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(NO?) Strings Attached:
Female guitarists in contemporary music

(Released July 2009)

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  by Les Reynolds  


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Assisting from Within


Another female guitarist, working from within the industry, who is promoting her gender on a large scale, is Ottawa, Canada-born guitarist Sue Foley (b. 1968).

Foley, an accomplished guitarist with no less than 10 CDs to her credit, is the driving force behind a triple- (or possibly quadruple-) tiered project called "Guitar Woman." This encompasses a work-in-progress book currently available only online, a CD titled "Blues Guitar Women" (Ruf Records, 2005), a national tour (often done in segments with select performers from her extensive list) and a possible documentary. The entire project is meant to showcase a wide variety of female guitarists who cut across musical genres. In an article in "Modern Guitars Magazine," Watson (15) writes that women guitarists are under-represented by music media and that males account for 90% of the guitar-buying market, then alludes to the near total lack of what is popularly called "household names" among female guitarists. What Foley's web site does (, the author continues, is to show that a plethora of female guitarists ("goddesses" is used) have made and continue to make large contributions to guitar-centered music. Watson's article also shows that some male figures are advocating for female guitarists. Thomas Ruf, owner of his own record label and who has a preference for female guitarists, approached Foley and signed her, resulting in the "Blues Guitar Women" release.

Sue Foley
Sue Foley performs at the Heritage Blues Festival, Wheeling, West Virginia, August, 2007
Foley, in the interview with Watson, explained why she believes more women are taking up guitar-and why they traditionally did not. She believes the guitar, even among women, carries a masculine imagery, and most women who choose this instrument are somewhat more masculine in character. Even the instrument's origins (Middle East, Africa, Portugal and Spain), she explains, denotes masculinity because of the primarily patriarchal social structures in those regions. Foley believes that women have not only been long-term victims of discrimination in the performance arena, but in literature as well. Her book is an attempt to correct that situation.

And while Foley will encourage young women to follow their dreams of becoming guitarists, she contends that gender issues will never disappear because the music industry, notably the guitar, is a male's domain. Reasons for each sex choosing to create music with a guitar, she says, are likely nearly identical where creativity is concerned. However, women's experiences and the way they are perceived will be different-something Foley believes to be biological. Foley's belief is that many guitar magazines do not write much about female guitarists, nor do they reach out to female audiences. She says over 90% of the guitar magazine buyers are male-something she does not see changing until the editors of these magazines reach out to entice female buyers or until a female guitar hero becomes so big that they simply can no longer ignore females.

Sue Foley on YouTube
Sue Foley - "Hooked On Love" live

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