Women in Rock, Groupies in Rock

Wow, I was looking through my computer and going through old files.  I came across this long “editorial” or whatever you want to call it. I don’t think I’ve ever posted this, so here it is. Keep in mind that while I still feel the same way, a lot has changed in my life since I wrote this circa 2005.  I’m not in a band right now, I don’t eat ramen/Campbell’s soup (because they usually have MSG), and I’m actually sick of being poor. I’m going back to school in the fall and trying to do the “real job” thing.  Anyway, here it is:

Women in Rock, Groupies in Rock
As a female musician, I’ve always had a majority of males being my closest friends. Sure, I have hundreds of girl friends, but they’re mostly acquaintances. It’s been like that since I was in high school and it confused the hell out of my parents (how many guys are you dating? you’re not dating them? but why do you hang out so much? how can you guys be so close if you’re not “together”?)

Truth is, I can’t understand how most females look at life. I don’t hate. I just can’t RELATE.  I can’t relate to their attitudes towards certain things. This didn’t really come to light for me until I became a part of the Baltimore local music scene.

While I was focusing my entire life on music – turning down good jobs because it wouldn’t fit with the band’s schedule, living off ramen and campbell’s soup, and still driving the same 93 volvo I’ve had since I was sixteen (but loving it because the means justified the ends),  other females who swear their entire life is about music, but who mean that in a totally different way and haven’t put any sacrifice into it, makes me not understand them.

I’ve lived and breathed music my entire life. I’ve always used the saying that I’m better at expressing myself with music than with words since I learned to read music before I learned to read English. I was so young when I started out that I don’t even remember the learning process. While everyone else in school was going to the mall all the time, going to dances, or getting stoned every day, my life was totally different. I was taking piano lessons, theory lessons, group lessons. I missed very few days of school due to illness;  the majority of the school I missed was because I had some competition or judging to attend. I’ve performed more often as a classical musician than I have in any rock  band I’ve been in, and I’ve played probably around 100 shows in rock bands. There were times where it bothered me that I was missing out on the social aspect of growing up. The overwhelming majority of my friends were all people who were in our circle of pianists. And while that was the reason I gave up being in music school, I don’t regret having been in it because I knew I was focusing on something richer. Something that I loved. Something that had meaning.

So when I became a part of the Baltimore local music scene a few years ago, I slowly got more and more annoyed by things.  I got annoyed at girls who claimed that music was their life.  Music wasn’t their life!  Hanging on to the hot band of the moment and trying to date a member of the band was their goal. I’m not talking about girls whose friends are mostly guys in bands and so by default, of course they’re going to end up with guys in bands more often than not. It’s those girls whose “passion” and “focus” in life is to chase down anyone in any band and to get “close” to them for superficial reasons. Those girls who, if a non-musician were to do something to her or have a certain lifestyle, immediately break up with and call a jerk. But if it’s someone who’s a local celebrity, it’s not even an issue. It’s those girls who are obsessed with darker music, so they dress “goth”, but then when that’s not what’s big in the scene, they suddenly and overnight become an emo kid. I could never relate why a girl would focus their life on chasing down musicians when if they put even half that energy into starting their own band, they would probably fill whatever void they’re trying to fill. And then they’d be fighting off their own guys who want them! I can’t relate to these girls at allllll. I can’t understand anyone whose only “passion” in life is who they are going to get with. They don’t have any hobbies, talents, or real interests in anything of substance. It’s fine to want to be with someone. But if that’s all your life is about, there’s something missing. Besides, what do you really have to offer someone if you don’t have a good personality and traits of your own?

I know this is not all females in the music scene here, but the truth is it’s definitely the overwhelming majority. I always hear girls talk about how badly they want to be in a band. But they have no dedication to it. If they actually end up to the point of being in a band, they don’t want to put the work and complete sacrifice that goes into it. They don’t want to be a musician, they want to be recognized. There’s a difference.

It’s like what Oprah Winfrey said once in one of her shows. When she was starting out and was a local news anchor, she told her agent she wanted to be an actress. And her agent said to her No, you don’t want to be an actress. You want to be a celebrity. There’s a difference. Do you really want to live in New York as a waitress making crappy money while constantly going to auditions and getting turned down? And Oprah said she realized her agent was right and that she stopped focusing on that. Because she realized that who she is now is what her dream was all along. That was what she loved focusing her life on at that time.  But back then, there wasn’t much fame in it.

