.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink
  19. Nicole wrote:

    wow. I’ve always been so afraid of asserting my taste in music because I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert on the subject to know what was ‘good music.’ Come to think of it though, my guy friends who constantly talk about music- what do they know that I don’t? Nothing, really.

    Asserting my taste does feel empowering- what I like is worthy, I decide what I like, you should respect and consider what I think is good music.

    Now I leave you all with these lyrics from Wye Oak, which I think a lot of us females feel- conflicted. We’re competent, confident, able… yet we feel inherently quieter, overlooked, inconsequential.

    “I don’t feel young, I don’t feel scared, I’m in control, I am prepared, I’ll never cry, I’ll sit and stare, I don’t feel young.

    “I don’t feel old, I don’t feel proud, I speak too fast, I laugh too loud, I am the smallest– in the crowd, I don’t feel old”

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  20. Sean C. wrote:

    Janis Joplin is the exception that proves your rule.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink
  21. I was thinking about Yoko Ono the other day, actually, and the whole “Not-pretty” thing really puts into perspective why I still feel like I have to justify listening to her music on purpose. I mean, it’s plain to see (if one can look past the myth of Yoko being an evil witch who broke up the Beatles to finance her own career) that the woman is extremely talented. She wrote a double album that is largely composed of incredibly personal songs, songs about feminism, and incredibly personal songs about her personal feminism. But she’s never looked conventionally pretty (i.e., white, mostly), and she’s never been afraid to do the Not Pretty thing with her voice, which is a huge source of criticism. But a listen to a few of hre songs will definitively prove that she CAN DO the Pretty thing with her voice (and here I’ll recommend a listen to I Have A Woman Inside My Soul for an example). And yet nobody cares about that, because given the choice, she usually makes somewhat-Avant-Garde music with lots of keening and wailing and no apologies for her thick accent that occupies a genre that can only be described as Yoko Ono Music. That’s subversive, and she knew it and she always has.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  22. Sady wrote:

    @L.E.: Yeah, although — can I tell you, I never got the “Yoko’s not pretty” thing? She was naked a lot, and her body looked like a real adult lady body instead of a pin-up, and her hair was all over the place (but, like: What lady’s hair wasn’t, at the time? It was the Age of No Product), but she had a lot of charisma. I think if she weren’t Yoko Ono, and people didn’t HAAAAAAAAAATE her, the comments about her appearance would be a lot less frequent.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  23. Lily wrote:

    Rock music is aggressive, and men are supposed to be aggressive, a woman being aggressive is either harmless(ooh so angwy!)fetishized (kill bill! so sexy!) or genuinely threatening/unacceptable (bitch! crone! hag!)

    Rock music traditionally harkens back to testosteroney themes of blowin’ this old town and hating your need for love or loving your need for hate and wanting to just punch a wall. For reasons related to estrogen being non-sociopathic, female singers tend to be more…rational in their rage. they target more specific things and people, or vent more specific kinds of frustration.(p.s. how about the SLITS YO!!! Siouxsie Sioux!! Be Your Own Pet!!!Vivian Girls!! Hot damn lady bands you are amazing!!!)Guys I think respond more to a (brilliant point, silvana) ugly male voice breakin’ it down about relatable, vague hormonal alienation. Lady rock is a little more considered and less vague & its not a rage males can access as freely.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  24. @Sady: Yeah, that’s the thing. I feel like if the Yoko Is Ugly brigade were introduced to her as a person they might know rather than a Woman Entertainer, more people would be boggling and saying, “But she’s beautiful!” Because we kind of tend to expect out Woman Entertainers to be pin-up-model-pretty, rather than “I’m an actual lady who’s had a kid already and never made money on being pretty” pretty.

    (I also think a large part of people not liking her is that it can be hard to understand her charisma sometimes, due to her habit of being completely deadpan and keeping people guessing on when she’s being serious and when she’s being purposely ridiculous for a laugh, but that’s another discussion.)

