In a time when Bey is queen, why are women still fighting to be taken seriously in the music world?
We’ve made great strides in the war against sexism at work, but sadly discrimination still rears its head on a regular basis in some professions. The music industry is one such ‘typically male’ environments, in which women can be stereotyped and treated as inferior.
Here, Essex-based writer, musician and visual artist, Zoë Howe, responds to some of the most common myths surrounding women in music.
‘You’re a groupie’
“I’ve nothing against groupies, generally. I have something against people assuming that I am one, though. Unfortunately, if you’re female and spend a lot of time going to see bands, working with bands, being friends with bands, even being IN bands, some people outside of the band will presume you’re just trying to get into someone’s pants or vicariously live out some kind of fantasy.
“The irony is that a lot of said people (usually blokes) act more like groupies than anyone – trying to get backstage and slavering over their heroes. Rise above it. Personally, I’d rather be in the band than ‘with the band’.
“Being married to a musician, I occasionally have people asking whether I’m bothered about groupies. I tell them that, yes, I do get a lot of attention from groupies and, yes, it’s flattering, but my husband knows I’m a one-man woman and I’d never do anything about it. That tends to confuse them.”
‘Female musician? You’re just trying to make a point’
Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images
“No, I’m just trying to make music. I’ve played in bands since I was about 12 and not once did it occur to me that I was subliminally saying: “Look, I can play drums! A BOY instrument! I’ll show YOU!” I just wanted to do it.
“People tend to project their own stuff onto what you’re doing, but I genuinely love playing, love rock ‘n’ roll and love working with like-minded musicians and artists – male or female.
“It’s a shame there’s still a stigma around female musicians. Only recently there was a picture of a female bass player printed in a rock magazine with a caption that basically ran along the lines of: ‘She’s a woman, but she can really rock out! And she’s hot too!’
“Please. Most of us aren’t just doing it to titillate, confuse or threaten boys, so let’s try and get over it, shall we?”
‘Female musicians are fun… but probably not as talented as men’
“Ah, that one. I remember turning up to load in at a show. As I was lugging my drums downstairs, a geezer at the bar came up to me and said: “You in the band? You the singer then?” On being politely corrected, he said the immortal words: “Drums, eh? I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Nice.
“But wait – there’s more. “Oh? You play then?” I responded, again, politely. He shook his head. “No.”
“So let’s just go over those facts again. He can’t actually play the drums. He’s never heard me play the drums. But he still thinks he can do better. Something to muse on there.”
‘A woman on tour? Damn, now everyone has to behave’
“Who do you think I am, Mary Poppins? (For the record, I see myself more as Bert, as it goes.)
“Okay, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to ease back on the tour-bus belching competitions, but if you think I can’t handle your swearing, your substance abuse or your dirty jokes, then you insult me more, frankly.
“I’m not saying I’m going to be sitting around shooting smack into my eyeballs, but just because I don’t have a willy doesn’t mean I’ll be perched in the corner thinking about Beatrix Potter and embroidering a sampler while you lot party.”
‘You’ve joined the crew of a touring band – you’re living the dream’
“It’s fun, sure. It’s glamorous – perhaps less often than you’d imagine, but you’re not exactly working down the mines. And you’re definitely working with human beings, some of whom will be adorable, some of whom will be egotists, some of whom will be rather silly, some of whom will be deeply irritating. Not gods, just human beings. In a manner of speaking.”
Zoë Howe’s debut novel – Shine On, Marquee Moon – is published via Matador on September 28. It’s a rock ’n’ roll love story with a satirical twist, a bohemian heroine and plenty of dark humour. The book was short-listed for the Virginia Prize for Fiction 2016.
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Main image: Getty Images