The Twisted Bell

Women of Oldfield

Date: Thu Dec 19 11:29:26 1996
Subject: Re: Only men are Mike fans?

Okay, Pedro, I'll bite.

Music is a good way to express feelings. I think it is obvious that men and women experiments different feelings (simply differents).

It's not obvious. I have problems with statements that imply that men and women are distinct groups with a line drawn between them and little in common. There might be some feelings only women experience, or some that only men experience, but since we can't swap into a body of the opposite sex we'll never know for sure. But there would be many, many more that everybody experiences; there's a big degree of overlap. And there are men who identify more with supposedly 'feminine' feelings and values, and women who identify more with 'masculine' ones, and so on...

Mike ... is a man, so his feelings would be nearer to what men feel than women's feelings.

... so that doesn't necessarily follow, for a start.

Another point is that just because men and women might express their feelings differently, for cultural reasons (or perhaps in some cases biological reasons - nature and culture interact, in any case), that doesn't mean the feelings are different. That kind of thinking leads to men being stereotyped as uncaring and unfeeling just because they've been taught not to cry in public; they still have feelings, they're just not showing them in the same way as women do.

if it express "men feelings" (don't missunderstand me), his music could be interpreted slightly different by men or women...

But a slight difference in interpretation wouldn't explain the phenomenon David and others have tried to explain - i.e. why so few women crop up on Amarok, at Mike fan-gatherings, etc.

And don't misunderstand me, Pedro - I'm not trying to kill you, I just don't accept that men's and women's feelings are so different that that explains the phenomenon. After all, pain is still pain, joy is still joy, whether you're a man or a woman.

However: broadly speaking, there are differences between men and women, sure. Some are culturally-derived, some are biological. Women have better colour-vision than men, for example - on the whole. (But not all women will have better colour-vision than all men; an important point. Broad trends across groups don't tell you much about any individual case.)

What I suspect has happened in the case of Mike's music is that various factors have compounded to result in the situation we see today.

1. Mike is primarily a virtuoso guitarist. Guitar heroes seem to have been a male obsession, particularly among teenagers (at the age when musical tastes are usually shaped). The explanation for that would be complicated, and there might be some biological reasons why males obsess about virtuoso technique - but one mustn't underestimate the fact that girls have had it drummed into them for years that it's the boys who are the guitarists, the same way it's supposedly the boys who play football. Such messages, whatever their validity (probably none in this case) become culturally entrenched and self-perpetuating - it's hard to challenge them, particularly when you're a teenager, with all the associated uncertainty and lack of confidence. So if girls get the message that they can't be virtuoso guitarists, it's hardly surprising that many of them will be less enthusiastic in their appreciation of virtuoso guitar than boys. You will no doubt find that there are fewer female than male fans of Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, et al.

2. Mike was never a 'pop star'. There have always been plenty of teenage girls who are big fans of popular music, but they're often looking for different things than virtuoso technique; some want catchy three minute singles; some want danceable music; some want pin-up singers. (I won't try to analyse why, I'll only note that there are plenty of boys who go to raves and put posters on their walls, too.) Mike provided none of those things in the 1970s when his profile was the greatest - he had a reputation for being the solitary difficult rock-guitar instrumentalist.

3. Once you have a reputation, it's hard to shake it. Mike is still known as the guy who did TB, even though we know there's so much more to him than that. That's enough to stop radio and TV from giving him any exposure that would change people's perceptions. Therefore he tends to be a word-of-mouth artist (have a look at the stories on the Exposed page at the Amarok site about how people first encountered Mike - as often as not, it's through a friend or relative).

4. If a word-of-mouth artist starts with a mostly-male fan-base, they'll probably continue to have a mostly-male fan-base, because younger people - who are the main consumers of popular music - tend to have more friends their own sex. (Again, as I've been saying all along, these are tendencies, trends, not hard-and-fast rules.) Once most people pass the age of 25 or so they don't listen to music as much (as jobs and family intervene) and so their tastes don't change (hence the horror that is golden oldies radio).

5. 1 + 2 + 3 + 4, above, result in Mike's continuing to have a mostly-male fan-base.

6. Also: obsessive fandom might be more of a male feature than a female one. I'm not so sure about this, but it could be playing a part. I do know that sociologists have found that collecting (stamps, coins, phone cards, books, records) is more prevalent among males than females. Collectors and obsessive fans are the kinds of people who crop up on this list, at conventions, etc.

7. Don't discount the demographics of the Internet: still predominantly male [in 1996], despite a promising increase in the female presence in recent years. But even if the Internet was 50-50 M/F, the other factors above could still result in a higher male presence on Amarok.

I think that'll do for now. As you can see, the above would go a long way towards explaining why there are fewer women than men here - without having to resort to speculations about different feelings between men and women.

Yes, you probably have different feelings to me at any particular point in time, because you're a different individual human being; but to say 'you can't know what these feelings are like because you're male/you're female' - well, I don't buy it. Just because I've never had a broken leg doesn't mean that I don't know it'd hurt like hell.


Date: Fri Dec 20 09:57:33 1996
Subject: Re: Amarok: Only men are Mike fans?

Sigmund Ewins wrote:

That's Germaine Ewins, if you don't mind :),

> I have problems with statements that imply that men and
> women are distinct groups with a line drawn between them and little in
> common.

I admit, those were exactly my feelings. Till the day I noticed that I'm different from all the other little girls.

It's true, I suppose. Given that women are non-carbon-based lifeforms that breathe ammonia, speak in strange beeping noises that are totally unintelligible to the male of the species, have a habit of sitting still and doing nothing for up to 48 hours at a time, are quite fond of eating the tin-foil lids off yoghurt tubs, and melt into a pool of their constituent chemicals if you play 'Amarok' to them... well, it's difficult to see how they have anything in common with men at all.


The Twisted Bell

©2001 Rory Ewins