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  25. Melinda wrote:

    This is a total derail and inappropriate comment, but I have to say it anyway. I am a straight, white, cis lady.
    I think Yoko Ono is pretty hot. I think people called her ugly cuz they wanted one more thing to hate her for, and they couldn’t admit to hating her for being a women or for being Japanese, so put them both together and call her ugly.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  26. Beth wrote:

    I guess I’ve been lucky in this regard. I’ve never seen music as a man’s domain. I started obsessing about music when I was six and I’ve never looked back.

    When I was really, really getting into music, I was hanging out with an older, college, hipster crowd, most with an encyclopedic knowledge of music…but I never really felt cowed by them. I liked what I liked. I had opinions and I shared them. I don’t recall getting any sort of pushback. That said, most of the guys I knew didn’t discriminate against female artists/singers/muscians. I seem to recall them liking everyone from Madonna to Kate Bush to Sonic Youth.

    It’s never occurred to me to be afraid to love music passionately and have passionate opinions about it. In fact, I remember making fun of my friend’s older brother for liking Rush way way way back in the day. I (lovingly) make fun of my husband’s taste in music all the time. (It’s at times terrible.)

    I had no idea women felt so self-conscious about this sort of thing. I guess maybe everyone could learn a lesson from me. Like what you like, don’t be afraid to say it and if anyone gives you guff, tell ‘em to fuck off. It’s worked out pretty well for during my 37 years on this earth.

    Oh, and of course on the subject of appreciating female artists, goes without saying, I LOVE the music that women make! My iTunes library is probably roughly a 50/50 or 60/40 split between songs by the ladeez and songs by the dudes. I love everyone from Beyonce to LeTigre. Ladies rock and it’s time everybody recognized.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  27. Eric wrote:

    I’m probably biased in this discussion as I play in a band with a powerful, attractive and talented female musician (with whom I also married), but this observation is right on. I remember being in high school and simply not giving certain bands a chance if they had female singers. In meeting my future wife, I had a chance to practice listening to these amazing artists and get over the bias you mention here. I always justified my position as it being my own opinions, but the fact is they were not simply opinions. There was a subtle and damaging side of myself that effectively reeked of sexism and while I’m exceptionally sorry that it existed, I can say with confidence fixing the problem is simple.

    Becoming aware of the privilege mentioned in the article is enough to sway the tide. For me personally, simply keeping my mouth shut for a second did the trick. I’d quickly realize that initial thoughts I had were tainted. Once I was aware, it become easy to start giving artists (both female and male) a break and start enjoying the music.

    As a listener, enjoying music is the big win of realizing you aren’t giving things/people a chance. When you hold your tongue for a minute, you give you mind a chance to reflect enough for your own true opinion to come through. You can begin to enjoy the subtle sounds that make music so complex and interesting.

    The funny thing is that people learn to like many things that can be pretty gross at first. Beer, cigarettes, blue cheese and coffee all come to mind as things people generally learn to enjoy and eventually love. If we you approach music with the same open mindset, that girl singer that you previously found annoying might very well sing your favorite record. In all honesty, it happened to me and from an entirely selfish point of view, I’m much happier as a result.

    So, keep your mouth shut, open your mind and learn to enjoy the things that challenge you. You’ll be happier if you do.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  28. Mike Cane wrote:

    Really, as I said commenting in the first part, this must be a generational thing.

    Shit, here’s a woman rocker I was glad to meet:

    Meet Estefi Of NoBarbies
    http://mikecane.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/meet-estefi-of-nobarbies/

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  29. ozymandias wrote:

    This is really interesting about the prettiness imperative.

