For many years discussions of sexuality were informed by a distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. The sex of a person was Judged to be ‘biologically determined’ and their gender to be ‘culturally and socially constructed’ (Firebombed, Hill and Turner, 1988: 103). Gender roles are frequently based around the Ideas that women are expected to be more passive and emotional and men more assertive and rational. “The first type of essentialist that can be found in this area [music and gender] is the idea that men and women ‘express’ some essential masculine or feminine forms of sexuality.
The second type is that this in turn can be found manifested in the content of particular cultural products and practices. ” (Nexus, p. 124). Jeffery Weeks argued that biology merely provides ‘a set of potentialities that are transformed and given meaning in social relationships’ (1986: 25). One of the reasons why gender has perhaps often been considered to be more ‘social’, and ‘sex’ in turn more natural, is that gender Is usually more visible as a series of conventions about dress codes, expected public bodily behavior, manner of speech and so on.
Sex, however, Is loosely connected to ‘sexuality, which has often been Informed by beliefs that this should be a more ‘private’ affair. The adolescently between sex and gender Is therefore both Ideological and misleading. Here I follow the approach of Weeks, who has argued that gender is the ‘social condition of being male or female, and sexuality, the cultural way of living out our bodily pleasures and desires’ (1 986: 45). Is ‘rock’ itself an inherently masculine genre? One of the earliest attempts to start theorizing the relationship between rock music and sexuality can be found in an essay written by
Simon Firth and Angela Microbes (1978), in which they argued that rock operated as a form of sexual expression and as a form of sexual control. Firth and Microbes declared that, in terms of ‘control and production, rock is a male form’ (1978: 5). This argument was illustrated with reference of two different types of music: coco rock and teenybopper. Coco rock Is a term that was coined by feminists during the early asses to refer to male performers such as Mice Jaeger, Roger Dallier and Robert Plant, who were ‘aggressive, dominating and boastful’.
Women were often portrayed as subordinate in their songs and represented as sex objects on ALP covers. The music was ‘loud, rhythmically insistent, built around techniques of arousal and climax, the lyrics are assertive and arrogant… coco rockers’ musical skills become synonymous with their sexual skills’ (Firth and Microbes (1978: 7). They believe that men dominate and control the production, reproduction and dissemination of rock music – and this is reflected in the music.
Comparing this with teenybopper, which was Judged to be consumed almost exclusively by girls, Firth and Microbes found a contrasting representation of male sexuality based on softer ballad styles, and evocations of self- itty and vulnerability which encouraged female fantasies about being the partner of a singer. Firth and Microbe’s argument was based on a narrow series of essentialist assumptions which privileged heterosexual behavior. As Weeks (1986) has argued, ‘male and female sexuality Is far more varied and differentiated’.
Against Firth and Microbe’s’ argument that rock is male because it is controlled by men and therefore historical approach by claiming that rock has been actively ‘made as male’. Focusing on a specific submerge, heavy metal, he notes that heavy rock is not enjoyed entirely y male audience and neither does it communicate one type of masculinity. Waller continues to argue that heavy metal musicians do not simply express some essential maleness but instead are involved in what he calls forging masculinity. This is not a type of unmediated cultural ‘expression’ but a conscious and deliberate ‘strategy.
Annals argues that for most of its early history, heavy metal was actively made as male through a series of quite particular practices, strategies and tactics. Waller Identified four such strategies that he found articulated in song lyrics, through the use of musical codes and music videos. These he has identified as: 1 . ) ascription, Inch means no girls are allowed; 2. ) misogyny, an anti-woman strategy which results n women appearing in songs and videos as mysterious or dangerous and as a threat to male control; 3. ) romance, a cultural strategy whereby love, escape and fantasy provide a means of transcending everyday problems; 4. Androgyny, which is an ambiguous and contradictory strategy – while using elements of conventionally feminine clothing (lace, stockings and make-up), many hard rock musicians seek to assert their heterosexuality and are anxious that their androgyny should not lead to heir sexuality being wrongly attributed as gay by fans, other musicians or journalists. I agree with Goodliest and Wald when they argue that ‘rock can provide a means by which women can actively create distinctive female subcultures’ by using the example of Riot Girl.
