Marginalized ROCKRGRLS: Women of Color, Queer Visibility, and Battling Ageism
ROCKRGRL’s commitment to inclusion is an exceptional aspect of the collection. At a time when the political climate was slowly edging its way toward being more inclusive, but failing to do so on many fronts, ROCKRGRL regularly featured profiles and interviews of women of color, lesbian and bisexual artists, mature artists, and fearless, non-conforming girls. While ROCKRGRL also regularly featured cisgendered, heteronormative female musicians, songwriters, and producers, the bodies identified as marginalized in some way do not only meet the criteria of a woman in rock music, but face daily intersecting oppression as the result of racism, sexism, homophobia, or any combination of these oppressive factors. The women who have been marginalized within popular music are not victims or examples of what can happen when a woman sells out and plays nicely with hegemonic norms; they are fierce, furious, and stunning examples of what can happen when a woman owns her identity, blocks out the haters, uses creativity to amplify her voice, and refuses to follow hegemonic standards of society that limit women who do not match what the cookie-cutter culture has declared "normal."
In this gallery, examples that are included work to combat the "isms" that continually oppress those who lack power in American society. All of these artists included in this gallery, in some way, contributed to increasing visibility of marginalized women (and girls) in the music industry. These examples defy what might be considered hegemonically beautiful (following the standards of white femininity and beauty), popular within the rock genre (alt-rock or subgenres like rockabilly), or capable of producing music that is as important, or more so, than male artists (artists who are perceived as either too old or young).
African American artists like Queen Latifah (a groundbreaking hip-hop artist), Cindy Blackman (well known as Lenny Kravitz’s powerhouse drummer), and singer/songwriter Dionne Farris were visible in early ROCKRGRL issues. Their varied musical styles and backgrounds did not pigeon-hole African American women in certain musical genres (i.e, only hip-hop), and gave readers a sense of the many different options women of color had as performers and consumers of music.
Ciba Motto, Cobra, and Yoko Ono represented a small population of rock musicians from East Asia. Their range of musical output and age defied the hard and fast stereotypes of Asian beauty and significance within popular culture.
The band Ditto Ditto represents the fat body as a symbol of marginalization, while also challenging beauty norms and what it means to be an activist.
The Butchies and Elizabeth Ziff of the Bettys represent queer-identifying or lesbian artists within both subculture and mainstream music. Their presence is an outright rejection of homophobia and damaging assumptions that fuel lesbian stereotypes.
Battling ageism, both being perceived as too old and too young for rock, is another important theme of ROCKRGRL across several years of issues. Musicians such as punk legend Helen Wheels, Rockabilly queens Wanda Jackson and Cordell Jackson, the young sister duo, Smoosh, and teenage alternative group, The Donnas uniquely defy the mainstream culture's obsession with youth, sexualized female bodies, strength, power, and female agency.