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Boys Against Girls Against the Brisbane Street Press – part 2

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The End Bit
Although there is a sizable imbalance between male and female contributors in the pages of Brisbane’s street press publications, even more so than first indicated by the breakdown of contributors listed in the magazines’ mastheads, does it actually mean anything and does it matter?

I don’t think for a single second that that women are somehow being denied opportunities or that there is some sort of institutional or industry bias in favour of male contributors. My guess is that it’s more a case of the male contributors getting in quick and requesting more of the opportunities and also going back more regularly for more. Contributions beget more contributions. If you want them.

One thing I have learnt from street press is that it’s very much first in, best dressed; but you’d expect that from a magazine that publishes every week. They haven’t got time to compile a list of interested parties, review the list and decide who it should be given to. I know from some of the photographer requests that they send out that if you wait more than a couple of minutes to reply, someone else will have already emailed them and they’ll get the gig. My diary has gigs I’m interested in photographing going out months; excluding festivals I’ve got dates penciled out toJune. It makes sure I don’t double book myself if it’s something I really want to photograph and think I have a good chance of getting and it means when they send out a request for a photographer for that night I can get straight back to them, I don’t have to think about anything else I might be doing that night because it’s been in my diary for weeks, if not months. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe taking it to such obsessive levels is more of a male trait. Maybe it isn’t but it just feels that males are more likely to be music obsessive nerds (for want of a better word). Of course there will be music obsessive females, I just think they’re probably greatly outnumbered.

Whether female writers are put off by the content and style of street press and their impression of it, I can’t really say. Looking at the numbers it was not really much of a surprise to me that the gender imbalance is much more marked for reviews and live review.

From the live review perspective, which I guess I have a better handle on, maybe females reviewers are put off by the thought of the ‘lifestyle’ – going out night after night, waiting around for most of the night for the changes between bands, late nights due to headline bands playing their sets really late, needing to get up for work the next day – and generally have better things to do with their evenings? Is it just that they’re put off by what appears to be a very male-dominated environment?

Or maybe it’s the style of writing that makes up the majority of street press reviews that doesn’t appeal? Too dry, too serious, too beard-stroking. Or even a restrictive word count that doesn’t really allow you to say much. Once you write down the name of the band, the singer’s name and a couple of song titles you’ve barely got enough words in your word count to string them into anything that has much worth. At the extreme end you have the street press festival reviews, where it reads like they’ve used a random word generator to spit out the reviews for 20+ bands. (As an aside, this is one of my favourite Australian festival reviews of (at least) the last couple of years. The Festival Ladies have more on their own website).

For the physical reviews, the imbalance will have been magnified by including the singles reviews, which as I’ve already noted is a men-only domain at the present time, and the games review, which follow a similar pattern. Album reviews are the real area of interest to me in all of this analysis and where I think a lack of female perspective does matter more. As an example, albeit an extreme one, I recently wrote a couple of blog posts about seeing Sunn O))) play two sets at ATP in December 2009, having pondered at the time who listens to Sunn O))) and when do they do it. Writing the post led me to look at their Wikipedia page, followed by the entry for their Monoliths & Dimensions. The Metacritic score for the album is 88/100, based on 16 reviews and as far as I can tell, every one of those 16 reviews was by male writer. As the album featured high in a lot of the end of year lists I saw at the end of 2009, you just have to wonder how much of ‘popular’ music’s ongoing canon is being written by a very narrow range of music reviewers.

I would have expected the male/female contributor balance to better when it comes to interviews and this generally seems to be the case (with the exception of Time Off). Is it because talking to someone is a more appealing prospect then the (generally, but not always and it doesn’t have to be anyway) colder, more analytical process of reviewing something physical?

I could go on making more generalisations about the reasons why there’s something like a 4/1 split between the content by male and female contributors in Brisbane’s street press publications but I probably should stop. Ultimately it is what it is. Whether you think it’s important or not will no doubt come out in the comments and I look forward to reading them.

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