    What it makes me think of is the singer Idina Menzel, who has a very beautiful but very powerful voice. When she put out an album it was way overproduced into becoming “pretty” and it didn’t sound nearly as good as her live stuff. So… yeah.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  30. Kathy wrote:

    @ THEVICIOUSPIXIE
    I am not a professional musician in the least, but I love to sing and have the opposite problem: a very deep, definitely un-pretty voice. I was thinking about this today after rereading this post.I always got hell for it, especially when I was in school and girls were supposed to have delicate, angelic voices. It’s probably what kept me from pursuing it any further.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  31. wow. I’ve always been so afraid of asserting my taste in music because I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert on the subject to know what was ‘good music.’ Come to think of it though, my guy friends who constantly talk about music- what do they know that I don’t? Nothing, really.

    One of the forms male privilege takes is the right to just this, to have your ideas and opinions respected. To have it assumed that you know what you’re talking about. I honestly think half the reason people jump all over me when I assert my opinions on matters of taste is I do so in a way coded as masculine, as in I think I’m right and I’m not going to apologize. I find it interesting how many male bloggers blithely do the same thing without near the angry blowback or snarls about how they think they’re so cool.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  32. On the Yoko Ono thing: She gets a double whammy, because of the racism as well. People have this image of the acceptable Japanese woman, and it’s basically the prettiness imperative amplified—stereotypes of Japanese women being submissive, etc. And Yoko has no time or interest in playing that role.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  33. XtinaS wrote:

    I def. recommend reading Cara’s posts on Yoko Ono:

    http://thecurvature.com/2008/12/15/yoko-ono-a-feminist-analysis-introduction-oh-yoko/

    That link has links for the other parts of the series.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  34. NickS wrote:

    I just thought of the lines from Sinead O’Connor’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Maybe it sounds mean / But I really don’t think so. / You asked for the truth and I told you.” and thought of this thread.

    She seems like somebody who became less “pretty” over the course of her career (or, at least, experimented with being deliberately not pretty even if she still did pretty things as well).

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  35. Wow, this brings up all kinds of thoughts and feelings for me. Let’s see if I can make some sense out of them.

    I definitely get the pretty-voice thing. My husband, with whom I have a band in which I sing, stopped me one time while we were recording and said, “You have two ways of singing. There’s the voice that you do when you’re recording your [experimental, less melodic] solo stuff, and then there’s another one that you do when you’re doing our [pop] music.” He said the former sounded like I was trying to sing jazz on a piano (henceforth known as my “booby-shaking voice”) while the latter just sounded real. For a long time, I didn’t get what he was saying but the more I listen to the various recordings of my own voice, the more I realize he is right. And the thing about the “booby-shaking voice” is that I do it when I am consciously trying to sound vulnerable – because apparently women’s voices are only sufficiently vulnerable in my head when they are also very pretty. It doesn’t help that I’m super-perfectionist about my voice (as several women mentioned in the previous thread) so I’m constantly cringing when I “make a mistake”. I once suggested that we re-record a song in which I felt my own vocals were just not perfect enough and I thought my husband was going to kick me out of the car, he was so vehement that it NOT be changed. I’m slowly learning to accept that my vocals don’t always have to be perfect, that if I “mess up” while singing, I can just keep going like nothing happened and announce it as not a mistake but my own method of singing. Our first big album is coming out in the fall and I’m very nervous that the ‘neither you nor your voice are pretty enough for anyone to care’ will come with it.

    The funniest part is that I LOVE ‘weird’ women’s singing voices. Kittie comes to mind, for instance; I have never really liked much metal but I always LOVED Kittie, and had the most amazing experience at one of their shows because it was just such a powerful experience for me to hear a woman growling like that. Joanna Newsome has a voice that I love too.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink
  36. I love this post. And the first one. Someone else mentioned the sexism in the music industry, which is interesting, but to me, it’s far worse how people use their social collateral as a way to disenfranchise their friends by reminding them that the music they like sucks. Music is an important cultural thing, and when men refuse to share that aspect of their culture with women–either as fans or as performers, it’s fucking awful.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink
  37. @ Nicole: wow. I’ve always been so afraid of asserting my taste in music because I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert on the subject to know what was ‘good music.’

