I get to feeling bad, some days, that my list of Famous People I Obsess Over doesn't have more women on it. It makes me wonder if I'm an oblivious victim of the patriarchical blah blah blah. I don't think I am, but then, I wouldn't notice if I were, would I?

Much of the problem seems to stem from the fact that, for a very large chunk of recorded history, women weren't allowed to do the kinds of things I find interesting. If they did those things anyway, they generally kept it on the QT -- nobody with an iota of talent for espionage, for example, would be dumb enough to write any of this shit down. They generally didn't publish memoirs, on the grounds that if they told the truth they'd probably get whacked, and if they left all of the scandalous bits out nobody would want to read past page five. I could go research, but I'd be missing the kind of source I like the best, which is one penned by the subject herself. My second favorite kind of source, the candid interview, basically didn't exist before instantaneous media like radio were invented, where reporters had an excuse to pressure people to give answers immediately, without giving the subject too much time to think.

Biographies do exist, but are often not very useful. It matters surprisingly little to me when someone is lying through their teeth for an entire autobiography -- lies also carry information, albeit probably unintentionally. A biography written by someone else adds a minimum of one layer of obfuscation to a lot of storytelling that may already contain a lot more truthiness than actual truth, and usually a lot more than that. I have to work out the author's bias and take a guess at how much fudging may or may not have been done by the research sources, if any, with whom they spoke, before I can even begin to evaluate the person the book is actually about. Biographies written while the subject is still living are the most problematic, on account of some people can be complete bastards, and the libel laws are not necessarily interested in determining which one of them it is.

Historical biographies about women can run into another problem, which is that they are fucking boring. The same social forces that kept women from doing interesting things as adults also kept them from doing interesting things before they were adults. I don't have enough patience to wade through two hundred pages of someone being deeply frustrated while dutifully doing things they loathe before they have an epiphany, tell everyone else to fuck off, and write the Great American Novel or get elected Prime Minister or invent blood or whatever the hell else they did that might have made me notice them in the first place. Not coincidentally, this is also the reason I hate chick-lit, and why I avoided reading most girl-oriented young adult novels even when I was technically in their target audience.

Women in the arts, especially in film, have historically tended to be kind of batshit in an immature, insecure, untreated-borderline fashion that makes me want to punch things. You could, and still can, get horrendously famous even when your sole talent is a pair of really nice knockers. In a horrible backstabbing way, being completely cray-cray often makes this easier. People who have some kind of personality disorder are shockingly simple to manipulate if you happen to know where all of the ISO standard buttons are installed, and people who desperately need the kind of empty attention and adulation you get from being a celebrity will sacrifice the rest of their lives to get it. Goading a histrionic performer into doing things that wouldn't even occur to anyone whose self-respect gets priority over seeing their own face in the newspaper can be dishearteningly easy. I'm even less interested in reading about this than I am in reading about someone furiously finishing up nineteen different cross-stitch pillow slips while she dreams of dressing up as a boy so she can get the fuck out of wherever she is.

It's sad and angry-making, but a lot of the women I find fascinating did somewhere between diddly and squat until they got around to writing that book/producing that album/making that film, at which point I find the work itself to be the most illuminating thing I can get my hands on. Once the work is out they also generally start doing the kinds of interviews I love, although even that isn't always all that helpful. I still see a lot more women than men who are devoted to putting on their nice face when they're on camera, even if the person tossing questions at them is being a complete dipshit and asking things that rightfully ought to get their nose broken. Hosts who will be outright belligerent to the men -- and be openly challenged because of it -- are usually much sneakier with the women and wrap a lot of their douchiest comments in plausible deniability. It takes a certain sort of personality to take on that sort of thing and come out of it looking poised and dignified, instead of like a crazy asshat. I don't think any fewer women than men are of that particular bent, but as men run into that situation less, it's a lot easier for them to get by without having the required backbone.

As retarded as I think the US is about all this, there are other places that are worse. They're not all third-world holes, ether. Sheena Ringo is one of the few women in Japan who does rock/visual kei music. Up until DANGER☆GANG and exist†trace showed up, she was pretty much the only one. (A couple of others knocked about in pop music, most notably Amuro Namie. She's actually Okinawan, which makes a difference when you're Japanese. Even the "mainlanders" [i.e., the people from the bigger islands] tend to think they're weird.) She's been asked more than once, "What would you want to be, if you weren't a rock star?" She laughs and says, "A boy." And it's true. There's no way in hell she'd have gotten away with half the stuff she's done as a woman without also being in a genre that's intentionally a mix of gender-bending and madness, topped off with nine pounds of mascara.