Opinion: Why female-fronted is not a genre

I’ve been  involved in the weird and wonderful world of music since the tender age of 13, and can tell you quite a few stories about how my position as a woman playing the guitar on stage was, and is, sometimes still seen as some sort of extraordinary thing (as if I’m a fully-fledged Martian on stage). Which brings me to discuss (and hopefully tackle)the use of terms such as, “female-fronted,” “girl band,” and “all-female” to describe a band—and why this is so contentious.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with the terms mentioned above. When I first started playing the guitar, I immediately joined a band where the musicians were all young women. We were the second band in our country composed solely of female musicians and the terms “girl band” and “all-female” were used continuously by the press when describing us. 

At first, we took pride in the fact that no one else was doing it, but as time went on, we realised that something was off. Why were we the only female musicians in the country’s music scene? Why were people using these two terms—as if our gender, and not our music—was the only thing that made us notable?

I’ve battled and struggled with these terms for years. Are they being used as a marketing tactic? And does that mean that if I use them when writing our press releases, I’ll be directly participating in the patriarchal structure that created these terms? Does it mean that by default, musicians should only be men? Does that mean that there’s something wrong with me just because I want to create music? 

Women have been fronting bands for quite some time now. Heck, back in the 70s, groups like The Runaways and Fanny defied the status quo of how women should act by rocking and touring regularly. Therefore, can someone kindly explain why in the year 2020 we’re still defining bands according to the musicians’ gender?

“Female-fronted”, “girl band” and “all-female” should stop being used as adjectives to describe a band. They’re terms that honestly do more harm than good. It means that you refuse to take note of the years that the musicians have spent honing their craft. You’re simply dismissing the hours they spend rehearsing and writing tunes just so that you can pigeonhole them into an archaic category. And that, my friend, is NOT cool.

Don’t get me wrong, we should continue championing womxn’s involvement in music and the arts and encouraging young girls or female-identifying artists to express themselves through music. However, in my humble opinion, we should focus on creating an environment based on equality and justice for all musicians. Representation breeds greater participation: investing in channels that enable womxn to showcase their art, we can create a future where you’re solely judged by how innovative your work is, and nothing else.