Nadia Elkharadly: The Feminine Mystique

Feminism can be a rather abstract concept.  There’s a huge spectrum, from the convenient feminist, who embraces the notion when it suits her, to the militant angry feminist who spells woman “womyn” and eschews the masculine in everything except, apparently her appearance.  But something that everyone should be able to agree on is that feminism, at its core, is about equality for women.  A woman can and should be able to do everything that a man can do.

For a long time, music, especially rock and roll, was a very male dominated sphere.  When you think rock star, no doubt the paradigms that come to mine also come with a Y chromosome.  And as the only female writer here with Don’t Believe a Word I say, I feel that it is my duty to tell you about some of my favourite queens of rock and roll.  Some you may know, some you may not, but you should get ready to worship all of them.

Joan Jett

A list of women who rock would not be complete or apparently commenced without mentioning the intrepid Ms. Jett.  There are some people who were just born to be rock stars, and Joan Jett is one of them.  From founding The Runaways when she was just a teenager to recording some of the most well-known rock songs ever with her band The Blackhearts, including “Bad Reputation”, “Crimson and Clover” and her famous cover of “I Love Rock n’ Roll” , Joan Jett is a rock star to her very core.  She has the business acumen that many in her position seem to lack, managing to consistently stay relevant while many others fade into obscurity.  Now in her fifties, Jett still tours regularly, and mentors up and coming artists.  She produced Riot Grrl movement pioneers Bikini Kill, and worked with the members of The Gits after their original singer (and rock and roll princess in her own right) Mia Zapata was raped and murdered in Seattle.  The funds raised by Jett and the Gits recording Evil Stig actually contributed to the murder investigation, helping to bring Zapata’s killer to justice.   She’s worked with Peaches and Marky Ramone, and recently appeared on stage with The Foo Fighters in New York on David Letterman!

Forming bands, producing other bands, and even fighting crime?  Joan Jett is not only a rock star, but a superhero to boot.  She is the original Queen of Rock and Roll, and every one following her has been inspired by her in one way or another.  Including yours truly.

Shirley Manson

I had the good fortune of meeting Shirley Manson when her band Garbage came through Toronto.  It was the midnineties and they were appearing at Sam the Record Man.  A gaggle of teenage fans  (including me) had been winding around the block waiting to get our ten seconds with our idol.  Manson was tiny in person, as most celebrities are, and I remember being awestruck in her presence, and touched by how sweet and funny she was.  It may have just been a couple of moments, but I’ll never forget it.  Manson was my absolute rock idol growing up.  I loved her edgy grunge/chic look, I loved her voice, and I loved Garbage’s music.  All of their albums were on constant repeat on my bedroom stereo and I’ve been known to sing “Only Happy When it Rains” in karaoke if it’s available.  She was even cool enough to play an actual terminator on the short lived TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  She also recorded this amazing song for the show’s soundtrack:

Many newer female vocalists and musicians credit Manson as an inspiration, and it’s no wonder why.  Strong, beautiful and incredibly talented, Shirley Manson is definitely a rock and roll queen.

Care Failure

If you’ve ever seen Die Mannequin live, you’ll understand why Care Failure makes this list.  Long dark hair, pouty lips usually painted red and huge piercing eyes, Failure is as strong as she is sensual, exuding intense passion in every performance.  She screams, she sweats, and she tears it up.  She writes music with heavy and sometimes hard to take subject matter, and she does so with intelligence and strength.  With hit after hit, getting mainstream radio play and touring with some huge acts, Die Mannequin continues to succeed in the music scene, and Failure even starred in the much anticipated sequel Hard Core Logo II directed by the one and only Bruce Mcdonald.  My favourite Care Failure moment had to be during this year’s North by North East.  It was a late one at Cherry Cola, and the band was setting up their gear under the hot stage lights.  Failure had perfectly placed false eyelashes on, and her makeup was flawless.  About one song in, she was simply rockin too hard, and her lashes started coming off.  Ladies, you know how annoying fake lashes can be, as good as they look.  In between chords, Failure had simply had enough, and she ripped her lashes right off, casting them aside like the distraction they had become, to simply focus on playing her kick ass music.  Being a rock and roll queen sometimes means shunning conventional definitions of beauty, and simply creating your own.  And for that, Care Failure makes my list.

