Joan Jett recalls enduring sexism as a young artist in the '70s: ‘People would get very nasty’

Joan Jett admitted it wasn’t easy taking down the rock ‘n’ roll boys club of the ‘70s.

The 60-year-old music legend said it was “extremely tough” to break into the music scene as a young woman who wanted to carve out her own career.


“Just the level of… [people] not giving you a chance right away,” said Jett on the Australian TV show “The Project” Tuesday, as reported by UK’s Daily Mail. “Looking at you as a joke, as ‘it’s kinda cute.’”

“And then people would get very nasty,” added the “Bad Reputation” icon. “It is like what the internet is today, [but] people saying it to your face. You’re a this, you’re a that, you suck, your music’s bad. It could get really nasty.”

According to the Rock Hall, Jett received her first guitar at age 14. A year later, she became a guitarist in the all-girl rock band The Runaways. Once The Runaways dissolved after a New Year’s Eve 1978 show, Jett went on to launch her own band, The Blackhearts. But before the band had settled in, Jett separately recorded a solo album, which was released in 1980. In 1982 she and manager Kenny Laguna formed Blackheart Records.

In 2015, Jett was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Former Beatles Paul McCartney, 76, and Ringo Starr, 78, gave her a standing ovation at the ceremony.

“I walked out there and the first thing I see is Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr stand up and start a standing ovation,” recalled Jett. “I’m like, ‘What?!’ I remember being in my bedroom having just bought ‘Let It Be.’ It’s just crazy and so surreal.”


This isn’t the first time Jett has spoken out about rock ‘n’ roll having a problem with female artists.

Earlier this month, Jett spoke to Metallica’s Lars Ulrich for his “It’s Electric” show on Apple Music about how sexism surrounding glam rock — particularly in the United States — meant it was harder for women to get the respect they deserved by playing the same style of music as similar male-fronted acts.

“People having trouble with guys wearing makeup and stuff, girls can’t play rock ‘n’ roll,” she said. “No, girls can master the guitar, they can play rock ‘n’ roll.”

“What you’re saying is society doesn’t allow women to access their sexuality in relationship to music,” Jett continued. “They have to be a certain thing, and that’s it. Once they do that, they’re w-----, they’re s----, they’re d----.”


Jett pointed out fellow music pioneer Suzy Quatro as an example of a woman who deserved more respect and attention than they got in the US.

“Women can play rock ‘n’ roll, and being a success doing it,” said Jett. “Suzy was over in England having hit singles, she couldn’t get anywhere in the states and I’m sure that was the old ‘women don’t play rock ‘n’ roll' aesthetic.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.