    THAT is something that I have been trying to tell people for so long, that the reason so few women are music critics is because we feel like we don’t know enough, like we aren’t good enough somehow, not because women don’t have anything to say. Not only is that an effect of this whole socialization that won’t allow us to be experts in anything, I believe it’s also a product of music criticism itself, which has prized elitist knowledge of obscure bands and references far above the way that music actually interacts with the listener. Which is f-ing stupid, because music wouldn’t be as important as music is without that interaction.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  38. Amy wrote:

    @ Nicole: wow. I’ve always been so afraid of asserting my taste in music because I didn’t feel like I was enough of an expert on the subject to know what was ‘good music.’

    THAT is something that I have been trying to tell people for so long, that the reason so few women are music critics is because we feel like we don’t know enough, like we aren’t good enough somehow, not because women don’t have anything to say. Not only is that an effect of this whole socialization that won’t allow us to be experts in anything, I believe it’s also a product of music criticism itself, which has prized elitist knowledge of obscure bands and references far above the way that music actually interacts with the listener. Which is f-ing stupid, because music wouldn’t be as important as music is without that interaction.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
  39. courtney wrote:

    this bit that you are talking about about having to be pretty and all that onstage — you should check out some recent interviews with courtney love. she talks all about how she knows she’s not pretty when she’s out there on the stage screwing up and scrunching and contorting her face and her voice.

    it’s good stuff.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink
  40. I love how it’s a given that it’s wrong and “elitist” to prize knowledge of obscure bands. Perhaps we could apply a different lens and ask if it’s useful for people to look outside of what’s spoon fed to us for quality, and give good artists their due?

    Bands that are taken as not-obscure and therefore okay to like without being an “elitist” used to be the bands that knowing about made you an elitist. I’m deeply amused that my liking the Gossip has moved from evidence that I’m a snobby snob who thinks she’s hot shit because she raves about this band that performs to crowds of 50 people to someone with acceptably mainstream tastes—it’s the same band, but they’re no longer evidence of my snobby snobbery because they’re popular now.

    But would they have gotten popular if the snobby snobs didn’t champion them? No.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  41. Of course some people can be dicks. That’s not what I was talking about. I’m talking about the de facto assumption that it’s “elitism” to prize discovering obscure bands. Without that form of elitism, no one would ever rise from obscurity to the properly populist popularity. I’m not challenging the notion that dicks are dicks. But for every dick I run across, I run across 10 people who sneer at someone for thinking it’s important to look beyond the Billboard top 40.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  42. I think it gets in my grill especially because I’m a feminist. For all the reasons Silvana outlined, great female musicians tend to languish in obscurity more than men. So it’s all the more important to abandon the sneering charge of “elitist” aimed at people who put forward the effort to learn more about obscure music, because they’re often the people who are positioned well to champion female musicians. Because, at the end of the day, pinning all our hopes on Lady Gaga is going to leave us sad and disappointed.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  43. theviciouspixie wrote:

    @Kathy:
    That is a terrible shame, considering people like Colin Meloy and Conor Oberst get so much attention when (much as I do really quite like The Decemberists and Bright Eyes respectively, in spite of their dudeliness) they can’t really sing at all, in the conventional sense of the word. I hope people start listening to you soon.

    It’s interesting, actually, that when it comes to female voices the ones we hear most of are mezzo-ish – you don’t hear many low altos in the mainstream, nor many high sopranos. Weirdly, I also struggle to think of any basses in the mainstream apart from Barry White.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  44. Because, at the end of the day, pinning all our hopes on Lady Gaga is going to leave us sad and disappointed.

    Technically, I agree with you. And I realize you’re not saying that I shouldn’t listen to or enjoy Lady Gaga, but that just having one lady pop act make it to the top of the charts isn’t enough.

