Wet Leg and Hayley Williams discuss misogyny in music: “There will always be a comment like, ‘Girls shouldn’t play guitar’”

Wet Leg and Hayley Williams
(Image credit: Lorne Thomson/Redferns via Getty / NPR Music/YouTube)

Breakthrough indie band Wet Leg and Paramore’s Hayley Williams recently sat down together to discuss the sexist comments they’ve received as guitar players from online commentators.

Wet Leg shot to viral stardom thanks to both their 2021 internet-breaking single Chaise Longue and their equally popular eponymous 2022 debut album, but the duo – Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers – revealed they have encountered sexist backlash in the wake of their success.

The backlash has surfaced in various forms, but unjustified critiques of Teasdale and Chambers’ guitar playing are particularly present.

Speaking to Williams on the Face-To-Face podcast from The Face magazine, lead vocalist Teasdale reflected, “I think for us one of the hardest or most irritating things about being women is probably just the stupid comments on the internet like, ‘Oh she’s holding that guitar but she’s not actually playing it.’”

She continued, “Like, for example, when I am not using my guitar but then I need to play it in the chorus or something, there will always be a comment being like, ‘Girls shouldn’t play guitar, women shouldn’t play guitar,’ and it’s just like… it’s so dated but it’s still there! And I just hate it so much. It’s so frustrating.”

It's an experience shared by Williams, who went on to speak of the sexism she’s faced in her own guitar-playing career. Specifically, she made reference to her 2020 NPR Tiny Desk performance, which saw her play an Ernie Ball Music Man Mariposa live – something that’s out of the ordinary for the Paramore leader.

“I don’t even play guitar on stage, I don’t even dare,” she admitted. “Because I love to play guitar but I don’t know if I could handle… man. I feel you so hard.”

As for the Tiny Desk gig, Williams revealed she was physically shaking while she played the guitar because she knew her playing would come under sexist scrutiny online.

The issue persists in the industry, with UK metaller Sophie Burrell voicing similar sentiments when she sat down with Guitar earlier this year. “The audience [that comes with metal] can be quite discouraging at times,” she said. “A lot of, ‘She’s good, but for a girl,’ sort of stuff. Which is really crap.”

In May this year, a host of prominent players – Gabby Logan, Stephanie Bradley, Nikki Stringfield and more – sat down with Guitar World to share their own experiences in the industry, and discussed the harassment they are forced to face as female musicians.

“The funniest thing is that no-one pays attention to the music anymore,” Iron Maidens guitarist Stringfield said at the time. “If we took a group of people, lined them up in front of a stage and asked them to turn round, would they know whether it’s a guy or girl playing? No, because there is no difference.

“It’s a piece of wood and some strings. You’re not going to know if it’s just a bunch of girls up there. It’s going to sound like Iron Maiden. But it’s just always been like that.”

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.