Making fun of the “groupies” means not understanding anything about the history of women and music

We are at the beginning of 2010. The late “Petit Journal” by Yann Barthès is broadcasting his flagship column “Precious water” on television. Whenever One Direction, Tokio Hotel, Justin Bieber or other evil pop stars arrive (a period of dubious fashion choices), the show’s bright red microphone quickly meets fans. But not just any one.

These young girls with their teeth adorned with cute metal braces and their acne-strewn skin are having fun. Or at least, their excessive passion. Patients, they collect signs and sweet words in their hands in front of the hotel, the concert hall, or even the radio that welcomes their idols, and then shout at their sight.

At the time, I also saw the thankless period of adolescence, where loving each other was more like the twelve labors of Hercules than a personal development blog’s to-do list. Faced with this chronicle – whose name and logo (obviously in curly brackets) bring me back to my daily torment -, my first reaction is also to make fun of these little girls.

After all, I am better than them. From the top of my 12 years, I listen to “real” music groups like The Strokes or Arctic Monkeys. However, in 2011, it is with a small drawing in my pocket that I go to the concert of Julian Casablancas and his clique in Paris. I have the naïve hope of meeting those who decorate the walls of my room. Finally, they are like those fans that “Le Petit Journal” likes to ridicule, but without their courage or patience. Is it really a flaw? Since a life of stigma is not an option, I investigated.

Franz Liszt’s female fanbase

When we go back in time, we realize that female enthusiasm for male artists has always existed and has never been seen with a very good eye. Yeah, in the nineteenthAnd century, the fervor of Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt’s fan base, made up of women who, according to biographer Alan Walker, fainted before him, had been baptized with a sweet nickname: Lisztomania.

A name that has nothing positive for Norma Coates, associate professor at the University of Western Ontario and president of the American section of the international association for the study of popular music. “’Mania’ means you go crazy, you lose control. Something women are already accused of. They would be too hysterical, they would not be able to control their emotions.explains.

Since then, as soon as an artist awakens a touch of elation among women, there is panic on the boulevards, as Balavoine would say. “In the 1920s, Rudy Vallée [l’ancêtre des crooners, ndlr] was the first to use a microphone. He could be very intimate in the way he sang, almost to the listener’s ear, and on top of that he had a very feminine voice. He created panic among the men of the country, who accused him of taking advantage of women and driving them crazy “.says Norma Coates.

Then, in the 1940s, Frank Sinatra and his young fans, the “bobby-soxers”, completely demonized by the media, follow. Then, a decade later, the Elvis Presley case. “People thought he would corrupt young white girls, because he was a young white whose music sounded like a black artist.”look at the university.

Rock’n’roll, liberating music

But in fact, what was really going on with these girls who worried commentators so much? To understand this, we need to look at the responsibilities on the shoulders of teenage girls. For centuries, a woman’s worth has been based on her virginity. And the teenage girls were the only tutors. They had to establish the limits of seduction. What were these limits? A kiss? A caress? Because to be popular in the eyes of the kids, they didn’t have to look puritanical or “cheap”.

In his proof Beatlemania: Girls just want to have funjournalist and feminist Barbara Ehrenreich says: “It was implicitly a marital strategy based on months of sexual teasing, until the frustrated young man snapped and proposed.” A grueling role for a teenager, let’s face it.

The Beatles represent, second
journalist Barbara Ehrenreich,
free and fun sexuality
and exuberant.

So when rock arrives, this explicitly sexual music, where artists are the polar opposite of the ideal American boyfriend, that is bourgeois, clean, patriotic and respectful of marital rules, the girls let themselves be fantasized. “They were raised to love rock. In this repressive context, of course, they were agitated “commented Norma Coates.

The fears of the media and conservatives were justified: these teenagers, who used to be called teeny-boppers, are preparing a social upheaval. The latest trigger is about to hit the United States: Beatlemania (another one!). When the Beatles, with long hair and an exotic accent, landed on American soil in 1964, the country was gloomy – Kennedy had been assassinated a year earlier – and still puritanical.

Quickly, they shake American stiffness and become the darlings of a generation of baby boomers. How come? Because they represent, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, a free, fun and exuberant sexuality. We tend to forget this, but the Beatles were considered androgynous at the time. Their characteristic long bowl cut is a deviation from the norm.

After Elvis’s makeup, the feminine and the masculine continue to blend. Teen girls crave fun and scream for it. These are the beginnings of the sexual revolution that will engulf the United States in the late 1960s.

“I wanted to be Mick Jagger
and fuck Brian Jones “

To say that Beatlemania hit hard is an understatement. Who would have imagined girls arguing with the police for four hours to get concert tickets? These kinds of stories abound in the media. We enjoy ourselves while we disapprove of their behavior.

“During the” Ed Sullivan Show “ [émission de divertissement à succès américaine, ndlr] of the Beatles in 1964, the presenter asked fans to shut up. He said, ‘Do you promise to shut up?, reports Norma Coates. In parallel, the transcript of the show indicates, at the appearance of John Lennon: “Sorry girls, he’s married.” No other possible explanation for the attitude of the girls, these teenagers would suffer from acute hysteria.

“I didn’t want to grow up and become a wife and it seemed to me
that the Beatles had the genre
of freedom that I wanted.

A former teeny-bopper

However, behind their conduct are hidden desires for freedom and emancipation. A former teeny-bopper of the time confides to Barbara Ehrenreich: “I didn’t want to grow up and become a wife and it seemed to me that the Beatles had the freedom I wanted: no rules, they could spend two days lying in bed, they rode their motorcycles, they ate room service.”

Same story with the groupies, these late 60s super fans who are often reduced to their ties to artists. “Ever since I started analyzing my life by writing this book, I realized that I wanted to be Mick Jagger and fuck Brian Jones. But I didn’t know how to be Mick Jagger. “reveals in her autobiography Bebe Buell, a former model and groupie known for dating the thin Rolling Stones singer.

We understand that for these women, being on stage is an obstacle course. It is much easier for them to connect with or marry a well-known artist than to become one themselves. An increasingly exciting alternative to life as a devoted wife of their mothers. Because sharing the life of a rock star means embracing her lifestyle.

A symbol of what women cannot achieve

Things haven’t really changed since then. On the one hand, the media continues to make fans and their passion essential. In 2013, GQ magazine went even further by humiliating them.

He dedicated his front page to the British boy band One Direction. The article describes the band’s audience as: “banshee”[s] [créature mystique annonçant la mort par un cri ou hurlement, ndlr] enraged and wet in panties tearing his ears with hysterical fervor when presented with objects of [leur] charm”. It is also disturbing to see an adult press so fascinated by the sexuality of young teenagers.

On the other hand, even if the hegemony of rock is gone, and the status of women in the West has improved, the rocker is still the symbol of what women cannot achieve. In a society where the expectations of them are always higher – being a mother, a boss girl, thin, pretty, assertive but not too much -, an artist is synonymous with freedom. On stage, a man will always be cheered on by the crowd, whether he is shirtless, with a beer belly, poorly dressed, greasy hair or singing out of tune. Rock’n’roll luxury.

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