When my cohort over at Guitar World/Acoustic Nation, Pauline France, published her online missive, "Things Women Who Play Guitar Are Tired of Hearing—and What You Should Say Instead," I could certainly understand and support why something like this needs to be said.
But I was still sad that she felt she had to write it.
Evolved humanoids always want things to change for the better, and, in the case of the arts, for worthy creators to be supported, rather than torn down and criticized. Unfortunately, in the guitar community, overwhelming support for the artistry, tone, and technique of other guitarists — whether male, female, canine, or alien — is kind of a myth.
Guitarists often brutally eviscerate other players' product-demo videos, lesson videos, and musical works. Whatever someone puts out, someone else is more than happy to call it crap. As some GP readers know, a couple of months back, I was devastated by the vicious comments leveled at a 10-year-old boy performing a heartfelt YouTube tribute to B.B. King that had been posted on our Facebook page. Yeah—a child. THAT's how mean this community can get.
Now, the question of whether women can be awesome guitar players has, happily, never really been a thing to consider or debate at GP. We started covering male and female guitarists of all styles back in 1967, and we've never stopped. The staff has always tried to respect ALL players — from blues musicians to punks to rabid experimentalists — with as much objectivity as humanly possible. The staff has never consciously patronized female players, or put them on a pedestal. We simply see everyone as "players worthy of coverage," or "players not yet ready for coverage." We focus on the GUITAR and the MUSIC—not pop culture or fashion, and certainly not sex, race, religion, creed, or favorite football team.
But I get Pauline's frustration: Men said say stupid things to female guitarists. No argument. Sexism is simply not ready to go the way of the dinosaurs yet. Sigh.
And yet, it's not that men don't also say stupid things to male guitarists. They do.
So here's the awful truth: When you choose the guitar, practice your chops, and step into the public arena, you need to be strong, fearless, and be ready to be criticized or even ridiculed. I wish it wasn't so, but that's the way it is.
Perhaps someday the guitar community will strike a comfortable balance between haters, constructive critics, and supporters. I hope so, because I want EVERYONE to enjoy playing guitar. I want MORE and MORE guitarists out there, spreading the roar and evolving tones, compositions, techniques, and gear.
What I DON'T WANT are potential players, newbies, hobbyists, and aspiring professionals to fear the guitar, and therefore put it down and walk away from it, because the community surrounding the guitar it is so scary and awful and frightening and just not supportive at all.
It takes some humanity, understanding, and grace to build an arena of encouragement for artists. It can be done. You might say I'm a dreamer...