Schippers, M. 2002. Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering In Alternative Hard Rock.

Schippers, Mimi. 2002. Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Preface – FINALLY describes the main difference between West and Zimmerman and Butler’s ideas of gender performativity! West and Zimmerman focus on the individual interactive requirement to “do” gender and thus, produce inequality and domination; Butler focuses less on how gender emerges from (no accountability or allocation) – but how gender difference is reinforced symbolically – through language, movement, writing. Butler notes that Western gender binaries create hierarchy, mutual exclusion of traits; relationship of gender binary is a hierarchical one, always defined through a relationship of inequality.

Gender maneuvering: “When one or more people manipulate their own gender performance or manipulate the meaning of their own or others’ gender performances in order to establish, disrupt, or change the relationship between masculinities and femininities” (xiii). Interactive gender maneuvering as the process of gender maneuvering within certain spans of situated interaction within (sub)cultural spaces – working to change the meanings and relationships of gender within that particular space.

Chapter 1 – Gender and Rock Music: So What’s New?

Contrasting the glam rock scene of the 1980s with the alternative rock scene of the 1990s – one was about “doing” the rock star experience through having endless access to women; the other, about constructing messages of peace, equality, and deconstructing some of the earlier rock messages.

“Rock ‘n’ roll has been one of the few cultural spaces in which men have crossed gender boundaries and not lost status by doing so” (6). Many bands were loath to interview about women in rock music, or feminism, simply because they had been asked so frequently – making their gender the sole salient focus of the interview; or simply assuming that being a woman in a band makes them/the band feminist.

Women no longer decentralized – playing peripheral roles as groupies, fans, or support staff, but in roles that required these.

Rock music drawing from many sources – literature, visual art, politics, various music forms. Until 1990s, genres, styles, and practices of rock music scene did not explicitly include feminism or feminist identification.

Chapter 2 – The Gender Order of Mainstream Rock Culture

Gender bending, particularly within glam rock (use of mascara, long styled hair, glitter, flowy or tight fitting clothing), offered commercial (and sexual) success to male rock stars.

[…] “despite rockers’ claims that it was oppositional to mainstream sexual values, rock music has always been steeped in hegemonic constructions of sexuality and gender. With few exceptions, rockers simply did it louder and with more attitude than others while shrouding themselves in the ostensibly countercultural stance of antirepression. As Michel Foucault has noted, mocking and flouting sexual repression is not necessarily an oppositional approach to sexuality (cite Foucault 1978). According to Foucault, the Victorian sexual mores that rockers reject were not simply a clamping down on or repression of sexual expression, as conventional wisdom might suggest. Instead, it was a specific and active construction of sexuality through scientific and medical discourse” (20-21).

— That is, what we think of as repression offers a fixity of meanings and expression of particular sexual norms, identities, discourses, and practices.
“Social mores and customs don’t hold sexuality in check; they actually create sexuality, including appropriate and inappropriate forms of sexual desire, sexual practice, and sexual identity” (21).

In ways, the gender variance and expression required of glam rock was matched with hyperheterosexuality, “justifying” the gender deviance, and reinforcing hegemonic notions of masculinity within another realm.

Gendering of genres – masculinization of rock, feminization of pop music – authenticity and performance of one’s “own” work and music characterizes rock, whereas laborlessness and commodification of pop music earns revile – and in ways, manifests a symbolic relationship between not only music genres, but their genders. Physical attractiveness is often a central focus for many women’s success in the rock world – whereas men’s physical attractiveness can benefit them, their competence is not usually questioned, or put at stake, when (un)attractive.

“ Heterosexism, or the construction of heterosexuality as the norm and homosexuality as marginal or deviant, depends on the gender order that naturalizes the pairing of masculine desire with feminine desire. Likewise, the gender order relies on heterosexism to stigmatize desire that conflicts with hegemonic constructions of gender. Thus, in addition to a hierarchy that values men and masculinity, this construction of heterogender supports a hierarchy of sexual identities as well” (31)

Gender inequality comes not because of people consciously believing or enacting dominant/subordinate status, but because of the “material consequences result from the institutionalization of this symbolic structure in systems of power, prestige, and resource allocation and from how people relate to each other according to these positions in the concrete activitiesof social life (33).

Refers to Giddens’ structuration – people continue to act on preexisting patterns of social action, reinforcing social systems and their related systems of social action. Internalization of these behaviors occurs through socialization, in/formal sanctions – our decision, though they may feel autonomous, are influenced by these pre-existing rules. Everyday interaction are informed by our understandings of gender, inequality, relationships – but, reproduction of these relationships and associations are not inevitable and can be altered through reflexive, transformative social action.

Gender maneuvering as an active re-negotiation of this structuration process, questioning pre-existing social systems, relationships of gender, practices.

Chapter 3 – This Is Alternative Hard Rock – Rock Culture as Gender Maneuvering

“Stuart Hall defines culture as an enduring set of commonly held beliefs and practices that define or draw boundaries around a group (cite Hall 1980, 1997). Included in some patterns of beliefs and practices are rules for doing and thinking about gender. These rules, as part of doing a specific culture, often set up and reflect the heterosexual matrix or the hierarchical, binary relationship between masculinity and femininity” (40).

