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 Jodi Biddle

Music and the construction of female identity – Brisbane’s street press

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I started this article with the intent to turn the focus from writers to writing. The introductory paragraph went like this:

Music and the construction of female identity

Look, I’m getting a bit tired of the self-referential debate that’s going on surrounding music writing and sexism. I have never felt the intrusion of my gender in any discussion about music. I believe this is because, largely, the identity of writers on the Internet has become less important. I have never been accused of ‘female’ writing; shit writing, boring writing, wrong, misinformed, excellent, entertaining, funny, strange or annoying writing, but not ‘female’. This is because as a writer, I don’t matter. What I’m saying does. In the age of superfast information, of aggregators and Pitchfork, the old juggernauts of tastemaking have lost their place. (Sorry Everett! You’re a dying breed.) [We all die eventually – philosophical Ed.]

Because Collapse Board is a publication attempting to create discourse surrounding Brisbane music, I was going to focus my article on examining the way language is used to present women in the street press. Until I encountered a problem. There are none! Female writers are definitely visible. But they’re writing about men, almost exclusively. Where are all the ladies? I hadn’t thought about it at all before. Of course there are plenty of female musicians, even in Brisbane, but especially across the broad, generalised coverage that street press provides.

I was going to talk about the language of the street press, which necessarily deals in clichés because of its casual nature, but I couldn’t cull enough quotes from Rave, Time Off, Scene and Tsunami to create a meaningful argument about how we as writers discuss women because we just don’t. It seemed ridiculous when triple j’s Hottest 100 of All Time didn’t contain a single female artist, but really, truly, we don’t talk about female artists nearly as much as we do male.

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15 Responses to Music and the construction of female identity – Brisbane’s street press

  1. Darragh February 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

    It’s difficult to say. I know that I’ve interviewed a few female artists for Rave (specifically Greenthief). They are there but there is just so much more men involved in music in Brisbane, meaning more content to write about. From what little I know about how street press is run (well, specifically Rave), I don’t think their is an specific agenda or anything…..

  2. Darragh February 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Also Jodie, I don’t think its just street press, it’s music press in general. Despite ET best efforts, even CB has more male than female writers, if only slightly! [though, this may have changed….whose doing what now?]

  3. Everett True February 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    It’s completely changed Darragh

  4. Darragh Murray February 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Well, I stand corrected.

  5. Jodi Biddle February 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Erika I definitely think it’s a lot to do with making easily digestable copy that people can read on the train or whatever, but I wonder who we feel we’re beholden to as writers, when people are supposedly just passively consuming this stuff in a spare moment. Your point about the facilitator role is interesting indeed, and I’d love to hear something from some PR ladies about the nature of their work.

  6. Bewildered February 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Are you actually stating categorically that there are no articles about women musicians in Brisbane street press?

    Can you actually read?

  7. Music Lady February 8, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Erika, seriously do you read street press? Just because music is fashionable and marketable doesn’t make it less interesting. If a band is releasing a record or playing a show then of course the focus will be on them over another band who are doing nothing. PR is a fairly level playing field gender-wise, and even if it wasn’t who gives a shit? The focus should be on good music, regardless of gender.

    I see a shit tonne of articles written about women who perform in the Brisbane music community, so I’m not sure where these facts are coming from to be honest.

    Most of the writing is about their music. A tiny minority of writers focus on a performers appearance in a good portion of the article, but anyone with two eyes and a brain can see that writers focusing on trivialities are doing it wrong! There are less women then men playing music. We all know that.

  8. Huge February 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    ET, it’s called “symbolic annihilation” and there’s a heap of literature on it.

    Right, wrong or barking mad, check it out.

    Cheers,
    Huge

  9. Everett True February 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks Huge.

    For those of you too lazy or unmotivated to check even Wikipedia, Symbolic Annihilation is [apparently] “the absence of representation in media. This term is usually applied to media criticism in the fields of Feminism and Queer Theory to describe the ways in which the media promotes stereotypes and denies specific identities.

