Saturday, 12 October 2013

Inspirational Interview - Serena of Rock Radio Sexism

A few months ago, I discovered Tumblr and, on there, I've had the privilege of meeting some wonderful people. People who've expanded my horizons and who I've been able to learn from. A couple of weeks ago, I asked the lovely Serena to answer a few questions. Here's what she had to say:


Hi! Thank you so much for stopping by! Firstly, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.

My name is Serena. I’ve been a feminist for about two years, now - although I’ve dabbled in feminism a bit longer. I really like hard rock and heavy metal, and I also like pink and pastel-coloured stuff. And, no, it’s not contradictory to like the two. I’m also into psychedelic art.

You run a couple of awesome feminist blogs. For those not entirely in the know, what is and isn’t feminism?

Thank you!

Feminism is about advocating gender equality. We have, indeed, gone a long ways towards achieving gender equality since, say, the fifties. However, we still have further yet to go. Rape culture is still a major issue that affects women today, along with slut shaming. There is still a double standard that men can sleep with multiple women, and be considered a “stud” - whilst women who do the same are regarded as “sluts”. Then there is the whole reinforcement of gender roles through advertisements and marketing - which of sort of my, uh, pet feminist issue.

Feminism is not about hating men, or following a bunch of rules of shoulds and should-nots. Especially since we already get enough of that shit from the patriarchy. If women want to shave, cool. If women don’t want to shave, that’s also cool. The one thing to take into consideration, though - is that women who choose to shave should probably examine why they choose to do so. Are they doing it because, uh, they really like the feel of smooth hairless skin - or is it simply because they were taught that it’s what women “are supposed to do”?

There seems to be a lot of anti-pink and anti-feminine thought patterns within feminism. Why do you think this is?

Oh, yeah, this is a good question. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I was initially leery of associating myself with the feminist movement. Certainly, I’ve always agreed with the dictionary definition of feminism - which is that women should have the same rights as men do. However, I didn’t see why that meant I couldn’t like pink - or other things coded “feminine”.

I think a lot of the anti-pink and anti-femininity attitudes that permeate certain factions of the feminist movement is due to the resentment that there is the social expectation that women are supposed to like pink and other things coded “feminine”. That is, of course, very understandable. In fact, I sort of feel that way about pop music. I resent that pop music is heavily marketed to girls and men, while rock and metal are often seen as “dude music”. So, certainly, I understand rebelling against something that is forced on you.
However, the problem comes from when they start having the attitude of this: “I don’t like pink - and other women shouldn’t like pink, either.” Some women like pink. Some women don’t. Both are fine. Also, very few women are 100% “girly-girl” or 100% “tomboy”. In fact, I’d say that most women are some combination of the two.

Then there is also the fact that gender roles also hurt boys and men. Boys who happen to like pink are often discouraged from acting upon it, lest they get teased for it. Some portions of the feminists, I believe, are so focused on for girls and women are affected by gender roles - they often fail to consider the other side of the issue.

I wouldn’t say that this is “sexism against men”, really. This is more a case of “femmephobia”, a devaluing of things considered “women”. There is a large subset of men, often referred to as “dudebros”, who are all about being “manly”. To them, the “alpha male” is the ideal. As such, they recoil at the idea of anything considered “feminine”. This is the other issue I have with faction of feminists that also decry anything considered “feminine”. Granted, they’re coming at it from a different angle from that of the dudebros - but the end result is the same, and that is problematic.

As feminists, we must be mindful not to advocate replacing a system that favours men with a system that favours masculinity.

One of your blogs looks at sexism within rock music, something which is particularly close to my heart. Why do you think there are these attitudes towards women? And why, in the 21st century, do these attitudes still prevail? What do you think can be done to change the mindsets of some of those within the music industry?

A think a lot of it has to do with the fact that rock music is often seen as being aggressive, a trait that is commonly associated with men. When rock and roll first got its start in the 50s, it was popular with both boys and girls. It wasn’t until sometime during the ’60s that there was a move towards rock music being “music for men”. The term “cock rock” is often used to refer to the early hardish rock that was marketed towards men. The Rolling Stones, I believe, are the progenitors of “cock rock”.

I’m not sure why those attitudes continue to persist into the 21st Century. I believe that there are more women than one might suspect that do like rock music. But maybe the main reason why there aren’t too many that listen to rock radio is because a lot of rock radio stations that cater strictly towards men. As a result, the disc jockeys and other people who work in the radio business feel that they have a licence to make sexist and misogynistic jokes. A lot of times, when they have contests, they are geared towards heterosexual men.

Maybe it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. A lot of women are turned off of rock music due to the sexism and misogyny permeating it, or else they’ve just been conditioned to believe that rock music is not for women. So, in turn, the music industry believes that women simply aren’t interested in rock music - and, therefore, they see no reason to remove the sexist and misogynistic elements from rock music.

As for how we can change it, that’s kind of a tough question to answer. Maybe, if we can get enough interested women to band together, we can show those people that there are women who like rock music. Maybe what we need is something similar to riot grrrl, but not just for punk rock. For pretty much every subgenre of rock and metal. I would love for there to be a female version of Disturbed, or a female version of Avenged Sevenfold.

Despite the negative attitudes towards women featured in rock music, scores of women still support these people and find them attractive. Why do you think that is?

Well, I think because they just happen to like the style of music. Also, there is the other side of it that our patriarchal society has the attitude that rock music is “not for women”. Indeed, this is a bit of a paradoxical situation. This is what I’ve referred to, a few times, as the “feminist dilemma”. As such, a lot of women who happen to really like rock music will still listen to it - despite the sexism and misogyny - because, dammit, women can like rock music too!

Do you think it’s still possible to support these bands despite their attitudes?

Oh, certainly! In fact, if we gave up everything that is problematic, then there’d be next to nothing left to enjoy. We can still enjoy the music, but not excuse the bands when engage in problematic behaviour. Of course, if other people choose not to listen to certain bands due to their sexism and misogyny - we should respect that. But it’s not our place to police what other people should or should not listen to.

One of the things which comes up a lot is that women have to look good to get anywhere in life. Are there any female fronted/all female bands which you recommend? And what can women do to empower themselves within the entertainment industries?

Right now, Halestorm is quite successful on active rock radio stations. Kitty is a great band, too - and then there’s Cherri Bomb. I probably don’t listen to female-fronted or all-female bands as much as I should - partly because I am sort of addicted to the radio. I think it’d be nice to have a radio station, even if exclusive to the internet or satellite that mixes the stuff that you hear on active rock stations with a bunch of female-fronted and all-female bands. There are some online stations that are focused exclusively on female rock bands - but what if you don’t want to give up on the male rock bands that you like, as well?

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I would remove everything having to do with power imbalance, as well as useless social norms.

Which of your blogs do you recommend?

Definitely Rock Radio Sexism. Initially, I started the blog with the intent to discuss the issues of sexism and misogyny regarding rock radio. But, even if you don’t listen to the radio, I’d still recommend it. We have since broadened the focus to include the rock/metal scene as a whole.

Thank you so much for taking the time to pass by and talk with us. It’s really appreciated!

You’re very welcome. It’s my pleasure.

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