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The Secret Rock Star On… Women In Music

The Secret Rock Star
The Secret Rock Star 28 September 2017 at 15.47

They’ve sold countless records, toured the world and appeared on the cover of just about every rock magazine you can think of. Meet Rock Sound’s top secret band insider…

What’s life really like for women in music, and just how close are we to true equality? Our mole tells all…

"I don’t have all the answers, but I do have an insight into what it’s like for women working in music, both on and off stage. And not all of it is pretty.

The sad reality is that some bands do abuse their status. A lot of the time, it’s when bands tour in different countries that they prey on their fans worst. Some of them treat touring as some sort of weird vacation where they just grab at everything they can. It’s almost as though being in another country gives them license to behave however they like. Or at least that’s what they believe.

In some cases, girls seem to be more likely to swoon over an accent, and I think bands take advantage of that. If they find out there’s a rock bar down the street from where they’re playing they’ll be like, ‘We have to go,’ and then they just go around dropping their band name all night in the hope of suitably impressing someone to the point where they get what they’re looking for. It is, frankly, disgusting and pathetic.

This doesn’t apply to everybody who happens to be in a band – it certainly varies from one to another – but the bands that are bad can be really shitty to their female fans. I don’t like being around people like that.

I remember hearing about a band that went to Europe, and then early on in the tour one of the members got drunk and forced himself on a 15-year-old girl and kissed her. He then went missing and travelled home because he thought he was going to be arrested. That’s just one example - there are dozens more similar and equally unacceptable instances.

Then there are bands that are the cliché towards women in the worst possible way. I remember touring with a fairly old band a few years back. A few friends and I stepped onto their bus to say hey to find a fan of theirs walking through the bus toward us. She said, ‘Are you here for the party? I’ve just done those guys’. Take from that what you will. I remember being like, ‘What?! This is insane. No!’ And not in a good way. And her brother was waiting for her outside the venue. It makes me feel weird. Yes, sometimes girls can be treated badly, but sometimes girls (and boys) are there to see the band, and see a lot more of them than they need to. That band must have been so happy that something so clichéd was happening to them.

Especially on things like touring festivals, bands can act like they’re Mötley Crüe just because they’re on the tour and they think they’ve made it. It’s often just boys constantly being sleazy to girls, rubbing, touching and grabbing them. One dude picked a girl up and tried to take her away.

It’s normally the people who don’t know how to respond to the word ‘no’ because they believe their own hype, they believe they can have whatever they want and should be entitled to whatever they want and whoever they want.

A lot of those bands are told they’re fucking amazing and they believe it, then that comes out in their actions when they’re talking to people or talking to girls, or being turned down by girls and getting angry because they think, ‘I should have that’. They get pissed when girls turn them down, and then call them sluts. They’re not sluts. They’re the complete opposite if anything, you fucking maniacs.

And when I say boys do that to girls… boys do that to boys too. It’s not just straight dudes who are like that.

So how do you deal with it? If you’re a smaller band it can be hard, because people don’t normally pay any attention to you, but in all honesty the smaller bands are often the worst for this kind of stuff. Little bands on a proper tour for the first time act like rock stars just because they have a laminate, and then you have bigger bands who act like they’re God’s gift to the world and get away with it. It’s not a problem with all of the population, just patches of each area.

It’s important for people in bands and positions of power to call people out on their bullshit. Architects’ Sam Carter calling out an audience member for trying to grab a female in the pit is a good example of that. I also saw a band organising an all-female crowd surf recently, too. I hope things like that help make our scene safer and less intimidating to women.

The girls in bands I’ve toured with have largely been treated well while they were actually on tour. It feels like girls in bands tend to be worshipped by their fans, and it’s amazing that there seem to be more and more bands featuring women breaking through every day, but there aren’t many women who work in music behind the scenes. Especially in terms of touring staff and crew. Some bands would probably see it as, ‘Oh, a woman stringing my guitar?!’ It’s incredibly backwards but that mindset still exists.

I remember being on a tour once where one of the touring party was a really young dude – maybe in his late teens – and one of the other bands had a female merch seller. He got wasted and grabbed her breast. It was not okay, and it was good to see that the band and touring party – male, female, whatever – weren’t afraid to let him know that in any uncertain terms. All hell broke loose.

I sometimes wonder if the merch seller was put off touring after that, and I can see why she would hesitate to go on tours again. Nobody deserves to be treated like that, let alone while they’re trying to work. The vast majority of bands and crews would not be okay with this, but it shouldn’t happen in the first place. Sexual harassment wouldn’t be acceptable on the street or in a bar, so it shouldn’t be acceptable on a tour or in a recording studio or at a record label’s offices.

It’s a great thing that these days, girls can see that they can be in bands more than ever. Now they can see that they can be Hayley Williams, that they can be Lynn Gunn, that they can be Chrissy Costanza. Not only that, but they can be themselves and be respected for it. Go to a Paramore show and you’ll see so many young women at their first show – sometimes just because there’s an iconic, inspirational woman in the band. That’s amazing and is something we need to see more of across the board.

Rock music has been a male-dominated world for far too long, so the influx of women is brilliant and it has to carry on, because it’ll only make things better."

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