The very few female friends I’ve had, the friendship didn’t last very long. Most of them didn’t end in big fights or anything. It was more of a …. they were interested in someone in my band, or someone our band was closely connected to – like another band we played with often…. and “coincidentally” after hanging out for a while, they’d tell me that they’d been wanting to meet that guy before they’d met me. And once they got what they wanted or they moved on to the next big band in Baltimore, I’d stop hearing from them. And of course hindsight is 20/20 and now it makes me even more cautious of who I befriend.

And again, I know this is not the majority of females. And this is not me dissing music fans in general. I know that there would be no scene if it weren’t for the fans. But it’s those who I don’t really consider real fans. For example, I’m a fan of great visual artwork. I have very little talent in it myself, so when I see someone else’s work it fascinates me and I love it. And certain artworks can help me zone out or help me deal with someone that’s going on in my own life. But I’m not going to befriend all the artists just so I can date them. Does that make any sense?

But one day, I really started to think about it. Because the few other females that I can relate to have all said to me that they’ve had the same issues that I have. So I know it’s not me. And I started to wonder why things were the way the were.

Then I thought about the whole “women in rock” thing. Yes, there are a ton of women in rock music. It’s just that most aren’t mainstream. If you don’t spit out superficial crap like Avril Lavigne or Gwen Stefani (who really aren’t “rock” stars in my book), unfortunately there’s not a big audience for you in America. But, while there’s a ton of amazingly talented women in music, it’s still mostly males in this industry.

It’s definitely a change for me. When I was in music school, there were hardly any males. As a matter of fact, if a new guy came into the school, us girls were almost amazed. Since most of us were friends with each other more than people in school, the 2% of guys there were the only guys we knew.  But then when I got into my rebellious teenage years and was in a few crappy high school bands that don’t last, it was the other way around.

And I realized that a big reason there are more men in ROCK music, is because of people’s attitudes, especially parents. I had a stage mother. VERY involved in every aspect of school and piano. She is an amazingly talented classical musician, but she grew up in an extremely poor, rural part of South Korea, so there weren’t many opportunities for her. Her big dream for me was to become this famous concert pianist and play Carnegie Hall some day. In fact, it was her pushing me too hard that made me want to quit. Sure I wanted it, but she wanted it more than I did.

So you’d think that when I started playing out in bands, then playing solo, then playing back out in a band again – and doing well, that she’d be so happy, right? Happy that I’d once again focused my entire life on creating music. WRONG. She was so angry! Why was I doing music that wasn’t “real” music? Why was I in a field that is so unstable and there is no guarantee of becoming “successful”? Why would I be so stupid to take such a huge risk when before I was headed down the path to going to like a prestigious college for music and then through that I could become a professional concert musician. Why would I give up such a stable and sure shot for something that’s soooo not?

Because success to me isn’t defied in money or label status or anything like that. Success to me is being happy with what you’re doing. Knowing that you’re touching others. And being able to be proud of what your music is and what it’s about. Being able to express yourself. Even though I’d only been in a band that was “only” successful in the mid-atlantic region, to me I was accomplishing everything I had wanted and was happy as hell. We got to perform constantly to different crowds in different areas. We had a loyal fanbase. And truly the greatest thing was hearing personally from others that they could relate to us. Or that I inspired them to start taking piano lessons. Or girls telling me I inspired them to start a rock band of their own.

Sure, money is GREAT. It would certainly solve a lot of my problems. But I’d rather be poor and doing what I love than making a ton of money but hating my life. My friend Dan from a Freudian Slip put it best when he said: “I’d rather be poor and love what I’m doing. Practicing with my band, recording an album, and performing for people. There’s people that work their whole lives to make a ton of money just so they can get that two weeks of vacation. For what? To go to Bermuda and hang out with old people? I’m living a vacation everyday of my life”.

But parents are a lot less anxious about a male going out and living an unstable life and doing “crazy” things than with a girl. Parents are much more protective of their daughters. You can take the same parents who have a son who’s sacrificing his life for whatever dream and while they might not have had that in mind for him, they’re supportive. The same parents have a daughter who tells them she wants a guitar for her birthday. They think it’s some kind of phase and then, like two years later when they finally decide to buy her the guitar because she’s still interested in it, they think that’s the end of it. But then when she starts hanging out with other musicians and jamming out, they get concerned. They want to know more about these people she’s hanging out with. Then if she actually joins a band and spends all her time on that, they start to put their foot down. What about college? What about becoming a doctor? It’s like they’d rather have their teenage daughter out at the mall hanging out with boys, eating Dairy Queen, and trying on the latest M-A-C Makeup products than be a musician. Oh no, that would be the death of her!

