Forget The Marketed Token Posts, Sexism Is Still Very Much Rife In The Music Industry

If you didn’t realise from all the posts on social media, today is International Women’s Day, a very important day “celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity” (IWD’s website).

Although I am glad to see so much content circulating about incredible women, it also seems – when too much of your time you are made to feel inferior – all a bit forced. Today is the day when corporations spout drivel about how they aim to do better, to create a more equal balance in their company… but they say the same thing every year.

I love that people want and are trying to do better, but having noticed no change over recent years it seems quite fake.

I’ve grown up around strong women and I was never made to feel like I wasn’t as equal as my male counterparts. Being in a female dominated household helps for sure, but when I started to step out into the real world I very quickly witnessed and experienced the sexist rift.

There are many different aspects of the “real world” I could explore when discussing this topic, but this being a music blog and with me trying to be part of the industry, I will centre my energy and words on it.

This is an opinion post. It includes some research but mainly focusses on my experience.

Womxn’s music festival, “Boudica Festival” in 2019. Photo by Freya Baker.

I wrote a bit about this last year in “My Love/Hate Relationship With The Music Industry” and in a post on my other site recently, “The One About Being In A Gender Minority“, but it is such an important topic that I’m going to reiterate and expand on some of the points made in those posts.

It is fair to say that I have experience in many different areas within the industry, and in each sector I have seen sexism in play. Whether it is at work, as a punter at a gig/festival or, on occasion, in my university cohort, I am becoming less and less shocked that it is an existing problem.

There are only three girls in my university year (including me) for a Music Technology degree. That’s only 10%. Which is a clear divide and although most of the time I do not think about it, sometimes I do feel like I am part of a man’s world.

When discussing misogyny in the industry I always go back to looking at festival lineups. I could talk about the issues with male-dominated festivals all day, but this time I’m going to take a different approach by just showing the issue.

I’m not asking for an enforced 50/50 split because I believe that everyone should be there on merit, but I think it is important to understand that talented womxn are being overlooked and not given the same number of opportunities as men.

An article by Marie Claire (2019) revealed that in the £4billion pop music industry alone, 67.8% of the jobs are held by men including the majority of senior roles. Feminine-identified artists only make-up 17% of the charts. Looking at the Grammys, it is unbelievable to me that in 2020 men received more than twice the amount of awards as women, and in the last seven years female acts only account for 7.6% of “Album of the Year” nominations. This isn’t because there aren’t any deserving winners or nominees who are womxn!

We live in a time where we have so many iconic female vocalists out there. Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, HAIM, Little Mix, Lizzo, Mabel, Pale Waves, Lana Del Ray, Marina, P!nk, Wolf Alice, Lorde, Florence & The Machine, CHVRCHES… Just to name a few!

I am sick of the excuse that festival organisers spew year on year, saying that there aren’t any top female recording stars out there right now. It is simply incorrect.

This isn’t going to get better until our male allies show their support and try to make strides to improve the situation. I may not be a fan of theirs, but The 1975 are an example of a band trying their best for change by refusing to play festivals with male-dominated lineups. I can only hope that other artists follow suit because it is a great way to try and force change.

I could also talk about how womxn are sexualised a lot more than men, and how womxn are more likely to be teased/criticised for having a passion, but that is a discussion that can be had on another day.

Instead, the last thing I really want to draw attention to is safety issues for womxn in the music industry. In 2019, the Musician’s Union said that artists are quitting the industry because of abuse and sexism, as reported by The Guardian. The Union said that 48% of people surveyed said they experienced workplace harassment and 85% of those people did not report it.

Why did they not report it? Many reasons. Too many reasons.

Reasons include: workplace culture, fear of losing work, that worry that the issue would not be handled properly and the fear of not being believed.

In my opinion, and experience, being made to feel unsafe or or on edge by men in the industry is further evidence of sexism. Why is it okay for womxn to be made uncomfortable?

When I was pushed into a wall by an artist’s promoter whilst working my arena job, would that have happened if I was a man? The times I have received hate messages for questioning why some festival line-ups were a sausage fest, would that have happened if I was a man? The different instances when I had to leave events because I was made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe, would that have happened if I was a man?

Being a womxn in this industry, even when so passionate about it, can be incredibly tiring at times. I’ve been challenged by too many situations to recall that have almost made me walkaway. The faux solidarity is also exhausting.

What do I want?

To go a week without being mansplained something. To be able to go to events that have more than the one token woman on the lineup, and feel safe doing so. To not be made to feel like I do not belong as part of this industry.

I don’t think I’m asking for anything unreasonable.

However, us womxn can’t be doing all of the pedalling. We need solidarity from our male counterparts to make the industry a more equal place.

Thank you to all of the allies for putting out supportive posts today, but IWD doesn’t mean that you have to only be supportive on one day. There are 364 other days in the year. We’ve all got to do better.

I’ve made a playlist which includes some of the amazing female talent out there. Check it out below.


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