    However, this comment kinda reminded me of the people I know who do have A Problem with a capital P with Lady Gaga, all of whom are dudes, and all of whom seem to either be huge nerds of the “The jocks didn’t like me in high school so I will wear my ostracization as a Badge of Honor and EVERYTHING POPULAR IS AUTOMATICALLY BAD BECAUSE PEOPLE SUCK OMG AREN’T I SO DEEP AND CYNICAL” blah blah you know those dudes type of nerd dude, or Rock Snob dudes who automatically hate all pop music, unless they’re talking about the Beatles, in which case they talk about the Beatles being the best pop ever like Pop is a totally good and respectable genre full of many wonderful artists but the Beatles are just that much BETTER than even ALL OF THOSE OTHER WONDERFUL POP MUSICIANS WHO DO POP THAT IS REAL MUSIC, of which I have not heard any specific examples of them actually existing, except Michael Jackson.

    And seriously, while I can understand that Gaga is not the be-all and end-all of feminist music or of ladies becoming famous or of anything, really, about 99% of the complaints I hear about Gaga are transparently just dudes being all annoyed that a lady got famous doing crazy, fun, expressive performance art, instead of having the charts topped by a serious dude noodling seriously on his guitar with none of that silly “performance” stuff because that’s dumb and shallow (unless David Bowie’s doing it), and then they complain about how dance music utilizes computers, because this is, of course, a situation in which COMPUTERS ARE BAD, obviously and self-evidently, even though COMPUTERS ARE AWESOME in every other situation anyone could possibly think of.

    Gaga isn’t ENOUGH. That’s not Gaga’s fault for only being one person, and it doesn’t mean Gaga is BAD. And I realize you were probably saying the first, but it reminded me of people who don’t understand the second.

    …Sorry for the spaz-out; I’ve been very fed up with this lately and needed to rant.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  45. maurinsky wrote:

    I am not a professional musician in the least, but I love to sing and have the opposite problem: a very deep, definitely un-pretty voice. I was thinking about this today after rereading this post.I always got hell for it, especially when I was in school and girls were supposed to have delicate, angelic voices. It’s probably what kept me from pursuing it any further.

    I have an extremely low female voice, and I am a professional singer (in the sense that I get paid to sing). I spent many years trying to sound pretty, and for my regular music gig, I have to generally sound pretty (sacred choral/madrigal music). I also sing bass in an all woman acappella group. I can sing lower than many men I know.

    I think one problem is that many of us who sing (and we seem to be focusing on vocals in this comment thread) start in school, in chorus, and we don’t do a lot of experimenting with sound in chorus. Sounding pretty is standard fare. And if you want to sing by yourself, sounding pretty (even if you have a strong voice) is given a premium – those are the girls who get the solos.

    It’s really part and parcel of women as objects, because we are taught (by our families and by our culture) to be self-conscious about ourselves, which makes it harder to let loose with your voice or make animal sounds or growl or howl or anything like that.

    Anyway…I’m loving these posts. I’m 40 years old and I’m just starting to think about writing songs and performing my own music, and I don’t think anyone should put off singing if it’s something they love to do.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  46. @ Amanda, well, yeah, when you take my comment out of the context of music criticism and the general attitude that TheCynicalRomantic describes, it is completely silly to call someone elitist for being into obscure bands. But then you add back the context of what I was saying and it’s a completely different statement.

    I love a lot of obscure bands. You and I could probably have an epic duel of the ‘I know more obscure bands than you do’ variety, but that’s not the point. And it’s kind of also my point, that music criticism is so often written as being all about how many obscure bands you can compare a non-obscure band to that it becomes ridiculous. If I’m reading a review that says something is “Terrors-esque” or “sounds like Rene Hell” (2 bands which I have never heard but that are sitting on my husband’s desk right now), that doesn’t tell me a damn thing because I’ve never heard them, and I think they’re obscure enough that a review that said that would not reveal much to MOST people. Whereas if someone describes the music more lyrically (say, “The music is as close to what you expect members of an animistic tribe to do by way of leisure activities. The sonorous chant throughout the first track of the disk, clocking in at over 27 minutes, is pitted against ringing percussion”, from here, or something similar), I can actually get an idea of what the music might be like.

