Rockin’ Out of the Box : Gender Manoeuvring in Alternative Hard Rock by Mimi Schippers

Review by Sue Kennedy

In my ongoing quest to engage social work students in the exploration and discussion of gender I found this book recently and was immediately captured by the approach taken by Mimi Schippers to looking at the gender roles, assumptions, and lives of the men and women involved in the alternative hard rock scene.

For those of us teaching the ever-shifting and restless subject that is Gender, this book explores via a particular musical culture the role of feminism, socially prescribed gender roles and sexuality in such a way that I look forward to using it in teaching.

The interviews carried out by the author include musicians and fans were fun and in places shocking to read, and provide a wonderful insight into how the rock musicians and fans – men and women – negotiate gender assigned roles. It challenges assumptions about women in rock bands, lyrics, heterosexuality and homosexuality.

An added bonus of the book is the journey you take with the author in the research process of interviewing, taking notes, analysis, observation and hypothesis. The dialogue of debate Mimi Schippers has with herself about her research approach (“I could go back to my field notes, or I could go back into the field”(p. 157)) are revealing, and researchers will identify with the constant questioning about which direction to take.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Feminist Politics and the description of Courtney Love in concert, in which Mimi Schippers critically examines the issue of sexual assault within the context of a choreographed and staged performance. It draws on feminist political agendas, gender inequality and oppression and argues that within the hard rock culture there are activists engaged in making changes, not just within the musical culture but also the wider structures and organisations of our daily lives.

Schippers, M. (2002) Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Manoeuvring in Alternative Hard Rock, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press

ISBN 0-8135-3075-X

Cost:  £14.95

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