The Disappearance of the Girl Rock Band

By: Elizabeth Klein

There’s a serious absence of women in the rock music industry, and it’s only now becoming more and more prevalent.  

Rock music today is populated with the voices of male artists, usually featuring an all-male cast on the instruments.  In fact, in the Top Ten’s list of greatest rock bands, there are no women until #35.  It’s not just that there are no all-girl bands, but there are literally zero female members in any of the major bands.  Not on any of the instruments.

It isn’t as if there aren’t any female rock musicians.  There have always been women in rock music.  The genre was essentially invented by a woman: Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  There are many rock bands with female members that have been equally influential as their male counterparts: Fleetwood Mac, the Runaways, Blondie, Heart, Jefferson Starship, the Cranberries, etc.  What has happened is that women have slowly, but surely, disappeared from the rock music genre.  The problem here lies with representation.

When girls turn on their radios and tune into the rock station, they don’t hear themselves.  Rock stations today are male-dominated.  There is virtually no female representation in rock music, so girls switch over to the pop-radio stations where their gender is better portrayed.  Pop music empowers young girls because it gives them female role models to look up to in a way that rock music doesn’t.  While Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Pete Townshend of The Who are undoubtedly talented musicians, women are not represented by them.  Women can’t form the kind of connections with them that men might.  If girls tuned into the radio and heard Stevie Nicks or Alanis Morissette, then maybe they would be more willing to pick up a Les Paul guitar.  But how can it be expected for girls to want to play in the genre when rock stations leave them out?  There is a rise of girls today in pop music while the rock genre is experiencing a deficiency, and it is because rock radio stations favor male players.

For these disproportionate numbers to even out, radio must stop showing bias toward male rock bands.  They must learn how to switch a Nirvana song for one by The Breeders instead.  They need to show as much support for female bands as male bands.  They have to empower women as well as men.  For girls to be inclined to enter the rock music industry, they have to hear themselves on the radio first.