Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Where the Boys Are

One of the things I'm gravely concerned about is the apparent gender divisions within music. I blame this, at least partly, on the execrable Camille Paglia, who famously claimed that women cannot play the guitar because they do not have a penis, and so (apparently) are unused to manipulating some externalized object in order to achieve a desired end. Once again, I fail as a blogger by being unwilling to go look this up, but if you wanna see it, it's in Sexual Personae. Look up "rock" in the index and you're there.

Paglia's warmed-over Nietzschean perspective (women, you see, are Apollonian, men Dionysian) annoys on a number of levels, not least because she's a fucking woman herself. St. Augustine's allowed to fling this crap around, Camille; you aren't. Sorry.

But setting aside the issue of production, there's the issue of consumption, for which there is no compelling faux-Freudian or faux-Nietzschean analysis. Like all other consumption within society, the music one listens to is controlled by a whole set of assumptions and distinctions about what it "means"--not so much to oneself, but to others. And for girls, this can be incredibly limiting.

My kid, a nifty teen I like a lot, gave me great pause when she had a brief N'Sync phase. To this day, I don't think she ever really liked the music much, just the identity it implied; it was just a thing to do with other girls, a way of fitting in. One of the worst nights of my parenting life was the evening we had what seemed like 417 girls between 8 and 13 in our living room to watch a live N'Sync concert from Madison Square Garden. I found myself watching the girls (God knows I wasn't going to watch the concert) and thinking about the ways in which it's acceptable for girls to "consume" music. Cute and non-threatening boys rank high, dark and dangerous boys rank low, unless you're a "bad" girl, in which case the poles are reversed, not eliminated. In this sense, David St. Hubbins' assertion about girls fearing "armadillos in our trousers" doesn't hold water. Nevertheless, the "cute boy" structures apparently stay in place: My kid told me that the "girl talk" at a recent Incubus concert was all about how hot the singer was.

Now I was as much subject to this as other girls my age, and those who know me know that my thirteen-year-old visceral reactions are as potent as ever, though obviously limited to a much smaller corner of my psyche. But I wonder why we do this to girls, or maybe better, how we do this to girls. Why are girls not allowed to listen to music they like unless there's cute boys involved? Why do cute boys become their own defense, trumping shitty music? (In my daughter's defense, she never listens to N'Sync anymore.) What are the implications of being a genuine female audiophile?

I realize, of course, that this question is being asked of my (largely male) readership, material evidence of the phenomena I'm describing. But what do guys think?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

What the hell would a pedunda have to do with whacking an ax? If I have a bigger one do I play better? Premature ejaculation indicates an ability to play only short riffs? The rhythm guitarist gets the less-than-baber-ific chickeroonies?

Once more, Crazy Camille has forgotten her meds.

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Backslider, who posts at atrios.blogspot.com and at backsliderswine.blogspot.com, claims that bass players never get the girls. Less strings = less ?????. Huh.

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