I’m not usually one to jump on the righteous indignation bandwagon, but this sort of thing is ridiculous. I’m about to get long-winded.
Here’s a photo of an attractive girl playing bass and using really great gear. There’s a lot to celebrate, to be sure. But take a moment to read those comments. Really, really sad.
Though I love it dearly, the world of guitar has always been a testosterone-fueled boys’ club and anytime a pretty girl with a guitar comes along one of two things happens: we either shame her or we objectify her. It’s disgusting.
I’m not often the kind of guy to put up a fight on the internet, but this time I couldn’t help myself:
“She’s beautiful for certain and has good taste in gear, but can we all just back off on the machismo for a bit and appreciate our bass-playing sister? Do we always have to sexualize women in music? Do we really need to criticize her technique – which you can’t judge from one still photograph of a split second! – or her use of a pick? God, it’s so tiresome.”
And I really meant that. Here’s where I’m coming from: I’ve had the honor of playing in bands with a few very talented, very beautiful women. I love the musical perspective and heart that women bring to a band situation that men so often sidestep in favor of bravado and rippin’ leads. But being in a band with girls isn’t always easy, especially when they’re treated like shit by every guy in the bar.
Kylie*, my friend and former bandmate, often had to deal with the vagaries of being a woman in rock; after nearly every show there were a number of guys waiting for her at the edge of the stage, which wouldn’t have made me feel comfortable. She was always nice and friendly, but given the sorts of things she’s had to endure, I wouldn’t have held my composure in her position.
These guys, some of which had been very obviously eyeing her during a given performance, would swarm her, offer to buy her drinks, make completely trite observations about her gear and then proceed to talk down to her about it. “Oh, you use a Jazz Bass? Yeah, that thin neck would work well for a girl.”
Sometimes they’d come up to her and preen, then talk her ear off about how they would have played her parts differently. They’d backtrack, convinced that they weren’t saying she was a bad player, but then point out what she could have done differently. You know, because girls don’t get theory or something. What you don’t know is that she’s a freaking classically-trained bassist! What idiots! Lordy.
Then again, some nights they’d just yell “SHOW US YOUR TITS” or “TAKE YOUR TOP OFF” from the back of a darkened bar, shielded by anonymity. Sometimes it was worse, and I’d have to make a point of sticking close to my friend, not because she can’t handle herself, but because for fuck’s sake she shouldn’t have to.
There were even a few nights where some dudes would come up to me, maybe buy me a drink and chat my ear off about bands for a few minutes before they’d just come out and ask, “So hey… about your bass player.” I’d roll my eyes and leave. Usually. Or I’d call them on it. But hey, free drinks!
Look, I appreciate the female form just as much as the next guy, and of course when I saw the above picture I stopped what I was doing because, yes indeed, that girl is beautiful. Add to that her good taste in gear (namely the Ampeg B-18 she’s playing through!) and I’m pretty jazzed. I’ll even admit that I called Other Mike and our new bro-sociate Matt over to my desk to see. Also, her clothes are so mod, so great. The whole look is perfect.
You know what we didn’t do? Sexualize and dehumanize her. We didn’t stand there, deconstructing her body into its sexiest parts. We didn’t make casual jokes about how we’d like to verb her adjective-noun or how we wish we were the microphone. And we sure as heck didn’t publicly comment about the various sex acts we could perform with her, like the fifth commenter did.
Maybe I should lighten up, and I’m sure I will, but I can’t help but think that if I were her and I read that comment, I would be horrified and scandalized. Some of these comments are definitely a form of verbal rape. Saying ‘I wanna do this to her’ is not the same as saying ‘she’s hot’. She’s a real person, guys. We don’t need to further perpetuate a culture of rape!
Guys, please stop doing this. Women are not playthings or objects of pleasure. They’re complex individuals with storied pasts and thoughts, feelings, opinions and needs. If there’s an attractive girl in a band and you absolutely MUST speak with her, give her a genuine compliment on her playing. Don’t tell her she’s so HAWT and you’re so HAWNY. Tell her, “Hey, you kicked ass up there!”, because musicians always like hearing that. If she continues to speak to you, that’s pretty cool.
If you were wondering, she has a name: Laena Geronimo of mod band The Like. They’re a great band, and she’s a great bassist.
And once and for all, can we please stop arguing about using a pick on bass?
/end rant. Back to guitars.
*name changed to protect the affable and good-looking.
This post rules. you tell em!