Katie McConnell

Have you ever thought of an accordion as being a sexy instrument?  Neither did I, until I saw The Mahones play live at Cherry Cola a few weeks ago.  After a couple of minutes of watching McConnell sway, writhe and wind with what usually seems like a most unwieldy instrument, I was sold.  Absolutely adorable and down to earth in person, McConnell turns into a siren when her feet hit the stage.  Fronting the Mahones with her husband Finny, this Irish punk band has a world-wide following, and they seriously rock.  The music is hard yet fun, with that unmistakable Irish lilt beneath the crash of the drum, the rip of the guitar and the pull of McConnell’s somehow sexy accordion.  Therefore, for making a usually unsexy instrument sexy, Katie McConell is my definition, a rock and roll queen.

Taylor Momsen

Most people know Taylor Momsen as Little Jenny Humphrey, a character from the ever popular tween show Gossip Girl.  Before that, the waify blonde portrayed the beloved children’s book character Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  These days, Momsen has traded in wacky pigtail hairdos and private school uniforms for another persona altogether – goth rock punk princess.  Fronting the band The Pretty Reckless, the emotion that she lacked in her acting comes out in spades in her singing.  Her voice is a shock, coming from her lithe and almost frail looking body.  In fact if you weren’t looking at her directly while she was singing, you would never believe such a person could emit such a sound.  Loud, strong, and above all raw, Momsen tears it up across the stage, stomping in her giant vinyl platform shoes, huge doe eyes lined in black and staring out into the crowd.  She writes the music herself, even playing guitar here and there.  For flipping the script on the entire world, Taylor Momsen earns herself a place as a rock and roll princess on my list.  She can earn her Queen’s crown when she starts looking older than sixteen.

Mercedes and Phoenix Arn Horn (Courage My Love)

Probably a little too young to be called queens, twins Mercedes and Phoenix Arn Horn can wear the crowns of rock and roll princesses very comfortably.  Along with David Blake-Dickson, the Arn Horns make up Courage My Love, one of the rising star bands of the indie music scene here in Ontario.  Classically trained musicians, their talent is undeniable, and they sure know how to rock.  Mercedes thrashes on guitar while Phoenix wails on the drums, their intense rock sound tempered by their beautiful voices blending together in twin harmonies, singing perfectly together in a way that other singers cannot replicate.  Already gorgeous, but sweet, smart and incredibly down to earth, the Arn Horn twins are growing up to be rock and roll queens in their own right.

Katie Lynn Campbell

I’ve already mentioned my love and admiration of hot female bass players, and Katie Lynn Campbell definitely qualifies.  With stints with insanely awesome bands like Nashville Pussy and the recently retired C’mon, and by dating a rock and roll king like Ian Blurton, Campbell belongs on this list.  If you don’t believe me, I would say catch a live C’mon performance…but you can’t anymore.  This past October the band played their last show EVER at the Bovine Sex Club, much to the dismay of their fans.  I managed to catch them at Cherry Cola that same week for their second last show.  It was the second time I’d seen them play live (the first being at the Horseshoe for North by Northeast) and for the second time I was absolutely blown away.  Blurton and drummer Dean Dallas Bentley were tremendous of course, but to me the standout performer was of course, Campbell.  She tossed her stunning mane of dark blonde hair, writhing about the stage as if possessed by the music she wrought from her bass.  Climbing into the niche in the wall usually reserved for the scantily clad Cherry’s dancer, Campbell played as if her life depended on it, and the overheated and overwhelmed fans in the tight space couldn’t get enough.  Here’s hoping we see Katie Lynn Campbell continue her reign as rock and roll royalty soon.  Who knows, maybe our wish of seeing C’mon play again can actually come true?  Only time will tell…

There was a time when little girls didn’t dream of growing up and being rock stars.  Thankfully, that time is not now.  Everywhere in the world young girls are picking up mics, guitars, basses and drumsticks and starting rock bands of their very own.  The next generation of rock princesses and queens are being born and raised as we speak, creating music that doesn’t suck all over the world.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Until next time,



We now have an email address where all of us here at Don’t Believe a Word I Say can be contacted: Please use it to ask questions, tell us what you’d like to read about, send links you’d like to share, and let us hear what you have to say.

Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

2 Responses to “Nadia Elkharadly: The Feminine Mystique”

  1. Awesome list! No Carole Pope?

  2. Very nice post. I certainly appreciate this site. Keep writing!

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