Spotlight On: Fabi Reyna, Founder of She Shreds Magazine

When you conjure an image of a guitar magazine in your head, chances are you envision a glossy cover with a stern-looking rockstar on the front. They might be sporting an open leather vest or some chains, and likely have a look that says this is cooler than you'll ever be. What you don't usually see is a woman.

Enter She Shreds Magazine, a newcomer to the world of guitar print that challenges the conventions of guitar culture and actively redefines what it means to shred. We recently caught up with She Shreds founder and editor Fabi Reyna who gave us some insight into what the publication is all about and why the female players of the world need a place where their voice is championed in a thoughtful and compelling way. See what Fabi had to say below and be sure to check out She Shreds for more awesome articles, interviews and features on guitars and the women who play them.

For those not familiar with She Shreds, how do you describe the publication?

To start, She Shreds is the world’s only print publication dedicated to women guitarists and bassists. We’re now also the only media outlet that blends cultures of music, guitar learning and gear related content with news regarding the progress of, and challenges to, female representation in the music industry. Our purpose is exactly that: to challenge those industry traditions that have, for decades, marginalized people who don’t necessarily fit into the culture that the music industry has created — and yeah, that also includes a lot of boys and men.

One of the biggest setbacks that I faced as a young girl learning guitar was that, in mainstream outlets, which for me meant guitar magazines at a big chain grocery store, was struggling to find role models of substance — meaning not overly sexualized — that I could or wanted to relate to. But, perhaps more than anything, not having the option to choose the way that I wanted to learn and being told: “If you can’t do it the way it’s supposed to be done, then you’re not a real guitar player.” That’s a huge setback for a lot of people, specifically women, who A) aren’t immediately welcomed into that community in the first place; and B) aren’t at all catered to language-wise, lesson-wise, etc. And then we are given these expectations that make us work 10 times harder if we want to be seen as a guitar player and not just “good for a girl.”

I mean, it’s weird. When you look at the history of guitar, we’re discovering so many women who were totally involved in music as guitar players, but were hardly ever given credit. Their legacy just lays in sentences inside of biographies about famous male guitarists found in Google. Just to name a few, starting from the most obvious: Carol Kaye, Barbara Lynn, Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lady Bo, The Duchess, Lucille Dixon Robertson, Annie Kerr, Kathy Marshall, Titiek Rachman, Lydia Mendoza, Letritia Kandle. These women were pioneers. A lot of them were a part of jump starting genres, and some of them don’t even have Wikipedia pages.

There's been a lot of conversation lately about an image circulating that juxtaposes the cover of a recent Guitar World and a cover from She Shreds. What does this image say about the guitar community? How has the conversation centering on this image taken shape?

Oh man I’m so happy that happened and also kind of shocked that it didn’t happen sooner. More than anything, I really want the conversation to be about progress, change and options. What I thought was so cool about that image was that, O.K., on the left there’s this magazines that represents a male dominated industry in its truest form: an overwhelming amount of sexism, masculinity and blatant fantasizing — almost to the point where you don’t even notice anything else, such as the products they’re advertising. This has been the dominant guitar culture for decades, right, one that really infiltrated the industry until now. On the right there’s this three-year-old magazine, suggesting and representing the exact opposite, yet sitting on the same level and saying: Hey, it’s cool if you want to pick up that magazine, but it’s not your only option and not all women guitarists look like that. Here’s another perspective. It’s amazing because, until now, a different perspective hardly existed.

Initially, a lot of people were directing the conversation towards the model having some fault in her appearance or that we were discriminating against certain styles and interests. We quickly settled that with a public statement, but it made me realize how easily people jumped to judge the woman rather than the editors who make these decisions.

Maybe it’s time to shift the conversation in a way that allows these men, who are calling the shots, to answer similar questions like: Why do you feel it’s necessary to portray women as objects; or: Are women included in your target audience when brainstorming content and marketing strategies? Those are just a few to start with.

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This discussion is potentially leading to a panel at South by Southwest this year. What are the goals of this effort?

I feel like we can continue to have this conversation and expect movement within the comfort of our dedicated audience and community. However, I’m interested in having this conversation in front of an audience of critics, of industry heads who question what we’re doing and challenge us to prove to the world that this topic is pertinent and necessary to the growth of female representation across many industries.

Note: Since the writing of this interview, this event has been scheduled as part of the 2016 SXSW conference.

Do you think women guitar players view themselves differently than the conventional notion of what it means to be a guitarist?

No and yes. I think that when we’re by ourselves, learning, writing songs and enjoying time with our guitars, we feel like guitarists. Take that into a social setting, whether it’s on stage, at band practice, at a guitar lesson, wherever, then we start feeling like women guitar players. The reality is that we are viewed differently by both men and women.

Now, how that’s addressed is what’s important. When you see a woman on stage playing guitar, you know that she has to jump through hoops either to make herself visible or invisible. Even if you don’t actively think about it or care, there will be people who come into your life and treat you like a novelty. That sucks, but at the same time it’s like: Well, if that’s how society is going to view me, then fuck it. I’m not going to hide, I’m gonna brush the haters off and be a part of this community that shows the world that they need to get used to us.

If by “the conventional notion of what it means to be a ‘guitarist," you mean being a part of what the industry shapes a guitarist to be? Speaking for myself, yeah definitely. We were never taught in the same way as boys and men. In a lot of cases we had to -- have to -- teach ourselves and invent our own way of playing. Hence the invention of punk rock by bands such as The Slits in the ‘60s.

Who are some of your guitar heroes? Why?

Oof. Ana Vidovic was one of my first guitar heroes/heroines. Chavela Vargas because I love her song writing. Juliån Salazar of Bomba Estereo because of his amazing Cumbia riffs. Mary Timony and Scout Niblett because of their simple yet protruding, angular melodies. PJ Harvey for her use of dynamics, same with classical music in general. So many!

Do you see She Shreds expanding into more than just a print and online publication, and in what ways?

Absolutely. This is just the beginning. We just launched our online platform last week and after that we’re working on a music festival, documentary series, opening schools for girls in places like Mexico and South America. Seriously, the sky's the limit with a brand like She Shreds.

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