Why is record collecting considered a man’s game?
One evening I began examining the social media interactions of our website. While looking through the follower’s statistics, I noticed that the overwhelming majority of our followers were men, over 70% actually. At first this didn’t surprise me. For years many have considered vinyl collecting a man’s hobby, sharing the same vein as comic book, stamp and coin collectors. This mindset was especially true before vinyl began its march towards mainstream relativity.
Now, full disclosure, this website is owned by men, two men in their mid-thirties to be exact. While we have done plenty of the writing, we have always encouraged multiple contributors, many of which have been women.
I began forming this article several months ago. In fact, I have sat down on several occasions to write it, usually ending up with it half complete and lacking direction. While I could have forced the content, or simply padded it with irrelevant facts and statistics, I kept feeling like it was heading in another direction. What I struggled with was the answer to my questions. Why was vinyl collecting a man’s hobby? Why did I see mostly men digging through the crates at record stores? While I consider myself well versed in the vinyl culture, I couldn’t find these answers on my own. So, over the last couple of months, I went to the source. I decided to seek out women collectors, especially those who were actively collecting and were more socially involved with their collecting habits. I emailed DJs, fellow collectors, and Instagram royalty. I wanted to find out why they got into collecting. I asked why they thought vinyl collecting so male dominated. I asked them what makes women collectors unique and what qualities they bring to the hobby.
My answer was surprising. I didn’t receive a response.
After several attempts to push the issue, sending reminder emails and direct messages, I simply could not get a response the questions I was seeking. I grew frustrated thinking I would never complete this article. I worried that I had offended the ladies I sent the questions too. I worried that I had asked the wrong questions.
In my frustrations came some reexamination of how I view the hobby. I started to wonder how I would answer if I were asked the same questions.
Obviously, I would explain that I enjoyed collecting for many reasons. I enjoy the physical artifact, the sound quality, the social interaction with fellow collectors and visiting independent record stores. I would explain that I enjoy displaying my collection prominently to engage others in discussing records. I enjoy promoting the culture and importance of record collecting.
I then came to the same struggle answer the questions about collectors being mostly men. Like the women I asked the questions too, I was equally stumped.
It then occurred to me just how close minded I was, and how sexist my original article premise was.
The truth is that women collect records for the exact same reasons men do. Whether it’s enjoyment of the format, the physical products, or the sound quality, their reasons are identical. The qualities that women bring to the world or record collecting are the same as men’s. They enrich the marketplace by buying more records, they expand the musical scope of fellow collectors, and they help grow the hobby by sharing it with others.
So why the statistics? Why are websites such as ours so widely read by men? The answer for this is simple. After many years of people declaring record collecting a man’s game, the perception stuck. For years it was more socially acceptable for men to be collectors, or hoarders of physical articles. With our fellow comic book and coin collectors, we were sometimes referred to as nerds, many times lovingly, holding onto to our immature childhood obsessions and visiting trade shows seeking out rare first pressings. The same parallel exists with women. A woman can’t collect records but it’s fine if she is obsessed with crafts, cute dresses and high heels, only furthering incorrect stereotypes. The truth is there are plenty women who are actively collecting, and for that matter there are plenty of gentlemen who enjoy crafts, dresses and heels. As more people removed their closed-minded heads from their asses, the numbers will balance out.
So why do men outnumber women in the aisles of the record stores? Simple, they don’t. Having traveled the country many times and seen hundreds of record stores, we are seeing more and more women in record stores. No, they are not standing at their husband’s sides and delicately flipping through the records. They are engaging in some hardcore crate digging, pulling out dusty boxes from underneath the shelves and building their stacks. Interestingly enough, I finally did receive one response, a DJ who has been collecting for years. I asked her about her experiences in record stores. “It’s a lot easier than it was when I first started collecting. Independent record stores were very male domains. My regular haunt was Blue Bird Records in Paddington. I would invariably be the only female in the store. I remember when I first went there when I was still at school, I was so intimidated I think it took me 15 minutes of just standing and watching before I could pluck up the courage to go to the counter and ask for something!!” Luckily, the days of the self-righteous record store clerks are dwindling, and with more respect for the customers had made it a more welcoming environment for everyone.
The truth is that record collecting has no gender barriers. The qualities someone brings to the hobby have nothing to do with their gender. It took me writing this article to understand that. The sooner we all understand this, the more the hobby will grow, insuring it will continue to thrive.