Beer and Pavement

Pavement and Girls

Posted in GenderBender, Life, Pavement by SM on July 6, 2010

Somewhere, someone has decided that girls1 don’t like Pavement. It’s a boys only club to like Pavement. Their shows are glorified sausage fests.

I know for a fact that this is not true. Regular commenter Carrie has professed a desire for a Kansas City reunion stop and often includes a Pavement track or two on her blog’s playlist. My sister is a long-time Pavement fan2. She can talk livestock all night long with Bob Nastanovich if you give her a chance. My last girlfriend before my wife joined me for the final North American Pavement show and even asked for a compilation to coincide. Today, these two Tweets ran through my feed here and here. Finally, my partner once surprised me as she took over a verse of “Cut your Hair” as we sang our daughter to sleep. She likes Pavement but is no fan. For her to just know the words out of nowhere was pretty impressive3.

So, as you can see, Pavement knows no gender lines4. They appeal to men and women. From where does this misconception come that they are only for dudes, bros, guys, etc.? I have a few theories which could probably apply to many other indie bands5, but, you know, I mostly write about this one band.

Overtly Masculine Hardcore/Punk Scenes
Pavement, although not the most masculine, hardcore, or punk band you’ll ever see/hear, definitely has roots in the scene. They rose from the ashes of eighties hardcore that helped break down barriers for 90’s indie rock. Some of that mentality bled into the newer scene. Mosh pits were tamer, but they were still there. I remember getting beat up pretty badly at a ’95 show6. Such a scene at any concert suggests overt masculinity on stage, but Pavement wasn’t the most aggressive band of their time by any means. This idea that hardcore and punk were for boys only was partially true, but with the advent of the Riot Grrrl movement and less manly groups like Pavement, it sort of died out and the audiences grew to be gender neutral, or at least gender friendly.

Boys and their Toys
I still remember the Pavement listserve7 I was on in the mid-90’s. There was a rather long debate about whether the subject of “Silence Kit” was about a guy or a girl. They went back and forth for days on this one topic. I don’t remember many of the arguments8, but one stuck out as particularly asinine. This one listserve member, obviously very proud of himself, pointed to the closing lyrics of the song:

till five hours later i’m…chewin’…screwin’ myself with my hands

The other dudes flooded the list with praise for the argument that only boys could screw themselves with their hands. Therefore, “Silence Kit/d” was a boy. Ten or so congratulatory messages later, a single female poster responded that she too could masturbate with just her hand. Crickets. Then, someone started up the topic of Pavement’s favorite word with “special” cited as the early leader9.

Lilith Fair
With the aforementioned Riot Grrrl movement, came the watered-down and rather tame Lilith Fair. This, we were told, was what women and girls liked to hear. I won’t use space to bash Lilith, except that the music generally put me and anyone else who loves music to sleep. Any self-respecting music lover – man or woman – didn’t go to Lilith for the music10. If anything, folks flocked to amphitheaters to see Sarah Mclaughlin and the Indigo Girls tear it up because it provided the only real opportunity for such a female-centric bill. Lilith had more to do with gender politics than it did good music. However, this was what we were told women and girls liked and it was nothing evenly remotely like Pavement.

They’re all in love with Stephen Malkmus. Secretly.
By “they” I mean the boys11. Never have fanboys felt this way about another man not throwing a ball or themselves into the air via large ramps. The boys want SM Jenkins for themselves. They feel girls are just lukewarm to his charm, but boys are totally gay for Malk, especially the gay ones. How can they compete with women when SM has demonstrated a preference for them? Well, they can shut the girls out. Keep them away from Pavement by any means necessary. This assures the sausage fest described above and means that one of these boys may have a chance with the man of his dreams…or at least a chance to hold hands with Mark Ibold.

Everything is about boys/men.
We do live in a patriarchy. Feminism has brought us a long way, but it’s still a man’s world. I’m not advocating for this. I want my daughter to have a fair shot in this world, but I’m a realist. Pavement is about boys and men because, well, everything is about them, us.

Regardless of whether these theories hold any truth12, Pavement is for all of us. There are messages and nuances we all can appreciate, regardless of our genitalia.

1Lower case “g” means actual girls, not the band.
2She once entered a poetry contest for the band and lost. When she confronted a couple of band members behind the venue, they claimed ignorance. I don’t know. I think they were hiding something. It was a pretty good poem.
3And reminded me that she is pretty cool despite all that professorin’ she’s always doing…No, that’s cool too.
4Aside for the fact that they are an all-male group. Stay with me here.
5Seriously, boys think they have the indie market covered, but I know plenty of women who could easily name every member of Chavez, recite the lyrics to “Conduit for Sale”, and name every Guided By Voices’ release, pre-Cobre Verde.
6Some bros even took off their shirts. Really.
7Dumbest internet tool ever. Ranks up there with discussion boards, Friendster, and blogs.
8Because it was pointless. Of course, this was a listserve (see #7).
9“Special ones, made of gold”
10OK, maybe there were some. My point is not to rip Lilith. She’s a nice lady. I just want to point out that women’s tastes in music should not have been limited to this certain aesthetic, just as I’d like you to know that not all boys grow up loving Limp Biscuit.
11And probably me a little bit. He is a pretty man.
12They almost certainly don’t.

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4 Responses

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  1. Steve said, on July 7, 2010 at 3:27 am

    Nice post.

    My Significant Other is a big Pavement fan, seeing their last ever gig pre-reunion, and accompanying me to one of their recent London shows. She no doubt knows more of the words than me. Father To A Sister Of Thought is probably the closest we get to having a ‘song’, not necessarily for any romantic reason, but that we agreed early on in our courtship that it was our favourite Pavement song.(1)

    I think it is pretty clear that indie rock attracts inverted snobs and obsessive completists, who are generally of the male gender. What makes Pavement stand apart, for me, is that they have always been far more fun, tongue-in-cheek and laidback than a lot of bands, which you would think would be more appealing to a wider demographic than (male) indie oddballs lurking on the internet from their mother’s basement. Plus they are as much a pop group as a rock band, as far as I’m concerned.

    1. The other candidate for our ‘song’ is, shamefully, a Curtis Stigers number, but that is a whole other story. We really need to do something fun with a good soundtrack, or we’re in trouble when it comes our first dance.

  2. brittansalisbury said, on July 18, 2010 at 11:15 am

    haha, I just wrote a blog on Pavement a little before you wrote this.

    am I am 100% girl.

  3. […] Pavement and Girls July 2010 2 comments 5 […]

  4. […] and grrrls covering Pavement is always a nice find. This should be worked into an addendum for that girls and Pavement post I did a while […]

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