For a long time when I started collecting vinyl, I didn’t really pay attention to the people around me when I was digging through crates of dusty records, or skimming through brand new stock in a new record store. But on Record Store Day last year, I looked around at all the others waiting in line, and I noticed that they were almost exclusively men — the only women in line seemed to be tethered to husbands, boyfriends, brothers, whatever. Inside the store, there was a woman waiting in line to pay in front of me, and one behind me. “Cool,” I thought. “Here are the women who collect vinyl.” But then they started talking about how they were there picking up items for male relatives. I was suddenly fascinated by this phenomenon. Was collecting vinyl a mostly male endeavor? Was I unknowingly stepping into a boys’ club?
After that, I started paying attention at record stores. And, yes, I was usually surrounded by men. It occurred to me that all of the sellers from whom I’d purchased records on Discogs or eBay were men. It also seemed to me that a good portion of the users on the Discogs forums were also men. Poking around record-collecting message boards, I unearthed a series of very disturbing posts about women who collect vinyl. Here’s just one gem of a response (and there are hundreds more) to the question, Do you know any women who collect vinyl?
I sell to a few, but I think most are the buying accounts for their male partners. I rarely see any women at the record fairs either unless they’re pissed off/nagging some bloke to hurry up.
I’m planning a future post dedicated to these idiotic, sexist comments. But for now, I think that one example shines a light on the general attitude towards women who do collect. Why would a seller assume that I’m buying for a male partner? Because women don’t/can’t appreciate music, or have knowledge about music, records, and collecting?
Once I started to notice these assumptions about women who insert themselves into the world of record collecting, I started thinking about Amanda Petrusich’s book, “Do Not Sell at Any Price.” When I had first heard about the book prior to its publication, I was excited to read it. The premise sounded interesting, and I liked the idea that it was written by a woman. But the first set of reviews on Amazon proved to be less than stellar, and so I decided to put off reading the book. But now I was curious. Were these bad reviews written by men who had similar views on female vinyl collectors and women who dared to assert some sort of knowledge about the industry? Or was the book truly not all that great?
I picked it up from my local library, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. I thought it was a great personal account of someone falling in love with the music, the chase, the feel of vinyl or shellac in their hands. I also liked her journalistic approach, because it taught me a few things I didn’t know about some of the rarest 78 recordings. But I figured out what some hardcore collectors might not appreciate about what Petrusich had to say: She wanted to know why this world of collectors was almost exclusively men, and she went so far as to consult medical experts to try and find a reason. Of course, there isn’t a single reason, but she tossed around ideas like OCD, and Asperger’s, and the tendency to obsess and catalog being a heightened male trait. Perhaps that pissed off more than a few (male) obsessive collectors.
But I’m a woman, and I’m obsessed with records too. I think about vinyl far too often, and spend my lunch breaks browsing my favorite sites or record labels for future (or immediate, when it’s something rare) purchases. There’s no better way to spend a weekend than record shopping, whether it’s at one of my favorite shops, or digging through crates of mostly junk records at flea markets or antique stores. I don’t have a gigantic collection yet, but I add to it every month (I even have to give myself a budget so that I don’t spend all my money on vinyl). A lot of very serious collectors would probably eye my oddball conglomeration of records and laugh. I’m not out to purchase the rarest of rare records, unless that rare record happens to be from a band or artist I adore. I’m not committed to any single genre of music; I like to dabble in several, since I love so many kinds of music. My collection is a mixed bag. But I’m still serious about it. I know far too many details about pressings and record labels, especially the labels I love the most. And I do have aspirations of collecting one particular label’s entire catalog, bit by bit.
I know there are more women out there who collect, and who are as obsessed as I am (maybe more). After scouring the internet for months, I found a good handful of fairly well-known female collectors, but that was it. Most are men. And most of the forums are filled with men who believe that women can’t be collectors or don’t have real knowledge about music. Not all of them feel this way — many guys I’ve encountered (including the owner of my favorite record store) see no difference between male and female collectors. Neither gender is better or more knowledgeable or more serious than the other. My breasts don’t reduce me to a dabbler or amateur in their eyes. And that’s great.
But I have had guys take stacks of records they’ve been carting around a store and, without thinking twice, plop them right down on top of the row I’m flipping through. And I have read those pages of sexist comments on the forums. I’ve had guys push me out of the way at record shops, and I was actually mistaken for a man twice in the same night at a local shop because, well, of course I was a guy. Women don’t collect records! My fellow collectors didn’t even look at me before calling me “dude” and “man.”
I think about the women who might really want to begin collecting, but don’t know where to start. They might go into a record shop to just look around and either be shoved around/aside, or ignored by the Barry Judd working the counter who doesn’t take her seriously. They might go on those forums, read those comments, and feel they don’t have a place in this world. Young girls who have an interest might be too afraid to step into a space that is so heavily occupied by boys.
And that’s why I created this blog.
I want a space where I can connect with other women who collect vinyl and love music as much as I do. I want to highlight all the women collectors out there, because I know you’re there; I just haven’t found you yet. I want to talk about our experiences, our white whales, and our passions — and hopefully inspire other women and girls to join the fun.
So hit me up! Tell me your stories. Let me interview you. And follow along as I share my adventures (and misadventures) in record collecting.