Equality in Music? Let's Unite for International Women's Day 2019

Updated: May 15

International Women’s Day is almost upon us. Friday 8th March marks the return of the iconic calendar date, a day of celebration, unity, and most importantly, acknowledgement for the wonderful women of the world, past and present.

As we join in reflection of these female feats, it’s difficult to imagine how dreary the musical realm would be without women’s illustrious, creative contributions.

Such greats as Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, Debbie Harry, Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Florence Welch; all artistic Goddesses with the enchanting ability to transform the seemingly mundane into vibrant torrents of technicolour.

Yet despite harbouring such unique talents and relentless ambition, many women seem to find themselves somewhat lost in the carnage of male authority, constantly striving to equal their male counterparts. An exhausting, insistent battle, that’s been fought for too many years.

Cast your mind back to the struggles and strife’s of 1970’s London, a hotbed for political unrest, gender inequality and outright violence. This pivotal era in history welcomed the emergence of punk-rock, a new means of promoting social awareness, a voice that screamed for the disenfranchised youth protesting the status quo.

This revolutionary decade played host to rebellious male musicians, such as The Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten and Syd Vicious, who found themselves idolised for their anarchic, animalistic behaviour. In the midst of all this chaos, female four-piece The Slits were met with a sea of outrage and abuse at the hands of men within the industry.

The Slits formed in 1976. Guilty of nothing other than possessing a passion for music, the women were spat at, beaten, and on one occasion, stabbed. Their sheer strength and determination led them to create one of the most influential albums of all time, ‘Cut’ – a pioneer of punk, dub and feminism. Although their time as a band was short-lived, their turbulent existence saw them rise against social boundaries, paving the way for hundreds of female artists since.

Many may argue that this type of discrimination has been laid to rest, yet thousands of others would disagree. Perhaps the present day is more accepting of females in the music industry, yet women are still faced with constant criticism, under-representation and lack of faith in their ability.

North-East electro-pop duo, Talk Like Tigers, spoke of their personal experiences with gender discrimination.

“We've had people assume we don't write our own music. We've also had sound technicians talk past us to a male musician about our own instruments.
They seem to think that because we are young and female we can't possibly know what we are doing or what we want! It's extremely frustrating, egos in the music industry are quite hard to manage.”

And they’re not alone, Teesside singer-songwriter, Samantha Durnan, shares similar accounts of unfair treatment.

“As a female musician, I’m constantly judged for my ability to play an instrument before anyone’s even heard me play, with an example being ‘You’re not bad for a girl.’
“We must keep pushing for equal opportunities, I feel we have a way to go but we are definitely going in the right direction.”

And perhaps we are? Statistics show that female bookings for music festivals have increased from 14% to 19% between 2017 and 2018, with over 45 popular festivals pledging to book gender-equal line-ups by 2022.

However, as we find ourselves hurtling into 2019, it’s hard to deny that the music industry is still leaps and bounds away from achieving equal gender representation.

Let us unite on International Women’s Day 2019, and hope that the next 50 years will bring with it times of change. After all, as the late James Brown once said,

“This is a man’s world. But it would be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl.”

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