At least, here's one reason out of many: Because the few female music journalists who do exist write books like It Still Moves, a travelogue-slash-history of roots music that turned out to be even more of a dick convention than Pitchfork Media's masthead. But the book's author, Amanda Petrusich, is a Pitchfork Media writer and (managing editor?) at Paste Magazine.
When I first picked up It Still Moves, I thought to myself, 'Here is a woman who's managed to break far enough into mainstream music journalism to get her own damn book contract-- and one to write something that isn't strictly about female musicians or women in music, to boot.' Not that there's anything wrong with writing books about women in music. But it's sort of like when women first started to become physicians, and they had to fight not to get pushed into specializing in obstetrics. Now, the same thing is happening with music journalism. Women can't just be music writers-- no, we have to be music writers who serve women, which carries the underlying message that few men would be interested in what we have to say. So I was stoked to see that It Still Moves was just a book about roots music-- not women in roots music.
Then I actually started to read the thing. And by the time I hit the halfway point, I couldn't help but wonder: where were the women? No Emmylou Harris? No June Carter Cash? I flipped ahead to check out the chapter titles. Nothing, except for brief mentions in passing. And as I said earlier, I was not expecting the book to be female-centric. Or even to give equal time to female musicians-- even in this supposedly-enlightened day and age, that would be asking too much. The only exceptions to this rule were the female members of The Carter Family and one other person, who was only there because she works with another male musician.
But the lack of ladies in the book wasn't the only thing that bugged me about it. In attempting to serve as part-travelogue, part-music history, I feel that the book failed at both, in a classic case of one writer trying to do too much in too few words. And while Petrusich pursued this overly-ambitious goal, she neglected something important in the process. While I did and do not care what Petrusich ate for breakfast in Buttfuck, North Carolina, I do care that female folk and country musicians get the credit that's due them. Shit, even a page or two would've satisfied me. Had she bothered to focus on even one of my heroes-- Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette (I can remember my grandpa, who passed on years ago, listened to nothing else), June Carter Cash (without whom Johnny woulda croaked in a gutter decades earlier)-- I would probably not be writing this. Such is the sorry state of modern feminism.
The most infuriating part about the whole thing, though, is in the epilogue, where Petrusich claims to, after all that extensive research and traveling, understand Americana as it pertains to music. But what kind of understanding could she possibly have come to if the result of all that research was an unforgivably male-centric book about the usual suspects? I mean, how much more do we really need to hear about Elvis? And what kind of understanding can you expect to reach when you're neglecting some of country music's most important and influential artists?
That this absence of people with vaginas did not make occur to Amanda Petrusich throughout her work on this book astounds me. If a man had written it, this passing-over of women would be disappointing, but unsurprising. From a woman, it feels like the worst kind of betrayal. No wonder music journalism's such a sausage party. When we can't even get the few female writers who manage to make it as far as she has not to pay even a little attention to female artists, well, then...who will?