In the past few years, there have been a number of female artists and other music industry professionals who have stepped forward with infuriating revelations about how they’ve been discriminated against, talked down to, marginalised and sexually harassed on the job. When they write their own music, people often credit the men they work with. When interviewed about their work, they often get asked sexist questions. Some have experienced fat shaming. Many have also been groped, assaulted and even raped at work. The Australian, UK and US music industries have all been coming under scrutiny for the hideous levels of sexism still prevalent.
Female Artists Who Have Come Forward With Revelations of Music Industry Sexism
Some of the world’s best-beloved female artists have revealed annoying and even horrifying sexist behaviors perpetrated against them:
- Most recently, Dua Lipa went on the record in British GQ about how it is harder for female artists to be taken seriously. She feels that her songwriting talents have been undermined when people refuse to give her credit for her work.
- Bjork experienced similar discrimination and refusal to give proper credit to her for the songs she wrote.
- Kesha sued her male producer and accused him of sexual harassment, violence against her and negligence. Her lawsuit was intended to help her cease working with him and end their contract. This attempt was unsuccessful.
- Lady Gaga was sexually abused by one of her producers as a teenager.
- Madonna revealed that she has suffered decades’ worth of bullying, abuse and misogyny throughout the duration of her impressively long career.
Ideas for How to Stop Sexism in the Music Industry
The music industry seems to pose some particularly difficult challenges for halting sexism. It’s an industry that’s more culturally tolerant of partying than most others, and that attracts people who seek out that kind of atmosphere. When alcohol or drugs are involved, it’s all too easy for people’s sense of appropriate behavior to disappear along with the drinks they’re consuming.
Some change agents are clearly needed to intervene in this situation. Perhaps this is an issue that academic institutions could begin addressing at greater length in their required music industry coursework. As of right now, TAFE music courses teach aspiring music industry professionals the mechanics of music theory, sound, composition and performance, but professional conduct is largely outside the scope of the course material.
Respectful conduct on the job shouldn’t have to be something we teach students in school. But where a problem exists — as one so obviously does in the music industry — academia may be one of the few solutions available to us for initiating change. It’s possible that proper training of aspiring professionals could result in sexist behavior becoming culturally taboo in the music industry, which could help to greatly reduce the instances that occur.
Our elected officials and music industry organizations could also be effective change agents through public funding efforts. Look at the example set by Screen NSW in 2016. They created a new requirement for receiving public funding for development and production: The creative team must include women. Just like magic, there was a dramatic increase in the numbers of female directors, writers and producers hired to work on their projects. Perhaps the music industry could implement similar initiatives.
Many female artists are joining the MeToo Movement, which could be influential in initiating change in the music industry and others.
Una Dabiero at Babe has another idea. She suggests that we just plain stop financially supporting abusers. This is a solution that could possibly be wildly successful in some cases but might not work in others. In difficult cases, like Kesha’s, the financial success of the victim can be tied to her abuser’s. So a boycott of the abuser’s merchandise would also end up punishing the victim.
There are no easy answers, but it is time we give some thought to the problem of how to better support the female artists and music industry professionals we value. Their talents add significantly to our quality of life. We want to continue enjoying the work they create; and for that to happen, it is crucial for these women to get the respect they deserve as professionals.
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