A group of men in Toledo, Ohio is doing their part to make one of their favorite activities a little more inclusive. The group was inspired to take action after reading stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times about Apollo 11 era NASA’s almost entirely white, male culture.
“For pretty darn near going on forty years, me and my buddies have been getting together, drinking a few beers, listening to records, and when the mood strikes us, playing a little air guitar,” says Dennis Johnston. “Well, after reading a few newspaper articles, penned by some very insightful journalists, it began to occur to me that maybe I’d been wielding my air guitar as a tool of oppression.”
Unable to shake off the wise words of those east coast journalists, Johnston describes an evening when he tried tuning out of the key of privilege, and into the key of inclusivity.
“One night I’m just sitting there watching my buddy, Darryl, lose himself in a Free Bird guitar solo. Now, Darryl’s no slouch on air guitar, and I must have watched him play Free Bird a hundred times, but I got to thinking, I wonder how a female would interpret this solo? Would she make the same red, sweaty facial expressions? Would she deploy the same clumsy gyrations and body contortions? Would she flick her tongue around in the same disgusting manner as Darryl? Almost certainly not, I thought. Might she instead soar gracefully to the music, ride the bird’s wings, and paint a different picture with her air guitar?”
After that experience, Johnston set about trying to attract more women and non-whites to join their group of invisible axe wielders. They set up a Facebook page and held open auditions, but their invitations seemed to attract only more older white dudes.
“Sadly, it turns out women and people of color aren’t very interested in air guitar,” says Johnston. “I had thought my implicit bias was discouraging others not like me from participating in our group. However, now I’ve got it on pretty good authority that some folks think air guitar looks kind of ridiculous. Oh well, we’re still free as a bird, and this bird you cannot change.”