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 Everett True

sexism etc (excerpt from an email to the editor of Mess And Noise)

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There was a flare-up on Australian music website Mess And Noise recently about sexism.

It was sparked by an innocuous comment from a female writer bemoaning the fact there weren’t more female artists (or critics) represented in the End Of Year Critics Poll – especially as Mess And Noise is, by and large, a smart and intelligent music magazine. Cue tirade of tired sexist jokes, all made by ‘liberal’ men who (coincidentally) can’t see anything wrong with the way the system works right now, and take umbrage at the suggestion they might be part of the problem.

My take on it all can be neatly summarised by the following to I wrote to Darren Levin, the editor of Mess And Noise, after he got defensive about the male/female bias of music writers on his site (something which, to his credit, he is trying his utmost to change).



I do not believe for one second Mess And Noise are anywhere near the worst offenders here, and I do believe that yes, you personally, and Mess And Noise generally, are trying to change things. But. I do think institutionalised sexism is a major problem facing Australian music criticism – that it cannot hope to thrive and grow and be the equal of its counterpart in the US and UK until this problem has been addressed. And I do not believe that making cheap jokes at the expense of female writers trying to address the issue is not the way forward. Sure, it’s fun to make jokes. I know that. But.

We are both agreed, I hope, that men and women are equally able to write about music in an entertaining and informative manner, and that men and women both love music with equal passion. So where does the problem arise? Why aren’t there more female music critics – there are certainly enough female media students wanting to follow that route.

From where I’m sitting, the problem is simple. 1) Music criticism is seen as a boys club (catch 22, of course – because this won’t change until the gender imbalance is rectified, but the gender imbalance won’t be rectified until music criticism stops being perceived as a boys club). More importantly, 2) Music criticism is a male construct – and hence the ability of someone to write a ‘good’ piece of criticism or not is judged by how well they fit into the dominant male hivemind. (Obviously there can be, and are, exceptions to this rule.) This automatically disadvantages any females trying to break into the boys club – hence the eternal question “what is the standard of the writing like?” actually almost entirely misses the central issue. More, it should be “what is the reader’s conditioning to the writing like?”.

Oh whatever. There’s a fucking 130,000 word thesis to be written round this subject, and it’s the middle of the night here and I’m hyper-tired. I like what you do and what Mess And Noise do, in the main. I particularly appreciate the way you engage with all dialogue, and care about what Mess And Noise does. But I do not think the way to solve problems is to make crap jokes about them.

I am pleased to hear that you positively discriminate.

10 Responses to sexism etc (excerpt from an email to the editor of Mess And Noise)

  1. Everett True December 28, 2010 at 2:28 am

    (from Facebook)

    Sean McNulty, Carla DeSantis and Chris Estey like this.

    Carla DeSantis
    Not sure criticism is completely a male construct, though as we women are known to be a fairly critical bunch.

    Joanna Nilson
    dumb, there just arent as many female musicians or critics. i felt there was a decent rep of female bands on that list. you cant just pander and include a woman because she’s a woman, that’s patronizing. what do you get then? lisa mitchell winning the AMP, that’s what

    Everett True
    I’m talking about a particular codified stylem of criticism, Carla – clearly women are able to critique just as well as men.

    Oddly Jo, I’m in agreement with you over Lisa Mitchell and the AMP. And equally clearly you DO NOT PANDER! I’m talking more about editors of music magazines being open to more than one style of (overwhelmingly male) criticism.

    Jim Smith
    Jerry, why do you beat yourself up so much?

    Joanna Nilson
    i really don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the way a female writes and the way a male does, maybe a bit more emotional response, but who cares? mess and noise certainly won’t stop you if you want to write. time off always want more chicks. you just gotta put yr hand up. i really don’t think it’s editorial.

  2. Everett True December 29, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Editor’s note

    People making unfunny racist comments to try and put across irrelevant points will find their comments remain unpublished.

  3. Katrina December 30, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Jerry, I also think part of the problem us Australia’s inherent sexism *regardless* of whatever industry or sector you’re looking at. For some ridiculous reason, it’s still ok to be sexist, homophobic and racist in Australia in axqU that is completely unacceptable in the UK, and I don’t think this helps matters at all. Blokes pretend to be open-minded, but a lot of Auatralian men would quickly make what they think isn’t a terribly sexist remark, when in actual fact it could certainly be construed as such by a woman if she was to do similar. Can’t give you any concrete ecamples8im sorry, it’s just a general day-to-day understanding from having lived in both countries for quite some time. This doesn’t excuse music writers of course, just another perspective, perhaps …

  4. Darragh December 30, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Did he reply to you?

  5. Everett True December 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Yeah yeah. Darren was in agreement with me about the bias, and has his own ideas on how to address the problem. (Interesting that both me and Darren agree there is a problem yet many other folk blithely state that there is no such thing.)

    He was very upset at my accusation that he wasn’t attempting to change the situation at Mess And Noise (I wasn’t trying to suggest that, but I can see why it might have been construed as such) – and gave me specific examples that made me feel that, yes, once again, Darren and Mess And Noise are on the side of Good.

  6. Everett True December 30, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I agree with you broadly, Katrina – but, as I’m sure you’re aware, it appears to be bordering on the un-Australian to admit that sexism even exists here.

  7. Bianca January 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    I have never really considered there to be a ‘sexism’ amongst music critics. Certainly in the music industry itself, and I suppose there is the view that the guys are there to play the music and do all the work and the girls are there as the groupies or the wives or the girlfriends – completely secondary and without opinion.

    I don’t necessarily think there is direct sexism in Brisbane street press – I’ve never heard anybody say that a certain piece lacked value because it was written by a women. But people certainly don’t have any issues with making jokes (or “jokes”) about a woman’s ability to form her own opinion, with the perfect example being in that thread.

    Like Katrina said, it’s just kind of accepted in Australia along with homophobia and racism. I work for a very large corporation that hires about 1 woman to every 8 men. It’s always been a ‘boys club’, and there are still men who believe that people like me were only hired to keep the kitchen tidy and have no issues with nicknames like ‘possum’ or ‘sweetheart’ or blatantly sleazing onto any of the female workers. No point to that story except that it’s just an example of how Australia seems to work, that some people are a little backwards and some people are very much stuck in the past and they’re raising kids who know that women are ‘equal’ but don’t know how to treat them equally.

    If anything I’ve copped more flack for being American, and therefore “unAustralian” (despite living here for longer), so I couldn’t possibly have a valid opinion on the state of Australian music!

  8. James Mills January 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    It saddens me to say it, but Australia as a whole…is still one of the most sexist countries in the world.

  9. hannah golightly August 10, 2011 at 5:36 am

    “Jim Smith
    Jerry, why do you beat yourself up so much?” Out of curiosity can someone translate this comment for me. I’m not austalian and don’t live there. I’m just curious as to how Jim perceived ET to be beating himself up. I don’t get it.

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