Rebel Rebel, is a benefit for Girls Rock Milwaukee that smashes together creative designers, drag, performance and rock & roll. As the event draws near, it seemed like an appropriate time to open a discussion and tell a few stories about the girl experience, music and why it matters.
Many moons ago as a tweenaged dreamsicle, I wanted to be a singer. Or thought I was a singer.
After a middle school choir teacher informed me I should forget classical voice and shoot for radio or phone sex, I decided I wasn't a singer anymore.
For those of you who have never been a middle school girl, let me assure you that if you were given the hypothetical choice between a second go-round as a middle school girl or selling your arms to Satan-- you'd cut those suckers right off.
You're dumpy. You're fat. Your boobs are sad. Your teeth suck. You're bad at sports. No one likes you. You aren't good at anything. You're awkward. Your hair is greasy. If you kiss a boy your a slut. If you say no, you're a bitch. All of your friends actually hate you. Your skin is terrible...
Top it off with being told you have a whore man voice and see how good you feel about life on the planet.
I was sure that every time I opened my hideous mouth it sounded like two orca whales fucking.
Enter my incredible Mother who brought home treasures like Julie London, Peggy Lee, Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughn to cure me of my Alto Shame. I was a singer again.
As much as I loved singing jazz (and still do) I desperately wanted to be the front man of a Rock and Roll band. There was a power and a freedom in it. You could be effective.
Hardcore culture reigned supreme in my high school and despite my best efforts, haircuts, tape collections and show attendance it was impossible break in. It was maddening to stand right outside of the action, watching these boys express themselves in an exciting and demonstrative way.
The Berlin wall of Band-dom was made of assholes. Like big ones, and lots of them.
Boys coiffed, collected records, created bands, performed,organized shows, were signed to labels, bought vans and went on tour. That was scene.
Girls box dyed their hair, collected the same records, attended the shows and purchased merch. We were posers.
There was an invisible electric fence around music. We loved the same bands. We wanted the same things. It was as if our feels didn't feel as deep as "boy feels" and we didn't really understand and merely pretended we could.
Somehow our experience was less real.
I joined my first "real band" as a freshman in high school. As bands came and went the end results were the same: we would never achieve Rock and Roll Nirvana.
The question arose: Why was I trying so desperately to carve a space in a culture that clearly didn't want me? (This would later lead to a seemingly ongoing crisis about how a subculture can hypocritically claim to be feminist and progressive, yet be so blatantly anti woman. But THAT is another article, kittens...)
It felt like I was being kept away from my Purpose. These were really ugly years.
Since I was busy finger painting in the early 90's, I was too young to grasp Riot Grrrl before it was "over". Truthfully, Riot Grrrl didn't even enter my consciousness until my gender studies exploration as a freshman in college.
I was ashamed of my girlness and believed it was holding me back. My solution to get out of musical exile was to make my art as masculine as possible. It failed.
Some years later while making my first recording in a studio, there was incredible disappointment that I couldn't scream like a man. The only way to be good was to be something I wasn't. More shame-- the negative cycle validated itself.
The next decade was spent wandering around trying to figure out how to be a "Girl Singer".
Hell, I'm still figuring it out.
When I first learned about Girls Rock, lightening bolts ACTUALLY shot out of my eyes.
The girls attend camp and learn how to play instruments, write songs, form a BAND and have the opportunity to perform their work for the public. The campers not only get a chance to shred and grow as artists, but gain leadership skills, self confidence, creative problem solving abilities and teamwork experience.
They're basically Super Heroes.
My heart gets so big it pounds on my ribs when I think about these girls in their life after camp-- Knowing in their guts that they are capable, talented, dedicated, supported, confident and just as real as anyone else...
Knowing that they are badasses that can make something good, that their girlness is good. Knowing that they are powerful both on stage and off. I like thinking that these Wonder Women in training will transform into radiant humans who know their Truth and change lives.
It makes me proud. It inspires me.
Because it's not just about music. It's about living a Whole life where you have Purpose--
a life where you can heal and create and fail to heal and create again.
I believe in the Healing Power of Rock and Roll.
You can learn more about Girls Rock Milwaukee here and RSVP to the Rebel Rebel benefit here.
Let's talk. I'd love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments.