My Longreads piece on the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame and other perpetrators of gender inequity, “The Manhandling of Rock’n’Roll History,” seems to have hit a chord (so to speak). Future Rock Legends, THE watchdog site for the Rock Hall, published an article about it. And I did a really fun interview with Who Cares About the Rock Hall?, a podcast by comedians Joe Kwaczala and Kristen Studard.
Tag Archives: women
Vivien Goldman has inspired me for decades. She is a true artist and friend. I got to write about her for NPR.
Alice Bag and Allison Wolfe are two of my personal heroes. As part of her coursework at USC, where she is an Annenberg Fellow (following in my footsteps!), Allison interviewed Alice. It‘s a great little podcast and article. Alice talks about the omnipresence of violence, which I’ve been thinking a lot about today, occasioned by this powerful article also by a Chicana punk. I’m glad today’s young punks are speaking out about the affronts that seemed casual and inevitable when Alice and I were growing up. It’s called progress, people. Believe.
Shameless plug: Alice will be on the We Will Bury You panel about LA punk at Grrrls on Film on March 19 (with Phranc, Nicole Panter, Raquel Guttierez, and Ruben Martinez), and Allison will be at the concert March 20. We’ll be screening The Decline of Western Civilization that Saturday as well, with director Penelope Spheeris and her daughter Anna Fox in the house. Details and reservation link coming soon; stay tuned to this blog and, always, to KXLU.
No women. Not one. There is not a single female in any of the five acts to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year. The Cock Hall has a long history of exclusion, as I’ve written about before. But this year is the worst. MOR white-guy classic rockers Steve Miller, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick (okay, I confess, I voted for them), and Chicago over nominees Chic, Chaka Khan, and Janet Jackson. Not to mention all the deserving women who were once again passed over for nominations. When you break it down intersectionally, as this blogger did yesterday, the omission of women of color is even more egregious and depressing. Rock and Roll Hall of Shame.
The most disappointing aspect to this year’s winners is that the HoF tried. They recruited women and people of color, adding many new voters to the induction process. I know, because not only was I finally sent a ballot — 30 years after I became a professional music critic, need I point out — I was sent two! And I was asked by a board member to suggest other voters, at least one of whom received his first ballot after a similar amount of time as an extremely well-regarded Latino cultural journalist. (I should point out at this juncture that nominee Los Lobos were not inducted. Someone please crunch the numbers of Hispanic acts in the Hall of Shame. Only one act with predominantly people of color — famed misogynists N.W.A — made the cut this time.)
Someone with more time than I have needs to investigate this further. My sense is that having been launched by old white guys, the Hall is too big of a ship at this point to change direction. No amount of course correction can keep it from plunging off the edge into irrelevancy. It’s a true shame, because I was there the day the Hall opened, and I believe in honoring the important but complicated history of American popular music. But building a voting body around a sexist, racist industry is the wrong way to go about it.
I appreciate having been finally invited into the boys club. I’ll vote again, because enfranchisement is precious. But dammit, I’m ready to build my own club.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about the title—in part because I wanted it to be provocative, I wanted there to be a conversation because there are dozens of women who should have collections by now and the roadblocks and arguments about why those books seemingly cannot exist are ridiculous. We are in a golden age for women in cultural criticism right now, but we are told again and again that somehow, we don’t meet the criteria of publishable. That only Chuck Klosterman gets to be in the clubhouse. And that was and is frustrating”
I love this quote from Jessica Hopper in the current issue of Pop Matters, in an interview by the wonderful David Chiu. She’s talking about her book The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, of course. I also noticed for the first time today that six years ago, Jesssica wrote a great comment about Rock She Wrote (which David also nicely shouts out in this story) for Amazon. It’s still up. (Though please don’t purchase that Plexus edition of the book; it’s an illegal import. Buy a used one from a mom and pop bookstore instead, please. And yes, we are trying to get it back into print.)
Twenty-three years ago The Village Voice published an article called “The Feminine Critique: The Secret History of Women and Rock Journalism.” It was the detailed result of more than a year’s worth of research I conducted, looking for my predecessors and my peers, interviewing such incredible critics as Ellen Willis, Danyel Smith, Ann Powers, Carola Dibbell, Karen Schoemer, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison, etc. The article became the basis for my first book, Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop, and Rap, coedited by the inestimable Powers. That book is suddenly in the spotlight, thanks to Pitchfork editor Jessica Hopper’s generous namecheck of it in the dedication to her pointedly titled anthology The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic. Anwen Crawford also mentions our book in her New Yorker piece today, and even manages to include my name, unlike another recent lame article I won’t deign to mention. (You don’t say my name, I won’t say yours.) Crawford’s article goes over so much of the same terrain as “The Feminine Critique,” I wanted to laugh and cry. Finally, this issue is getting the mainstream spotlight it deserves. Sadly, it remains an issue.
I took a lot of shit when my article came out. The (male) rock crit establishment didn’t appreciate it. I was blacklisted by at least one major music magazine. Critics whose work I deeply admired made belittling comments. I felt like a whistleblower. On the one hand, “The Feminist Critique” led to my book-publishing career. On the other, to this day, I think I was forever cast as the Feminist Troublemaker, my career tainted as I was just getting out of the gate. Something writer Leslie Berman told me back then still haunts me: “The only reason that those of us who stopped doing criticism may feel bitter or uncomfortable about it has something to do with the fact that men had a different way of stopping. They were able to stop and recognize it as a choice, as a career move.”
I hope and pray that Crawford and Hopper don’t have to go through what Berman and I did. I’m glad they’re acknowledging the women who came before them. I write a lot about women pioneers, because I feel they are too often under-appreciated. I must be getting old, because I feel like one of them now. I’m glad to see the incredible settlements our progeny are building. And yet, I feel a little sad, looking out from my dusty door frame, just grateful when they remember to say my name.
Oh, and about that title: Willis and Ellen Sander both had collections of their writing published during their lifetimes, though Willis’s included the important political journalism she did after she grew out of rock criticism. Patricia has self-published her work; I highly recommend you check it out.