I had my 10 year high school reunion this past October which was a lot of fun. It stirred up a lot of old memories and I’m hung up on all the times boys felt the need to protect certain types of music, and told me I couldn’t listen to certain bands. (I understand that there are much more pressing issues that kids deal with, and in the world in general, but with the amazing display of resistance last night at the Golden Globes, I thought this was appropriate.)
8th grade: “There’s no way you like Led Zeppelin, name all the band members.”
9th grade: “You’re going to Umphrey’s? You don’t even know any of their music.”
10th grade: “Name 3 Phish songs and maybe I’ll believe you.”
11th grade: “There’s no way you listen to Pixies. Name one album.”
Often times these quizzes were laid out in front of a group of people and meant to humiliate. I never felt the need to question any of the boys on their proposed musical taste. But for some reason my music choices were threatening and unrealistic. Why was the standard that these bands belonged to them? Even at such a young age these boys felt entitled to the guitar. It was a boys club and I wasn’t welcome.
The good news is, people grow up, and this notion cooled off in college. In a more welcoming environment I was praised for my musical taste, rather than challenged on it.
But it never disappeared completely. I still feel that my presence as a woman in the music industry threatens men sometimes. Men quiz me on my music knowledge because they need to feel that they know more than I do, and if that’s what they need, then fine. People assume I work in sales or promotions when I say I work at XRT. That’s how the world is right now.
And as we, as a society, work through this medieval gender bias we find ourselves swimming in, I will be unapologetically blasting David Bowie on the air at 3 am. And I don’t need anyone’s approval or permission.
And neither do you.
My message to high school girls is that you don’t have to fall in line and listen to pop music just because it was made for you. If that’s what you like, all the power to you. But you are free and encouraged to try any genre or band you’re curious about. If I didn’t fall down the classic rock rabbit hole when I was 13 I wouldn’t be at XRT now. Don’t be afraid to think outside of what is marketed to you. You don’t have to look a certain way to support a certain band. Don’t let the insecure boys bring you down. Find the cool ones who will build you up, and do your best to build up the young women around you too.
See you at the Women’s March on January 20th.