I want to be him, not just stand by him
Alternet has an article from Women's eNews about a rock and roll camp just for girls. The camp's purpose is to help junior high-age girls learn music and gain confidence during that critical period in a girl's life when her self-esteem is confused by social messages that tell a girl she can be sexy or talented, but not both. It's an interesting article, but one sentence jumped out at me and I think that this is a concept that needs to be explored by itself.
While boys don't have their own rock camps, experts say that they have plenty of cultural cues supporting their desire to play the music and also don't experience the drop in self-esteem that girls do.
How is it that girls have an easier time learning to play rock music in a contrived single-sex enviroment and boys don't need that sort of thing? A number of possibilities occured to me, not the least of which is that there doesn't need to be contrived single sex enviroments for boys to doodle in music as we allow them these thing naturally without worrying as much about them as we might teenage girls who hole up by themselves to play instruments. And then it hit me what the number one difference between boys and girls is on this issue.
For boys who want to play rock music, the opposite sex is motivation, but for girls who want to play, the opposite sex is an obstacle.
The number one thing that adolescent girls aim for when it comes to their dealings with the opposite sex is to be as non-threatening as possible, lest you go utterly dateless. I know when I was a teenage girl, boys might develop crushes on girls who smart asses or let you know how bright they were or extremely dedicated athletes, but rare indeed was the boy who would actually be bold enough to ask such a girl out. Aspiring to rock stardom, even of the merely local sort, is exactly the sort of in-your-face behavior that teenage girls are generally petrified will make them sexual outcasts. I mean, I never aspired for more in high school than to be a champion in the various academic competitions that I was in, and my naked ambition was enough to make me an object of mockery at my high school, especially with many of the boys.
Boys have exactly the opposite experience--what's a better way to get girls to like you than to be an aspiring rock star? Playing an instrument doesn't make you too scary to date, but makes you all the more appealing when you're a guy. That's a powerful motivating force for the junior high/high school set. Of course, the end result is that when these kids become adults, a significantly higher percentage of boys than girls will know the ins and outs of how to play rock music. Which one could point probably has a lot to do with the wildly disproportionate number of adult men in rock music now.
Of course, I think what adults learned more than a decade ago, at least in the underground--that women who play are just as awesome and sexy as men who do--might be trickling down to the teenage set. But I'm not holding my breath. There's still powerful messages aimed at girls that any ambitions outside of getting the perfect hairdo, the perfect outfit, and the perfect boyfriend make you a over-proud bitch. And the pains of adolescence make those messages particularly difficult to reject--try telling a teenage girl that she won't mind not having a date to senior prom a decade from now because the very thing that threatens boys her age will be drawing them like moths to a light in her 20s and just see what reaction you get. So, I fully support camps like this.