Jes Skolnik

Jes Skolnik has been writing about music for the past couple of decades and making noise from a young age. Born into DC punk via two hippie musicians and raised in zine culture, they are currently the managing editor of Bandcamp Daily, a contributor to Pitchfork and other publications, and at work on a history of the dialogue of DIY-rock subcultures with mainstream marketing. They are also a longtime activist and organizer.

"The Hideous Persistence of the Women in Rock Issue"
Rolling Stone’s Women in Rock Collection CD compilation came out in 1998, not just accompaniment to their annual Women Who Rock issue but a call to that current moment: those post-riot grrrl days of Lilith Fair and other attempts to highlight women musicians that had made it from underground activism and zine journalism to the mainstream. While Women in Rock Collection’s surprisingly wide-ranging in style and also includes black women in a foundational way modern music journalism still struggles with, it is also functions to canonize non-male contributions to music in a binary and confining way that insists that their gender will always be their defining trait.

All-female bands. Female-fronted bands. What’s it like playing with men? What’s it like not playing with men? We’re in one of those moments of heightened marginal visibility again, and even mainstream press acknowledges it. The way non-men in music are often both marketed and covered isn’t all that different 20 years later; we’re shunted off to the “women” and/or “queer” categories, sometimes with race attached in a nod to intersectionality that can feel more like a race to tokenize the most marginal person in the room rather than actually asking that person to speak about who they are and the music they make. I see it in my pitch inbox every day; as an outspoken activist and an out gay intersex person.

Attempts to write marginalized artists back into general music history, as a part of the continuum, are admirable, and I have participated in many of these projects myself. How can we move forward without falling back into the traps of the Women in Rock issue? How can we think about the questions we ask, the metaphors we use, the categories we operate with, so as to explode these binaries and confines rather than perpetuate them?