“Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard,” said the late, great, Poly Styrene, lead singer of the 1970’s punk band, X-Ray Spex. She followed with a defiant “UP YOURS!” at the status quo, whose ignorant perspective on a woman’s role in society was limited to homemaking and nothing else.
Negative judgment towards female musicians three decades ago was constant — even in punk. Talent was overlooked, and no one seemed to take all-women bands seriously. It was a struggle to be heard, and a struggle to be appreciated. Sexual exploitation was running rampant in the music business, and women felt that taking their stage antics up a few notches was a necessary tactic in order to gain some respect from their colleagues. Not as if they were pretending to be something they weren’t; they were fearless in showing who they were, and unafraid to prove that women weren’t fragile beings without a voice.
Fast forward twenty-five years and the landscape of female musicians has evolved into an accepted idea. The poking at and scorning of women desiring to express themselves musically has since ceased (somewhat); because of this progression (and the work that still needs to be done), organizations like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls exists across the country.
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls summer camp began its course in 2001 on the Portland State University Campus in Portland, OR. Founder Misty MC Elroy’s emphasis on teaching music to girls ages 8-18, who would later develop into strong, independent women, was the ultimate goal. The official opening of the first Girls Rock Camp was a startling success as the appeal of volunteers, organizers and coaches who not only taught instrument lessons, but band formation, practice and coaching, and other music-related workshops to girls as well. The addition of a second summer and new fall sessions were enacted in 2004.
With the popularity of the program slowly expanding outside of The Rose City, openings in various locations across the country began to transpire, and the awareness of a camp devoted to teaching girls how to rock was spreading rapidly to places like Atlanta, Houston, Rhode Island, Boston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. They all share in the mission “to help build self-esteem and develop leadership skills for girls through music education and performance.”
Now, in 2012, after the success of a 2008 documentary entitled “Girls Rock!” and a best-selling book of the same name, there’s over forty Girls Rock Camps in seven different countries with no signs of halting further expansions. Instruction now includes Rock Camp Studio, where girls learn skills in recording engineering basics, and promotion through creating CDs/merch. And with this program doing wonders for young women both emotionally and mentally, it’s doubtful that GRC won’t become the premiere musical outlet for girls, if it hasn’t already.
So why deny your little girl her right to rock in the free world or the chance to release her inner X-Ray Spex? If you live in a place that’s fairly populated, chances are there’s a Girl Rock Camp in your area; signing up is super easy, and the quickest way towards turning their dreams of becoming a badass rocker into a reality. Even if you don’t have a little lady rocker in the family but still want to support the cause, you can volunteer for the Girls Rock Alliance’s “50 Shows in 50 States” fundraiser. Don’t wait. Sign up pronto.