How Not To Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide
1. Go through your piece and flip the gender of your descriptive phrases’ subjects. Are there any that sound ludicrous as a result?
Descriptions of musicians’ looks are just the tip of the iceberg here. Let’s play a game: Could you imagine the following phrase being written, never mind getting through an editor and being published in a major newspaper:Without straying too far off the indie grid, he’s the perfect antidote to Bon Iver-Radiohead overload—dare we say, a skinnier Damian Abraham, a more stable Kurt Cobain?
No, of course not. Because a) it’s just a jumble of names, b) just how big is this “grid,” and c) mocking the “stability” of someone dead after a life marked by turbulence is outright gross. And yet T’s Jacob Brown did exactly this—subbing in Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Adele, and Amy Winehouse, in that order—in the second sentence of his piece, after gushing over how “curvaceous and pretty” his subject was. Does this statement say anything about the music being made, and how it plays off Born To Die? No, it focuses on their public profile: overexposed, fat, crazy-slash-dead—and the result is a bunch of recycled cocktail-party chatter, turned into a doorman’s grudging nod to those people Cool Enough To Know What’s Good.
(I guess my example is a bit flawed, since of course rock would never be painted with such a broad brush, being as it is Important Music Made And Listened To By People Who Have Thoughts. Not like those silly pop artists who are so trifling and crazy/overexposed!)