Ultimately, some ladies find the instrument confining, much like a corporate fast-mover who climbs to the top of the HR department but encounters resistance when she lobbies for CEO. Frustrated by what she perceived as Thompson's hegemonic tendencies, Deal was a malcontent in the years leading to the Pixies' breakup in 1993; in her follow-up band, The Breeders, she was lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. (In retrospect, the breakup reflects worse on Thompson than Deal — it was no coincidence that the band's two most acclaimed albums, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, also feature her biggest contributions.)

Inevitably, one must consider the male creative ego in all this. There are plenty of powerful, progressive frontmen who have worked with female bassists — Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups, and Thompson, to name a few. But how many are willing to cede creative control to a female guitarist? It doesn't happen very often. The most prominent female guitarists are either solo types like Joan Jett or play in all-female bands, like The Bangles' Vicki Peterson.

Though she allows that sexual politics "do play a role in bands," Stokes ascribes the disproportionate number of female bassists to the phenomenon of "personality types."

Band of Skulls: Anchored by the quintessential "comely female bassist."
courtesy of Band of Skulls
Band of Skulls: Anchored by the quintessential "comely female bassist."

"You know how hippies can sit in a room and point people out and tell what astrological sign they are?" she asks. "Well, I can do that with bands. I can point someone out and tell what instrument they play. And sometimes, yes, ego is expressed through the guitar. And sometimes, yeah, guys have larger egos. Personally, I always had really bad stage fright when I was younger. That's one of the reasons the bass suited me better.

"But gender roles are changing. And I think more girls and women are being drawn to the guitar."

Indeed, there may yet be a day when a female Jimi Hendrix challenges the gender paradigm in rock 'n' roll. On that day, the Kim Deals of the world will never relinquish the guitar, and we'll see just as many of them as we see hot-chick bassists. And then the hot-chick bassist will functionally cease to exist, because what makes her hot, chiefly, is the novelty of her gender and the general scarcity of women in rock bands.

And that will be a happy and sad day. I'll just enjoy Band of Skulls in the meantime.

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6 comments
Pg1735
Pg1735

Check out Holly Wood from Love Stricken Demise!

galeinphx
galeinphx

what about tal wilkenfeld ?? ...... world class .....

Gimme A. Break
Gimme A. Break

I didn't see that other comment before I wrote mine. Glad at least one other person saw it my way. :) And here's the missing quotation mark: '

Gimme A,. Break
Gimme A,. Break

FCCing ridiculous. What year is it? This warrants an 'article'?

ugh!
ugh!

What a disgustingly sexist article! Dude, come on it's 2009.

Eric
Eric

Maybe you ought to tell that to the female sociologist who wrote a paper on this very subject (When Women Play the Bass: Instrument Specialization and Gender Interpretation in Alternative Rock Music).

 

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