Being outnumbered should stand for nothing: as female musicians, why are we still facing misogynistic attitudes?
It is universally acknowledged that within the music industry, us ladies are simply outnumbered. But, with the dawn of a new era where equality is making a firm stance on tired and traditional views, why can’t the music realm keep back misogynistic attitudes?
Let us take a few moments to see how the early days of popular music fought with the chokehold of sexism, through an incredible, iconic Jazz pioneer: Ella Fitzgerald. Anyone who knows anyone will have most likely melted within the divine swirl of vocals Fitzgerald has shared with us over the decades with true hits such as ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ and ‘Summertime’. But through the array of musical achievements, Fitzgerald, like so many female Jazz artists at the time, faced a tiresome fight to justify and prove her right to be at the top of the game.
In an insightful article by Alexandra A. Reinecke, Ella’s woeful release ‘Black Coffee’ (1948) is her raw reflection on her own suppressed feelings at a time where the only role that seemed fitting was the ‘Housewife’. Amidst this growing female excellence within the era, sexism also made an abundant amount of difficulties by the industry and society nursing a detrimental stereotype. Beautiful and elegant female musicians worked through sweat and silent tears. However, their attractive qualities were used as a spotlight for more recognition for their male bands. As noted by Byrnes, like magpies to a hint of shimmer, the jazz sector yearned for all things pretty and left the true admiration for the ladies’ talent behind.
One of the Counterculture’s most successful singer/songwriters, Joni Mitchell, grabbed the macho reigns and aimed to redirect them with both hands. There would have to be a good few hours and a whole lot of your time to share every way in which Mitchell held the flag high for the end to misogynistic attitudes. But one assertion of resilience can be so admirably appreciated in Mitchell’s 1979 interview with Rolling Stone.
Mitchell eloquently pointed out that at this time women had “made outward attacks on machoism”, going on to boldly pinpoint “I believe that I am male and I am female”. She simply believed in “equality”. It might be the severe slamming by Rolling stone, prior to the authentic and honest interview, that furthered Mitchell’s tackle against misogyny. The magazine pulled apart her album, ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’ (1975) with mockery such as naming her ‘Old Lady of The Year’. Did we see this treatment with Elvis Presley? Johnny Cash? Bob Dylan? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m just not so sure.
It’s been a hard trek to finally get to where we are in the present day with female artists bringing the force with all-female bands, producers, DJ’s, songwriters, rappers and thankfully so much more. However, the thick layer of sexism still hasn’t rectified itself. It hasn’t been put to a stop…
Kate Nash is one of our many modern-day beacons for pushing against this unfair and simply backward outlook on the industry. In 2016 (NME), the media recognised Nash’s tweet of a record store lumping all female albums into one small sector labeled ‘Females of all description’. Nash (and quite rightly so) gave the outright caption “The genre ‘females of all description’ is not a music genre. It’s sexist.”
Isn’t that just it? As female musicians, the vocals that leave the lips, the bruises gained from carrying the PA equipment from the car to the venue (because yes, we do lift heavy things), the rough-as-sand-paper fingertips from the guitar strings and the relentless hours of practice and recording should be appreciated in the same glorious way that male artists/bands are able to enjoy and relish within. This said, because we want to plant a stop to the misogynistic attitudes, we must celebrate the male music figures who are appreciating and working with females on a mutual level.
Joining the walk towards musical equality are the Foo Fighters (NME). With their 2018 tour, female-led indie band, Wolf Alice have been supporting the Foo Fighters to help the all-male group shout out about the ‘strong’ lady artists of the moment. Wolf Alice are fronted by the laid back but oh-so-talented Ellie Roswell.
In an ideal world, I hope this marks the beginning of so many crucial changes and positive steps that we need to make as an industry to stop the media mockery, record store shunning and lack of appreciation for female musicians as craftsmen.
It isn’t just the music ‘Big Dogs’ who can implement this movement. We can. The love, understanding, and passion for music starts in the classroom, in the home, local venues and all around. Whether you are a teacher, parent, event organiser or music enthusiast… when you are doing your bit for music… remember that it strives on dedication and talent. Not gender.
The misogynistic behaviour that is making the process of creating music a long and harsh battle for so many lady music masterminds is taking music away from what it truly is; a creative art in which the mind and soul uses sound to share love, hate, happiness, politics, grief and so much more. If we could share the love for female music makers in every part of the world, then we would be one step closer to putting a stop to the divide that is still so very wide!
Here is to girl creativity, musicianship, and power!