Female in Rock: Engaging Males, Embracing Allies

*Guest post by Anna Rae ©2017.   *Illustration by Kip Lyall

Not long ago I was on a walk with a friend of mine who is a male musician. I was railing about the fact that young females are forced to think about adorning their bodies and pandering for male attention, while young males are encouraged to develop a range of skills.

The rock scene lacks women, I claimed, because women have to claw through so much bullshit about what they should care about and do, in order to find space for skill building and self-actualization in music.

This line of argument was upsetting to him. He had joined a band in high school, he said, because it was one of the only ways that young men were allowed to develop friendships and be close. The girls got to talk and share their thoughts. They had sleepovers. They got to be close. Being a young man was isolating and hard. Writing music, he said, was a way to express the pain of isolation.

As a woman in rock, I am forced into mental and emotional isolation. I constantly have to mentally remove myself from the act of creation, to process social dynamics that are sexist and oppressive. Was that just what I thought it was? Should I do something about it? What torrent of absolute bullshit will I have to deal with if I say something?

Still, I am committed to participating in art space with male-identified people and energy. A healthy art space includes room for everyone. And sexist oppression affects all of us.

I’m grateful for the connections I’ve been able to make with men – loved ones, and musical collaborators – who care about and try to understand my experience. I’m grateful for their willingness and ability to speak to the ways that sexism oppresses them.

Besides, what about the male in me? I have become less and less comfortable with the labels “woman,” and “female.” I experience gender as a social construct and recognize in myself a variety of characteristics that are labeled male, female, or otherwise.

I have created female-only art space in the past. Certain things appear, and other things disappear. The need to make art in a way that is accepted as normal by male standards disappears. Stories that are only safe to tell in that space appear.

But in the same way that a male-dominated rock scene cannot accommodate all of me, neither can female-only space. I am strong and brave and kind. I want to use my strength, bravery, and kindness to engage male energy and identity in myself and others.

I don’t want to push anyone or any part of myself to the margins. I want us all to come right to the red-hot center and make some red-hot art.

*Anna Rae is a member of the poprock band Hemway, releases solo music as Anna Rae, produces the inclusive multimedia event series All Together Now, and writes about the lives and fashion of queer performers for Qwear.
*Kip Lyall is a Somerville-living artist, illustrator, and musician. He once spent a few weeks animating the adventures of Word Girl, a super-heroine who used her knowledge of grammar and language to defeat evil. You can find more of his work at kiplyall.com

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