The label Riot Girl typically applied to a US sub-genre of alternative’ rock performed by female artists and groups that emerged in the early asses. The Musical style appropriates elements of punk, hard-rock and grunge. Omen musicians challenged the use of the guitar as a symbol of male power; the female voice was employed to challenge the macho assertiveness of rock – in reticular through screaming and the adoption of a variety of vocal sounds that were used to ‘evoke rage, pleasure and/or primal self assertion’ (Goodliest and Wald, 1994: 261).
As performers, women neither tried to become one of the boys nor played up to the traditional feminine image by seeking the heterosexual male gaze. Lyrically the songs dealt with taboo’ or ‘private’ issues such as menstruation, incest, abuse, birth, motherhood and lesbian sex. Riot Girl paved the way for wider recognition of Omen artists and groups in alternative rock genres (whether or not explicitly political’ in nature).
However, Goodliest and Wald tempered their optimism with the observation that, despite the advances made by a few female performers, the ‘on- going tradition of rock is still deeply masculinity’ (1994: 252). After all, where are the female rock musicians who might challenge the success of Guns ‘N’ Roses, 1. 12 or ERM? The conclusion that might be drawn from this writing on rock and sexuality is that rock is a genre that has been sexed in a very particular way, and as such its generic codes and conventions can present a formidable barrier to musicians who Net to challenge and change them.
One quote that agrees that rock is male, is made by Julie Burial (1994) where she states that “l know it’s a sexist thing to say, but Omen aren’t as good at making music as men – like they’re not as good as men at football. A girl in a dress with a guitar looks weird. It’s k on the radio, because you can’t see them. Christie Hymned is an exception. Very few of them are exceptions. And great fan of girls in pop. ” “There are Just two types of female making pop music today – those blessed with good looks, and those who would perhaps be better served by an undercover visit to the local plastic surgeon.
Women rockers] are Just indulging in ugly winning bleating. When ugly winning get left by some scrawny, spotty failed musician they blame the whole world but you couldn’t give a sit because they sound so bucking whiningly horrible. ” Paul Lester (1992), This is a pretty harsh comment to make, suggesting that only pretty women can pull off being a rock musician. It should not be based on looks, after all, not a lot of male rockers are attractive. An example of a Riot Girl Group is Hole that were formed in 1989.
They are not (considered to be) an original Riot Girl group – although there are musical, hayrick and attitudinal similarities. Their key albums are: Pretty on the Inside (1991); Live Through This (1994); Celebrity Skin (1998). Their musical output was often dominated by Love’s (controversial) public image. Live Through This draws on punk, rock and grunge and it parallels with Nirvana’s Nevermore. It utilities alternating soft Jeers/explosive chorus (CB. Nirvana).
This Riot Girl group has an abrasive and ironic/ Nor-weary vocal delivery (as opposed to the stereotypically polished or sweet- sounding female vocal). It is made catchy with the use of melodic pop hooks and endemic chorus. The lyrics synthesis the intimately confessional with the socially relevant (again, producing songs that operate both individually and collectively). Powerful use of dynamic contrast at all levels – acoustic v heavy distortion; gentle low register v shouting/screaming high register; understated verse v powerful chorus. Riot Girl was essentially about empowerment but, wary of the bad press, the ‘Riot Frumps’ and ‘Feminine’ tags, many women in bands distanced themselves from it in droves. Riot Girl ultimately was a fanzine-led flashlight, a media rocket supporting he key-issue – a woman’s place in art and rock culture. ” (O’ Bribe, p. 164) It is not Just rock that has been generically ‘sexed’, but also disco and Jazz. When writing about rock, Firth and Microbes had argued that disco expressed a sexuality which was cool, restrained and understated’ (1978 :19).
