Titus Andronicus’s Amy Klein on Rolling Stone and Women in Rock

[Editor’s note: Those of us who proudly call Titus Andronicus guitarist/violinist Amy Klein a friend have known for a while that she has great things to say about music and gender — so we were impressed but not surprised by her eloquent meditation on why there are no pictures of women playing guitars in Rolling Stone magazine, and what that says more broadly about ladies in music. But we’re thrilled that other music writers and fans responded so strongly to the piece. Just yesterday, Ann Powers, one of the best critics in the business, quoted at length from Klein’s essay in her smart response to the perennially out-of-touch Camille Paglia’s recent, myopic attack on Lady Gaga. We are so glad Amy has given us permission to reprint this fantastic excerpt from her tour diary (which you can follow at her Tumblr). The piece appears, entirely unedited, after the jump. Image via We All Make Music.]

Midway between Ottawa, Canada, and Ithaca, New York, we stop to buy gas. In the truck stop parking lot, I see an elderly woman getting out of the driver’s seat slowly, limb by limb, the way a jellyfish might squeeze itself through a narrow break in a coral reef. She’s at least 75, and her legs shake slightly as she maneuvers them onto the street, but she still has that kind of awkward languor about her, that same animal grace. It’s like she’s moving perfectly normally, and instead, the whole world around her has slowed down. She’s wearing a big blue jean jacket with an American flag patch sewn onto the shoulder and “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS” emblazoned in gold lettering on the back, and a skirt with a bold floral print, and socks adorned with pink and red hearts. Her mouth is a thin, taut slash of bright red lipstick gripping the end of a cigarette. I pass her as I walk into the building — moving in another, faster system of time, like one star passing a planet light years away.

Inside the truck stop, it smells like old hot dogs and gasoline. The guys browse the contents of the tiny magazine rack, which seems to be mostly made up of porn. I see them poring over the cover of a magazine with a naked woman on it, and look away, instinctively feeling that this is not my scene. However, my curiosity gets the better of me, and I walk closer to see what’s going on. My suspicions are confirmed: There’s a naked woman on the cover. But it turns out that I’m wrong in assuming the guys are looking at porn, because the magazine is Rolling Stone.

After the guys have gone back to the van, I peruse the pages of the latest edition. I see a lot of photos of guys playing guitars, and ads for guys who play guitar featuring other guys playing guitars, and a photo of Lady Gaga wearing pasties and not much else. I begin to feel increasingly alienated by this magazine. Once again, I’ve got a suspicion that’s rooted in the back of my mind — that the issue will not contain a single image of a woman holding an instrument of any kind. Perversely, I want to see if I’m correct. The sensation of knowing what I will find is already sad. It’s like discovering a letter in which the guy you’re crushing on declares his love for some other woman, and still, inevitably, reading the whole thing down to the last painful line.