Women Rock: coping with sexism as a female rock musician

female rock musician


The world of the musician is, let’s face it, often ego-driven, and women rock musicians have to armour up to avoid getting a raw deal.

As we unfortunately already know, women must often go to extra efforts to be recognised as an equal when venturing into what is considered ‘male territory’. The life of the female rock musician is no different.

The problem seems to predominantly lie with girls who play guitars, especially if you happen to be the only girl in the band. As a female bass player who has played in various bands, I can vouch for this. I have been patronised, heckled and taunted… and that’s just by the girls. So why is it that in this day and age, women in bands are often viewed as nothing more than novelties? When you’ve got countless talented musicians, from everyone in the Riot Grrl movement to Kim Deal – one of the most awesome women rock musicians in the world?

A lot of it boils down to jealousy and insecurities. Think about it. A guy’s a great guitarist, he has people fawning all over him, about his technique, about his hairstyle, about his hawt skinny jeans… then suddenly a band with a minx on guitar shows up in his territory. She plays better than him, has cuter hair and suddenly the attention turns to her. Situation sound all too familiar? Yes it’s the fragile male ego at work again.

Unfortunately this can extend out of the band too. I remember a trip to a music store to buy a bass amp, where the guy selling it to me proceeded to try and teach me how to play bass without even hearing me play. I’’d been playing for 5 years.

Or the time where the sound guy turned the bass amp down as soon as he saw a girl approach the stage.

Or the time where a guy at a party refused point blank to believe it was me playing bass on the track in the background.

Some of it is plain ignorance. Former Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherly divided many of their fans to star with, simply because she was a woman and many assumed that she must have been vocalist Tim Wheeler’s girlfriend. Many people may assume similar things about you.

Unfortunately it’s a stigma that’s not going to go away overnight but there are some ways to help get some respect from your peers, whatever their gender!

Ways to deal with being a female rock musician

First and foremost, enjoy yourself and do it for the music. Fly the flag for women rock musicians everywhere, and who knows where it could lead?

This is a no-brainer but an attitude that’s both firm and positive will get you through the roughest times (and the dirtiest venues).

If someone really pisses you off, challenge them to a guitar/bass/drum duel. If they can talk the talk they should be able to walk the walk too.

Tips and tutorials for women in rock

Unusual career advice: becoming a rock musician (tips from rocker Jiggy Burd)

Advice on choosing a drum kit and learning to be a drummer grrl

Tips on learning to play guitar