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 Everett True

attempted clarification on the triple j ‘sexism’ blog entry

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sexism in the media

By Everett True

“So,” asks Gerry. “Why don’t more young women pick up guitars? Is it a lack of role models? When I started playing in high school the whole ‘band’ thing didn’t seem to be taken particularly seriously by girls my age. There wasn’t any encouragement either, from my (non-band member) peers. I guess the question I’m trying to get to is: Why do some people get started & persist in making music (mainly males)? What factors are involved in keeping all these guys interested & freezing the girls out?”

Quite a few of the responses to my point that the suggested shortlist for triple j’s Hottest 100 Australian Albums Of All Time borders on discrimination against females cite the defence that listeners simply prefer ‘male’ music. Interesting, that folk should choose to split music into gender. Or perhaps they don’t see it like that? Either way, my argument is simple. (The following is reprinted from an answer I gave in the comments section: I feel it’s worth bringing further attention to, as it forms the core of one of my arguments against the patriarchal hegemony that holds sway within the Australian music industry.)

How much of taste is down to conditioning (the radio stations you listen to, the magazines/websites you read, the friends you choose, etc) and how much is down to personal preference? If radio listeners in Australia have been exposed to music that is 95% male then surely that is what they will 95% vote for in polls like triple j’s Hot 100s? They don’t really have any other option: to behave otherwise would be perverse (and outside the rationale of the mainstream).

triple j is responsible for some of this conditioning: as a popular ‘alternative’ radio station, it holds way more power over its audience’s taste than folk like me have ever done. triple j need to acknowledge this responsibility so when polls like this come along, so woefully weighted towards the favoured gender – they can take a step back and go, whoa. What is wrong here? And what can we do about it?

triple j clearly looks to both the UK and US music scenes to inform its own taste. And yet this music (‘indie’, loosely) has a far more even female/male split in the UK and US when it comes to both creation and coverage. Isn’t it time that triple j caught up? (To anyone familiar with the UK music press and triple j, it is obvious that triple j controller Richard Kingsmill grew up reading the NME/Melody Maker during the 90s. And he’s still at least a decade behind the times in this respect.)

Oh, and don’t give me the old “there are more male indie musicians out there than female”. Well, of course there are. This is because there are more male indie musicians out there being encouraged to make music than female, same way as there are more male critics out there being encouraged to write than female. Plus, both art forms were designed along strictly male lines … by males … and it’s only been in recent years in the UK and US (and doubtless other countries) this has changed, previously-maligned pioneers like the Riot Grrrls being in no small way responsible for this change of attitude. Sadly (and clearly) this doesn’t hold true in Australia yet.

(Look at Mess+Noise. Fine music website – I’d put it up any day against any of its UK/US contemporaries. Except: WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE FEMALE WRITERS? Don’t tell me they don’t exist. I know they do. So where are they?)

P.S. Yes, I was aware that triple j has also run a poll on hottest male musicians … it just seems unfortunate timing to run a second poll, looking for the hottest female musicians (which, by the very nature of such things, objectifies women far more than it does men) at exactly the same time they run a poll seeking to find the ‘greatest’ Australian Albums of All Time which has the unfortunate secondary effect of showing up, very starkly, the massive disparity in the way female and male musicians are regarded in this country.

So, I guess my main question here is:

Is there anyone out there brave enough to stand up and admit something’s wrong – and do something about it?

15 Responses to attempted clarification on the triple j ‘sexism’ blog entry

  1. David Nichols June 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Everett you are not a girl but did you feel welcomed into the music industry/’rock fraternity’ when you first started writing about music or performing it, in the early 1980s?

  2. Everett True June 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I think this was probably one (of the many) main points of difference between myself and Alan McGee.

  3. Gerry June 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I still need further clarification, Everett!

    Or rather, I need help to identify the mechanics of whatever methods are used (overtly or sub-consciously) to keep women off the stage & off the radio.

    As in, What am I doing to help or hinder? I play in a band with a bunch of guys, we play shows with other bands who for the most part are bunches of guys. We try to have female bands/artists play when we are putting shows together. But I am in Brisbane, so most of the female bands/artists are already playing (better) shows for whatever dates we wind up doing. I could be totally wrong, but I don’t think there are too many under-employed female musicians on the Brisbane scene.

    I think are too few female musicians in the Brisbane scene.

    So… Why?

  4. Princess Stomper June 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Many, many years ago, I took pity on a very cute boy who was painfully shy, and asked him out. A month later, I dumped him. He’d been too shy to ask me out, and was then too shy to kiss me. He was too shy to call – I always had to arrange the dates – and if I asked where he wanted to go, he’d say, “Oh, you decide.” I just figured out he wasn’t that interested, but a year or so later, he told me he’d been really upset by the breakup. I felt bad for him, but the point was that because he hadn’t mustered up the courage to ask me out in the first place, he didn’t develop the balls to participate in the relationship.

    It’s like that with music. “Oh, it’s only really *forward* girls who get to be in bands.” Yes, it’s like that for the boys, too. Fortune favours the brave.

    Apparently, 60% of the indie acts in the UK charts went to posh private schools, compared to 1% a decade ago. Is it because they’re the only ones with the obnoxious sense of entitlement it takes to get anywhere, while everyone else is staring at the floor and moping that “nobody ever gave them a break”?

