Pretty Good for a Girl

Recently, David and I attended a concert performed by Mindi Abair and The Boneshakers. (If the reader has not heard of Mindi Abair, I strongly urge you to become familiar with this excellent musician, who, like David and me, is a Florida native.) In addition to enjoying the fantastic musical experience, I was impressed with the manner in which Ms. Abair turned an insult into a message for women’s empowerment. Mindi Abair is one of the most accomplished saxophonists in the world, period. Her gender, age, hair color, and clothing style have absolutely nothing to do with her musicianship. She has a music degree, comes from a musical family, and is multi talented as a singer, songwriter, and sax player. She has been nominated for Grammy awards and has numerous other accolades regarding her achievements. All of this being said, at the end of her concerts, she is routinely subjected to what many women hear on a regular basis: “You’re pretty good…for a GIRL.” It should go without saying that the person making this offensive remark is not a woman, but rather, a man who does not seem to understand that Mindi Abair is pretty good, or very good, when compared to anyone. Instead of fighting the constant battle we women often fight, sometimes winning, but more often losing, Ms. Abair has turned this frequent insult into something positive. She wrote a song about it; she sells merchandise with the words on it (I am wearing a bracelet that says, “PRETTY GOOD FOR A GIRL” on it as I write this); and in general, she is using the statement to empower women everywhere with the notion that we are pretty good, if not a whole lot better, than most men. I cannot begin to count the number of times when I have had this statement hurled at me. From playing soccer, to driving a Corvette for 25 years, to playing the bass guitar, and to being the top student in almost every class I ever took in school, I have been told I am “pretty good, for a girl.” It continues to astound me that no one, and I mean no one (who doesn’t know me well), who has seen my bass guitars in my house has ever thought they are mine. It’s as if girls/women cannot, or should not, play a big, heavy bass! Oh yes, we can! And we can play the bass, or the sax, just as well, if not better than, a man can play! Why not just admit it: Women can be, and are, pretty good, not for a girl, but for anyone! Thank you, Mindi Abair, for turning this negative into a positive!

I thought the Mindi Abair show was great! She has a tremendous stage presence, sings and plays the sax wonderfully, and, with her dynamite smile, was very photogenic (see my photos at – – go to the Rock & Roll gallery). Though I was familiar with her music, I was not aware of Her “Pretty Good for a Girl” song, or empowerment program (see so it caught me by surprise to see the hot pink t-shirts she was selling with this phrase. I saw them before I heard Mindi discuss her experiences hearing this and how she was turning this negativity into a positive program. I thought it was cool. I know of Melissa’s travails in this area, though it always amazes me when it happens. I’ve never been one to think someone is “pretty good” for any reason other than they really are good. Pretty good or great for any reason other than excellence at something is foreign to me, be it music, sports, academics, or job performance. I see it as an individual’s ability regardless of gender, age, race, or whatever. There’s a much parodied song by The Offspring, entitled “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” that is in this vein. Why isn’t it just “Pretty Fly”? Adding the “for a girl” or “for a white guy” or whatever, is simply an attempt to minimize someone’s ability or success, perhaps out of jealousy. I’ve written about my friend, Dr. Frances Kinne, before. Her memoirs, published in 2000, are entitled “Iowa Girl: The President Wears a Skirt” and she’s one who has made many inroads as the first woman dean of a college of fine arts, first woman university president in Florida, first member of a, formerly, “businessmen’s club” and more. So she’s had her share of this “pretty good for a girl” reaction. I’m glad I’ve never had this myopia – I guess I have to attribute it to my upbringing. I’ve worked for many women, and as vice president to Magnus’ company president, Melissa, I still do. So it is a stark reminder this kind of bias exists when one runs head first into a hot pink tshirt.

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