Over the past 30+ years Guitar World has had a huge influence on overtly male-dominated culture we’ve learned to identify as the guitar industry; a culture that we recognize as alternately objectifying or ignoring women and dismissing our voices for as long as the rock ‘n’ roll industry has existed; a culture that uses women’s bodies as objects and props to sexualize in order to sell products.
Of course, this can be said about many business and cultures, but in the guitar industry, the sexualization really becomes clear flipping through an issue of Guitar World’s Gear Guide—an annual edition of the popular guitar magazine that embodies everything wrong and discriminating about the guitar industry for the past 30 years. This is an issue that I’ve personally been fighting against since I started playing guitar at nine years old.
In this industry discrimination can be traced back through decades of advertisements, the way many women musicians are treated at music shops and venues on a daily basis (not to mention women attendees at industry trade shows), and through product development, language, video demonstrations, endorsements, images, and other depictions of representation. Since She Shreds began forcing our way into the guitar industry about three years ago, we have addressed and overcome many of these issues with the help of progressive and like minded companies eager to see change—instrument manufacturers keep us alive through sponsorship and many of the big fish are now actively seeking guidance about how they can permanently throw away the idea of “sex sells” marketing ploys.
Despite all of these efforts, Guitar World’s annual gear guide always reinforced the painful reality of the guitar industry’s historical reputation of using sex and naked women to engage with men—because to a lot of companies the idea of women even playing music was literally unheard of, so how could we be consumers and therefore why would they consider our reactions at all?
In 2013, Dean guitars published a new advertisement on their Facebook asking the question, “What do you think?” After reposting to our Facebook and asking our audience to leave comments replying with their thoughts they took the post down and declared that they would no longer advertise in such a way—and it truly was one of the last times we witnessed this type of advertising from them.
This was the beginning of the guitar revolution in our eyes.
In July of last year the viral image of She Shreds and Guitar World back to back surfaced and the juxtaposition was a wake up call to both media consumers and companies about the reality of our presence. Women are musicians, and we deserve to be represented as such.
Yesterday, Guitar World publisher, Bill Amstutz, announced that they will be dropping the bikini girl angle from their gear guide issue and begin representing women as musicians.
According to Reverb.com, Amstutz says the decision was based on a larger decision to rebrand the company but mentions that “the main driver of this decision was economic, but bikini models were outdated, and we didn’t want to associate the brand with what could easily be viewed as sexist, as a misrepresentation of women guitar players, or that women in general may find offensive. The number of women players is growing and we want to support them.”
On what influences their decision, Amstutz continues saying “We’ve been dealing with this for the past couple years, We want to reach female readers and cultivate them. And we can do a better job, as all guitar media can do. It’s a bit of a boys’ club and we are taking steps this year to change that. This is part of that, as is making a concerted effort to create content that attracts women.”
To this we say job well done to you as readers who actively seek and demand for equal media, to the companies who make an effort in combating this kind of representation and to Guitar World for listening and finally seeking an alternate route. This kind of tangible progress—which is clearly a result of serious demand and reoccurring conversations—proves that the future looks bright for equality as long as we continue to seek it.