Chapter 4 – Gender Maneuvering in Face-to-Face Interaction

(Auto-ethnographic vignette to begin the chapter, incorporating quotes, very detailed descriptions, and precise language for interactive clues).

  • GM – disrupting the groupie/rock star dichotomy with personal admiration, minimization or redirection of sexual admiration. Butler notes that when women “do” masculinity, the overall gender structure remains intact – supporting masculinity as dominant and valued.
  • GM – promoting violence-free spaces through support of audience, bands, collective guardianship

Use of FRAME (Goffman) – “a network of meanings and rules for interaction that intersect in a particular social setting and frame the range of possible interpretations and actions (cite Goffman 1974). The frame provides the pattern for how to act out particular roles; included in the frame are networks of rules specific to one’s own and others’ positions” (79).   Gender as a frame – meanings of power that help guide behaviors that reinforce hierarchical relationships. Coincides with doing gender – not only an point of individual performance, but based off of other peoples’ reactions – looking for how well we are performing based upon their performance, and adjusting accordingly.

Using femininity as a “play for power” – “The relationship between masculinity and femininity in any situated social interaction will set up a field of power; manipulating that relationship can potentially affect the field of power—at least within that interaction. It is possible, then, that even if subservience and deference are part of doing femininity the play of power will depend on how others in the interaction are situated in relation to the person doing femininity; it will also depend on the meaning of the relation for those involved. If gender is viewed as relational rather than as a performance, this opens the possibility that doing femininity might, in some circumstances, shift power relations to the advantage of the individual doing so” (88).

Chapter 5 – The Body in Alternative Hard Rock

Appropriating heterosexist and gendered symbols as a way of subverting gender hierarchies, through destabilizing symbolic meaning and relationships of these symbols?

*** Style is one of the main signifiers of gender identity and a central mechanism of what Judith Butler calls the myth of gender coherence. As people who identify as men put on masculinity and others who identify as women put on femininity, the gender order is reconstructed. Thus, style and other bodily practices are part of the process of gender structuration. Because the matrix between masculinity and femininity is partially constructed and maintained through embodied gender, this opens the possibility for disrupting that relationship through bodily practice. That is, what is worn, how it is worn, how what we’re wearing relates to what others are wearing, the way we move our bodies in relation to other bodies, and the meaning of the gendered body could be manipulated to gender maneuver” (107)

*** “This criticism of grunge ignores the ways in which gender is not simply an individual-level identity we put on through clothing or style; it is a social relationship among and between masculinities and femininities that gets produced, sustained, and contested through social practice and interaction. While these men look masculine in their gender display, their embedded social practices and relations with others, including other men and women, are far from a straightforward reproduction of adolescent masculinity” (108)


Discusses concept of “gendered dress” – not just as performance of individuals, but as producing relationships between masculinity and femininity; how men and women wear clothing derive meaning from larger systems of femininity and masculinity, “gender-bending” here, is talking about relationships and notions that some clothing is more appropriate/deviant for some to wear – imbuing it with meanings of power.

*** THIS: It is because of their class and racial privilege that alternative hard rockers are relatively safe to gender maneuver by “slumming” in marginal and subordinate gender styles.14 While they are relatively successful at gender maneuvering in order to reconfigure the gender order of rock culture, their maneuvers are simultaneously embedded within race, class, and sexual relations. In this way, gender maneuvering is never simply about gender, but is also always about negotiating race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality” (126). – refers to hooks – any resistance to gender is futile if it does not also address power structures of race, class, sexuality.

Chapter 6 – Sexuality and Gender Maneuvering

“Because the sexual order depends upon the construction of homosexuality and heterosexuality as stable identities, some queer theorists and activists suggest that one strategy for undermining heterosexism is to challenge the hegemonic construction of sexuality as consisting of two hierarchical fixed identities defined by the biological sex of one’s object of desire. One way to destabilize the sexual order, then, would be to queer sexuality. To queer sexuality is to in some way step out of, blur, or challenge hierarchical, sexual identities that define individuals as homosexual or heterosexual.7 Sexuality can be queered through sexual practice and discourse about desire, identities, or sexual practices” (131).

Identification with lesbians and gays as relatively unheard of (not open about sexualities), but a fluidity of sexuality and identification (particularly for women) was highly embraced, and sometimes even encouraged? Overt displays of intragender desire and sex practice was common, but lesbian/gay identities were still somehow stigmatized?

Chapter 7 – Feminist Politics

Both men and women are complicit in reinforcing old patterns of masculinity and femininity – (kx^_ and not just by their own identification, but how they attempt to “undo” gender?)

Identification with feminism in a decidedly “post-feminist” era – sex wars, victim vs. power feminism, men’s rights — was something that many bands did not promote. Feminism was a practice, not an identity – despite having explicitly gendered messages (or messages some would consider very pro-feminist).


Foucault, Michel. 1978. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Volume 1. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage.

Hall, Stuart, ed. 1980. Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies 1972-79. London: Hutchinson. (ALSO) Hall, Stuart, ed. 1997. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage.

Goffman, Erving. 1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper Colophon.


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