It’s no secret that the entertainment industry has been predominantly male-centric since it began. Women have had to do what they can to survive amongst the sea of testosterone, often required to showing a bit of skin just to rise up and stay in the limelight.
Ariana Grande has recently voiced her frustrations on Twitter, focusing on the double standard that is still exercised in today’s society. But Grande isn’t the only artist voicing her opinion on sexism. There have been many musicians, men and women alike, who have revealed the struggle of female singers to be recognised for their talent, rather than other things.
The Icelandic queen of pop, Björk has struggled to get recognition for her music for years. “It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times. Girls now are also faced with different problems. … But it’s an ongoing battle. I hope it doesn’t come across as too defensive, but it is the truth.”
“It wasn’t just one journalist getting it wrong, everybody was getting it wrong. I’ve done music for, what, 30 years? I’ve been in the studio since I was 11; [Arca] had never done an album when I worked with him. He wanted to put something on his own Twitter, just to say it’s co-produced. I said, “No, we’re never going to win this battle. Let’s just leave it.” But he insisted,” she revealed.
Though he is a man who is notorious for complaining about things, it may surprise you that Jack White has also spoken out about the connotations given to women in the music industry. In an interview with Spin, he said, “It’s a real shame that if a woman goes onstage with an instrument, it’s almost a novelty. Like, ‘Oh, isn’t that cute.’ It’s a shame that in 2014 that’s a little bit of what’s going on in the perception in the room.”
The main idea that ‘if a woman is successful, there must be a man involved’ is a common one, as Lily Allen pointed out in an interview. “You will also notice of the big successful female artists, there is always a ‘man behind the woman’ piece. If it’s Beyoncé, it’s Jay Z. If it’s Adele, it’s Paul Epworth. Me? It was Mark Ronson and the same with Amy Winehouse. You never get that with men. You can’t think of the man behind the man.”
For the record, here’s what a bunch of other artists have had to say about sexism in the industry:
Grimes: “I don’t want to be infantilized because I refuse to be sexualized,” she wrote on Tumblr. “I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if I did this by accident and I’m gonna flounder without them. Or as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology. I have never seen this kind of thing happen to any of my male peers.”
Taylor Swift: “You’re going to have people who are going to say, ‘Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends,'” she said to Time magazine. “And I think frankly that’s a very sexist angle to take. No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises the red flag there.”
Meredith Graves: “Women are called upon every day to prove our right to participate in music on the basis of our authenticity — or perceived lack thereof,” she wrote in Pitchfork. “Our credentials are constantly being checked — you say you like a band you’ve only heard a couple of times? Prepare to answer which guitarist played on a specific record and what year he left the band. But don’t admit you haven’t heard them, either, because they’ll accuse you of only saying you like that genre to look cool. Then they’ll ask you if you’ve ever heard of about five more bands, just to prove that you really know nothing. This happens so often that it feels like dudes meet in secret to work on a regimented series of tests they can use to determine whether or not we deserve to be here.”
The fact that so many female artists feel the need to speak out against sexism is in itself, a testament to its overwhelming prevalence.
Why is this still such a huge problem? This is the 21st century, people.
Many of the complaints point to the media as the main source of the problem. It seems to be the race to get the juiciest scoop and the most views and shares that causes these assumptions. Many publications feed on gossip and controversy as the main types of stories concerning female artists to get their readers talking.
But is the media to blame for the lack of female executives in music companies? Are they the reason why we still need categories that are restricted to men and women at award shows?
There is so much more to the problem at hand than what we read. The lack of representation is something that needs to be a focus if we want to close the gender gap in the world of music for good. As Janelle Monae says in the interview below, the best way to deal with this issue is to rebel against the ideals of what women need to do to gain popularity and just do what they think is right for them.
There needs to be more people in the industry talking about this. Women need to share their experiences instead of simply ignoring them or going with the flow. Those stories can change the future of the industry and how female musicians are perceived.