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Is rock and metal guitar a men’s world?

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Mariler Ferrer

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On March 8th we are celebrating the international women’s day and this thought crossed my mind: is guitar a men’s world?

Don’t expect me to deliver a feminist speech, that is not my point here, but I was trying to think of some female rock guitarists who are actually acknowledged and I can only say Nita Strauss (maybe it’s my ignorance speaking and I don’t know another one, lol)

I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot of talented female guitarists out there, but why do you think they aren’t so well known? Do they have the same opportunities in the music industry as men? I don’t know for sure but probably there’s more male than female music producers in the world of rock (@Aileé Guerra Aréizaga can you enlighten me on this?) ... might that fact have a negative influence for women to become successful guitarists?

Would our dear Syn be who he is on metal guitar today if he had been born a woman?

Like I said at the beginning, this post is not intended to create a war between men and women, or discuss who is better on guitar. This kind of argument would be useless IMO, because the values that move me in my life are way more simple than that, they’re only justice and respect for each other, and it makes everything easier.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts to try to figure out if female guitar players do really have the same chances in the world of metal and rock guitar and why? And what can we do to change that?
 

redlipsofdeceit

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    I've never really stopped to think about this deeply, but now I realize that all my inspirations in the guitar world are men.
    I think this is due to the fact that women are still dismissed by majority of the fans of rock/metal. Guys will be encouraged to play guitar since they are little kids, while girls don't have the same support and many people will question their abilities.
    I think we can start to make a difference by searching for more female inspirations, and showing support to them.
    And, about our beloved Syn, I really doubt he would be as successful as he is now if he were born a woman. The majority of rock/metal community is very narrow-minded about this gender thing.
     

    Dereks

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    On March 8th we are celebrating the international women’s day and this thought crossed my mind: is guitar a men’s world?

    Don’t expect me to deliver a feminist speech, that is not my point here, but I was trying to think of some female rock guitarists who are actually acknowledged and I can only say Nita Strauss (maybe it’s my ignorance speaking and I don’t know another one, lol)

    I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot of talented female guitarists out there, but why do you think they aren’t so well known? Do they have the same opportunities in the music industry as men? I don’t know for sure but probably there’s more male than female music producers in the world of rock (@Aileé Guerra Aréizaga can you enlighten me on this?) ... might that fact have a negative influence for women to become successful guitarists?

    Would our dear Syn be who he is on metal guitar today if he had been born a woman?

    Like I said at the beginning, this post is not intended to create a war between men and women, or discuss who is better on guitar. This kind of argument would be useless IMO, because the values that move me in my life are way more simple than that, they’re only justice and respect for each other, and it makes everything easier.

    But I’d love to hear your thoughts to try to figure out if female guitar players do really have the same chances in the world of metal and rock guitar and why? And what can we do to change that?
    You make a really fair point, my personal favorite female guitarist is Lizzy Hale. I think that girls tend to be seen as singers more often because girls are just naturally better at signing (not saying guys are naturally better st guitar). I think we need to be more attentive at just recognizing talent for talent regardless of gender
     

    Ed Seith

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    I think it's a simple enough truth to accept that the "default," in rock and metal at least, is a cis white male.

    There are certainly those that have blurred or broken these lines, but there's usually attention called to it in some way. Certain areas like race and even sexual identification, those lines are blurring - there's not as much attention paid to the Blackness of Howard Jones or Lajon Witherspoon, or the homosexuality of others (Halford did a lot for that by being THE METAL GOD before revealing himself), but the ladies are still almost ALWAYS identified as such.

    There's never been and never will be an article written about "Cis white dudes that rock," but there's a million "Women who rock" articles and lists out there.

    When those sorts of things are no longer interesting or relevant, we will have hit that particular type of singularity.

    There are a LOT of women that rock and set the bar higher, breaking through the many layers of glass ceilings - Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, in the 70s and 80s. Michael Jackson saw how hard it was for him, as a Black man - and a fucking SUCCESSFUL one already, to break through on MTV. He paid it forward, by seeking extraordinary women as his axe-slingers, from Jennifer Batten to Orianthi. I don't care for Halestorm as a band, but Lzzy Hale is stunningly powerful, and she plays and sings, too. Now, in the last 5 years or so, the genuine EXPLOSION of exceptionally gifted women and their guitars is inspiring, and I see the landscape changing for the better - more women achieving means more women aspiring, and that's a great thing. A lot of that may have been a side effect of YouTube musicianship and people achieving exposure that way.

