Girls Rock…And So Do You

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

The above is a three-minute preview of Girls Rock! The Movie, a documentary that came out last year about Portland’s Rock and Roll Camp for Girls (which has now spread to other cities besides Portland). I just got the DVD from Netflix.


Boy, do I wish something like this existed when I was ‘twixt 8 and 18 (the age range of girls in the camp). Over a period of five days, girls break out into groups based on musical tastes, form bands, pick up instruments they’ve (mostly) never played before, have lessons, write songs, and get mentored and watch performances by the likes of Beth Ditto, Carrie Brownstein (formerly of Sleater-Kinney), and local guitar goddess LKN (that’s her flipping her hair around in the preview). And a week later, there they are onstage, performing these new songs on these new instruments with these new people they didn’t even know the week before, and who they’ll remember forever.


And here’s the real reason this belongs on a fat blog: They tackle the body image stuff. Spectacularly. Not just by exposing them to Beth Ditto (although I’m sure that doesn’t hurt), but by raising their awareness of how the culture does a number on them, and teaching them how to treat themselves and others with more compassion. One of the most engaging people in the film is a size 14-to-16-ish Korean-American teenager named Laura who loves “bunnies and death metal,” not necessarily in that order, and you can see her in the preview, saying she doesn’t even think much about how she hates her body, it’s just always there, and she’s used to it. Obviously five days in camp isn’t going to magically transform a girl’s self-image, Beth Ditto or no Beth Ditto. But you can see her self-loathing start to melt away as she finds out more about what she has to offer. It’s gorgeous.

And the filmmakers fill us in on factoids about how the biggest desire of teenage girls (according to surveys) is weight loss, and how ridiculously young most girls are when they start dieting. Also, they mention that when boys are asked about their “best feature” they are more likely to name a talent, while girls asked the same question tend to name a body part. Shit, I would have too, maybe even last week. Not anymore.

Folks, this is what I want for all of us. I want us all to think we’re the shit, that we have as much to offer as anyone else does, that the narrower-than-a-guitar-string standards of what is “beautiful” shouldn’t keep anyone from creating or force us to hide our light under bushels because we’re not “attractive” enough. It’s bad enough when they do that shit to performers, but it can affect even the non-entertainers among us, the painters and writers and filmmakers who don’t develop their talents because they don’t think they are telegenic or magazine-friendly in appearance. So many problems in the world come from people taking their crappy self-esteem (and the often-attendant bloated egotism) out on other people and on themselves, and that’s just ass. And not the good kind.

Not that I think Rock Camp for Girls is going to save the world or anything. I doubt any one thing can ever do that. But it’s getting girls to talk back to a culture that hates them, and boy, do we need that in this day and age. So see this movie. It will let people know we want more like this.

And if reading the above is making you wish you were between 8 and 18 so you could go to Rock Camp, guess what? You can. Yes, there’s a Ladies’ Rock Camp (for anyone female-identified 19 and up). I’m seriously considering attending the October session. Anyone wanna come with?

5 Responses to “Girls Rock…And So Do You”

  1. CassandraSays Says:

    Ooh, I’m so tempted by the Ladies Rock Camp. Hell, I’m already a rock journlist part time, why not? I could call it research!

  2. Godless Heathen Says:

    Cassandra, if you wrote about it for your publication, you could write it off on your taxes. Boy, does it ever sound like fun.

  3. O.C. Says:

    It’s time to make “Piggy Moo” a reality!

  4. wellroundedtype2 Says:

    I play nothing, but I do sing.. aspire to sing… have lungs…
    OC — the idea of a real “Piggy Moo” sends tingles up and down my spine.

    This is a great post. I will say I heard about this movie half a year ago or so (maybe a year ago now) from my therapist… he was on board with it for the reasons you’ve outlined here, Meowser, how hard it is for him to see his daughter and many women around him define themselves or be defined by their appearance rather than what they can do.

    I will have to see it. Maybe it’s even worth having a party for, with all of my rockin’ friends with daughter or who would like to rock out themselves.

    I was just talking with a bestest friend about how when we were coming up, if you were a woman in the public eye or just working outside of the home in a “customer service” capacity, you were expected to not only be more competent than a man doing the same job, but beautiful as well. Like an airline stewardess, for example. So it was like, yes, you can be part of this predominantly male work world, but only if you give us something nice to look at while you are here. It’s painful. And stupid. And must stop.

  5. akaEloise Says:

    When I was in fourth grade, we got the exciting news that Mrs. W., the music lady, was coming to our school to help us choose what instrument we wanted to learn to play. When she asked me if I had picked out my instrument and I said yes, I had. What is it? The drums! I liked to tap my foot in time to music, and I was pretty good at picking up the beat. My older sisters told me if I played the drums, when I got to high school I’d be able to play in the marching band, the orchestra, the jazz combo, or a rock band, whatever I liked. So definitely, I wanted to play the drums. The music lady looked at me and said “Oh, but little ladies don’t play the drums. What about a nice violin? Or a flute? Those are instruments for girls.” This was the first time in my life that anyone had told me I couldn’t do something, or that I ought to do something, because I was a girl. I was actually so shocked about it that I didn’t even tell my parents — I guess they just thought I’d decided against taking music lessons. Later on in high school, I met a few girls who played drums — and since the same woman had been the music consultant for the whole district, I asked them “Didn’t Mrs. W. tell you that little ladies didn’t play drums?” “Oh yes! That crazy old bat! Yeah, she told us we couldn’t play the drums. But we just signed up anyway.”
    I’m glad that Mrs. W. isn’t in the schools any more.

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