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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Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit —...

7 replies on “Do Women Rock? The Met Overlooks Women’s Contributions to Rock and Roll”

  1. Calling Neko Case an “ALLEGED MUSICIAN”?? Really Miss Sharp, how about a little perspective (and civility) here. While it’s true that most rock women haven’t really gone out of their way or have been given the chance to truly create their own lane as hard-kicking musicians, surely the MET could’ve made a little effort to include more than St. Vincent! How about a guitar from pioneer, Suzi Quatro or a bass from Talking Heads funk powerhouse, Tina Weymouth? And seriously, whoever doesn’t know by now about the insane axe-slinging of Screaming Females’, Marissa Pasternoster ought to just take a seat in the corner. Don’t blame the women, the curator appears to be either too young or too lazy to have dug very deep.

  2. I love sarcasm. This article deploys it as the only real approach to such a pointed insult to the female musicians of the past 60 odd years. And let us NOT forget the great female groups of the early days–The Ronettes, The Shangrilas, Martha and the Vandellas,the Shirelles and a “little lady” named Tina Turner–all working in the early sixties. Not to mention that great driving force of the women song writers-Carole King, Ellie Greenwich,Cynthia Weil. The old Met sure knows how to deliver a huge slap in the face.

  3. Thank you Sarah Rose Sharp!
    Is this a traveling exhibition on loan from the Hard Rock Cafe? Not a great premise to begin with, and made all the worse by the exclusion of women and
    femmes.

  4. Hilarious, insightful and a shame all at once. There are many great women rocks that should have been represented. Perhaps the Met can make up for it with a exhibit for the woman only representation and a token David Bowie thrown in.

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