Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rock Camp Diary, Day 2

This fly-on-the wall account was submitted by Eris Tock, veteran camper and GRCA 2009 intern.

It’s the second day of camp just after lunch and band practice and time for the afternoon workshop/seminar-there’s some general milling around and the younger half of the girls, ages nine through eleven, pile into a classroom and sprawl on the carpet.

Dr. Mary Kearney, Associate Professor of the Center for Women and Gender studies, a guest speaker from U.T., takes the stage. She starts with a general discussion of gender roles and women in music and immediately the Joan Jett and Patty Smith factoids begin to fly, there are outbursts of song and multiple grim discussions of the "industry"--these girls know their chops.

Prof. Kearney explains the gaze (the way women in music videos are seen through the eyes of the (usually male) directors, producers, writers and cinematographers as she flips through a series of ads for everything from yogurt to cars, all of them objectifying women. She pauses the slideshow on a particularly striking ad for some sort of mixed drink--in it a faceless man straddles a buxom bikini clad woman lying on her back.

"Who's in control here?"

The answer is deafening "THE MANN!!!"

"Why?" she asks.

"Cause he's wearing pants!" one camper crows.

"Because he's a jerk!" another vehemently declares.

"Because he's standing over her!"

It’s a pretty clear consensus. She moves on to the Lita Ford video "Kiss Me Deadly.” Indignant and just ever so slightly red faced the girls explode in protest.

"They're more interested in how her body looks than her music!"

"You can barely see her play guitar!"

They're right of course--there's a lot of blond hair and hips but the shots of her playing guitar are brief and very vague. She stands a good ten feet away from the camera and in deep shadow, hands and guitar hidden. The group goes on to discuss how hard it is to fit into the young blond haired blue-eyed big breasted white girly girl stereotype. It’s an indication of the solemn mood that the word “breast” induces no giggles. not a one. these girls are dead serious.

As the seminar winds down the topic, of course, turns to challenging the male gaze. Music videos by Ciarra, Keri Hilson, Bjork, and Courtney Love play on the projector as Dr. Kearney explains how these women desexualize and empower themselves through their videos and in some cases even reverse and draw attention to the gaze. There's a great deal of nodding and determined looks and as the girls file out of the room many of them thank their teacher for the afternoon.