Being a woman and all, I'm supposed to like woman-ish things. Like soy drinks. And ceramics. And any cable show that combines wall stenciling and spontaneous crying. "Women's culture" is everywhere; the cable companies do us the favor of grouping the female-oriented channels together like bunches of daisies, and the entire front sections of chain bookstores are mostly devoted to the coffee-table books and chick lit that women apparently devour in far greater numbers than men.
Maybe that's why I've always loved radio. Its lack of a visual element has always implied a sort of gender neutrality.
Sure, there are hyper-masculine shock jocks and earnest, feminine call-in advice shows, but there's something about radio maybe the fact that most of us listen when we're alone that's personal rather than social and, by extension, taps into our "personhood" rather than our maleness or femaleness.
But no more. I've recently realized there's a radio station in Southern California that's just for women. Think of it as calcium supplements or Secret deodorant for your ears. It's called Jill FM, and it can be found at 92.7, although, because of its relatively few transmitters, it can't yet be found very easily.
It plays artists such as Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Faith Hill, as well as some "deep cuts" from the past. Even though you can hear this stuff on regular, coed radio stations, we know Jill FM is a girl thing because the logo, on the website, is a lipstick smudge. Also, the promos feature a saucy female voice saying things like "Jill says: 'The only thing more unreliable than an Italian car is the man who drives one.' "
I stumbled on Jill FM when I veered slightly to the left of 93.1 Jack FM, that no-request, no-DJ station that purports to be absurdly eclectic but, I've noticed, seems to play the B-52's "Rock Lobster" at least 500 times a week. I thought Jill was affiliated with Jack, but when I called up Robert Christy, general manager of Jill FM, I learned that she's very much her own woman.
"We decided that Jill isn't a radio station but a person who owns a radio station," Christy told me (in reality, the owner is Amaturo Group of L.A.).
"Sure, women listen to Jack FM," he said. "But it's really for guys. Women like lyrical music. For instance, they like Queen's 'Killer Queen' but not 'We Will Rock You,' at least not all the time."
Though Jill FM's playlist is proprietary, Christy describes it as "north of 2,000" and said the station thinks of the playlist as "Jill's iPod."
Christy seemed to know a lot about Jill. "She grew up in Southern California," he said. "She loves movies and has several cars, though we'll never know exactly what kinds of cars."
It turns out that Jill is the product of a "filter," which is radio-speak for a focus group that determines what appeals to a particular demographic.
The filter decided that Jill's keys to success were "brains, an excellent education, hard work and a little help from Dad." They're not sure how old she is, and she may not have kids, but she probably has a niece who plays a big role in her life. Her best friend is Marcy, the woman who does the station promos (in reality, Marcy is an actress who prefers to remain anonymous).
Does Jill have a lot of money? "Enough to own a radio station!" Christy said. "She has a nice house, but we never get invited. She skis and has a mountain bike. One of her cars must be a convertible, maybe a Mercedes coupe because women love that car. She also has a hybrid."
What does she do for fun?
"I can tell you that she would not go to a sweaty bar at the beach," Christy said. "She likes to drink cosmopolitans, but after climbing out of the water from surfing, she'd enjoy a cold beer. She'd never drive drunk, possibly because she might have learned her lesson in the past. She might have a bad-girl streak. Also, she has three dogs: a cocker named Joe, a springer named Jerry and a poodle named Tony that's for Tony Blair. Plus she has a Persian cat."
In other words, except for the menagerie, which is a little north of what's widely acceptable in a fabulous, always-on-the-go gal, we're looking at a composite sketch of the perfect woman. Sophisticated yet down to earth, responsible but a little wild, probably childless but definitely not child-averse, Jill is part self-made woman (read: independent) and part Daddy's little girl (read: not that independent).
Like an Internet personal ad or a Hollywood studio picture, Jill is designed to offer something for everyone, or at least everyone within her demographic: women between the ages of 25 and 54.
I'm in that demographic, so why do I want to punch Jill in the face? Maybe because the fancy house and all those cars makes her sound a lot like Barbie. Or maybe because radio is inherently about mystery, and it's hard to be mysterious when you've revealed the names of your pets.
On the other hand, maybe I'm just jealous of the Mercedes coupe.