“Lettuce” Talk Women in Country Music, Shall We?


Women are just the garnishes in bro-country music salads? Excuse us, dudes, but you need to step off.

An unscientific survey on my Facebook wall supports my theory – lettuce is the least favorite part of a salad. Sad news for country & western music radio programming dude, Keith Hill. Earlier this week Hill told Country Aircheck magazine that “country radio needs to ‘take females out….they’re just not the lettuce in our salad…The tomatoes of our salad are the females.'”

I grew up on country and western music — Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and my favorite, Kenny Rogers. I know the words to most of the 1990’s country & western hits. When some GenX women were rocking out to Riot Grrrl, I was weaving in Dixie Chicks, Martina McBride and Shania Twain with No Doubt and Alanis Morissette.

So back to my poll. It turns out most people don’t eat salad for the lettuce. It is merely a vehicle to get to the tastier parts! If Luke Bryan is the lettuce, then Martina is the wholesome sunflower seeds and bad ass Miranda Lambert is the candied walnuts that makes the salad enjoyable. And obviously Dolly Parton brings the juicy tomatoes to the salad bowl.

But if we did not have any lettuce, we would just have a bunch of toppings in a bowl. And if we did not have toppings, lettuce is, well, eh. You need both for a healthy and delish meal. They need each other.

After finding himself in salad trouble, Hill tried to clarify his position, with wait for it…more sexism! Apparently he held focus groups during the height of Faith Hill and Shania Twain’s careers and claims that “The most attractive female in the room would say they are threatened by [Shania and Faith].” So really, ladies, Mr. Hill is just doing his job, following the numbers and giving us what we want because strong ladies of country and western music scare us.


Non-country and western fans may believe we are all “Stand By Your Man” ladies, but those of us who love that music know we can be of both minds. We love our love songs, but we also love our cheating and revenge songs. Our music is as raunchy as anything you’ll find in hip-hop [exhibit “Daytime Friends and Nighttime Lovers”] and as feminist as anything you’ll find anywhere [exhibits “Independence Day” and “Is There Life Out There?”] Hill’s comments are a poor reflection of not just women who listen to country and western music, but the entire genre. And I bet his number crunching and attitude is why bro music continues to put out “girl in a country song” numbers.

And really that is where I think the rub is. I’m not even sure how we got to a point in 2015 where such a thing as “bro music” exists that works to the detriment of women entertainers. But the women of country music need to continue to call out bro music and demand their own spotlight.

As a feminist and country music fan, I enjoy the opposite of “bro country.” When I make my county music salad, I like some Garth and Waylon with my Martina and Shania. But I want a ton of other stuff, too, like Carrie, Loretta and oodles of other female-led groups. That said, I’d never go so far as to say that even though lettuce is the most boring part of the salad, that we should keep the greens to a minimum.

Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye. To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at veronica.arreola@gmail.com.

Image of Martina McBride via Wikimedia Commons/CC License/Bruce Comer, Jr.

Image of Shania Twain via Wikimedia Commons/CC License/Sara Collaton

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