Women Issue II : Female Artists in electronic music

We could imagine that in 2016 women artists, producers, musicians etc would be more represented in the arts. But it seems that women artists, who won’t sexualize themselves, are still struggling to become famous or respected within the music industry. What could possibly explain this situation ?

Nowadays we can easily remember the names of pop or electronic female artists without struggling: Bjork, Beyonce, FKA Twigs, Grimes, Lady Gaga to name a few, who share a lot in common, including being wonderfully fascinating on different levels.

But when we take a closer look, when we put aside mass media music and look at the underground scene of music, when we analyse their gestures, behaviours, clothes and the element of fantasy they emit, there are some contradictions.

These issues aren’t as simple as they seem to be. When we look into the underground scenes such as techno, experimental, noise and even electronica (or electro) we realise what women have to endure and put themselves through in order to achieve success and to possibly have a spot in the limelight. Or even to play in music venues at their debuts.

Interviews of young talented female artists and djs can make us wonder. It is possible to think it is only a matter of society and culture. France vs England, USA vs the world, Island vs Germany,… These issues about roles of female artists in electronic music are shared on a world scale.

Most of female artists in the music industry said it was hard to be a part of it because it was still male-oriented, they weren’t encouraged enough, people were more picky with them or for some that seeing a female artist producing wasn’t possible for others. Some do not want to call themselves feminist. Maybe because they do not want to put a label on something that should normally be.

Bjork, in her latest interviews, talked about a male-only music industry: ‘Everything That A Guy Says Once, You Have To Say 5 Times’ she told Alanna Vagianos from The Huffington Post. She also told Jessica Hopper from Pitchfork, that she was struggling to make people understand that when she was producing one or more tracks, it was her that was producing them. Despite being helped by one man, and despite him being a good producer, producing 10% of her tracks doesn’t mean he produced everything.

Yuki, a Parisian techno music DJ, said she was subject to sexist comments when a man told her: “Hoo, not bad for a woman!” Do women always have to raise expectations? Apparently so. Clara Rohmer and Claire Abitbol, in another interview, said women always have to be the best because we expect more from them.

Jacqueline Miller wrote a blog post in The Huffington Post “The Four-Letter Word Women Must Embrace to Have It All”. According to her, women need to do it all or have it all. They have also to question where they stand. Doubts, submission, fear, guilt, integrated-sexism…

It appears that in order to have power and importance in this world, women have to be sexualized.  Music artists such as Beyonce, FKA Twigs, Lady Gaga are worldwide because they are all talented. But it appears selling albums is correlated to skimpy outfits, to dance in a provocative and sexual way, to make erotic noises. This marketing trend isn’t only about music. It is also used in social media, brand advertisment,… Artists who are proved to be feminists because they are sexy and embrace their sexuality in so many ways is a public matter when it should be a private one. The reality of always justifying behaviour, sexuality or opinions doesn’t make it truer or more powerful.

All of this draws to that one question: if women aren’t even remotely close to be respectfully considered for their talent, and if the only position we leave them is a sexualized one, when will the male gazing music industry end? Do people, even women, really want it to end?

(c) Sarah-Louise Maillet






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