Monday, January 30, 2012
It's a magazine I flip through probably once or twice a year, just to confront the extent to which I've lost touch with popular culture. Sometimes I catch a reference and feel a little bit better. The cover story this morning promised at least some name recognition: the 100 greatest rock guitarists of all time. Yes, I do believe I've heard of Eric Clapton!
Curious, I began flipping through photographs of bare-chested rock gods and the accompanying appreciations written by fellow rock gods, and around #58 (was it Slash?) I realized there was not a single woman on the list thus far. Surely there would be a few fine women from the entire history of rock n' roll that made it on? I kept flipping pages, and only at #78 did I hit Joni Mitchell. Bonnie Raitt was also on the list (#80-something). That's it.
I'm no expert. I don't play guitar. And I realize that rock music has traditionally been male-dominated. But two out of one hundred? Come on. Joan Jett? Carrie Brownstein? Kathleen Hanna? That woman from Heart? Surely one of those ladies could rock just as hard - or harder - than Slash.
Before I had kids, I would have found this kind of thing harmlessly irritating. But now I have an observant six year old daughter who frequently articulates the differences she perceives between men and women. The rock music we listen to at home is mostly sung and played by men. If she'd seen that feature, it would have sealed the deal. As it is, she has already come to a handful of disturbing conclusions about how men and women behave. For example, after I cracked a joke that was met with silence:
"Men are really silly, aren't they Mama? Have you noticed that men are silly and funny, and women aren't really...?" Um, Frances, did you even read Bossypants?
The mouths of babes drive home the powerful influence of gender roles to me like nothing else. My children will sometimes remind us (when we stray from type) that Mamas act one way, Papas another. It makes me cringe. I am so grateful for our friends and neighbors that buck that trend by living out the many ways of being a woman and being a man. I especially cherish the women in my life who show Frances and Gabriel that there are endless ways be a mama: my kids know some mamas who choose to stay home, others who choose to spend time away from home being teachers, doctors, nurses, priests, and writers, and others - oh yes, indeed - who can really rock out.
What I want for my children - at school, at church, in their broader community, and in the stories and songs of our fast-infiltrating popular culture - is to be surrounded by a riotous diversity of human life. A hundred million excellent ways to be a man and to be a woman everywhere they look. It's part of why I miss city life. But, living where we do, I'll just have to seek it out more intentionally. And keep Rolling Stone away from my kids.
p.s. Just curious. Rock n' roll mamas out there: who else do you think should have been on that list of awesome guitar players?