Ladies, set the Crazy World of Arthur Brown loose on your C-cups: apparently, we're taking over music. And it's all thanks to Duffy. After the pilferer of Dusty's eyeliner and Lulu's lungs shifted 60,000 copies of her debut album last Monday, DJs and internet messageboards went mad for the idea that women now ruled the musical roost. Coming a day after Amy Winehouse's Back to Black was pushed back to No 1 by a pre-Mother's Day sales splurge, you could see their point.
Then everybody else joined in. On The Word magazine's podcast, MusicThing.co.uk editor Tom Whitwell argued persuasively that women were buying more records than men. From the New York Times came the story that young girls were much more inclined to buy tracks off iTunes and put their own songs on MySpace. Then, back in my bunker, I saw statistics suggesting more women use music-editorial websites than men. It's remarkable, really. In between cake-baking and child-rearing, where do these chicks get the time?
But let's play nicely for a moment. If true, are all these stories about women good things? In many ways, of course, they are. Surely, seeing women consuming and making music will inspire others to get involved, too. But then come the complications. Too many stories imply that music-making women are a new phenomenon, which must smart if you're a long-term performer like Wanda Jackson or Joan Jett. These stories also concentrate on artists who deliver narratives about weak-hearted girls dependent on terrible men. Sorry, Duffy, but 10 tracks about a toe-rag who has left you, who blatantly doesn't deserve you, but you'll still go running back to, don't exactly inspire me.
What we need, boys and girls, is a new attitude. We should start by not treating women's music as if it's a genre in itself. Up-and-coming electronic artist George Pringle recently wrote a piece criticising journalists who compared every songwriter with breasts and a personality to Amy Winehouse or Lily Allen. I've done it myself, partly - and depressingly - because of the lack of female personalities that existed at the time that pair came along. As narrow ideas such as these become ingrained in our media so quickly, aiming to recognise them sooner rather than later can only help us start changing them.
What we also need to do is put strong musical women back up on their pedestals. So here are mine for this week: three deserving female artists with new albums.
Dolly Parton is one of them. Although Backwoods Barbie includes a dodgy cover of Fine Young Cannibals' Drives Me Crazy, there are plenty of yeehaws for female empowerment. Then I played Martha Wainwright's second album, I Know You're Married But I Got Feelings Too, which is out in May. Singer-songwriters everywhere should quake in their boots: here's a hugely confessional writer at the top of her game who tackles affairs, cancer, suicide, religion and war, not only with a refreshing lack of cliche but with incredible strength.
And after five tracks from Madonna's Hard Candy, I was practically turning Amazonian. Every track came complete with 10 tonnes of sass. Lines such as "I'll keep it going all night long" and "I can go on and on and on" sounded like statements of intent rather than dance-music cliches. We used to call these sorts of sentiments ballsy, but I can think of a part of the female anatomy that's far more appropriate. To twist a line from the Sugababes, what's great is that these women know how to push their buttons all by themselves.