The problem with ‘Girl Bands’
‘All-female band’ may be the PC term as endorsed by Wikipedia, but the fact of the matter is that music, not gender, should probably be the defining characteristic for a band. (Funnily enough, there is no Wikipedia entry for ‘all-male band’.) No reverent music lover would need to be educated on the importance of Janis Joplin’s place in music history (or herstory, since I may end up being accused of indulgent feminazi nitpicking here anyway) or all the critical acclaim notable artists like Courtney Love or Aretha Franklin have achieved in their careers, but unpacked, this constant reminder of their femininity downplays all accolades earned by women in the industry. They’re great – and they’re female! Because a female achieving greatness is some crazy shit, right? How do they get dinner on the table if they’re also busy being so awesome?
Can we take a second to indulge in the fact that in the Olympics, there isn’t ‘swimming’ and then also ‘women’s swimming’, there’s ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’? Please note the difference. I’m assuming that the simple explanation for this is that if the Olympics in this day and age were to start implying that the men are playing the sport while the darling women are off to the side having a very gallant crack at it themselves, there would most likely be an outcry, because aren’t we done with those sort of shenanigans now? And sport is an industry that requires differentiation by the pure virtue of physical difference. So why has an industry that has always made room for the ‘fairer sex’ not figured this out yet?
Is the differentiation really as derogatory as it initially appears, however? As fans thirsty for tunes from all-female bands, or musicians keen to seek out fellow-sexed idols, we internally squeal every time we see an 90s Girl Band Night advertised at the Globe and add such evenings to our upcoming Facebook events quicker than you can say “Carrie Brownstein is a Goddess”. So the obvious question to ask is who is such terminology even hurting? Do we need to reframe our thinking or should we just let this one go? Indeed, many female rockers seem to embrace the ‘girl band’ or ‘chick rock’ labels and slap them to their own bands, proudly. So do these labels even matter or is this all just another chance for us eager feminists to drag the old soapbox out and make angry man-hatin’ mountains out of molehills? Don’t we feminists have enough to complain about already?
Though some more disdainful folk may throw this potentially indulgent pondering of terminology into the same boat as the herstoric bid to reclaim language and expel it of its masculine leanings, the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument is possibly more offensive than the terms itself. Shouldn’t the party who is most liable to take offense be the party in charge of declaring that something is indeed broken?
There’s never an easy solution when half the girls in rock are calling empowerment and the other half are calling bullshit. Is it sexism? Maybe the verdict is still out, but if a tree falls down in the Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods, yeah, it still makes a sound. At the end of the day, it comes down to the simple fact that ‘almost equal’ should never be good enough, right? When stuck for an answer, it’s probably best to ask ourselves, “What Would Bikini Kill Do?” In which case, it’s probably time to riot, grrrls!
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