Chicks with Picks and Sticks

by Web Intern

While I was on my way in today, I found myself thinking about women and music. Yes, I realize that sounds a little heavy for pre-10-AM F-train thought patterns. But there it was, a mental feminist musical analysis for my commute instead of the usual people-watching or idle ad-reading. It was brought on by the fact that I was listening to the Thermals on the train and thinking about how they have a female bassist.

I realized that I liked the band more after I found out their bassist is a woman. And then I got a little mad at myself. First of all, I was surprised when I found that out and second, it really shouldn’t matter either way. But apparently, even in my hardcore feminist mind, there is a separation between men and women on stage.

When I was boredly making Wikipedia searches one day and typed in ‘the Thermals’ I remember my first thought being about how their female bassist rocks just as hard as the boys. When I went to their concert a couple of weeks ago, the (male) friend I was with commented on something and used the phrase ”lady bassist.” It was meant to be complimentary, so I didn’t think anything of it. However, now I realize that it’s part of a separation that still exists – rock is very much a boys club and women on stage are a novelty. Especially if they are doing something other than singing.

This kind of thing applies offstage, too. I also started thinking about my days as a teenage punk rocker (or so I thought I was). Guys in the crowd at shows always treated me differently than they treated other guys – despite the fact that I was definitely not a small or delicate thing (I was probably bigger than some of the men whose asses they were kicking). I appreciate that they have clearly been taught to never hit a woman, but hey – if I didn’t want to get a little roughed up I wouldn’t have joined the circle pit at a Rancid show. Obviously there’s a delicate balance between wanting to be treated equally and not wanting to promote violence against women, but deliberately avoiding me in a pit isn’t the way to find it.

It’s even bled into the ultimate symbol of rock cred: the concert tee. Remember when Target (and other stores) started selling rock shirts for women? Ever since then, it feels like feminine-shaped tees are taken less seriously than baggy man shirts (not to mention the sizing issues). Because ladying something up obviously makes it less hardcore. Which, as well all know, is stupid. For example, I’m wearing a women’s Who t-shirt today – not because I like the pretty blue in their logo, but because they are awesome (and the Virgin Megastore is closing, so it was on sale). Also, there’s some sentimentality to it; when I was 12, they were my very first rock concert. Quadrophenia 1996, baby. I digress.

So how do we find a balance? I want to say, hey, find bands with female members and support them! But that seems like promoting chicks on stage as a novelty, and I just spent five paragraphs arguing against that. Is it? Do we need to start there in order to get to a place where the sexes are totally equal? What do you think, BUSTies? I know this is an old topic, but clearly we haven’t solved it yet. What’s the best way to tackle this? -Liza

(Photo: Kathy Foster and Westin Glass of the Thermals, via

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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