Basing many of their observations on the disco movie Saturday Night Fever, they wrote of the social relations of disco as traditional’ – girls dreaming of ‘disco romance’ and boys dreaming of quick and easy sex (1978: 19). Yet disco music, far from being associated simply with traditional trousseaux conventions, is a genre that has frequently been linked with gay male sexuality. Richard Dyer argues that ‘disco has been taken up by gays in ways that may Nell not have been intended by its producers (1990:413).
The apparent gayness of disco has been questioned by John Gill (1995), who has been critical of many of the assumptions that have been made about gay preferences in music (e. G. Who says that gay men prefer opera, show tunes and disco? ). Gill is particularly critical of the Nay that gay disco music has become something of a sexual stereotype among both ay and non-gay music fans. I believe that although disco may not have been Intended to be gay by its producers, it has still somewhat ‘become gay with its cheesy music/lyrics, bright colors, fancy, over-the-top clothing etc.
In discussing this he has made some interesting observations on the sexing of musical genres and in particular about the ‘sexing of Jazz’. Gill has noted how the lesbian, gay and bisexual aspects to the lives and music of many prominent composers and musicians have referring to the experiences of the gay Jazz musician Gary Burton, whose experiences as led him to conclude that ‘Jazz’s public image does not fit well with being a gay person’ (1995:75). This is an interesting observation because for many of its devotes Jazz is thought not to have an ‘image’ (unlike the excesses of rock performance for example).
Yet, as Burton observes from touring and performing; ‘Many people still persist in wanting Jazz to be played by bucked-up addicts and alcoholics, in cramped smoky clubs, while wearing garish clothes and silly hats and sunglasses and talking jive talk. I get complaints all the time about not looking the part’ (Gill 1995:75). This argument about males being superior, has been going on for many years, long before rock, Jazz or disco. As Susan McClain states with her argument that, much of the Nesters classical tradition can be understood as ‘patriarchal’.
She gives four such examples: 1 . ) The exclusion of, or writing out of history of, women composers and performers; 2. ) The use of gendered terms (e. G. Feminine ending or feminine cadence’); 3. ) The stereotypically gendered portrayal of female (and male) characters n opera; 4. ) That sonata form itself plays out a narrative of ‘masculine’ domination. Doll Bernhard Marx once stated in his lengthy discussion of sonata form that in sonata form the first theme is masculine and the second theme feminine. In this pair of themes… The first theme is the one determined at the outset, that is, with a primary freshness and energy – consequently that which is energetically, emphatically, absolutely shaped… The dominating and determining feature. On the other hand, the second theme… Is serving as a contrast, dependent on and determined by the former – consequently, and according to its nature necessarily, the milder idea, one more apple than emphatically shaped, as if it were the feminine to that proceeding masculine. The construction of gender that he suggested here would become one of his most influential assertions, one that has become both disturbing and deeply problematic. Burlier also thought of the first exposition’s theme of his Symphonies fantasies as a construction of the feminine, not the masculine, as would apparently also be true, much later, of Wager’s Satisfied-loudly. Also with Mendelssohn Overture to A midsummer night’s dream from 1826, were the second theme was meant to evoke the feminine.
Another use of the gendered term feminine’ is also used to describe cadences. The general idea among musicians is that the feminine cadence is weak and the masculine strong. But this general idea is erroneous. The feminine cadence is often stronger than the masculine and is used in powerfully rhythmic music such as polonaises. To conclude, I do believe that rock has been actively ‘made as male’. However, I do not agree that only males can play rock, as I have witnessed myself many female rock bands sing and play equally (sometimes better) than male rock bands.
Heavy metal may have been made in a very territories manner, but it still might provide a number of possibilities for the making of an anti-sexist rock. Bibliography * Firebombed, Hill and Turner, Audiences: A Sociological Theory of performance and imagination. London: Sage, 1998 * Nexus, Popular Music in Theory: An Angela Microbes, 1978: Taking popular music seriously. Seagate Publishing, Ltd. , 2007 * Robert Waller, Running with the Devil: power, gender, and madness in heavy metal music. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, 1993 * Goodliest and Anal, Alternative Femininity: body, age and identity.