    Wikipedia goes on to suggest: Gaye Tuchman (1978) divided the concept of Symbolic Annihilation into three aspects: omission, trivialisation and condemnation.

    AND “Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.” (Gerbner & Gross, 1976, p. 182)

    AND Tuchman states in the Mass Media book for A-level students on page 109 that females are represented far less than males on TV. Tuchman also stated that when females have roles, they are mostly shown as being negative roles.”

  10. Jodi Biddle February 8, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Bewildered: I’m not categorically saying anything. I was doing research for a completely different article and found that Brisbane street press just doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about female artists. If you’d read my article instead of getting your troll on you would realise that I am confused by this as well, and was trying to open up a discussion about it.

    Music Lady: Please direct me to these articles, I’m looking for them in the wrong places I guess? I’d still like to write the article I started on, which would be about the way we as writers contribute to the construction of female identity through representations of women. I guess I’m not “everyone” because I didn’t know that there were so few women making music that they barely rated a mention across multiple copies of multiple publications.

  11. Shan Welham February 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Your article has had me thinking about this for a number of hours tonight. Excuse the self-reference here, but it’s the only position from which I can speak from experience and therefore with some level of credibility.

    I agree with some of the comments. I agree that there isn’t an agenda re: gender bias in Brisbane’s music media (MM) – street press or online. I also agree that the ratio of men to women musicians is heavy on the male side.

    MM runs with what is happening now. It has to move quickly. Artist activity generates interest. If there are no chicks playing, no chicks hitting the interview circuit, no chicks releasing CDs, then no chicks are being written about. (I use the term chick with love. I am a proud one.)

    The inbox was always heaving with mailouts from promoters, labels and artists themselves; very few were about or from female artists. While the ratio thing was definitely a factor, it did indicate that men appear to be much better at promoting themselves and in turn being promoted by others.

    In considering the bands I interviewed and reviewed over the years, it also dawned that what may be overlooked is that many of the women in Brisbane music aren’t the lead singers or guitarists, but the keyboardists, bass players or drummers who add layers and harmonies. They usually aren’t the ones offered up for interviews. Similarly, a lot of them would be doing many other things as well as being in the band, so weren’t available to chat. Damn women and their multitasking!

    When they are the lead, an all female band or are a solo campaigner, it appears – with very few exceptions – that they don’t perform as much and / or aren’t taken seriously until they find some level of success somewhere else. And so, if they haven’t already, they move there.

  12. blahblah February 9, 2011 at 11:01 am

    Erika:

    1) Your comment is ignorant and idotic.
    2) Funny that you can’t see the irony that you’re reinforcing an antiquated stereotype about women in music. Your views are simplistic and uninformed.
    3) Who are you to judge what people do for a living and personal satisfaction and imply they’re second rate or fearful? Making music is not the only facet of the music industry, nor is it the only way to be creative in the music industry, nor does it make you creative. Hope I don’t have to explain this concept to you.
    4) The music PRs locally have a fairly even gender split, around 50/50. Which you would know if you knew anything about the music industry.
    6) Stop talking out of your arse.

  13. Everett True February 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Man oh man. There’s a lot of hate in the Sunshine State.

  14. ed February 9, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Or just a lot of hate from the same person who always posts anonymously from College Road on UQ’s campus…

  15. Erika K February 11, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Music Lady: My comments (and questions, which were truly questions) were based on experience and observations of my local (Portland, Oregon, USA) publications, websites, etc. & blahblah? haha! but you bring up a good point: some people really WANT to take facilitating roles. Others want steady paycheck. Still others get pushed into facilitating roles because they feel supported there, but no where else. Part of this is growing up, you lack role models of visible, important female artists. Meanwhile, your way of doing things might be disparaged because it’s unusual. When writers start going out of their way to look at female artists like they can be as newsworthy or original as male artists, it creates role models for younger girls and expands possibilities for everyone. Yes, I do believe that women (and other groups) are often categorically overlooked due to cultural bias. And to me it seems disingenuous to suggest otherwise!

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