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Let's Stop Dumb Gender-Specific Music Lists, Please

By / 07.03.12

In the past two weeks, two publications I admire, even after one put Snooki on the cover (Rolling Stone) and the other doesn’t exist in print anymore (Paste), published Important, Definitive Lists. The former unveiled “Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time,” led by Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, while the latter added their two cents with “10 Amazing Female Guitarists.”

I usually don’t speak up about these kind of gender-based “issues” — my soapbox was burned and thrown into a bog somewhere — because one side believes their right, the other believes the opposite, and people yell and screw on the Internet and that’s not fun for anyone. That’s why I personally sometimes find websites like Jezebel so terrifying and bafflingly unhelpful. But these female musicians lists bug the bejesus out of me, for two reasons.

1. It’s patronizing as sh*t. Let’s say you’re Carrie Brownstein, a fantastic guitarist first for Sleater-Kinney and now, Wild Flag. You helped make an album that Led Zeppelin would be proud of, The Woods, and you’re one of the most skilled, bad-ass guitarists out there. But you don’t make Rolling Stone’s 2011 list of the 100 best guitarists, because you’re not Joni Mitchell or Joan Jett, the only two females who did. (The jury that selected the worthy guitarists was made up of musicians, who were chosen by Rolling Stone editors — they only picked four women for the panel.) But hey, Carrie, don’t fret — at least you made ELLE’s 12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists list!

What this is saying is: well, you’re not good to be included on our regular musician list, but hey, at least you made the all-women one. Happy now? (And don’t say any crap like, “It’s not that she’s a female; it’s that she’s not a good enough musician to warrant being in the top-100.” Brownstein, the Cramps’ Poison Ivy, St. Vincent, Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster, and so many more are better than Henry Vestine and Paul Kossoff.)

I don’t think musicians and writers are sexist (in 2004, the Washington Post ran an article explaining why there were so few ladies on RS‘s list, and although it makes some very good points, it does feel very seven years ago. Women guitarists have made great strides in the past decade, and I can’t imagine another story like this could be written at this point in time) I just think they know they’re able to fall back on gender-specific lists, but because you rarely see “Best Male Guitarists Ever,” they’re likely to keep the dude and ditch the chick.

2. What the f*ck is a “woman’s album,” anyways? Is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors eligible for a ladies-only music list, even though a good number of songs are sung by the definitely-a-guy-even-with-that-name Lindsey Buckingham? What about My Bloody Valentine? Loveless wouldn’t be nearly as good if not for Bilinda Butcher. A good list should be clear-cut, not vague in what it can and can’t pick.

So, please, no more gender-specific lists. They’re dumb, and I’d much rather complain about the lack of hip hop albums on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums list. WHERE WAS BLACK STAR???

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TAGSLISTSpaste magazinerock and rollrolling stonesleater-kinneywomen in music

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