“You might need some help with that.” I look up and a white, older man is looking down at me. The guitar in my hand feels comfortable, I’ve been playing for more than a decade. I don’t know why he would assume that I didn’t know how to.
“I’m good.” I scan the fretboard hoping he won’t be there when I look up. Dammit. He’s still there.
Rapidly, he tests me on guitar basics I learned when I was four. “I don’t know if you’re holding it right… I’m sure you don’t change your own strings… Here’s how power chords work…” I just stare, hoping that he catches on. My friend Brayden notices my discomfort and runs up to me. Ironically, he’s my coworker. We teach guitar together.
Seeing Brayden, the man thankfully backs off and decides to ruin a different area of the Guitar Center. Maybe seeing that I have a male friend convinced him that I knew how to play the guitar?
As a woman interested in music, I’ve dealt with this situation many times. I’m constantly undermined of my talent. The question is then raised, where are the women in music? Why is it so unbelievable for me to know how to play the guitar?
Similar to other fields, women’s perspectives are often left out of the picture. During the classical era, music was confined to elite, white men. Nowadays, very few women find success, as the public is more inclined to listen to the experiences of male musicians. Especially in the wake of cancel culture, women are far more scrutinized for wrongdoings and mistakes.
Think of famous female artists. The first that come to mind are absolute divas. Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry. Women in music are meant to be good at everything in order to make it in the business. Female singers are forced to create an image of sass and perfection. The opportunity for women to succeed in music is narrow, leaving very little room for diversity. Basically, for a woman to succeed in the industry, they must be nothing short of perfect.
Men are allowed to do whatever they want. Bob Dylan was mean and unapologetic, constantly pissing off interviewers, bandmates, and fans. The majority of male artists are allowed to be themselves, not having to put on elaborate performances and shows, stripping, dancing, and singing all at the same time. Of course, there are exceptions. Michael Jackson and Prince quickly come to mind. But unlike their feminine counterparts, they are greatly heralded for such efforts, seen as icons and legends. For women, it’s simply the norm.
It’s harder to make it in the music industry as a woman. There is a clear and obvious double standard, as female musicians are forced to work twice as hard to be taken into consideration. Women are still making music, it’s not that there aren’t enough female musicians. It’s just that the public refrains from taking them seriously.