Hi, I live in Minneapolis now. Some highlights of the trip: seeing a sign for Fail Road in northern Indiana, going to Kuma’s Corner in Chicago (I had the High On Fire [veggie burger, no prosciutto] and it was fucking amazing and HUGE), seeing the giant “FIREWORKS-CHEESE-BEER” billboard at the Wisconsin border. All in all, I am reeeeally glad to not be driving a twelve-foot truck anymore.

I just moved all my music stuff into the basement of my new home, where hopefully it won’t be bothersome if I practice at odd hours. After I do some more settling in I hope to be able to find a guitarist or two to goof off and play some music with. This, in turn, has got me thinking about my gender as it relates to my music-playing.

I really like what Davin wrote a while ago about singing with her band Kingdom: The Incredible Screaming Chick. We both situate ourselves in genres that are generally (and not entirely fairly) seen as total pigheaded sausage festivals, so I’ve been in a lot of the same types of situations where people are incredulous that I would want to play this kind of music and participate in this kind of subculture. While I am not going to deny the sexism I sometimes see in metal circles (though it’s not really any worse than the sexism of, y’know, everyday life in a sexist world), it is infuriating to me when people just dismiss this thing I love as the exclusive province of assholes, especially when they have never actually participated in it or even tried to.

She also brings up something I’ve noticed myself: punk rock kids being really, really bad with tokenizing female singers and musicians. I understand that this may be just overcompensation meant to counter obnoxious “girls can’t play” sentiment, but it’s still irritating, for all the reasons that Davin mentions (getting booked with other lady-containing bands that sound nothing like them, being reduced to “female vocals” on a flyer). When I was trying out for my pal’s band a while ago, a metalhead buddy of mine noted that “if you become their bass player, I guarantee you’ll start getting booked at [local p-rock venue].” I guess I can see how it’s exciting for some people, especially other women, to see women holding their own in a dudely realm. But if that’s the only reason you want to watch me play, I would prefer if you didn’t watch me play. I didn’t start playing music so I could assuage guilt over sexism or make people feel better. I started playing because I like it.

And a note to people who use “female-fronted”/”female vocals” on flyers – don’t do this, it’s fucking irritating. Not just to me, either. Every lady singer/musician I have ever talked to hates it, unless their band is really crappy and they find it useful to use as a gimmick.

Another note: I now live in the location of Flight of the Valkyries, a metal fest that is all bands fronted by women. I have been going back and forth about this ever since I found out about it. Yes, it’s tokenizing, but maybe bands fronted by women (unless they’re huge like Arch Enemy or really long-running like Holy Moses) do have a hard time playing metal fests. Yes, “female vocals” isn’t a genre, but maybe by providing a diverse lineup they can demonstrate that fact and challenge people’s assumptions. Bah! I don’t know, the folks who put it together seem sincere and everything (I mean, they are Midwesterners) but I can’t get over how much I dislike classifying bands by gender in the first place.

~ by Smellen on July 5, 2010.

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