The Stranger, an alternative newspaper based in Seattle, has a great piece that serves the dual purpose of satirizing sexism and advertising local musicians.
Based on Rolling Stone’s women’s issue, the piece highlights “Men Who Rock”—as they say, “FOR A CHANGE!” It’s a piece about men written in the style of a piece about women, complete with gratuitous references to appearance and parenting, and fluff questions about hair care.
The piece reproduces aspects of typical journalistic sexism that are so commonplace, it probably wouldn’t have even been on my radar if I’d read it in the “usual” context, i.e., when the object of objectification is women. For example, the list of genres represented in the article includes “provocative punks, steamy rock ‘n’ rollers, dashing cowboy sweethearts, [and] hiphop hunks,” emphasizing maleness and good looks at every turn. The Rolling Stone “Women Who Rock” piece demonstrates this convention perfectly, promising “girl-group glamazons, guitar warriors, country cowgirls, disco queens, [and] sweethearts of the rodeo.”
The highlight is the interviews with the featured male artists, the questions hitting the perfect mix of patronizing (“Being a male frontman must be a challenge, physically and mentally—how do you cope?”) and lightweight (“Do you have a favorite fragrance?”).
Particularly brilliant is the repeated insistence that beauty must be an impediment to success. I’m used to hearing questions like, “Does your sex appeal often throw people off when they hear you are actually talented?” directed at women, but seeing them directed at men underscores how absurd it is that good looks should prevent someone from being taken seriously.
With the tone of constant, wide-eyed wonder the article takes at the thought of men being both handsome and talented, it challenges the treatment of women musicians as rare beasts. The jarring nature of the comments on the men’s appearances, which come off as unprofessional and excessive, emphasizes how inappropriate those comments are when directed at anyone.
My personal favorite interview is with Gary Smith of Partman Parthorse, with the interviewer praising his ability to “balance his music career and family life, all while managing to stay in fabulous shape.” As if his family and workout regimen are relevant to his musical talent.
The best part of the article is that it brings attention to real Seattle artists—all of whom show themselves to have a great sense of humor. These interviews make me want to check out some albums. Any guy who answers the question “How does it feel to play music in a largely male environment?” with “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Actually, I’m terrified every day,” probably deserves my iTunes money.
Magdalena Newhouse is a senior at Oberlin College, where she teaches a class on body positivity and fat acceptance.