Girls and Guitar Magazines

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Pedaltrain didn’t dig the cover of the new Guitar World, so they changed it. (View the best Instagram ever here.) I think I’m going to have to go out and buy even more excellent Pedaltrain boards.

Funny thing: My friends outside the guitar biz tend to imagine that it’s some super-hip industry, when in fact, it’s a rather retro community where crap like this is depressingly common. Damn, with so many things in our culture to undermine girls’ confidence, who needs more from music mags?

As a palate cleanser, here’s a video of girls who actually play:

My band recently had the privilege of playing a Bay Area Girls Rock Camp benefit. The between-acts music was all recorded by the campers, and some of it was awesome. I’m not even a parent, yet I’m grateful the organization exists to counter crap like the Guitar World cover.

Are there any similar groups in your area? Do any of the moms and dads among you have thoughts about nurturing and empowering young musicians?

19 comments to Girls and Guitar Magazines

  • Peter

    Thank You Mr Gore and Go Pedaltrain!

  • Oystein

    I wish musicians generally could get past the myth that girls can only be singers, or something like that. It’s really great when people can be who they are and be encouraged to do what they want and like.

    And, just to underscore what I mean, here are some cool girls from my country of Norway. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but they’re singing about being girls who stick together and so on. I really like their band! 🙂

  • Amen. Really sick of the continuous badges of female apartheid around the music and music instrument industries. It’s an additional reason I don’t take GW that seriously–they obviously don’t think they can cut it without that bull.

  • NotSoFast

    It is done to sell magazines and probably works or they wouldn’t do it. Its a little surprising to me that it works when the internet exists. Its a little surprising to me that a guitar print magazine works when the internet exists.

    I’ve wouldn’t buy a magazine like this – far too embarrassing. But I stopped buying paper magazines a long time ago. I suspect this will end when the magazine goes down.

    How the objectification of women ends I don’t know. There’s a lot of things I find offensive but as a consumer all I can do is not encourage them with money.

  • Proud to say that we have Girls Rock Rhode Island and Ladies Rock Rhode Island going strong over here, recently celebrating their 5th birthday on October 18th! Link to a great cause:

  • el reclusa

    Guitar World is the worst, all the way around. Kudos to Pedaltrain for calling them on their bullshit with humor!

  • joe

    Just a little update: There was a discussion about this in a private guitar group on Facebook. (Okay, well, I started the discussion.) Some of the responses suggested that folks with my condemnatory attitude were prudes. It was Nigel Tufnel’s “What the matter with being sexy?” debate all over again. If it’s not too obnoxious to quote myself, here’s how I replied:

    The issue for me isn’t nudity and sexuality—I’m down with both. I like my full-frontal HBO shows, and I’m proud to live in San Francisco, the world’s most sexually open city. Prudery ain’t where I’m coming from.

    As clever as Pedaltrain’s response is, it’s slightly off-message: The issue isn’t that the models are showing skin — it’s the fact that the editors’ choice to use non-musician models reinforces the message that boys rock while girls provide eye candy.

    That’s not the world I know. Mom taught me to play, and she wasn’t my only crucial female guitar teacher. Over the years I’ve worked with many fine female guitarists. My life has always been full of great women players.

    True, boy guitarists vastly outnumber girls. But the 95+% male readership of the guitar mags simply doesn’t reflect reality. And when women do create splendid guitar music, we have a nasty tendency to understate their accomplishments. Example: Did you know Rosetta Tharpe was playing in in an inarguably rock and roll style by the late 1930s? (Check out the 1938 Carnegie Hall Spirituals to Swing Concert for evidence.) If you knew this already, you rule. If you didn’t, well, bad on us guitar mag writer dudes for perpetuating the misperception that the style was invented 20 years later—by men. I didn’t even realize the extent of Tharpe’s innovation till a few years ago, and I get paid to be an expert. Shame on me.

    I’m not a parent, but I don’t have to be to notice the astonishing number of cultural messages that undermine the confidence and dreams of girls and young women. Seems to me we should try to be part of the solution. That’s why I support Bay Area Girls Rock Camp and Women’s Audio Mission, two fine SF Bay Area non-profits dedicated to lowering music industry barriers for girls and young women.

    • el reclusa

      Good on you, Joe. You’d be surprised by some of the reactions I get when I bring up Neko Case and Polly Harvey as influences around male guitarists. It’s frankly embarrassing.

      I’m not saying I necessarily agree, but a friend who solely works in electronic music recently commented that straight, white guys with guitars make boring music these days, and to some extent, that’s kinda valid, or at least provocative. I dunno.

      I AM a parent, of three daughters and a stepson. I’ve found that frankness about the state of things seems to work. Both of my two older girls are musically active- in fact, now that my second oldest is of legal age, she’s done more gigging this year than I have the last several. It’s a little early to tell about my youngest at eight months old, but her drummer uncle brought her a set of infant percussion toys last week that she’s been thrilled with. Which kinda scares me!

  • “It was Nigel Tufnel’s ‘What the matter with being sexy?’ debate all over again.”

