While it might be easy to look at the huge amount of exposure given to the likes of Adele, Beyonce and Taylor Swift as they reign over the world of popular music and think that sexism and gender bias in the music industry is ancient history, we don’t have to look back very far at all to find the sort of examples of marginalisation the industry still dishes up on a regular basis.
As triple j’s Hack program pointed out recently, while the gender gap is certainly closing, women still aren’t at the same level of representation as their male counterparts, either in artistic endeavours or behind the scenes – and APRA/AMCOS figures do little to paint a healthier picture of what is still very much a male-dominated industry.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the more memorable industry horror stories of recent times, with the hopes that we can leave these sorts of incidents and attitudes behind in the years to come.
Björk reminds us that there are female beatmakers, too
Björk is undoubtedly one of the most influential and innovative female performers of the last few decades. Bjork’s early work saw her experiment with a wide variety of styles and genres, with her predominant music style being rooted in an alternative jazz-pop sound. Björk’s fourth album, Vespertine, saw the Icelandic musician holed up for about three years as she slaved over the sounds on the album, taking all the necessary time to perfect the beats on the record.
As Björk stated in an interview with Pitchfork, fittingly titled ‘The Invisible Woman’, despite having briefly collaborated with music duo Matmos on the album, her own contributions to the album were almost completely marginalised due to her gender. “For example, I did 80% of the beats on Vespertine and it took me three years to work on that album, because it was all microbeats—it was like doing a huge embroidery piece” she said.
“Matmos came in the last two weeks and added percussion on top of the songs, but they didn’t do any of the main parts, and they are credited everywhere as having done the whole album. [Matmos’] Drew [Daniel] is a close friend of mine, and in every single interview he did, he corrected it. And they don’t even listen to him. It really is strange.”
Alex Lahey informs us that women don’t need to be compared to other women
One of the biggest Aussie success stories of 2016 was Alex Lahey, and rightly so. The young Melbourne muso received rave reviews worldwide, even from sources as prestigious as Pitchfork. However, it was the comparisons to other musicians that made Lahey angry. Following on from her 2016 BIGSOUND appearance, Lahey remarked that comparisons made between her and Courtney Barnett are incredibly sexist.
“I’m just not convinced that those comparisons would be happening if I was a guy. It’s just silly and easy,” Lahey said in an interview with AAP. “I think it’s easy to lump girls in with each other and it’s just stupid.” Lahey continued; “I’m a huge fan of Courtney I think she’s one of the best songwriters in the world and her values and what she stands for are beautiful and brilliant, so I’m humbled to be compared to that. But I don’t think that it’s accurate, especially from a musical perspective, we play very different types of music.”
Megan Washington asks Kyle Sandilands to ‘please retire’ following a sexist Lorde interview
You might be one of the lucky ones who managed to forget this awkward interview that Lorde was subjected to a few years back, but sadly, it’s something still way too common on radio today. Back in March of 2014, Lorde was being interviewed by Kyle Sandilands & Jackie O on ‘The Kyle & Jackie O Show’ before Kyle Sandilands launched into some awkward questions.
“Are you bringing your new bestie, Taylor Swift? I see you guys’ pictures everywhere. Are you guys like, uh, are you together now?” asked Sandilands, who, after presumably sensing Lorde’s shocked reaction, clarified his statement with “not together as in lesbians: I’m not talking about ‘Ellen together.’” Lorde’s response of “what do you mean… is there something wrong with lesbians?” was met with a cringeworthy “Oh my god no, I would love that,” from Sandilands.
Megan Washington managed to steal the show though, posting on her Facebook account later an impassioned plea to Sandilands which read “Kyle Sandilands: You are embarrassing. Please retire. You have enough money. Please go away.” The post has managed to attract well over four thousand likes since being posted almost three years ago.
Iggy Azalea shows just how quickly topics of sexual assault can be ignored
Back in 2014, Iggy Azalea was addressing the issue of how she was frequently sexually assaulted by fans at her own gigs. During a radio interview with the hosts of New York radio station Hot 97, Azalea stated how the nature of her lyrics doesn’t invite fans to sexually assault her. “They think I’m real slutty, like ‘Oh, she got a song called ‘Pu$$y,’ I know what she wants,” she says. “She wants these two fingers. Why would I want a stranger to ever finger me? Buying my album for $12 doesn’t mean you get to finger me when I come to your city.”
The hosts however, decided to almost completely ignore the issues of sexual assault mentioned by Azalea, instead deciding to use it as a segue into Azalea’s ‘bedroom behaviour’, and the ‘puffiness of her butt’. Feel free to give the interview a listen below, and in case you were already sickened by the Sandilands interview above, get ready for round two with this horrible discourse.
Meredith Graves tackles the double standard of female authenticity
Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy delivered a spoken word piece in 2014 that focused on the double standards that women face in the music industry. Graves spoke about how women frequently have their authenticity questioned when it comes to being a music fan, with even the smallest comment serving as a green light for a barrage of questions that test the claims made.