I was kicked out of the house when I was a teenager one night out of nowhere, mainly because my mother was sick and tired of the whole band thing. And while I was extremely upset, I felt free. I was like now that I’ve been put in this crappy situation, I’m going to make the best of it. And since I can do whatever I want, I have the freedom to focus on my music. AND I DID. I think in hindsight that getting kicked out was the best thing that ever happened to me. Because it made me realize it was the only thing I had. I was doing the music thing and going to school at the same time, but since that wasn’t a possibility anymore, I just focused everything on just the music. And I wasn’t under my parents strict supervision so if I wasn’t kicked out, I wouldn’t have networked and found the people who became my peers and who became my band mates.

So basically to sum it up, I think that the reason that a lot of females are not in bands, has a lot to do with not getting the support they deserve. Not all girls, of course, some really just don’t care about the music and just care about people’s status. But I think usually you can tell the ones who really know about music, but just don’t know how to play it.

But I also think that’s why, in my opinion, the percentage of women in rock that are so passionate and talented is higher than  the percentage of men.  If you have to fight off everyone getting in your way more than men, if you have to fight not just society’s view of you but your loved ones as well, it means you reaaalllly, truly want it badly. And because you had to work ten times harder than the guy next to you, not only to get to where you are, but to prove that you’re an above average musician and that you deserve to be doing this, you’re usually going to be damn good at it.

Advertisements

6 Comments to “Women in Rock, Groupies in Rock”

  1. That was really cool. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Thanks for reading 🙂
    I think I originally wrote this to just let it out but not show anyone because I was scared I would piss people off. Now that I’m not in a band, those ‘politics’ don’t really matter anymore haha.

  3. I can’t understand anyone whose only “passion” in life is who they are going to get with. They don’t have any hobbies, talents, or real interests in anything of substance.
    A lot of women, it seems, are like that, it’s not just in the band scene. *shakes head*

  4. Truth is, I can’t understand how most females look at life.
    I’ll second that for myself. Although my experience with the musical aspects of such delightful estrogen toxicity is limited, I think I know what you mean. It took me years to have female friends—not for want of trying, but for want of non-vapid and leech-like—and I am truly thankful for the ones I have now.
    I never understood the backstabbing and one-up-manship, or the using x to get to y. I’m glad I didn’t, and realizing that some others didn’t either, well, it’s wonderful.
    I’ve also never understood the parent angle. I’ve had talented friends absolutely gutted by their parents. Good on you for persevering. Too few people have the nerve to actually do it—to really forgo money and “easy”.
    If more people (and girls in particular) were able to do what you’ve done(and be supported), I think we’d have a lot less Paris Hilton redux and all its attendant ills.
    Thank you for sharing this 🙂

  5. You’re right, a lot of people in general are like that, not just in the rock scene. It’s sad!

  6. Amen.
    I know what you mean! I’ve tried to have female friends. I’m still trying. I definitely want more close female friends in my life. Usually, the ones who I probably would be close with, I’m not because our lives are both busy and completely opposite, so it’s hard to hang out often. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate my male friends.
    I always thought you seemed cool and drama-free (even though I don’t know you extremely well, but you can sometimes get a good vibe from someone). I never hear about you being involved in any stupid club scene drama.
    The one-up-manship is annoying, too. I’ve had a lot of girl friends who started getting competitive with me about guys and I just wondered when who I dated or who liked me became a contest. I thought it was about who you truly liked, not to out-do someone.
    The Paris Hilton thing is ridiculous. People like her and “Forbidden” from myspace.com are only known for superficial reasons. Have they really done anything to be as popular as they are? I mean, they are both doing stuff now but only because they were known first, which is what gave them those opportunities. And when you look and what they’ve done versus their popularity, it doesn’t even out. There are people who do more (and have more talent) but are virtually unknown. You’re probably right – if more parents actually supported female’s passions and talents, then we might have more positive mainstream female influences out there! If more people were supportive, then maybe it wouldn’t be as “risky” in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: