Opinion

Do Women Rock? The Met Overlooks Women’s Contributions to Rock and Roll

The museum’s upcoming exhibition, Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll, has been criticized for its exclusion of women in the industry.

Costume: Dragon-embroidered jacket and pants, CoCo, Los Angeles; designed by Jimmy Page. Black crepe jacket and velvet pants with silk embroidery, 1975. Collection of Jimmy Page. © Kate Simon (image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Last week, the Metropolitan Museum of Art drew a little side-eye over their forthcoming exhibition, Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll, a show dedicated to the iconic instruments of rock and roll — a beautiful and storied history that apparently includes no female participants besides St. Vincent. The exhibition is drawn from 70 private and public collections in the United States and the United Kingdom, all of which seem to lack any sort of gender diversity among their interests. This checks out because as we all know, our tiny hands prevent women from holding instruments correctly, and our inherently gentle natures render us incapable of either rocking or rolling. The Met likely considered making a special women-centered exhibition on the groupies of rock and roll outside the back door of Play It Loud, to celebrate the important contribution of women as sex objects and muses, but decided, in the end, it might pull focus from where it should remain: on men.

However, Neko Case — a woman and ALLEGED musician — disagreed with the museum’s approach, blasting the Met on Twitter:

Case’s tweet followed the Met’s tweet about coverage of the upcoming exhibition in Rolling Stone magazine, which also glossed over the lack of female representation in the exhibition, instead choosing to highlight participating artists, such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica, Jimmy Page, Steve Miller, and The Rolling Stones — all of whom have never received much press in their careers and anxiously worry about receiving respect in a field that categorically stonewalls their gender.

To be fair, Rolling Stone is not exactly a beacon of gender equity, considering that only 25 of the first 202 issues (1967–1975) featured female musicians on their cover — including 3 with Yoko Ono and one with Linda McCartney, presented alongside their husbands. Other women featured on covers are actresses, Julianna Wolman for the “rock fashion” issue, and Karen Seltenrich for a cover story on … groupies. It’s a real triumph for the fucking canon, guys. When reached for comment, Rolling Stone tried to argue that they’ve featured Alice Cooper a number of times, and he wears makeup and has a “girl’s name,” but we’re not buying it.

But COME ON, it is HARD to think of female musicians — the 130 instruments on display in the exhibition only span a time period from 1939 to 2017, during which we know there were BARELY ANY women even alive, let alone playing instruments. Or perhaps the problem is that the instruments of Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Kim Deal, and other inarguably rock-ass women were not coveted by collectors, for fear that the smell of their menstrual blood on the instruments might attract wolves or curse the other objects in their collections. It’s a real conundrum.

The Met has not been reached for comment, as they are in a scramble to compensate for this oversight with an extension of the exhibition, provisionally titled Good for You, Girls: Tambourines Throughout Rock History.

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