    Friday, April 23, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  47. Az wrote:

    @ K. “Modest Mouse shows are DUDE SHOWS with DUDE CROWDS and I hate seeing them live because of it.”

    Me too! I love rock music but I’m afraid to go to rock shows because there’s always the group of asshole dudes in front, making the experience violent and dangerous for everyone else.

    I saw 30 Seconds to Mars a few years ago, and Jared Leto was cussing out the audience and encouraging moshing in the general area where I was trying to stand (I had to move because I’d already been kicked in the head a few times that day), so I lost a bit of respect finding out he was a Dude. I don’t know what else I expected.

    Men over 18 years old don’t like that environment either, do they? I don’t understand how they could possibly.

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 12:51 am | Permalink
  48. Alecto wrote:

    On asserting your tastes, I used to get into brutal arguments with my ex-boyfriend over this. I’m a classically trained (non-professionnal)musician, and he was a rather brilliant autodidact guitarist and bass player, very much into making progressive rock with his band. The REALLY annoying thing was that he’d insist on making me listen to everything his band made, the music was fine but I didn’t particularly like it, and freak out as soon as I’d make the slightest criticism. This after he made me look through and correct all his lyrics, since he knew I was far more literary-minded than he was. He was an extreme example (I was never allowed to play my music when we drove anywhere, so I just started listening to my mp3 and ignoring him) but it’s kind of common. My best friend is an art student, and I hate hate hate hanging out with her classmates because, y’know, I’m too mainstream for them and anytime the discussion gets into music I just leave, since most things I like apparently suck. Especially when it’s Taiwanese pop or Japanese rock, for some reason!
    I think what annoys me the most is that I do know a lot about music, but I’m just a girl, so they can dismiss it. Or if I assert myself, I’m arrogant (that was what the ex said. The final straw that led to him being an ex.)

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 3:09 am | Permalink
  49. bogusman wrote:

    I agree with a lot of this post, and I see where you’re coming from when you mention Joanna Newsom, but I guess I’m not 100% certain who it is exactly that you’re calling out on this point. If I were to hear someone offhandedly dismiss her music as “weird” I would assume he is not one whose opinions on music I should take all that seriously. I’m reasonably certain that the mainline opinion in indie circles is that Newsom is one of the major artists of recent years, and she is in fact very highly regarded by most music fans who have given much time and attention to her music and other music like it.

    At risk of being ridiculed myself here I will admit that, as a white hetero male, I occasionally have a problem warming to woman vocalists in rock music, especially the more unconventional ones. Maybe due to some unconscious prejudice, I’m not sure, but, though I usually have no problem enjoying the deadpan, tone-deaf vocals of a Stephen Malkmus or Lou Reed, when it’s Kim Gordon or Exene Cervenka, it kinda drives me up the wall a little bit. I’m working on that. One recent personal triumph would be coming around to Kate Bush; “Wuthering Heights” took me a few listens to get into, but I can’t believe there was a time when I didn’t enjoy her work, it’s all so incredible.

    Saturday, April 24, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  50. Early wrote:

    I’m a little confused…
    Is the point here that certain words combined with certain melodies, harmonies, and rhythms are inherently Dudely and, therefore, evil? Or is it that many guys minimize the tastes of many women because they guys think, consciously or not, that women don’t know anything about music, be they listeners or performers. If the latter (which I suspect), then Dude Rock has analogs everywhere — Dude Art, Dude Cuisine, Dude Engineering, etc — and it’s not so much the music Dudes listen to as it is the fucked up Dude paradigms about how to relate to women and their tastes or abilities in whatever arena.
    Please help out a poor dude.
    (My apologies if this double posts.)