    Hopefully, one or two generations down the road, kids will find it unfathomable that rock and metal guitar was ever "a man's game."
     

    Ids Schiere

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    I've made a forum post about female musicians the other day and people mentioned some incredible guitar players in there

    I realized recently that it may not be the case but in music it shouldn't matter who made the music just that it's good. I mean women have fingers so they can play just as good as man in my opinion.

    As far as female rock guitarists go I really like Brittany howard from Alabama shakes and there are some really great female guitar players on YouTube. As far as the larger audiences I don't really know any a lot from the top of my head except Marty friedman having a female bass player.
     

    Batbia

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    Curiously, I was thinking about something similar some days ago. I realized that the majority of famous metal bands that I like are formed 100% by men.
    I know you kept the focus on guitar because, after all, this is a guitar player community. But speaking about other instruments, it may be even more difficult to find succesful women playing them. I mean, how many succesful female drummers we know? Or even female bassists?
    The majority of succesful females on rock and metal are singers, and even though they are leads, they are leading bands mostly formed by men, for example Hayley Williams from Paramore and Amy Lee from Evanescence (NOW Evanescence has a female guitarist, Jen Majura, but over the years it was mostly formed by men except for Amy herself).
    Also, I would like to add that when you find bands with women playing guitar, drums or bass, they are bands 100% formed by women. It's very unlikely to find women in these positions in bands formed by both men and women.
     
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    Cooper Brady

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    I think it's as simple as rock and metal has generally been a genre that attracts men. I couldn't tell you why, but I have a ton of female relatives and all of them gravitated more towards pop and indie as opposed to more hard-core stuff. But that's not to say women can't be into rock and metal. Plenty of people in this thread have pointed out guitarists like Nita Strauss and Orianthi. I'd put them up against just about any man. More recently you've got H.E.R., she's introducing guitar to more mainstream music fans than any man. He'll, there's an assload of great female guitarists on this site. Elena Siegman is the most metal vocalist I've ever heard. And to stretch even further, you've got Living Coulour, Tosin Abasi, and Misha Mansoor, all incredible Black artists in metal. Rob Halford has one of the most iconic voices in metal himself, he's gay. My point is that metal never has or will belong exclusively to straight white men. It's just the group that is most attracted to the genre. And the great thing is that the metal community has been very accepting of all people from all walks of life. We all just want to mosh together. I don't think anyone cares about anything like gender or race or sexuality as long as they like the music.
     
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    iridecently

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    I think outside of pop and maybe country, female artists are very much seen as the exception, even more so when they aren't the singer. This becomes kind of obvious when you look at articles like @Ed Seith said, how it was big news that the Grammy's had only female nominees for the 'best rock performance' category, or even the fact that (on average) only 19% of acts performing at festivals have female members, Warped Tour (R.I.P.) scored even lower with 7% on its last rendition.

    I think with music in general becoming more accessible through social media and being able to built a following without record labels or whatever has probably really helped. Still I think it's an interesting question to think about why things are the way they are and how we might be able to change them. How come we gender-code music and instruments? :unsure:
     

    Daniel Sobota

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    I think it's as simple as rock and metal has generally been a genre that attracts men. I couldn't tell you why, but I have a ton of female relatives and all of them gravitated more towards pop and indie as opposed to more hard-core stuff.
    It's because heavy music is very energetic, raw and powerful. Metal is testosterone in music form. What do you think of when you hear Pantera? You think this is the manliest shit ever. That's why girls have a harder time getting into the genre and becoming musicians eventually. I also see plenty of guys not getting it, so even men don't necessarily like this supposedly manly thing.

    At the end of the day it is what it is. I definitely think more females would be a good thing, but I also think there is an element of it being a thing for guys which is cool. We should let it naturally evolve into what it's supposed to be and not let politics and culture dictate it.
     

