Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Aren't There Male Groupies?

Over the years, women have made great strides in leadership. Although their numbers are still lower than men’s, more and more women are obtaining leadership roles both inside and out of the workplace. However, some industries are still being largely underutilized by women; I believe that the music industry is one of them. More specifically, I feel that there are not enough women involved in rock music. If women take advantage of all of the different career opportunities available, it can only help women as a whole advance.

Various factors have contributed to women being held back in the rock industry. If you do not have what others perceive as being ‘good looks’ you might not get a serious chance. Hard rock magazine, Revolver, has an annual issued titled “The Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock.” This issue is oftentimes the only chance a female rock star has of even being featured in the magazine and the emphasis in on the women’s looks, no her music.

Also, unfortunately not all men take women rockers seriously and sometimes that is directly tied to their looks. Looks are something that women have to battle and most male rock stars do not have to deal with. If you type “top 10 female rock stars” into Google’s search box, the second result is “My Personal Top 10 Sexiest Female Rock Stars.” That definitely says something about the reception of women in the rock industry. However, like in sports, women hold themselves back, too.

In our own class discussions it was revealed that almost no one in our female-dominated class actually follows women’s sports. You cannot really hope that women’s sports can grow without supporting them. The same can be said for music. Very few people could name more than one or two women in rock. About.com compiled a list of the ten most influential women working in rock today and the only one that I have heard of is Evanescence lead-singer, Amy Lee. Lee is known in large part because of her looks and is on Revolver’s aforementioned “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” list. I listen to hours of music every single day, consider myself somewhat of a rock connoisseur, and I only know about a small handful of women in the rock genre.

When it comes to women in rock, there may be a difference between the perceived glass ceiling and the actual one. Unlike boys, girls are not encouraged to pick up a guitar or bang some drums around, lead singers of bands are referred to as “frontmen,” and women are expected to be ‘groupies,’ following a band around instead of actually being in it. There are built-in limiting factors that make it difficult for women to breakout in the industry, but I believe that if women are patient enough to alter their approach to the rock genre, they can overcome these factors.

It is true that oftentimes, lead singers get more attention than their fellow band members. Amy Lee of Evanescence, Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, and Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf are all lead singers. However, that does not mean that the rest of the band gets ignored. Despite this, most women in rock sing lead vocals and very few play guitar, bass, or drums. I think that if more women become drummers or guitarists, they can raise and eventually break the glass ceiling.

Women taking the role of the lead singer has its pros and cons. As previously mentioned, being in front of the microphone does give you a greater share of the spotlight, but it also provides more criticism and pressure. This can provide women with a fast-track to leadership within their own band, their genre, and the music industry as a whole. It also plays right into the hand of gender stereotypes.

Appearance is already something that women in music, like most other industries, have to struggle with. If women are quite literally under a spotlight, sex appeal becomes a difficult issue to avoid or overcome. It is a lot easier to not be looked at as an object when you are hiding behind a set of drums. A very general stereotype that some men hold is that women cannot do everything that they can do. Women can prove this stereotype to be false if great female guitarists, drummers, bassists, etc. arrive on the rock and roll scene.

The amount of women in a given band can also play an important role in the success of women. A band consisting of only women could be viewed as a gimmick and people might not take it seriously. Should a band only have one woman, like most bands with women in the group do, then that lone woman could be seen as the ‘token female’ in the group. Both of these scenarios create significant barriers for women that are already in a difficult career and face other gender-specific obstacles.

Simple biological differences mean that it does take a certain type of woman in specific marital and financial situations to have a shot at making it in the rock industry. If in the industry, a woman clearly is not a ‘housewife,’ but that does not mean that they have a husband that is willing to stay home a raise kids. Should a female rock star have kids, she will be forced to take the off-ramp and might not be able to ever get back on again. A situation like this would not only affect a given woman and her family, but her band as well. It is not as simple as taking a few months off from an office jobs. Tours could be cancelled, albums could be delayed, and the careers of a band of musicians could even be over. If a band is not living through a full touring life cycle and recording new music regularly, it is easy to get left behind and forgotten since music is so competitive.

You may be thinking, “music is great, but what does it have to do with woman and leadership?” Music serves as a platform for all kinds of opportunities. It can give you a voice and allow you to spread your opinions and ideas. It also allows you to become an activist. For example, pop goddess Lady Gaga led a campaign to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Suzi Parker of Politics Daily reported that after Gaga was escorted to the MTV Video Music Awards by four members of the Service members Legal Defense Network, a group committed to "ending discrimination and harassment of military personnel affected by 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" more than 107,000 people visited their site within three days.

Women in other genres, such as pop, have been able to truly become leaders; Beyonce is in the same vein. However, there are currently not any women in the rock industry that have done the same. Technology and going digital has greatly altered the music industry over the last decade which could lead to further change. Having a female lead guitarist in a band that enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame may not be too far away. Although the toolbox is not full, women do have some tools at their disposal and the potential to become leaders in rock and beyond. Maybe there will be male groupies following women rockers across the country and reverse gender roles.

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