When I (Sharon) was in third grade and the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, I was smitten, and so was my best friend Heidi. Our daily game of "house" featured us as housewives of the Beatles. She was Paul's wife and I was George's. (How were we to know that John was going to be the genius of the group?) The scenes we enacted came straight from sit-coms as we put too much laundry detergent in the washer or burned George and Paul's breakfast. But by 7th grade, a change had come, in the Beatles and for girls and women in the United States. When we played "Beatles" we no longer were their wives, we WERE the Beatles. My friends, twin sisters Abbie and Carol, were John and Paul, my friend Linda was Ringo, and I stuck with my beloved George, but I didn't have to iron his Nehru jacket -- I wore it.
Now with the release of the new The Beatles: Rock Band video game, boys and girls can follow our 7th grade lead. But where are the girls like us? Every over-hyped news story interviews boys and grown men as if they are the only ones who might love the Beatles, and as if they are the only ones who want to grow up to be rock stars, drummers, guitarists, lyricists -- musicians. Every little girl I know and have known has loved the Beatles at some time in their lives, but they're being shut out by a media that only knows stereotypes. Sure, Guitar Hero, the first of this series of be-the-musician-without-taking-lessons games, has been a must-have for boys all over. And sure, girls have been slower to purchase new technology when it comes to video games; but marketers and the media, in going with stereotypes, are missing a huge market. And in so doing they are reconfirming age old stereotypes that boys are rockers but girls play the piano, boys pick up an instrument and just play but girls take lessons, and boys improvise but girls read music.
The beauty of rock and roll for boys, and for girls, is that it often happens spontaneously and without parental input. Kids often simply pick up an instrument, call up some friends, and start a band. They don't need their parents, or lessons, or music, or a middle school band instructor telling them to Practice Practice Practice. They just need a garage or rec room or bedroom and some hand me down instruments. What confidence they have to do this! What independence! It's the kind of motivation we'd like all our kids to have.
But why is this sport "boys only"? No doubt the players face throngs of screaming and fainting pre-teen girls, forgetting how many boys also were fans. Stereotypes mean that players and fans will divide neatly down gendered lines.
It’s too late to change the media response to this new game. But the next time we should be aware of the way marketers and media take away from girls and women what’s rightfully theirs, Girls and women shouldn’t be forced to cry “me too!” while our guitars gently weep.