Women Rockers and the Strategies of a Minority Position

Adele Keala Fournet

Abstract


This article is a distillation of an ethnography conducted in the fall of 2008 of female rock instrumentalists performing in bands in the Tampa, Florida bay area. The study looked into why there are comparatively very few female rock instrumentalists (five percent of the total number of instrumentalists playing in bands in the Tampa area), what social processes need to be in place for a woman to get involved in a rock band, and what unique social challenges women face as instrumentalists in a male-dominated field. The ethnography employs Pierre Bourdieu’s work on fields of cultural production, specifically his ideas of embodied cultural capital and habitus, to demonstrate that women are absent from rock because they lack the unique cultural capital necessary to participate in rock bands, and, furthermore, to explore what extraordinary social circumstances need to be in place for women to accumulate this cultural capital. Specifically, in this article I interpret Bourdieu’s theory to emphasize the importance of agency in his concept of habitus, and to show how women rock instrumentalists, once they manage to become involved in bands, develop strategies to make the most of their minority position in a highly male-dominated field. Women instrumentalists in the Tampa, Florida rock music scene develop particular strategies to cope with, exploit and transform their disadvantaged position as women in a field where having a male body is a dominant form of embodied cultural capital.

Keywords


women in rock; Pierre Bourdieu; gendered habitus; female instrumentalists

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