    If the editors are truly interested in being sexy, as opposed to sexist, why aren’t there a bunch of ripped and muscular male models littering the pages of the magazine as they stand around and awkwardly hold guitars in their cut-off shorts and speedos? The “sexy” argument doesn’t hold any water when you realize that it’s only women who are objectified and treated as sex objects, while guys are recognized for their talent. No matter how you slice it, that’s a one-sided and imbalanced depiction of things.

  • spacetimc

    “It was Nigel Tufnel’s ‘What the matter with being sexy?’ debate all over again.”

    Also missing the point that Nigel Tufnel is a caricature who, in that instance, is indeed pointing out the inherent sexism.

  • gibsonboogie

    I don’t subscribe to GW except on youtube, but I haven’t watched any of their videos for a long time because of the lack of quality content and this made me hit the unsubscribe button. There are much better reviews and more interesting short lessons available out there. Maybe that’s why they have to resort to this? When you cannot get serious musicians to read it, then put scantily clad women on the cover so horny teenagers buy it (I remember, I used to be one). I read music and guitar related publications for information about music, musicians and music gear. If I wanted to see scantily clad women in sexy poses, well… there’s this thing called the internet. If a magazine is serious about music then they will draw readers in who are serious about music. And Joe, you have done some great pieces for such a publication (PG).

    GW is still stuck in 80’s hairspray mode with women crawling over cars while “Here I go again” plays in the background (nothing against the song itself). Even though those guys look different now with their hipster scarves, tattoos and missing big hair, they’re still the same type as they were 25-30 years. Move on and ahead Guitar World. And I am with Joe on this, I too am down with sexuality and nudity, but that is a completely different subject than my love of music. They hired Playboy playmates for this. If I want to see Playboy playmates, I’ll go to the Playboy not GW. I have to stop now before I really start ranting.

  • I haven’t read a Guitar World magazine in probably 25 years. I always preferred Guitar/Bass Player. So I was unfamiliar with what this cover actually looked like. Googling the Guitar Review Guide showed image after image of not just the cover, but pages of pinup models with guitars.

    I understand they are doing it to sell magazines, but then they should really call the magazine “Boy’s Guitar World” right?

    Quite appalling. Equally appalling are the guys that think this is normal.

  • I had a free subscription to GW for a few years. My daughter, on a monthy basis ripped the magazine apart ending with "Dad, why do you even HAVE this stuff." The idea that 95% of guitar players are men is, in my opinion, false. +60% of the local Jr High Schools guitar club were/are girls. All of the girls in our family have picked up guitar. But very, very few feel comfortable in a guitar shop or flipping through guitar mags. It seems to be ok (socially, in my little town) to pick up a guitar and strum chords- enough that you can be a songwriter, but more than that? Doesn't seem to happen. That is flat out wrong.

    I accept that the GW annual gear special (with pinups and little if any other information) is one of their biggest sellers. Fine. they have a market niche. But I (and my kids, my students, etc) would rather read something else.

  • Thanks for this Joe, on a couple levels.

    I too am bothered by the sexist apparent in music mags and the ads you find inside them. Of particular note are the MusicVox ads portraying a woman bent over as if to invite a spanking. WTH? The graphic design indicates they are going for “retro” but that doesn’t excuse the offensive nature of the ad. “Hey, people were sexist in the 50s! If I make my ad look like it’s from the 50s I can be sexist too!” Ummmm. No. I will never buy a product from that company. Sadly, as was pointed out in the comments, as long as these ads sell products we’ll keep seeing them. I also vaguely remember reading an article about a male female musical collaboration. In the photo the woman was dressed suggestively and the man covered from head to toe. The photographer even had her posed seductively while he was sitting in a “cool dude” pose. I wondered to myself what it would look like if we just reversed the apparel and poses. It would look ridiculous. One day we’ll wake up and get everyone on equal footing. As a father of two young, musical girls I’m hoping that day comes sooner than later…

    Also, thanks for posting that video link to BAGRC! My two daughters (Dakota and Charley) are in the video and I didn’t even know it existed until I found it here on your blog! In the small world category, you met my wife April at the BARC event and I discovered your blog initially when looking for a video about our good friend Linda Brosseau! Maybe one of these days we’ll meet in the “real world”. 😉

    Keep fighting the good fight!


  • David Collins

    Thanks for posting this Joe. I work in the field of lutherie, and have seen balance start to shift in recent years with more women in the trade (all of whom I know are quite exceptional and I am proud to be colleagues with). My town has a fairly forward culture, and women compose a significant and respected segment of professional players, teachers, and students. I don’t see this culture so much in the community I am exposed to, as I do in the broader marketing.

    Sometimes I wonder if I live in some sort of a bubble and that the majority of our culture still lives according to gender roles of the 40’s. I have to believe (or at least hope) that this isn’t so though, and that the culture at large has evolved ahead of the industry marketing strategies. This kind of thing is absolute garbage, and we need more folks like Pedaltrain and yourself to voice loud and clear that we’re done with this.

  • At the Holy Grail Guitar Show in Berlin, Linda Manzer, Noemi Schembri, Christina Kobler, Akiko Oda and I concluded that if all the female guitar makers of the world would go on a cruise together, we could do with a medium sized fishing boat.

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