There’s something wrong with us. I mean, seriously wrong.
We have some kind of defect in our collective system that makes us believe women are inherently incapable of doing the same things that men can.
We’re amazed when we see a woman working on a construction site; we’re shocked to learn that a woman wants to race Formula 1 cars; we can all hear a collective gasp when we find out that women want to serve in military combat roles.
Music – especially guitar – is the same way. It seems unfathomable to many people (not just men) that a woman can pick up a guitar, learn to play it and, dare I say, play it well.
Sorry, but I have news for you all… yes, women play guitar. Why are you surprised?
Don’t get me wrong here, folks; I’m not going to run out and burn my wife’s bras in protest, I’m just not sure why this is such a big deal.
I have never been able to understand what’s so surprising about a woman being a great guitarist.
They have fingers, they like music, and they certainly have just as much desire and capability to learn something as men do; so what’s the problem?
In reality this shouldn’t be an issue, but unfortunately it is, and in my mind a two-fold problem exists as it relates to how we (those of us who are not female guitar players) perceive a woman’s role as a guitarist:
- We tend to greatly ignore their contributions to guitar music because they are female.
- We tend to greatly over-exaggerate the talents of some just because they are female.
Stop Ignoring Them!
Perhaps it should be an indictment of our society in general more so than the guitar community specifically.
We’ve never been able to accept the fact that women can do everything men can.
But we’re talking about music!
There simply is no argument that can be rationally made for why a woman can’t pick up a guitar, learn to play it, and be good at it. I
n one study, a doctor suggested that women had physiological disadvantages because their hand and forearm strength wasn’t as good as men.
So let me get this straight; a woman in her 20s or 30s isn’t as strong as Les Paul or Bucky Pizzarelli in their 80s? Really?
How about having the same strength as a ten-year-old boy just learning to play guitar?
Is she at a strength disadvantage to him, too? Sounds like a bunch of bullshit to me.
I’m not a sociologist, so I can’t present case study data as to why women guitarists are stigmatized.
I can simply tell you that as a player, I couldn’t care less if you were a guy or a girl.
If you can groove and you can make me bob my head, I’m down with what you’re doing!
I will say that I’ve noticed the situation getting better, which is awesome, but it’s still not great; there still is no equal footing in the guitar community.
Perhaps a part of that is the disproportionate number of men players to women players.
I’m okay with that. But I don’t think that’s all of it.
I do not accept that as a be-all end-all answer for why we don’t hear about more female players.
I think most of it has to do with our egos, that we for some reason cannot accept that a woman can be better than a man at something. Ugh!
But Just Because You’re a Woman Doesn’t Give You a Free Pass!
I have to put myself into “typical man mode” for a second for this upcoming rant.
One thing I simply cannot tolerate is when we go completely overboard to praise and promote a woman (anyone, really, but we’re talking female players now) as a great player when they really aren’t.
I’m probably going to get a bunch of flack for this, and I apologize for the call-out, but I’m thinking about Orianthi right now.
It’s not her fault, certainly, it’s ours. She’s not the only one, either, just the most prominent at the moment.
She’s a pretty good guitar player.
She can play some fast pentatonic scales, and her phrasing is certainly better than most for her age (male or female), but there is no way in hell she should be gracing the cover of Guitar Player.
Sorry, but she’s not that good.
I applaud her – truly – for doing everything she can to use the hype and promotion to her benefit; I do not begrudge her one bit for her success, nor will I trivialize the hard work she put in to get where she is today.
I just don’t think she’s good enough
AS A PLAYER to warrant a cover on a guitar magazine, and I think, unfortunately, a lot of her success has to do with her looks and age more so than her actual guitar-playing ability.
There is another girl getting over one million YouTube views per video she makes of herself playing guitar.
She’s absolutely awful so far as guitarists go, but because she’s young and plays really, really fast, people eat it up like candy.
Again, I don’t begrudge the attention, but if you are going to put yourself out there on video playing another guitarist’s solo but you can’t actually play all of the notes, you should not be getting a million views!
You absolutely should not have a guitar endorsement, either, but I know how marketing works…
(Hey guys, I see you sitting there chuckling. You probably shouldn’t; this goes for you just as much as it goes for the women. You don’t get a free pass just because you’re a guy. )
Great Players, Not Great “Women” Players
They will kick your ass, and you’ll never have a doubt as to whether or not a woman can play circles around you.
It’s time to get past this, everyone.
Time to let the music speak for itself.
We should be talking about great guitar players on the merits of their music, not on the merits of their genitalia.
Let’s stop overlooking most women players, and let’s stop deifying the ones that don’t really deserve it.
I’m hoping that at some point we can finally get past having the right gender as a prerequisite for musical success as a guitar player.
Some Female Players to Check Out
- Mimi Fox
- Sheryl Bailey
- Emily Remler
- Jennifer Batten
- Liona Boyd
- The Donnas
- Leni Stern
- Bonnie Raitt
- Tal Wilkenfeld (bass)
- Meshell N’degeocello (bass)
- Dixie Chicks (not just guitar, but banjo, violin, and a bunch of other stuff, too)
- Joan Jett/Lita Ford [The Runaways]
- Nancy Wilson
- Kaki King
- Susan Tedeschi