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Girls rock ‘n’ roll – no boys allowed

August 26, 2009

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A recent article in one of Canada’s leading newspapers, The Globe and Mail, discusses an idea that originated in the US and is gaining popularity north of the border: all-girls rock camps. The first all-girls camp started in Portland, Ore., in 2001. Since then, new camps have opened across the US and Canada, all designed to provide a safe, non-critical environment for girls to write songs and learn an instrument, no boys allowed.

In one camper’s words:

If boys were allowed it would be very different and not fun. Some people would be less comfortable, and it would change the music. There’d be more arguments, too, because the boys would want to name the bands Red Skulls or something weird like that.

The camp’s focus is to empower girls to take risks and express themselves, but many readers’ online comments criticized the camps for their girls-only policy. For example:

After years of fighting to have girl included in everything boys do, golf, boxing clubs, scouts, why are all of these female only clubs still in existence. Can you imagine the uproar if this was a boys-only camp??? -Posted by Cards

This idea is the same as coddling your kids, being overprotective. How are these girls supposed to learn how to get along in the real world if they are whisked away to this fantasy land where men are monsters and women are sugar and plums. -Posted by the_weight

This is a little ridiculous. Why not just have a boys and girls music camp/school or whatever…And then put them in groups they feel comfortable with? Sure, there is no way to make the perfect group, but convincing young girls they can only be comfortable with other young girls doesn’t seem to be a solution to anything. -Posted by RaviG

In spite of many readers’ claims, most families can choose between girls-only, boys-only, and co-ed summer camps. And while it’s true that the world is co-ed, this fact makes it even more important to offer young girls (and boys) the chance to explore their interests in a single-sex environment. Without pressure to impress or compete with boys, for example, girls may discover talents they were completely unaware of. For example, camper Lia Formenti explains:

I didn’t even know the bass existed before I went to camp. My mom signed me up for it – I wanted to play drums. Now I like the bass a lot, and I play with my dad and keep learning new stuff. I’m going to keep on playing, and I’ll probably get even better.

In 2003, a Canadian charitable organization surveyed girls between the ages of 10 and 17 to find out what attracts them to all-girls camps. The girls who responded said that they thought an all-girls camp would be more comfortable and it would be easier to participate. After camp, the girls rated their experience in the all-girl setting as more comfortable and enjoyable than their experiences in co-ed camps. The girls-only camp also met their expectations regarding participation, with the girls saying it was easier to ask questions.

In male-dominated fields like rock music, girls-only programs can foster young girls’ interest in something that may have initially seemed like it was just for boys. When they realize that rock music – or math and science for that matter – can be fun, girls become excited about learning and could consider pursuing a related career in the future. The newfound confidence and excitement gained from participating in an all-girls camp can be carried into a co-ed setting.

The most disturbing responses to this article come from readers who think that empowering girls requires putting down boys. Nowhere in the article does it mention, or even imply, that boys are discussed – let alone demonized – during the week-long camps, yet this fear was echoed in several readers’ online comments. In general, readers’ concerns about the all-girls camps are rooted in misinformation (like equating female empowerment with male-bashing) and a belief that females who have struggled to be included in a number of male-dominated activities shouldn’t need or want a female-only alternative.

These myths desperately need to be dispelled in order to shift the focus to what’s really important: ensuring that all kids, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to explore their interests, learn new things, and develop confidence in their own talents and abilities. Gender should not act as a barrier, and if a girls-only environment helps to jump-start young girls’ interest in rock music, let’s recognize all-girls rock camps for what they really are: a good thing.

Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Amelia DeMarco works as a research and policy analyst and holds a Masters degree in Public Administration. You can contact her at

  1. August 30, 2009 8:50 pm

    You should check out the Girls Rock! documentary about this phenomenon.


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