Why is it Harder to “Make It” as a Woman in the Music Industry?

Following the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the Weinstein allegations and continued sexism consuming Hollywood, is it finally time the music industry also faces the music; that sexism and the exploitation of women is still very much alive in the music industry.

Just last week one of the largest music events of the year, The Grammys, was accused of sexism after only one woman, Alessia Cara won a major award. SZA, who was nominated for six awards, lost out to all of them. And Lorde, the only female nominated for Best Album, was the only artist in this category not invited to perform.

Further backlash came when Grammy President Neil Portnow defended the Award’s decisions, claiming that female artists need to “step up”, and despite going back on this initial claim, provided a clear show of the continued double standards that women in the music industry face daily. On the eve of the Grammy’s, Lorde’s mother, Sonja Yelich, shared her thoughts with an article from the New York Times, which claimed that of the 899 people nominated in the last six Grammy Awards only 9 percent were women. But, with women going above and beyond talent-wise and still being asked to step up, can they ever truly win in an industry that requires so much more of them than of their male counterparts?

Just over a year ago Icelandic musician Björk wrote an open letter about sexism in the music industry, which claimed,  ‘Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times [as a woman],’ – and it seems many have shared her experiences.

After taking her career in a new direction towards djing, something relatively normal in the music industry, reviews suggested she was “not performing” and “hiding behind her desks”, critiques that the male DJs at the same festival did not endure. Björk further went on to emphasise how women are put into boxes with specific guidelines. Her letter reads “Women in music are allowed to be singer-songwriters singing about their boyfriends… If they change the subject matter to atoms, galaxies, activism, nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones, they get criticized; journalists feel there is just something missing…Men are allowed to go from subject to subject, do sci-fi, period pieces, be slapstick and humorous, be music nerds getting lost in sculpting soundscapes, but not women,” she continued.

The stifling of women to remain consistent and meet certain expected criteria is something that artists like Taylor Swift have claimed is also the source of many of their critiques. Swift, who herself has been ruthlessly critiqued for her dating life and celebrity feuds above her music claims this opinion on her music is “a very sexist angle to take”. In an interview with Time Magazine, Taylor Swift expressed how many male artists like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars write songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love lives “and no one raised a red flag there.” So it seems the music industry’s views on women are paradoxical in their very nature, and women will amass criticism whether they branch out or stick to what they know.

However it’s far from just double standards and lack of representation. Kesha’s long term battle with abusive producer Dr Luke, showed that women in Music are actively exploited, and given the reception of Kesha’s court case it is clear that this was far from an isolated incident.

Dr Luke and many others in the music industry accused of assault, abuse and exploitation did not face adequate consequences, signalling how this behaviour, just like that of Harvey Weinstein, has been accepted for far too long. Just last week the DJ David Mueller, who was fired after allegations that he groped Taylor Swift at a meet-and-greet came to light, was since hired by Delta Radio. After backlash Larry Fuss, who hired Mueller claimed he was right to give the man a second chance.

In an industry where men like Mueller, Chris Brown, Dr Luke and countless others are given multiple chances after sexist and abusive actions, women are beginning to call #TimesUp. Whether it be through wearing white roses and dedicating performances at the Grammys to women’s equality in the music industry or through financially supporting the trials of women abused by male musicians, like Adele and Taylor Swift have done in the past, women in the music industry have reached the end of their tether and the industry as a whole is beginning to reflect, just like Hollywood has been forced to do in the past months…

Post Author: Lucy Young

Lucy Young
Music writer from London. Lover of all music genres, fashion, iced coffee and glitter. In between writing and watching gigs I'm probably Instagramming pictures of veggie burgers or looking up cocktail recipes.

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