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 2:23 am | Permalink
  51. Emily Jane wrote:

    “3. Not defying the prettiness imperative is boring. See how that works? You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Because if you violate the standards, go outside your comfort zone, and do something really new and interesting, people don’t find it palatable. But if you don’t, then what you’re doing isn’t noteworthy.”

    A personal anecdote that this post, and this step in particular, reminds me of:

    Years ago, a friend told me that she didn’t like women musicians, particularly vocalists, because she liked passionate music, not pretty music, and women only sound good when they make music that is pretty and not passionate.

    I think after my initial reaction, which was just “…WHAAAT?! Can. Not. Compute.” I gave her some listening suggestions…but was unable to have a serious discussion with her about her perceived discrepancy between prettiness and passion and women’s roles in music.

    So frustrating! And a haunting comment that has, unfortunately, stuck with me for a long time.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  52. Silvana wrote:

    who it is exactly that you’re calling out on this point

    Maybe due to some unconscious prejudice, I’m not sure, but, though I usually have no problem enjoying the deadpan, tone-deaf vocals of a Stephen Malkmus or Lou Reed, when it’s Kim Gordon or Exene Cervenka, it kinda drives me up the wall a little bit.

    I’m calling out guys just like you, but who refuse to acknowledge their own prejudice or even identify a discrepancy.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink
  53. Dennis wrote:

    @Kathy:
    That is a terrible shame, considering people like Colin Meloy and Conor Oberst get so much attention when (much as I do really quite like The Decemberists and Bright Eyes respectively, in spite of their dudeliness) they can’t really sing at all, in the conventional sense of the word. I hope people start listening to you soon.

    It’s interesting, actually, that when it comes to female voices the ones we hear most of are mezzo-ish – you don’t hear many low altos in the mainstream, nor many high sopranos. Weirdly, I also struggle to think of any basses in the mainstream apart from Barry White.

    Monday, April 26, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink
  54. Keys wrote:

    Great post. I actually feel refreshed, if not threatened.

    One thing I can tell you: it’s important to attack the status quo. What you said early in the post about knowing you’re doing something right really resonates.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Link(s): Wed, Apr 21st, 2pm | Your Revolution (The Blog!) on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 3:12 am

    [...] LADYPALOOZA PRESENTS! The World At Large: How Priv­i­lege works in Rock Music [...]

  2. [...] Silvana has an interesting follow-up to the explosion of anger following her hilarious rant on Dude Music.  As follow-ups go—especially those that address a wave of men getting angry when they experience even a sliver of what many to most women consider a normal part of our everyday lives—this one is true to form: serious, thoughtful, kind-hearted.  For the men angrily demanding legalistic definitions of Dude Music, she comes closer, basically talking about the way that B and C level musical acts get taken more seriously if they’re male-dominated than A level acts that center the female voice/experience.  As I noted to her at the time, this is such a major issue that often fans will rewrite the artistic history male musicians/bands to discount the influence women had on them.  For instance, the influence that female musicians had on singers like Joey Ramone, Kurt Cobain, or Mick Jagger is often pointedly ignored.  And nothing creates more angst than a male musician of some stature who actually marries someone who does more than stand behind him smacking a tambourine. [...]

  3. [...] Traditionally available only to old white men wearing black gowns, er, robes . So pretty obviously any guy who is into Dude Rock is going to be mortified and furious when a woman defines Dude Rock from the center. ….. I feel like if the Yoko Is Ugly brigade were introduced to her as a person they might know rather than a Woman Entertainer, more people would be boggling and saying, But she’s beautiful! Because we kind of tend to expect out Woman Entertainers to be …Continue Reading… [...]

  4. links for 2010-06-03 « Embololalia on Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    [...] Tiger Beatdown › LADYPALOOZA PRESENTS! The World At Large: How Privilege works in Rock Music The phenomenon he identifies is at the heart of the way privilege works in rock music specifically, and in art in general, which is this: As a woman, you don’t get a break for the negative flipsides of your good qualities. (tags: female.musicians feminism gender music men privilege women) [...]