Being a woman who loves classic rock and talking about it on air

This is the first post of a two part series I call The Diversity of Classic Rock: Origins where I talk about how this came about and a little bit of my life story, when it’s related to classic rock. Something that wouldn’t fit on an about page.

“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult” – Charlotte Whitton.

Here’s a quote from former mayor of Ottawa Charlotte Whitton. She had some really prejudiced beliefs, but it doesn’t mean that this quote is totally wrong.

Sometimes because of outside factors like people implying that I am not good enough, I felt like I shouldn’t bother with radio, especially classic rock radio. It’s male-dominated in respect to the music and who presents the music on the air. Looking at the classic rock stations in my hometown, I saw few female DJs. Sometimes I’d see objectification of women with “babe of the day” and with on-air banter.

In secondary school, longtime classic rock fans saw me as a “poser” because I was just getting into the music. I felt intimidated. I felt like I would never have a place in the classic rock fandom and never belong. I was proven wrong when I found a community on Tumblr.

When I was 17 I became sort of famous in the classic rock fandom there with thousands of followers. By the time I was 20, I had over 10,000 followers. I felt like I finally belonged. I shared my classic rock radio shows and knowledge and people enjoyed it.

When I was 19, I made my debut on the air. A week or so before that I walked to an information booth for the campus radio station. I was depressed and lonely since I left Canada and moved to Chicago. Some Yes records on display at the booth caught my eye and without hesitation I signed up. Finally! People who also like good music! For a short period of time I finally found a place in real life where I belong.

I was criticised a few months later for playing too much classic rock and that the music I played was all by old white men (the second part is a lie – the musicians I played were quite diverse). I had and I still have an international following.

This is when the idea of The Diversity of Classic Rock popped into my head. I wanted to prove that classic rock is a diverse genre in both the sound and in the walks of life musicians come from. But how would I do it? What would people think? I sat on the idea for about a year and a half until it was finally born, while I was on study abroad and told that for an assignment I needed to create a blog. So why not start the Diversity of Classic Rock then? This is the perfect opportunity! I fell in love with writing so much that I continued two years on.

Writing about classic rock is my passion. I like how my identity doesn’t matter. If the writing is good and interesting, that’s what matters. I find blogging is very egalitarian. People from all walks of life are given voices. Would I have been given a voice back in the 60s? Maybe or maybe not. With a blog, I can express myself all on my own terms. I’m the boss. I’m the only one who writes and researches for this blog. I feel very respected here by fellow writers. I have never felt like I didn’t belong because of my identity. Blogs are all about what the writer has to say.

It was when my appearance or my voice came into the picture that I felt like I didn’t belong. People called me fat and ugly. I can understand that my looks aren’t everyone’s taste, but fat? I was and still am borderline underweight. I was told I sounded and looked masculine and it hurt.

Radio for me is much better than video. I am much more comfortable when a camera isn’t pointed at me. One of my friends said that while I was calm and lowkey outside of the studio, as soon as I entered the studio, I lit up, became a different person, a more confident, outgoing person. My looks don’t matter in radio. It’s all about what I have to say and my music selections. I thought I was fine until I hardly got recognition for the hard work on my show. Sure, it’s easy to say do what you love and don’t seek others’ approval, but that’s kind of important if you want to get on the air.

I think there is an unconscious bias against women in radio and TV. The playing field still isn’t fully equal. It’s certainly getting better, but we can improve. There are lots of women with an interest in radio and TV. It’s not because of a lack of interest that there are fewer women on radio or TV.

Even though my voice is quite deep and calm sounding, I don’t think I am always taken seriously. I put a lot of thought into everything I do that’s classic rock related. I know a lot about classic rock and I learn more and more all the time. Will I ever be seen as good enough? Will I have to work four times as hard to get a quarter of the recognition?

A lot of the classic rock stories involve at some point people doubting them and saying they will never make it, but they work harder and become so good they can’t be ignored anymore. If I give up, it means one less woman in classic rock journalism.

Classic rock is full of rebels, trailblazers, people who question the status quo, people who speak their minds. One thing that classic rock taught me is that being conventional is boring. Who cares if I don’t fit into the existing moulds, maybe I just create my own.

Anyone who dismisses female fans of classic rock and thinks they can’t be real fans doesn’t know their classic rock history. Without female fans, these bands wouldn’t be where they are today. I’m tired of female fans being seen as lesser than male fans.