Girls Rock! Rhode Island director Hilary Jones swore that she wasn’t picking on Rolling Stone when she took to the TEDx Providence stage at RISD in May. The fact that only five of the magazine’s top 50 “Greatest Artists” were women, she said, and the fact that, by the 2000s, more than 60 percent of the magazine’s covers featuring hyper sexualized images of women (compared to around three percent for men) were simply representative of larger trends in the music industry.
The solution? Give young ladies lessons in drums, bass, guitar, and other instruments. Teach them about notable women in music history like Big Mama Thornton and Joan Jett. Invite female musicians to perform for these girls, and then have those musicians stick around to answer questions about why they wrote a particular song or how they got a certain sound from their guitar. In other words, send girls to Girls Rock! camp, which has been running during summers here in the Ocean State since 2010. (There are more than 40 other Girls Rock! programs in major cities worldwide, Jones reports.) “By putting girls and women in an environment where they’re surrounded by female musicians,” Jones said, “it becomes a reality for them.”
But it’s not just local girls who have the opportunity to rock out these days; this weekend, approximately 30 grown-up women will gather at the JamStage practice space in Pawtucket for an intensive, three-day version of the same concept, called Ladies Rock! Camp. Just like their younger, summertime counterparts, they’ll take instrument lessons, form bands, chat with visiting performers, and then plug in onstage for a final performance of the songs they’ve written.
Overseeing it all will be Jones — no stranger to the studio and stage, as the guitarist in the Providence “Riff Rock/No Wave/Crooner Shred hybrid” power trio Whore Paint — who chatted with the Phoenix recently about her work.
The conversation has been edited and condensed.
PEOPLE PERHAPS ASSOCIATE GENDER DISCRIMINATION MORE WITH THE BUSINESS AND POLITICAL WORLDS. CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE DISPARITIES IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? People often don’t really even see it because if you look on Billboard charts or if you listen to the radio, you hear a lot of women singing. And that’s great. But the problem is that you don’t see women in other areas. Women are spotlighted as vocalists in a lot of cases because the focus then becomes. . . them as a front person. So it kind of showcases women as being only valuable for their appearance and not for their skill. And obviously some women are fantastic singers and [they] really like putting themselves out there and creating awesome music, but they’re not featured in other places within music realms. They’re not out there as drummers. And you could get into music production and other places in the music industry and it’s equally bad.