The problem with ‘Girl Bands’

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Sian Campbell on what it means to be a ‘Girl Band’

‘Girl band’; ‘Chick rock’. If you’re like myself – desperate to see ladies stomping out that nasty gender divide, taking names on stage, being lauded for their records instead of their bodily assets, inspiring The Girls of Tomorrow and all of that feminist biz – it’s natural: we scan reviews, street publications, by-lines for these phrases (phrases that are flung around surprisingly often: just have a squiz through a stack of street pubs or Rolling Stone’s) and when spotted, our eyes light up and we take note of the new band name to bash into Google and just maybe embrace as the newest addition to our iTunes ‘Frequently Played’ line-up.

Other than this possible feeling of small victory when we spot the label though, do we give it much thought? Bands vs. Girl Bands.

It will come as no surprise to any reader remotely interested in feminism (or any reader clued-in at all, really) that females are still the other. But in terms of rock ‘n’ roll, the other what, exactly? As Kurt Cobain once said, “The future of rock belongs to women”. If wise-beyond-his-years Kurt was speaking the truth, exactly how far into the future should we have to look?

The terms ‘boy band’ and ‘girl band’ are both derogatory, sure, but with a key difference: when the term ‘boy band’ is used, it is to describe a particularly specific genre of music; auto-tuning and choreographed dancing, wrapped up with some blonde highlights and screaming women who probably are a bit too old for that shit, to be honest. The term ‘girl band’, on the other hand, is used to describe any formation females in the music industry in general – The Bangles, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinnney (pictured above), The Spice Girls and The Dixie Chicks are all lumped together in this one big inclusive category. Said Spice Girls and their manufactured peers may have admittedly caused some confusion, with the term ‘girl group’ now taking on much the same cultural meaning as the term ‘boy band’ does, but the fact still remains that you would be hard pressed to find an all-female rock band that hasn’t been touted as such in the by-line in at least 80 per cent of their interviews.

When was the last time that you heard The Beatles, Muse or Franz Ferdinand referred to as a ‘boy band’? Do we need it pointed out that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger have penises? Probably not. So considering we live in an age so forward-thinking that iPhone applications can apparently test you for STDs and a plane is being devised to transport passengers from New York to Melbourne in under three hours, isn’t it about time that we stop pointing out the fact that the band members of The Like and Warpaint all have vaginas? (Speaking of The Like – has anyone yet read an interview or review re: their current Australian tour that hasn’t included a detailed description of what they were wearing and/or how their hair happened to be styled? If so, links plz.) -> -> ->

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9 Responses to The problem with ‘Girl Bands’

  1. Pingback: Tacocat Want to Keep the Feminist Conversation Going on Third LP | SPIN

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