Stop Being The Worst And Let Phoebe Bridgers Smash Her Guitar

It’s clear that people are coming up with a lot of ways to justify the simple fact that they don’t see female rock stars as being worthy of the same respect as their male peers.

Last Saturday, sad-girl indie rock darling Phoebe Bridgers found herself at the centre of one of the month’s stupider controversies after she closed her phenomenal SNL performance by smashing her guitar onstage. The move followed a path well-worn by both her alt-rock forefathers and her indie contemporaries — Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, a frequent collaborator, famously destroyed his guitar on live TV. But for some reason, only Bridgers found herself subjected to a four-day news cycle of sanctimonious mass-shaming. 

The maelstrom started when prominent old man @BrooklynDad_Defiant tweeted a complaint about Bridgers’ display to his 800,000-plus followers. This lone tweet summoned an army of washed-up rocker dads and high-minded incels absolutely foaming at the mouth to channel their sexual frustration into petulant, self-righteous anger. Through pretentious blog posts and a near-endless stream of tweets, they managed to create a cycle of discourse that was almost as infuriating as it was mind-numbingly unnecessary. 

For days, Bridgers’ Twitter was absolutely overwhelmed with critics haranguing her performance as unnecessary, excessive, bratty, wasteful, and out-of-line – despite the fact that, god bless her, she didn’t even really end up leaving a dent on her instrument. I succeeded in fucking up my guitar worse than she did just by shipping it through Air Canada. 

After days of incessant piling-on, even David Crosby of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young called Bridgers “pathetic”, a judgment he seemed to have withheld for the large majority of other famed guitar-smashers. Somehow, music-snob Twitter doesn’t seem to have a problem with Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, or Pete Townshend’s destructive antics, nor with their modern male counterparts continuing the traditions they started. Bridgers is one of the most influential modern rock musicians on the scene today – so why can’t she perform as the boys do? 

Guitar-smashing is traditionally an act of performance art meant to skewer consumerism and commercialization and to convey frustration, disillusionment, and rage. It’s a heavily established act with a storied history, and that makes many critiques of Bridgers’ performance embarrassing: her critics are revealing that they just don’t get it. 

Much of the ire aimed Bridgers’ way claimed to be motivated by the act’s perceived wastefulness and privilege. Setting aside the ridiculousness of choosing just this one aspect of the music industry to call out for excess — the SNL stage isn’t exactly an anti-capitalist resistance space no matter what  you do on it – the guitar in question was allegedly worth under $100.

As usual, it’s clear that people are coming up with a lot of ways to justify the fact that they don’t see female rock stars as being worthy of the same respect as their male peers. It feels almost trite to say it out loud, but it’s obvious that the disdain hurled at Bridgers this week has far more to do with the public’s discomfort at seeing a beautiful, subversive, and remarkably talented woman take up space in an industry that prides itself on being a boy’s club, than it does with her actual performance. The face of rock music has changed remarkably over the last decade. Most of the industry’s most prominent new voices don’t look or sound anything like the ones that previously dominated the scene. But that’s a good thing. Bridgers fucking rocks, and I hope that someday soon it’s a far more egregious offense to make fun of a woman playing rock music than it is to be one.