Stevie Nicks Got Further With Men in the Music Business by Being ‘Feminine and Sweet,’ Not ‘Aggressive and Quiet’

Stevie Nicks knew how she would have to handle herself around the men in the music business before she even entered it. Her mother had raised her to be a strong independent woman. So, men weren’t going to treat Nicks like a second-class citizen at any point in her career.

However, Nicks knew she had to be a certain way with men if she wanted to get further in the business. She couldn’t be aggressive or quiet. Nicks had to be feminine and sweet.

Stevie Nicks dressed in black while performing with Fleetwood Mac in California, 1977.
Stevie Nicks | Richard McCaffrey/ Michael Ochs Archive/ Getty Images

Stevie Nicks wrote songs about living in the world of men

During a 1981 interview with BAM magazine, Nicks talked about surviving in the male-dominated music business. Nicks said that it inspired her to write songs that every woman could relate to.

“I’ve always thought your songs presented an interesting view of womanhood,” BAM told Nicks. “It’s not quite a ‘sisterhood is powerful’ feeling, but some of your compositions seem to emphasize the bond you feel with other women in an almost spiritual way.”

Nicks replied, “I think that’s probably true. I’m surrounded by men in this business so I need a little feminine comfort, and one way to find that is to write about how I exist in this world of men, how I deal with them and how they deal with me. And I tend to talk about it as ‘we’ instead of ‘I.’ I’m no great women’s liberationist, though. I found out a long time ago that that doesn’t work, so.”

BAM pointed out that that view was rather cynical. Nicks said, “It’s true.” By 1981, Nicks had already spent more than enough time living with men in the industry. She knew how to be around them. If she acted a certain way, men took her seriously.

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Nicks got further with men in the music business by being ‘feminine and sweet’

Navigating her way through the male-dominated music industry was easy once Nicks realized what they wanted. The men in the music business wanted women to act a certain way. When Nicks gave them what they wanted, she got further into the industry.

That might sound like something from the Me Too Movement and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. However, what Nicks went through wasn’t exactly that bad. Nicks wanted to give men what they wanted because she didn’t want them to see her as just another “girl.” She wanted them to see her as their equal.

“I get a lot further with the men in this business by being feminine and sweet and not aggressive and quiet,” Nicks said. “They let me in. They don’t let in aggressive, pushy women. Say one word too much and you’re out. Well, I didn’t want to be out.

“I wanted to be friends with them. They’re my peers and contemporaries. They’re people I have to work with and I damn well am going to be part of them. It took me a long time to be anything to them besides just a ‘girl.'”

BAM asked Nicks how she made the “jump in men’s minds from being just another ‘chick singer,’ as it is degradingly put so often, to being respected for your songwriting, which is obviously what you would like?”

“I just keep writing, playing and telling people how important writing is,” Nicks said. “I tell writers that it’s not important to me to be a sex symbol.

“I’m not going to change because I get criticized for what I wear or because, as you said some people see only a ‘chick singer.’ I keep persevering and doing what I do with the hope that someday people won’t care about any of that and instead they’ll look up and say, ‘You know, she really is a pretty good writer.’ It’s starting to happen, actually. It’s taken six or seven years, but it is happening. You can’t give up for a second.”

People certain do see Nicks as a good writer. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame wouldn’t have inducted her twice if they didn’t.

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Nicks’ mother taught her to be strong and independent

Barbara Nicks wanted her daughter to be strong and independent in whatever career she chose.

In Stephen Davis’ Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks, Nicks’ mother told her, “You will go to school, and you will be independent, and you will never be dependent upon a man. And you’ll have a really good education, and you’ll be able to stand in a room with a bunch of very smart men and keep up with them, and never feel like a second-class citizen.”

That stuck with Nicks as she entered into the music business. She even told her fellow Fleetwood Mac bandmate, Christine McVie, a similar thing when she joined the band.

“I said to Chris, you know, we can never be treated like second-class citizens here,” Nicks told NPR. “So when we walk into the room, we have to walk in with a big attitude. Which does not mean a snotty conceited attitude. But it means like we have to float in like goddesses, because that is how we want to be treated. And we will never not be invited to the party, because we are women.”

Nicks has done an amazing job showing the men in the music business that she can hold her own. She’s more loved today than she’s ever been and continues to inspire women worldwide.

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