    Alicia Willis

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    Speaking on a large scale, people know Nita because yes, she’s talented af.....but she’s also HOT ! I could be wrong, BUT I highly doubt she would have been as successful if she wasn’t as attractive as she is. By saying this I am in no way shape or form dismissing her amazing chops, but let’s be real, the image of a female artist has always been at the forefront where people genuinely don’t give a shit what a dude looks like.
    There are many incredibly talent female musicians who don’t make it big simply for the fact they don’t have the “right image”.

    Just my thoughts.
     

    Alicia Willis

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    It's because heavy music is very energetic, raw and powerful. Metal is testosterone in music form. What do you think of when you hear Pantera? You think this is the manliest shit ever. That's why girls have a harder time getting into the genre and becoming musicians eventually. I also see plenty of guys not getting it, so even men don't necessarily like this supposedly manly thing.

    At the end of the day it is what it is. I definitely think more females would be a good thing, but I also think there is an element of it being a thing for guys which is cool. We should let it naturally evolve into what it's supposed to be and not let politics and culture dictate it.
    I don’t think girls “have a harder time getting into the genre”, I think it’s just as simple as either you like it or you don’t.
     

    Cooper Brady

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    Speaking on a large scale, people know Nita because yes, she’s talented af.....but she’s also HOT ! I could be wrong, BUT I highly doubt she would have been as successful if she wasn’t as attractive as she is. By saying this I am in no way shape or form dismissing her amazing chops, but let’s be real, the image of a female artist has always been at the forefront where people genuinely don’t give a shit what a dude looks like.
    There are many incredibly talent female musicians who don’t make it big simply for the fact they don’t have the “right image”.

    Just my thoughts.
    I agree, but I have to play a little bit of devil's advocate. Image plays a large part for men in music as well, if not as large as for women. For instance, if Justin Timberlake was the ugliest guy ever, he wouldn't be nearly as successful. Same goes for say, the Beatles in their early career, or Justin Bieber, or Harry Styles. So while it is an issue that is arguably bigger for women, it's not an issue exclusive to women. Humans are incredibly superficial beings.
     
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    iridecently

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    It's because heavy music is very energetic, raw and powerful. Metal is testosterone in music form. What do you think of when you hear Pantera? You think this is the manliest shit ever. That's why girls have a harder time getting into the genre and becoming musicians eventually. I also see plenty of guys not getting it, so even men don't necessarily like this supposedly manly thing.

    At the end of the day it is what it is. I definitely think more females would be a good thing, but I also think there is an element of it being a thing for guys which is cool. We should let it naturally evolve into what it's supposed to be and not let politics and culture dictate it.
    I think it's interesting that both you and @Cooper Brady describe rock/metal as a masculine thing. I think it is definitely largely coded or presented as such, it being music for big burly dudes with long hair and beards, but I think it's also kind of self-reinforcing because of that. That image belonging to that genre doesn't attract young girls/women and is seen as inappropriate for them, so they won't explore this music.

    And I hate to say it, but I don't think the genre is that accepting to girls. Like in the gaming community you definitely have to prove that you aren't 'fake' and just a fan of a band because the bandmembers are attractive or because their merch looks cool.
     

    Alicia Willis

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    I agree, but I have to play a little bit of devil's advocate. Image plays a large part for men in music as well, if not as large as for women. For instance, if Justin Timberlake was the ugliest guy ever, he wouldn't be nearly as successful. Same goes for say, the Beatles in their early career, or Justin Bieber, or Harry Styles. So while it is an issue that is arguably bigger for women, it's not an issue exclusive to women. Humans are incredibly superficial beings.
    This is incredibly true, and definitely prevalent with most pop artists.
     

    Alicia Willis

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    I think it's interesting that both you and @Cooper Brady describe rock/metal as a masculine thing. I think it is definitely largely coded or presented as such, it being music for big burly dudes with long hair and beards, but I think it's also kind of self-reinforcing because of that. That image belonging to that genre doesn't attract young girls/women and is seen as inappropriate for them, so they won't explore this music.

    And I hate to say it, but I don't think the genre is that accepting to girls. Like in the gaming community you definitely have to prove that you aren't 'fake' and just a fan of a band because the bandmembers are attractive or because their merch looks cool.
    You hit the nail on the head there Iris !
     

