Monday, January 13, 2003

As I mentioned previously, I have an issue with "women in rock" issues of magazines, or any forum that treats that as a topic. The problem is that it reduces women musicians to both a novelty and a musical genre. Britney Spears has as much in common with Chrissie Hynde as *NSync do with the Kinks. (And, yeah, I chose those people and bands deliberately. Ignoring obvious musical dissimilarity, I'll point out that one woman wrote a song called "The Adulteress" and bore her lover's child out of wedlock; the other proclaimed her virginity to the media.) It's like saying Kathleen Battle and Craig David have something inherently in common musically just because of their skin color. Heck, you can't even call them both African-American artists since David is British. Yet the media still try to draw such connections between among a subset that represents more than 50% of the world's population.

The ultimate problem is that, by treating women as a genre, it perpetuates the idea that women can therefore go out of fashion. The sheep-like thinking in the music industry is that if something different finds an audience, then the audience should be force-fed more of the same thing until they can't stand it anymore. If grunge, third wave ska or rap metal can see their time come and go, record companies, radio stations, the press, etc. use the commercial failure of a single female artist as justification to stop backing all female artists.

So I'm happy every time PJ Harvey is compared to Nick Cave or Tom Waits rather than Patti Smith. And it's a sign of progress that the Strokes are compared to Patti Smith as well as Television and the Velvet Underground. Instead of buying magazines that do a special "women in music," seek out those that cover women in music because they cover music. And while you're at it, consider whether a magazine is putting a female musical on the cover because of her music or her willingness to display her pulchritude.

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