The Sexist Hell Endured by Female Rockers in the 80s

For decades, women were told that they couldn’t rock. Sure, there were exceptions–Janis Joplin and Grace Slick come to mind–but for the most part, women were subjected to endless sexism when it came to the music biz. LA Weekly has this story on what female metal bands had to endure back in the 80s.

During the 1980s, there was more makeup on the Sunset Strip than in the average department store. Ditto stiletto heels, blouses and Aquanet. Venue bathrooms were full of people checking their lipstick and mascara, before making their way to the bar or stage to preen.

And that was the dudes.

Removing tongue from cheek for a minute, the fashion of the 1980s hair-metal scene has been well documented and photographed. For those who were there, the images remain firmly implanted in the memory. Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady),” an ode to Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil, puts the whole thing in glorious perspective.

Ironically, while the men were trying to look as feminine as possible, in many cases their behavior reflected old gender divides. Groupie culture, sleazy videos featuring metal-chick style icons Bobbi Brown and Tawny Kitaen, the casually misogynistic lyrics — despite the attire, rock & roll was still very much a testosterone-fueled world.

“There were a lot of people who would book us because they thought it would be some kind of schticky thing,” remembers Amy Brammer, lead singer of all-female ’80s group Poison Dollys. “Normally after we did soundcheck, we proved that we knew what we were doing.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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