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Shining a spotlight on gender inequality

by Esther Haguenauer February 13, 2018
Shining a spotlight on gender inequality

Female artists in the music industry need to be recognized by their peers

The music industry celebrated its most important night of the year for the 60th time on Jan. 28—the Grammy Awards. There has been a lot of backlash, with Bruno Mars dominating the awards alongside Kendrick Lamar. The trending hashtag #GrammySoMale is a testament to how frustrated music enthusiasts are. The day before, singer Janelle Monáe tweeted: “A total of 90.7 per cent of [Grammy] nominees between 2013 and 2018 were male, meaning just 9.3 per cent were women.”

Singers, both male and female, supported the #MeToo movement by wearing a white rose on their outfits at the Grammys this year. Despite the recent amplification of female voices in the media, however, it seems women in music still aren’t being heard. Alessia Cara was the only woman to win a major televised award this year.

Honestly, this lack of representation of female musicians makes me feel exhausted. It’s awful that inequality is still so strong and visible, and it’s frustrating to see so little progress in an industry that claims to support women.

According to CNN, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said women who want to be musicians need “to step up because I think they would be welcome.” Portnow received a lot of backlash for his comment, and rightfully so. I believe the fact that so many women went unrecognized during the Grammys is a step backwards.

Gender inequality affects the music industry in many ways, including through double standards. In a Rolling Stone interview, singer Taylor Swift said: “A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining.” People also react very differently when men sing about sexual topics. Women receive constant backlash when their videos or music is sexual, but when men do it, no one seems to be bothered.

As a woman, I truly want to believe there is something we can do to bring equality to the music industry—but is there really? As fans, all we can do is listen to women’s music, go to their concerts, follow them on social media and support them. But change is slow—especially in the entertainment industries—and the issue is an ancient one. Women have always been in the background of any creative industry. Even in the 1800s, the women who wrote classics like Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights hid behind pen names to get their works published. Although there has been progress in terms of female recognition, some might assume everything has been fixed—clearly there’s still a lot of work to be done.

In my opinion, women’s voices can make a huge difference in our society as well as in the music industry. The #MeToo movement is just one example of women’s voices being heard. However, the 2018 Grammy Awards highlighted that not all creative industries have been so drastically affected by this powerful conversation. The Grammy Awards showed that gender equality in creative industries is still far away—but not impossible. As consumers, I believe we can help make a difference when we choose to support female artists and their messages.

The way I see it, we are still far from gender equality in every part of society. The inequality is simply more obvious when those affected are celebrities in the spotlight. However, I do believe we are on the right path. These movements, and the men and women who stand up for gender equality, make it possible to believe the message is being conveyed. And this makes me believe that things will change for the better, someday, in all creative industries.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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