    Cooper Brady

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    I think it's interesting that both you and @Cooper Brady describe rock/metal as a masculine thing. I think it is definitely largely coded or presented as such, it being music for big burly dudes with long hair and beards, but I think it's also kind of self-reinforcing because of that. That image belonging to that genre doesn't attract young girls/women and is seen as inappropriate for them, so they won't explore this music.

    And I hate to say it, but I don't think the genre is that accepting to girls. Like in the gaming community you definitely have to prove that you aren't 'fake' and just a fan of a band because the bandmembers are attractive or because their merch looks cool.
    I dont think metal is masculine. I'm 5'6 and scrawny as shit. I just agree with Daniel that it makes more sense that biologically men have more testosterone, so a more intense genre would be more appealing to that demographic. BY NO MEANS AM I SAYING WOMEN CAN'T ENJOY IT. I'm just saying it makes more sense it would appeal to men. As for community acceptance, I feel like the gaming world is more gatekept to girls because of people like Pokimaine and Alinity. However, I have a really good friend who's a girl, we play Call of Duty together a lot. My sister and I play mortal kombat together a lot. I've never personally seen anyone get gatekept from metal for anything other than a disagreement in musical taste.
     

    Ed Seith

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    And I hate to say it, but I don't think the genre is that accepting to girls. Like in the gaming community you definitely have to prove that you aren't 'fake' and just a fan of a band because the bandmembers are attractive or because their merch looks cool.
    That's the toxic part of masculinity. The gatekeeping. Ugh.

    I think that's mostly avoided here on this site because Syn and Papa set the tone from the beginning that no one is an expert and we can ALL learn from each other, even them.

    Hell, you won't believe how much shit that I taught Syn is gonna be on the next album. Next level. He's gotten really good. You won't believe it.
     

    iridecently

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    I dont think metal is masculine. I'm 5'6 and scrawny as shit. I just agree with Daniel that it makes more sense that biologically men have more testosterone, so a more intense genre would be more appealing to that demographic. BY NO MEANS AM I SAYING WOMEN CAN'T ENJOY IT. I'm just saying it makes more sense it would appeal to men. As for community acceptance, I feel like the gaming world is more gatekept to girls because of people like Pokimaine and Alinity. However, I have a really good friend who's a girl, we play Call of Duty together a lot. My sister and I play mortal kombat together a lot. I've never personally seen anyone get gatekept from metal for anything other than a disagreement in musical taste.
    I am sorry if you took my post as an accusation of anything, but I think it is an interesting thing to think about how we might associate a certain tonal quality (like that of Pantera) with testosterone/masculinity.

    As for the gatekeeping in the gaming world, pokimane and alinity's actions/business decisions/whatever you want to call it, should only reflect on them. The fact is that women are constantly having to present themselves as 'real' and deserving of a place in all sorts of communities. I've gotten all sorts of shit spewed at me online, just because I 'revealed' myself as being a woman. The default assumption (especially online) is just that you are only there because you want attention.
     
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    Ed Seith

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    I agree, but I have to play a little bit of devil's advocate. Image plays a large part for men in music as well, if not as large as for women. For instance, if Justin Timberlake was the ugliest guy ever, he wouldn't be nearly as successful. Same goes for say, the Beatles in their early career, or Justin Bieber, or Harry Styles. So while it is an issue that is arguably bigger for women, it's not an issue exclusive to women. Humans are incredibly superficial beings.
    Funny story, a couple years ago, my wife and I were driving and we got on the subject of image in music, and how MTV changed it forever - you HAD to be good looking now to make it.

    Then we drove past a billboard for a local radio station with a picture of Ed Sheeran on it. We both saw it at the same time and stopped talking. She slowly turned to look at me... "Ahem.. You were saying?"
     

    Ed Seith

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    And as someone who's been a gamer and a nerd for longer than most of you have been alive, it's disappointing to no end how elitist and toxic nerd and gaming culture have become. It's everything we promised we would NEVER EVER BE, and it saddens me.

    Thankfully, my daughter is a metalhead and a gamer and has no fucks to give what anyone thinks of that either way.
     
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