A few weeks ago, I signed up for a 20-minute “classic rock” themed Peloton class. It was brutal. And by brutal, I mean awesome. I’m a former competitive high school athlete (turned mama) who works out 6 days a week, and I could barely keep up!
The only problem? I didn’t hear any classic rock songs by women, except for a quick excerpt of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” at the end.
We heard Sting, that “Lola” song and even a Grateful Dead tune. But no Stevie Nicks. No Bangles. No Heart. No Pat Benetar. No Dusty Springfield. If these bands aren’t classic, I don’t know what is.
I’d say I’m surprised, but I’m not. This happens nearly every time I hop on the damn bike, attend a bootcamp class or do anything other than running, when I listen to playlists I made myself.
The problem isn’t that women aren’t making music! Ladies are racking up grammies, and proving they can play a guitar solo, drum solo or funky bass riff.
The larger problem is that “women rock” is seen as an addendum to the default — songs written and performed by men or male-fronted acts.
When you turn on satellite radio, or attend a “festival,” if the event or station is not specifically dedicated to women, what do you hear? If you’re listening to Sirius Hits 1, you might hear Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa — but you won’t ever hear more than two songs by female artists in a row unless it’s some kind of countdown show based on airplay (the modern-day equivalent of “American Top 40”). Through most Sirius/Spotify/Tidal/radio streams, we’re fed a diet of mostly 80% male-led music acts.
This trickles down to my workout. When cycling or Bootcamp instructors play “grunge,” I don’t hear Courtney Love or L7 nearly as much as I hear Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice in Chains. These all-male bands are the “default” acts associated with a grunge sound. The women and their bands of that era, by comparison, are not considered significant.
This needs to change. The majority of people who take fitness classes are women. Why shouldn’t the majority of songs played feature women?
At a minimum, female/female-fronted music should account for at least 50 percent of a workout mix, especially for genre-based workout mixes (e.g., 80s, grunge, classic rock, metal).
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But maybe things are looking up, even if progress is slow. On Wednesday, my husband directed me to Kendall’s 30-minute class featuring the hardest women rockers — Courtney Love, Pretty Reckless (Taylor Momsen), Orianthi, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence. It was brutal, but blissful. And as I sung along to every song, I have never felt more grateful for a fitness instructor. I’ll be taking only her classes from here on out.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.