How Not To Write About Female Music Fans

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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“]