by Keidra Chaney
I’ve been reading with amusement the blog “My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection” and following with interest the resulting debates around the blog. Quick recap: writer Sarah O’Holla created a Tumblr to review her husband’s collection of 1500 vinyl LP’s. It’s music criticism served with a side of snark – not too dissimilar from the kind of writing we do at TLF, and definitely written from the perspective of a semi-interested musical bystander, which is novel in the world of music writing where these days everyone must be an obsessive expert.
The debate around this blog comes from some critics who find the blog’s tone to be problematic; specifically that it reinforces stereotypes about the place women music fans hold in rock fandom, particularly the idea that women aren’t discerning collectors and critics of rock music.
Here’s what Slate’s Amanda Hess had to say:
“When O’Holla reviews an Anthrax album by writing, “Okay, yes, they’re saying ‘murder’ over and over again, next is ‘hatred.’ AHHH!!!!! I’m so scared!!!,” she’s throwing an elbow straight to the belly of the music bro. But seen another way, her exercise is not very funny at all, because it helps those same music-nerd dudes who have boxed women out of the subculture—keeping them on the periphery in the roles of wives and girlfriends—to share the link as confirmation that women just don’t get it.”
I get this argument. The tone of “My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection” does reinforce the Nick Hornby/Judd Apatow “obsessive fanboy man-child and exasperated wife/girlfriend” trope I don’t take personal offense to it because its so prevalent in pop culture I’ve become desensitized when I see it. But it is annoying, and it does add just enough fuel to the fire to make things harder for women attempting to establish a voice for themselves in the boys club of rock criticism -and fandom. It does place women firmly on the outside looking in, reinforces the same of gendered assumptions about women and criticism – that critical, “meaningful” discussion about music is not in our nature. And of course, it gives chronic mansplainers one more excuse to interrupt us while we’re talking to tell us stuff we already know.
But I also think this blog is important, and needed for music fans of any gender, because it makes music criticism more open and accessible to those new to such conversations, which doesn’t happen nearly enough – particularly online, where musical knowledge is collected and categorized like baseball stats, and music nerd conversation seems to be centered around the idea of de-legitimatizing others’ tastes to prove musical superiority. Pitchfork has pretty much created a cottage industry around rock-bro fandom and the state of online music writing and fandom has adjusted itself to that standard, rather than allowing other voices in. Perhaps fans are connected to My Husband’s Stupid Music Collection precisely because it is speaking to an audience outside of the rock-bro elite and it potentially opens up online music fandom more broadly than it would ever go if left in the hands of said music bros. And goodness knows that is needed.
I want to add, as an aside, that I’ve been lucky to not experience nearly as much of the condescension and harassment that my colleagues have experienced in my rock music writing and fandom. Maybe it is because my racial identity, or more specifically my experience as a black woman tends to inform my perspective more than gender alone, or because I have a unique enough name that often my gender isn’t immediately evident, or – let’s go there for a second – maybe my identity as a black woman defeminizes how I am perceived in the eyes of some. I dunno, and I would need a whole other post to unpack that.
But I know it’s a very real occurrence for many, and I think it has as much to do with how music genres are gendered as well, how pop music is an acceptable genre for women to lend their critical voice to – probably the only genre that women’s voices are considered legitimate, and then it often gets de-ranked from “true” music criticism into “celebrity journalism” There are a lot of bigger issues about the field of cultural criticism, who gets to be called legitimate, what in pop culture gets to be called legitimate, that come to the surface in discussion about the My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection blog.