Fabi Reyna. Photo by Ashley Anderson

 

Guitar Magazine Helps Build Equality’s New Foundation

How She Shreds inverts the gearhead magazine world’s gender dynamic

Among the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 2018 inductee class was a long-overdue accolade to a more obscure performer who had been gone for 45 years, Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Some 80 years ago, Tharpe’s hit songs showcased her rhythmic electric guitar style, which is widely credited as inspiring, if not outright inventing, rock and roll.

The same year Tharpe was honored, She Shreds, a magazine devoted to supporting women guitarists and bassists, celebrated its sixth anniversary. This is no mean feat for a print publication these days, let alone one promoting new values that seek to close the gender equality gap.

“I feel we are the only guitar magazine that can proclaim a 50-50 percent readership of men and women.”

“Back when I first started playing guitar, when I was nine in early 2000? Which is not really that long ago,” ponders She Shreds Editor-in-Chief Fabi Reyna. “There really wasn’t anyone for inspiration who wasn’t a white male. That wasn’t just in the media, but something also supported by teachers; supported by community. There was a lot running against you as a young girl, or a young underrepresented voice outside of the norm.”

By the time Reyna was 18 and playing in bands, she experienced the music scene’s unlevel playing field and downright sexism firsthand and decided to do something about it. “It’s really the baby of my anger as a teenager; as a young, queer brown girl, and also my passion for music and community, and elevating art,” the 27-year-old says of the founding of She Shreds.

 
Photo by Ashley Anderson

Photo by Ashley Anderson

 

The magazine, which will hold its official SXSW showcase in March, found success alongside the recent rising tide against sexism and in empowering movements such as #MeToo, but Reyna discovered an important statistic among its readers.

“Almost half of our readership are men,” she says proudly. “That is very telling to this whole equality conversation. I can pretty safely say, and I am going to dedicate some time to doing the research, but I feel we are the only guitar magazine that can proclaim a 50-50 percent readership of men and women.”

Reyna recalls that alongside supportive artists like Lauren Mayberry, Brittany Howard and Esperanza Spalding, nods from the likes of James Bay, who sported a She Shreds t-shirt on stage, prove that it isn’t only women who are tired of musical patriarchy.

But gender is only a part of a wider marginalization issues Reyna wants to address. “It’s easy to have the conversation be black and white: women and men. But when we talk about women, we are talking about entire underrepresented communities. When I fight for women, I am really fighting for non-binary, for LGBTQ+, for women of color. I don’t think it’s just men who need to get on board, there are a lot of women who need to get on board too,” she points out.

Launching the magazine meant putting her own music on hold for four years. She is now happily back playing shows and in late December (during her one week off in the year, she says), her band Savila had just finished a tour during which Reyna says that she once again encountered prejudiced techs and venue staff, along with the small sexist gestures that obstruct women’s daily lives.

 
Fabi Reyna. Photo by Ashley Anderson

Fabi Reyna. Photo by Ashley Anderson

 

“I just did this big tour with Bomba Estereo playing in front of 2,000 to 3,000 people a night in the nicest venues,” she recounts. “And still people were treating me like I didn’t know what I was talking about … They wouldn’t look me in the eye and say, ‘Hi.’ They would try to talk to my male bandmates. Here I am with a decade of experience performing! Luckily we did run into two women techs who were different.

“It opened up my eyes, though, because I had thought we are progressing and doing better. But after this tour, I don’t know that much has changed.”

As for the experiences in the 1970s for top female guitarists like Nancy Wilson of Heart, let alone for Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the 1930s and ’40s? “I can’t imagine what that must have been like,” says Reyna. “Not just because of the lack of respect and recognition, but also knowing what they had to go through to be accepted and be able to play the guitar. It must have taken so much … all that fighting to express yourself as a woman.”

Reyna is dubious that these lasting issues will be completely resolved anytime soon, but sees She Shreds as part of a movement that has worked for decades to break down gender and other barriers for musicians.

“I very much credit the people before us: like Riot Grrrl,” she says of the 1990s feminist music and cultural movement. “It’s been building and building and building. We’re always looking at what is the next step of this dialogue.”

The She Shreds showcase will be held on two stages at Cheer Up Charlie’s on March 14, as part of the 2019 SXSW Music Festival.

SXSW will be held March 8-17, 2019. The Music Badge gets you primary to all SXSW Conference Music & Convergence Tracks, Music Festival showcases and Comedy Festival showcases, as well as secondary access to most Interactive and Film programming. See you in March!

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