I’ve been a Mötley Crüe fan since 2017. But I’m almost positive if you ask anyone in my life when I got into them, they would say 2021. This is because for the longest time I was scared of the stigma that only older men can enjoy this type of music and I would get made fun of.
“Name 5 songs.” “Do you even understand the lyrics?” “I bet you don’t even know the name of the band on your shirt.” “I saw them live before you were born.”
These are common comments directed towards young women who wear vintage band shirts. And if you know the band, or even if you don’t, what does it really matter?
I can understand gatekeeping to an extent. People become protective over the artists they listen to and want to make sure people are appreciating the art; I’ve felt that way plenty of times. But getting these comments constantly from people is where I draw the line.
I remember one instance that happened last Fall. I had been wearing a Def Leppard shirt around campus all day, and I showed up to a class in it. Before even saying “hi,” the professor looked at me and said, “Wow, didn’t think I’d ever see you in a shirt like that.” At first, I was taken aback, but after a moment I responded with, “Oh yeah I love this band. I’m actually seeing them next summer on tour.” Because I am, on August 6, 2022, on The Stadium Tour. Seeing the professor’s shocked face and nod at my response strangely made me feel empowered. But it also got me thinking. Why do I constantly have to prove to people that I genuinely enjoy the bands on my shirts? Why, as a young woman, do I not have the luxury of people coming up to me and saying, “nice shirt, love that band” instead of “I bet you can’t name 5 songs.”
That moment was something that has stuck with me, and it’s what inspired this article in the first place.
Rock music and the music industry, in general, have always been male-dominated. Think of the popular bands from the era where rock n’ roll exploded: The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Guns n’ Roses, Deep Purple, Poison, The Who– you get the idea. Not a woman in sight. Gender stereotypes certainly have to do with this, usually, young boys are more encouraged to pick up an electric guitar or bang on the drums than a girl.
This has always been interesting to me because these rockstars themselves seem to throw gender norms out the window. For example, Kurt Cobain often adorned floral patterned dresses, the glam metal bands like Mötley Crüe, Kiss, Poison, Warrant, and more had hugely teased long hair, heavy makeup, brightly colored outfits and glitter. It’s one of the reasons I was drawn to these bands in the first place. The juxtaposition of their look to their music is something you don’t necessarily see with artists today.
In an article written by Caroline Sullivan for The Guardian, avid rock fan Kirstie Southcott explains, “If you’re a girl and you like metal, it’s frowned upon. People expect me to be into Justin Bieber and One Direction and, when I say I go to metal gigs, they think I’m strange.”
And don’t get me wrong– there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking pop as a woman. I would be remiss to say this as in addition to loving the heaviness of the music in the rock scene, I am also one of the biggest One Direction fans on the planet.
I have definitely had my share of positive experiences with telling people I enjoy this music, but the bad experiences often outweigh those. It’s why I kept my music taste a secret for so many years. It’s hard enough as a 14-year-old girl to say you enjoy anything other than Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, or Adele (not that there’s anything wrong with that) in order to not seem “not cool,” so 14 year old me telling others that my favorite band was Nickelback of all bands was fully off the table.
As I’ve gotten older though, I’m finding it easier and easier to open up about these bands and this music that I love. I still get the occasional, “You only like Mötley Crüe because the actors who play them in their biopic are cute,” but I feel like I’ve heard it all. The instinctive need to prove myself as a real fan lessens every day. I grew up listening to Bon Jovi, The Outfield, and Bryan Adams with my dad on the way to school. My music taste wasn’t something that was ever going to change, so I figured I may as well embrace it while I can.
I do think there is still a long way to go with some of the stereotypes in the rock world and understanding that anyone can enjoy it, but for now, I’m just proud of my personal journey with accepting this piece of me, and not having to feel ashamed for loving the things I love.