The current pop wasteland. Clockwise from upper left: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, the reinvented Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV VMAs and Taylor Swift, before and after.

The current pop wasteland. Clockwise from upper left: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, the reinvented Miley Cyrus at the 2013 MTV VMAs and Taylor Swift, before and after.

I was inspired by a recent Facebook post by Anna Bulbrook, who plays viola, keyboards and is a vocalist with The Airborne Toxic Event. She posted a link to an article about the rude and demeaning things said to female musicians, and voiced her own frustration with the music industry’s rampant sexism. I’d like to dedicate this to all working musicians out there (and music professionals who support and nurture them) who happen to be women.

Wow, You Actually Know How To Play That?

The object that raised Ms. Bulbrook’s wrath (and started me on my investigative journey) was titled “Infuriating Things People Say to Women Musicians”. It was written by Steph Guthrie, who performs with Toronto-based band Patti Cake. The cringe-worthy comments from male musical instrument store employees, sound engineers, managers and others “in the biz” read like something out of the 1950s, but sadly they’re not. They’re comments that were made in the present day to seasoned and experienced female musicians. Sexism, of course, exists everywhere. Men in the music business still can’t get their heads around the fact that there are plenty of serious women musicians who are proficient with a wide variety of instruments, music composition and recording technology — and this includes the sacred lead guitar, historically the machismo status symbol of the (male) rock god. “Take Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Only two women, Joni Mitchell and Joan Jett, were honored. In a Washington Post article written in response to Rolling Stone’s list, the writer suggests that as interest in electric guitar was revving up in the ’60s, women weren’t encouraged to step out of their ladylike gender roles, leaving them with an impossible game of catch-up to Jimi Hendrix and Page.” (from The 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists – Elle, 2009). I can only assume that this disrespect stems from an inferiority complex, leading men to feel threatened by strong women. Regardless of how far we may think we’ve come in gender equality, clearly we haven’t actually progressed beyond The Flintstones.

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