Whitely, S. 1997. “Introduction” to Sexing the Groove.

Whitely, Sheila. 1997. “Introduction.” Pp. xiii – xxxvi in Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, edited by Sheila Whitely. New York: Routledge.

Analysis of popular music blending various disciplines, methodologies, foci; emergent (in 1997) literature – but increasingly popular/populated discipline, requiring further study during the (then-) rise of the Internet.  Often, those who write on popular music claim membership within their own scenes as performers, critics, fans, etc.  Argues that live performance maintains centrality within constructions of rock authenticity.

“In particular, the significance of live performance lies in its focus on identity, in its expression of emotions which, for example, a listener may not be able to articulate because of personal repression or sexual taboos.  Thus popular music locates the pleasures that are available, the sites where desire and power are invested (/end xiv) and operationalised, and the possibilities for both determination and resistance.  In turn, the power of the music relies on an investment by a particular social or cultural group; its strength lies in its ability to create a feeling of belonging” (xiv-xv).

Studies of rock frequently assume masculine centrality through use of phallic power, arrogance/rebellion, use of gestures that communicate physical (sexual?) prowess of guitarist — feminist/women’s use of acoustic guitars or other forms of expression that refuse this phallic force; however, is less conspicuous/celebrated.

“The relationship between individual needs, attitudes and ideologies, and the hierarchical relationships inherent in the music business, evidence the need to transform the gendered nature of rock if women are to achieve any real equality of opportunity” (xx).

“If rock music is essentially a male domain, does this imply that women simply avoid musical genres, structures, sounds and forms of expression that connote ‘maleness’? Is the meaning of rock informed by the structures of the music industry machine, the marketing directors, the product managers, the A&R personnel, the music press and the studio environment? To what extent does ideological meaning depend upon the culture of its fans?” (xx)

Representations of women within popular music are always free, unattached – they rarely get pregnant, become mothers, married, or divorced, endure familial problems — kx^ has this changed since 1997?

“The use of self-shifting images, the ‘attempt to redraw and mix up the lines of difference in a new, energising way’ (Suleiman, quoted in K. Weil 1992, pg 144 – here xxviii) can be interpreted as a form of feminist strategy which reclaims identity from a history of multiple associations. At one level this appears common sense: women are not men, lesbians are not straight; and whether heterosexual, homosexual or lesbian, we present/display different aspects of our gendered identity to parents, employers, lovers and, in the case of the performer, to the media and fans” (xxviii) – in reference to Derrida’s ‘différ-ance’ (simultaneously to differ and to defer).

In regards to visual projections: “Sensational imagery, violent imagery and a glossy presentation that is often unrelated to the musical text suggest that visual devices are there not simply to draw the viewer in. Rather they are competing with the sounds in structuring the experience of the audience and shaping its response to the meaning of the musical content. Clearly, any meaning assigned to music does not have to depend upon the existence of external referents” (xxxii).


Suleiman, S., quoted in K. Weil. 1992. Androgyny and the Denial of Difference. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.


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