“Women are called upon every day to prove our right to participate in music on the basis of our authenticity — or perceived lack thereof,” Graves said. “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.”
“And even if you pass all their tests, you’re probably just a gimmick, there so the guys in your band seem progressive, or because you’re cute, or they couldn’t find anybody else. Worst of all, they might compliment you, and tell you that you’re good — for a girl. Regardless, you’re never considered “real,” you’ll never meet their idea of what a real musician or real music fan should be, because the standard is male.”
An LA publication wins the award for ‘creepiest article written about a musician’
In June of last year, the LA Weekly published an article titled ‘Sky Ferreira’s Sex Appeal Is What Pop Music Needs Right Now‘, and if you think that’s as bad as it gets, you are as ill-advised as the LA Weekly was when the decided to publish it. The article went on to describe Ferreira in terms which are, shall we say, less than appropriate.
“To see how Ferreira fits into this elite group, simply look over her Instagram,” the author writes. “There isn’t a single photo of her that isn’t flawlessly, almost offensively cool. Even in the candid photo of her nude in the shower, soaking wet, she looks natural, like she’s shooting a home video, rather than being photographed by a creeper,” he continues. “She looks like a more cherubic Sharon Stone, icy but also sweet, like a freshly licked lollipop.” Thankfully, Ferreira decided to take a stand against this disgusting commentary and publicly spoke out against the sexist articles written about her.
Haim remind people they’re more than just a ‘girl band’
Los Angeles rock group Haim are undoubtedly one of the coolest bands in recent years. The group, which consists of sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim, as well as drummer Dash Hutton, made fans all over the world with the release of their debut record Days Are Gone, but amazingly, the group were still subjected to offensive generalisations everywhere.
While being asked about the group’s sole male member, Dash Hutton, the other members of Haim rejected the idea of being called a ‘girl band’. “Growing up, there were a lot of girl artists like the Spice Girls, Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child,” said Alana Haim in a conversation with The Telegraph. “But none of them really played instruments and I would always look up to Stevie Nicks and Blondie – they are dope female musicians. So I just see us as a band. When people call us a girl band, I take it as an insult – being a girl in a band shouldn’t be a thing. It seems so medieval.”
Playboy receive a smackdown from Neko Case after sexist article
American musician Neko Case has received high praise from numerous music publications in her time for the brilliant music that she makes, however, it was a 2014 incident with Playboy that saw Case get incredibly angry. The publication had recently published an article on Case, which involved piecing together numerous quotes the musician had made previously, and when it was shared on social media, was paired with a caption stating that Case was “breaking the mold of what women in the music industry should be.”
Case understandably took issue with this, especially due to the fact the article focused on superficial factors such as her age and looks, and fired back with a series of tweets that included statements such as “Am I? IM NOT A FUCKING “WOMAN IN MUSIC”, IM A FUCKING MUSICIAN IN MUSIC!”. Even after being told by numerous fans that the article in question was relatively positive, Case still responded as angrily as one might expect her to…
And no, I didn't read it. Wouldn't be able to get past "Woman in.." if I had no idea who I was, which is the point; women NOT a niche market
— Neko Case (@NekoCase) May 22, 2014
To be fair, it's not just @PlayboyDotCom who do the "Women in…", everyone still does it, WOMEN do it. I can't hang.
— Neko Case (@NekoCase) May 22, 2014
PJ Harvey’s fans speak out over ‘misogynistic’ review
PJ Harvey is well known for being an outspoken musician, and her feminist leanings are no secret, so writing something that could be deemed as ‘misogynistic’ towards her is obviously a pretty big mistake, right? Well, not according to a review published on the ABC in regards to a 2012 performance of PJ Harvey.
Regarding Harvey’s Perth gig, a review was published on the ABC Radio Perth site. Written by a clearly insecure reviewer who had to go so far as to remind his reader repeatedly that he is, in fact, a male, the review is doomed from the beginning. “I was introduced to PJ Harvey by my partner. And after just two minutes of being at the concert hall, a guy and his wife pick up on our West Country English dulcet tones,” it begins. “We talk about her music, and although the other bloke and I are not massive fans, we have great respect for her and her song writing. After seeing PJ Harvey perform at festivals, I know this woman can hold her own with the boys.”
Sadly, it doesn’t stop there, it keeps on going. The comments that people shared in regards to the review were quick to pick up on the underlying theme of the review. “”‘We talk about her music, and how although we AS MEN are not massive fans…’ Of course, because that would be ridiculous…” wrote one reviewer, while another tried to bring humour into the debacle by joking that “someone told me that women are allowed to vote now. As a man I’m not totally into it but I guess I can respect it.”
Jen Cloher & Adalita show us how sexist guitar shopping can be
You might remember last year when Laura Imbruglia’s web-based sketch show, Amateur Hour, decided to turn the tables on the sexism that women face in music stores. Enlisting the talents of famous Aussie musos such as Jen Cloher and Adalita, Amateur Hour created a sadly hilarious four minute sketch that managed to hold a mirror up to the annoyance and rampant sexism faced by many aspiring female musos.