Despite the rising number of successful female rock musicians, the on going tradition of rock is still deeply masculinist. Unfortunately the music business is still a predominately a male run business and have created problems of access and opportunity for women. Metal in particular can be categorized as the gender of genre. There have been gendered attitudes that the genre of metal music does not have the soft sound flowing rhythms women tend to like. Such attitudes can be found not only in the discourse of heavy rock performers, but, also in the social codes of heavy metal scenes. Pop music has been allied with femininity and rock has distanced itself from pop music by becoming more ‘masculine’.
The very phrase ‘women in rock’ which features a great number of articles focusing on female musicians within a particular music genre usually works to describe female musicians rather than just referencing them as rock performers. This serves to act as a barrier to the possible normalization of women within the music industry. To push this idea even further, people have suggested that in order to become a rock n roll starlet, you need to ride on the support of male admiration and deny the notion of success through musical ability.
In an editorial to Rolling Stones ‘Women of Rock’ edition describes Patti Smith as a tom boy who modeled her life on the great men of rock and even wanted to be one. Even the great rock queen Janis Joplin may be described as one of the boys, she was still judged as a women in a mans world.
Gender identities and discourses are not to be understood as static, but as dynamic, changing over time. By examining the way in which professional and artistic relationships are influenced by concepts just as gender, we can begin to analyze these barriers and seek ways to overcome them.
Commentators have cited the male domination of the music industry as a reason for a lack of female role models. Some spectators have observed that the music industry can be linked to a range of other areas of professional practice that are male dominated such as journalism or law.
Fortunately, females are taking a stand against these cultural standards. What grew out of this has been named Riot Grrl, a feminist network promoted by female musicians. Their goal is to bring about awareness of these patriarchal norms created inside the scene. Riot Grrl began in 1991 when a group of girls on the punk scene got together to discuss the inherent sexism in the punk scene. Many have called it punk-rock feminism, but it has grown beyond that. Girls wanted to get more involved beyond being just the girlfriends of their boyfriends in the scene. They started to produce zine’s to bring to light certain subjects such a rape, incest, and eating disorders. This zine offered a way of girls to connect with other girls who have shared similar experiences. These connections showed the girls that to see their own personal experiences with rape and assault as part of a larger political problem. The creation of this zine created a forum in which girls could discuss the marginalization they felt in the male dominated punk scene.
Indeed like the punks, feminists have rewritten the rules of public performance. By speaking and singing to women in the audience, and by simply prioritizing them, feminist bands have challenged the traditional taken for granted dominance of men at gigs.
The Riot Grrl manifesto is listed the many reasons why it is so necessary.
RIOT GIRL LONDON MANIFESTO
Riot Grrrl is a network of women and men who want to change society through active & creative means – writing zines, being in bands, creating websites, making art… The law grudgingly gives women equality, but people’s attitudes towards us are still disrespectful, oppressive and belittling.
Riot Grrrl and feminism are still needed for a myriad of reasons; because women are accused of ‘asking for it’ when they are raped, because beauty is valued over intellect, because female musicians are dismissed as worthless, because enjoying sex makes you a slut, because because because… The list is endless.
Riot Grrrl has now evolved into more than just a branch of the punk scene – we come from all sorts of backgrounds, like all sorts of music, dress in all sorts of styles… Riot Grrrl is open to everyone. Riot Grrrl is inspiring, empowering and most of all fun, so why not join our group or start your own and help infiltrate society with REAL grrrl power. Forget the media lies – this is about equality, not superiority. Man-hate does not figure in our beliefs – the deconstruction of gender roles will benefit everyone.
When Sassy, a popular zine of the nineties started publishing some of Riot Grrrls articles many of them were forced to stop the production because they couldn’t handle the overflow of mail they received. Unfortunately, with great popularity comes great criticism. Riot Grrl was getting criticized for the movement as too juvenile and unimportant. Zine editors tried to rise against these criticisms to defend Riot Grrrl while trying to remain true to subculture rather than giving in to mass media. During 1993 the Grrrl’s initiated a press blackout refusing to speak or be photographed by anyone who was involved with the mass media. This black out was induced because the girls were very aware at how easy it is for those in control of mainstream representational discourse to exploit and commodify marginalized cultures as a form of misrepresentation. The blackout was the best thing that they could do because it prevents the massive exploitation typically experienced by new social movements.
Around this time was when the movement started to fade out. But, it was not in vain. Riot Grrrl’s successes gave girls ideas on how to make their own music. Critics of this new form of girl culture would comment saying how it starts and finishes in the bedroom. Riot Grrrl revolutionized this idea, making the bedroom a place to do things such as make zines, play guitar, or hold all girls meetings. It inspired girls everywhere to find an active way to practice new ideas about feminism.