In high school and college, I stuck to jazz and classical, but I was the singer/keyboardist in an 80s/90s cover band after college when I lived in D.C. (Gwen Stefani and Shirley Manson from Garbage were my specialties there), and when I moved to Chicago in 1999, I took up the bass because I knew it was probably going to be my best chance to really play in a rock band. I was right. I joined three guys in a band we called Brother Lowdown (that's me on the left at our farewell show last summer), and we played from early 2000 until I moved to Minneapolis last fall, starting in small grungy rock clubs (OK, we continued to play a lot of small grungy rock
clubs up until the very end) and moving up to some fairly legendary places, like Chicago's Metro. We opened for bands that you've possibly heard of, made two EPs and a full-length CD (which we fully recorded and produced on our own), and generally rocked out.
Aside from the lip syncing, however, I always played in bands with guys and no other women (which was circumstance and never choice). And even though I played the bass and wrote songs for Brother Lowdown, people always asked first if I was the lead singer. For whatever reason, that bugged me and still bugs me, but I get it. There are still too few women in bands who are actually playing instruments and actively writing songs that the band will play (our lead singer/guitarist regularly sang songs that I wrote), or at least it would seem that way from the stories we usually read about rock bands.
But that really isn't the case. Girls throughout history have created various kinds of media and art and music -- long before Sleater Kinney and the riot grrl movement. I didn't necessarily recognize that I was making media myself as a kid (through diaries, songs, stories), but I was. This is one of the greatest points of Mary Celeste Kearney's book "Girls Make Media" -- the simple title really emphasizing the direct action of the process. Furthermore, she says we should not only analyze the texts that mainstream media produce for girls and how they affect girls, but what girls themselves do when left to their own devices. Seeing girls as producers of cultural artifacts tells a much more complete story about identity, gender and feminism. It does a service to the girls and women that they become. (She also talks about how specifically marginalized a lot of DIY artists -- filmmakers in particular -- have been with regard to mainstream acceptance. Again, why didn't anyone ever ask me if I was the lead guitarist in the band before they asked if I was the singer? And why didn't anyone ask about songwriting? Why is it a big deal when a female musician writes a band's songs?)
So both the rocker chick and professor in me recommends "Girls Make Media" as an excellent read but also a very sophisticated understanding of how cultural theory and critical studies of media explain how gender and power come in to play with girls' creation of media. (Beware that the theory might be a bit thick for a non-scholar, but Kearney's writing style is still easy to digest.)
And just as an aside, Kim -- the next-door neighbor rocking the tennis racket -- and I both wound up rioting beyond the garage ourselves. She's now a big-shot competing skateboarder (and kindergarten teacher!). Check her out. (She's in Montana now, but we're still close friends after all these years.)