    I know things are hard these days – a blog post for another day – when you have to pay to play (again) and labels and promoters expect you to do their work for them. There’s no infrastructure and it’s hard to gather people together to get things organised.

    But what you must – MUST – have is a very simple belief that you have something worth saying and not even spare the tiniest thought as to whether someone will “let” you have anything. They won’t. Nobody gives it to you. Nobody hands you a career on a plate with a little bow on it. If you have something good, someone will want to buy it, which makes it saleable, which means someone will eventually want to give you money in return for it.

    You need courage to stand on a stage – it’s absolutely fucking terrifying! You need courage to walk up to promoters and give them CDs and buy them drinks and schmooze. You have to be out there every. Single. Night. If it’s not happening in your home town, you have to be prepared to move. You have to be prepared to face setback after setback, disappointment after disappointment. People who shaft you over for the sake of their own shitty little band that will never, ever get anywhere. People who pirate your self-released single that you sold your xbox to finance. Sending out 200 CDs and only getting one review by someone who obviously didn’t listen to it. Getting signed by a bedroom label who have no clue what they’re doing and lock you into a contract and totally fail to promote your band.

    You don’t need testicles to be in a band, but you sure as hell need balls.

    Oh yeah, I learnt the guitar because my dad bet me I couldn’t. I was one of only two girls in my class that liked rock music – and trust me, I tried to explain why Take That sucked, but they just didn’t believe me. If it was “conditioning”, it was done bloody well – they REALLY liked that shit! What can you do, eh?

  5. hannah June 16, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    I have been watching a tv show on 4OD called Made In Chelsea – it’s about how the posh people in one of London’s poshest areas live. If 60% of indie bands went to Private privileged schools then perhaps it’s worth noting that this demographic don’t have to waste time getting day jobs, worrying about the rent, are filled with a sense of entitlement and have days of boredom and cash flowing to fill and use. This sort of sponsorship would be useful to any would-be band or musician. In fact, with a strong financial background, you have to wonder how ‘independent’ their music really is! Typically record labels behave like banks and it’s thanks to their advances that bands can quit their day jobs, buy the best equipment and get a whole new wardrobe and image… why would a truly rich person need any of this from a label? They already have it.

  6. Princess Stomper June 17, 2011 at 3:31 am

    Oh, they don’t need it, but that’s not what it’s about. I mean, there have always been posh people making music. My point was that the rest of us weren’t so *passive*, back in the day. Then again, I think people had different attitudes generally then – people wore their regular clothes, used whatever equipment they had to hand (Filter’s million-selling Short Bus was recorded on an 8-track!) and you had to be making *serious* money to give up your day job.

  7. rivqa June 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Princess Stomper’s nailed it (except for the bit about Take That 😉 ). Women are conditioned to think that whatever they have to say isn’t worth saying. It’s obvious in showbiz but it’s everywhere.

  8. Krissi Weiss June 18, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Triple J may not have the market share that Austereo have but they do, indeed, influence the listening habits of our youth. Having said that I believe this problem is cultural rather than institutional. This is Australia, the land of the “male”. We have a ’50s mentality that the women is best left to the cooking and dishes while the men live out their dreams on the Rugby League field. How we have a female Prime Minister is beyond me but Murdoch and Paker will make sure that doesn’t last for long. This is a matriarchal society and it is evident in our culture, art, politics and sport. I hate to sound like a whining feminist but it is true. Welcome to Australia.

  9. Krissi Weiss June 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    “Woman” not “women”! as I said on my previous comment, fucking Rekorderlig a& cold and flu tablets and the propensity I have for ranting at these times. I am going to step away from the computer now and save my opinions for a more sober time and one where I check my spelling before hastily pressing enter. These things are immortalised dammit.

  10. Krissi Weiss June 18, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    By matriachal, in case that looked like a contradiction, is that it is ruled by the patriachy, but the woman have their role – in bed and in the kitchen not on the radio.

  11. Krissi Weiss June 18, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    …It would appear that women have power in this country but they don’t. A matriarchal facade over a misogynistic reality.

  12. Krissi Weiss June 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Goodnight

  13. Princess Stomper June 19, 2011 at 12:50 am

    Heheh … Everett, you’re going to have to stop publishing these posts. You’re just reinforcing the lazy stereotypes the rest of us have of Australians! 🙂

  14. Chad Parkhill June 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I think the logical fallacy here is the idea that Triple J actually matters as a tastemaker. The disparity between what they *actually played* in 2010 and what come in on the Hottest 100 disproves the idea that they’re tastemakers – most people who voted in that Hottest 100 clearly didn’t care what Triple J said was good. Their market share is decreasing thanks to stations like Nova and the internet.

    I totally think it’s worth calling them out on their sexism (I wrote a similar column for Rave after their Hottest 100 of All Time had a pathetic six bands with women in them and *two songs* with female vocals on them!), but you can’t presume they have much control over what people listen to. They don’t.

  15. Tom July 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Yep. what that chad guy said. As much as i’d like to take into account the “regional youf” and their lack of exposure or whatever, triple j is completly and utterly irrelevant to me. all of this is unsuprising to say the least.

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