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How Not To Write About Female Music Fans

Posted on 13 August 2012 by Caryn Rose (16)

ברוכים באים לחברים הישראליים
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Michael Hann, in the Guardian, about Gaslight Anthem:

The girls in the front row at the Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are gazing up at Brian Fallon, singing every word back at him.

There were no men in the audience doing the same thing? Because at most Gaslight shows I go to, the entire audience is singing every single word back at the band. And what were the men in the audience looking at? Were they reading their email or something?

Finally, unless the females were under the age of 12, adult women should be referred to as such.

They were queueing outside in the heat by lunchtime to get these spots, and nothing will budge them.

You don’t say! Because I often invest hours of my time towards an effort only to abandon it because my lip gloss has smudged.

They look to be in their mid-teens – they have the wristbands to signify to the bar staff that they should not be sold alcohol – and they are truly, madly, deeply in love.

If you read the comments, it turned out that the women in question were not in their mid-teens, but were in fact well over 21. But I’m not sure how the depth of their love can be assessed except for the fact that there could be no other reason in the world for a women to like a band and want to put in the time to wait for them except for the fact that they are in L-U-V. Truly. Madly. Deeply.

The pretty girl with the red vest and the brunette bob in the very centre is acting out the lyrics, using only her facial muscles.

This is just bad writing, but thanks for giving us your approval of her physical appearance! I’m not sure why that piece of information is germane to the article, except to reinforce that the only true purpose a woman has is to be decorative.

You can all but hear her thoughts: Oh, Brian! If you were mine your heart would be made whole!

And wow, that’s not just a stretch, that’s a leap. Because, again, the only reason a woman would wait for hours to get a prime front row spot is because the lead singer is the object of her affections. And not just the object of her affections – she is a troubled sort with a difficult life and the love of her favorite musician is the only thing that could possibly rescue her!

The object of her affections stands and sweats, tattoos down his arms and up his neck. He is shortish and slightly stocky, a scrubby ginger beard covering his prominent chin. But the Gaslight Anthem’s looks are not what have attracted the front-row girls. They are here for the bruised romanticism of Fallon’s lyrics, for the wounded lover they imagine him to be.

Well, at least they’re not there for his looks.

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So we’ve trivialized the women, reduced them to their looks, marginalized them because of their supposed age, patronized them with supposition as to their motive for arriving early to get a good spot and for their reasons they like the band. If there was a Female Music Fan bingo card, I would have won.

The author of the piece has tried to apologize. He’s claimed that he, too, is a music fan! He’s sent links to articles written about his own obsessive fandom. He claimed that at most of the shows he goes to, the front row is always 100% male. He’s claimed that the staff at the Middle East told him that the wristbands were because the wearers were underage. He’s told me, via email, that he’s not sexist because he regularly assigns articles to female writers. If that’s true, then it’s just lazy writing — but it’s lazy writing at my expense, and the expense of every woman I know who is still fighting the stereotype of the only reason a woman would be at a rock show was because she was in love with the musicians.

And you know what? If a woman did want to spend all day waiting in line to get the front because she wanted to fuck Brian Fallon, she would absolutely be entitled to do so. But unless you asked her and she specifically told you that that was why she was there, you don’t get to automatically assume her intent, no matter how old she is or what she was wearing or how long she waited in line.

In 2012, this is insane.

[This is where I point out that I wrote a novel about what it’s like to be a female music fan.]

[h/t to Maura Johnston‘s “How Not To Write About Female Musicians“]

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16 Responses to “How Not To Write About Female Music Fans”

  1. Robin says:

    Hell yes! Thank you!

  2. Cat Pick (formerly Cathy Renner) says:

    I’m not sure what’s worse: his initial article, or the pathetic backpedaling when confronted with his blatant sexism. Most of the time I feel pretty hopeless about the state of the patriarchy; sometimes I feel worse. *sigh*

    (Hi, Caryn! Long time, no see.)

  3. clr says:

    Cat!! talk about an authoritative voice on this subject :)

  4. eilonwy says:

    Word. So. much. word.

    Everything else I’m tempted to add ends up defending my cred as a music lover, and you’re right — I shouldn’t have to.

  5. Cat Pick (formerly Cathy Renner) says:

    I have certainly stood many many times in the front rows gazing with rapt attention at a band and sometimes I have had *those* feelings for one of the members. But 98.9% of the time it’s because I love the fucking band and I want to be close to just soak it all in and get the full experience.

    I would like to exist in a world where my motives aren’t smugly assumed simply because I have a vagina.

  6. Kacee says:

    Hell, YES!

  7. Liz says:

    That article and the ideas and assumptions in it actually made me sick to my stomach. Nice rebuttal. We deserve a lot more than that shit.

  8. Liz says:

    I jut re-read it and it’s so demeaning! Also, how does assigning a review to a woman prove anything? Was that really his defense? I love that band and I’ve come early to stand in the front row and sang every word and you know what? So has my husband. And neither of us are interested in any of those men sexually. We make no assumptions about their life. We like their MUSIC. If you understand music, you understand that passion for it. He wrote the article like he was an outsider looking in, not like a professional, and not like a music lover.

  9. Thank. You. I am posting this far and wide!

  10. clr says:

    Thank you, Carla!

  11. clr says:

    I just want to watch a show without someone yammering in my ear. Or I want to be there because it’s awesome.

  12. Daphne says:

    Love it, Caryn! Good call out!

    I was just talking about this issue of the erotic gaze on a musician. It’s part of the reason we look, right? It’s hard to write about it or to deal with it when you’re supposed to be a professional. I suppose the problem is that a “professional” music writer is supposed to be rational and distanced, not passionate (this is the Ellen Willis/Ann Powers intervention!). Is that our own self-censorship or internalization of a masculine ideal of art response?

    Whatever. I always feel like guys writing about screaming teenage girls is just a triangulation. The writing world would would be a much more wonderfully queer place if they took out the middle-teengirl and admitted they were hot for the lead singer too.

  13. ellie says:

    Thank you. the article was totally nauseating anyway, the writer/writing was sickening. Are we still not living in a world where mainstream, supposedly left-wing writing doesn’t succumb to totally needless sexisms? Not to mention ones that are beyond inaccurate. I applaud your clarity and restraint in this article!

  14. Kels says:

    ((slow clap))

  15. Nynke says:

    Some of those front girls are kinda annoying.
    I’m 16 and a huge Gaslight fan. I know all their lyrics too. but I love to jump and be crazy with those guys around me.
    And if I bumb into those grils they give me a mean look. I’m like really? what did you expect? It’s a punk rock band people go nuts and thats the cool thing about this.
    don’t get met wrong not all those front girls are like that. I would be considerd as a front girl myself.

  16. clr says:

    Whether or not the girls are mean is not relevant here. The article was sexist.