Women Who Rock!

October 29, 2014 by Ray Morgan

Women who rock

I went to a talk last week where two brilliant musicians with groundings in punk discussed what it was like to be a woman in rock during the 1970s and 80s. I was fascinated by their tales; Helen McCookerybook of The Chefs - the only woman in her band - told of turning up to the recording studio and it being assumed that the sound engineers could get off with her, y'know, because she was 'the girl'. Never mind the fact that she played mean bass.

It got me thinking about what it is to be a woman now, in 2014. I'm not sure if we have come that far at all. I'm still overwhelmed by news stories of women being paid significantly less than men. A senior colleague once told me that a male colleague walked into a meeting room and said to her "Make me a coffee, dear." A young woman I recently worked with was very involved in beauty pageants. When quizzed about it, she fiercely defended it saying it was empowering and good for self confidence, but I later learned that there was still a round entirely based on looks. It baffles and riles me every single day that The Sun prints a topless woman in their paper; it's outdated and archaic.

I wore my 'No More Page Three' tshirt to a party recently, and a man I'd never met before challenged me on it. He was in his fifties, and utterly confused by why it might be wrong to have this in a national newspaper, next to Peppa Pig magazines in WH Smiths. He said to me that I had it all wrong, what Page Three does is *celebrate* women. It's *for* women - it's saying to us that men love our form. I was speechless. A younger guy who proudly said he was a feminist leapt into the debate, and we both tried to explain that it's not celebration, it's exploitation. It also creates a false ideal for young women (and false expectations for young men).

I could go on with these examples, but to bring it back to the talk about musicians, I was amazed that these incredible women have never been included in the myriad rock biographies and documentaries made over the years. The host of this talk, local writer Zoe Howe, has written about bands including The Slits, and Helen McCookerybook herself wrote a leading text on the scene called The Lost Women of Rock, and their sentiment was the way to get these women talked about is to write about them. So I guess, in my own tiny way, this is what I am doing.

Look them up, read the few books available, and keep their music alive.

My top 5 women in rock:

1. Patti Smith - no words needed here!
2. Poly Styrene - she was the frontwoman of X Ray Spex and didn't conform to convention
3. Carrie Brownstein - not only from Sleater-Kinney but wrote *ACE* TV show Portlandia
4. Bjork - creates progressive, fascinating music / dresses as a SWAN, PEOPLE
5. PJ Harvey - she's produced some of my favourite albums of the past 10 years, love her


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