An Idiot's Guide To Celebrating Women In Music (#IWD2017)
A few helpful tips to empower women in Australia's music industry, because even though it's 2017, some people still haven't gotten the memo.
DO: Acknowledge Non-male Artists Exist
Let’s start with the basics. Female representation in music has been undeniably poor for a while now. Contrary to what festival line ups, music publications and radio stations lead us to believe, there’s a world of music sitting just outside that mainstream heteronormative world. I’m going to keep it brief because this should really go without saying, but it’s time to become aware of who is being represented and who isn’t. Pay attention to gig line ups. Notice when a Top 50 list only features 3 non-male musicians. Talk to your friends about it – maybe they haven’t even realised it’s an issue.
DON’T: Accidentally Pigeon Hole Someone
Asking a female musician what it’s like being a female musician, even if said with harmless intentions, immediately segregates them. Slapping on the “female” label before their name often takes away from their achievements and turns them into a token act. Just say they’re a singer/songwriter, or a producer, or an artist. It’s a common mistake but something that gets pretty frustrating after a while.
Similarly, watch how you speak to/about women who work in the industry as managers, journalists, publicists, event organisers and everything in-between. They are not groupies. They are there to do a specific job and making jokes about them sleeping with the band isn’t funny and never will be. Respect who they are and what they do.
DO: Recognise That Some Women May Not Fit Your Traditional Belief Of What It Means To Be A “Woman”
Welcome to 2017! At this point in time, we have never been more exposed to trans triumphs and struggles BUT there’s still a long way to go before we see it incorporated into mainstream media and culture. Music is not some kind of exclusive club. Music is accessible for anyone and everyone and no one has the right to take that away from someone else. We need representation of all walks of life in this industry, from cis men and women to our trans and non-binary friends, to create a diverse and accepting community. It’s okay if you need a little help finding these artists, Sad Grrrls Club is a great place to start!
DON’T: Be A Creep On The Dancefloor
The last thing a girl wants when she’s finally seeing her favourite act is feeling your sweaty ham thighs rubbing up against her while you drunkenly slur literal nothings into her ear. It’s not a good look and there’s an 80% chance she’s now extremely uncomfortable and fears trying to get away from you in case you follow her. It’s all fun and games to dance with someone you locked eyes with earlier but understand what consent is. If you’re unsure about whether you’re intruding or not, ask.
DO: Call Out Questionable Behaviour
Letting sexist comments, actions and words slide – even just once or twice – is generally the equivalent of stamping a huge seal of approval over the questionable content. What people often forget is we have the power to say no to sexism and misogyny in music. We have the power to publicly address grossly over-sexualised gig reviews and openly boycott band members with known histories of abuse towards women. No longer is it acceptable to sweep things under the rug because ‘their music is good’ or ‘it wasn’t meant to come across that way’ because that doesn’t foster change.
You know what does foster change? Making a festival hotline for punters to call if they feel unsafe. Not accepting a booking when the line up is 95% male. Notifying a security guard or staff member at a gig if you see someone being harassed. Not supporting music that has roots in abusive behaviour.
DON’T: Be This Guy
“But it’s unfair to just book women just because they have vaginas!!!!! Shouldn’t we just put artists on festivals because their music is good and not because a bunch of feminists complained about it???” I hear you, a passionate keyboard warrior, cry out from the depths of your safe, traditional male upbringing.
Well, no. Imagine if this year’s Splendour in the Grass line up dropped and didn’t feature any dance acts. None at all. You would be slightly disappointed right? Maybe because dance music makes up a huge part of Australia’s music culture, and because sure Violent Soho is great but you also want the option to see Flume too. How about if the organisers then released a statement saying they’re deeply sorry but couldn’t secure any dance artists or it just didn’t cross their minds to book any dance artists despite Australia having an abundance of them. Now take a step back and see how offensive/upsetting/frustrating that is for: dance music enthusiasts, established dance artists, bedroom producers etc. The same goes for women.
This isn’t about having token female musicians haphazardly thrown into gigs for the sake of it. It’s about diversity. Only booking male artists has a chain effect that not only discourages women already in the industry but also tells that budding 15 year old writing songs in her room that she’s not worthy of being on a mainstage. It’s as simple as that.
DO: Share The Love
Don’t keep your favourite artists a secret! Australia is currently birthing one of the most exciting and innovative music scenes in the world, and we should be damn proud of that. Can’t get enough of Camp Cope’s cathartic lyrics? Link a friend! Think Vera Blue’s vocals are the most heavenly thing to grace our sunburnt country? Tweet about it! Female musicians, especially unsigned or independent ones, need all the exposure they can get and you’re their most valuable asset. So next time you stumble across a certified ~banger~ let the world know.
Want to discover more killer musicians from all walks of life? Try this 100% Australian, 100% female playlist of the best unsigned and independent talent found on Triple J Unearthed, right here.
Disclaimer: Any mention of ‘female’ or ‘women’ in this article is 110% inclusive of not just cis-females but also femme-identifying and non-binary people too. All genders and sexualities deserve to feel safe, loved and welcomed in any aspect of the arts (and life).