Tag Archives: feminism

Where are the women… in my music.

I’ve been using Last.fm to track my listening habits for almost a year. I love a few stats on my life. My most listened to person is Tim Timebomb, he of Rancid fame. They are number 2. I like my music mostly loud and shouty, but also quite poppy, and a bit indie. Never really dancey, in a dance music way, though I love music you can dance to. And it turns out I like it really male too – well if you look at the stats I do, but this isn’t the full story. I love plenty of female artists, but on a shuffled playlist they lose out to the men on quantity of artists and output volume.

It really hit home when Tweekly.fm started making a visual, of your 16 most listened to tracks over the last seven days, available to any user. When I looked at this last week, it was unsurprising, but also a bit shocking at how male the visual was. There was the Distillers, and Britney Spears just nudging in at number 16 (I love Britney. Get over it quickly!).

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ALL THE MEN – this was actually taken after my experiment. I lost the original pic I took. sad. 

Now, I’m quite sure this sort of statistic reflects the music industry more widely. Most artists and bands are male. Male voices dominate. I’d be happy to be shown this is wrong, but I’m going to take a guess that the music industry isn’t held up as the feminist ideal, with male and female voices getting equal amounts of record deals, and gigs, and support. Am I wrong? I’ve had a look at this years Glastonbury line up as an example.  I count 4 women in bands or as solo artists in the first four lines. 4 out of 16. If I counted how many women there were here versus men it would look a lot worse.  In fact, the BBC just had an article about this very thing.

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Glastonbury festival line up 2017 from the Glastonbury festival website.

So as a good feminist I would like to support more female musicians and singers. As a first step, I’m only listening to female fronted band or female singers for a week to see how it shakes up my statistics.

This isn’t a perfect approach. It’s clear a female solo artist is a female solo artist, but bands are more than a singer. Some are just female fronted, with several other male musicians, others are more balanced, or even entirely female. There are also bands where there are women in the band who are not the singer. For simplicity, I’m restricting this test to female singers – solo or in bands. Just for ease, hope you don’t mind 🙂

Day 1

I listen to a spotify playlist on the way to work called ‘Super Favs’. I line up a few tracks before setting off. Excellent. Then the prepared part of the playlist comes to an end and I have to skip tracks. I’m finding sometimes I’m skipping 20 tracks at a time!  Ridiculous. So for the journey home I make sure I’ve a much longer prepared playlist.

When I get home I create a new playlist and I chuck a copy of all the female fronted bands from the Super Favs list into it. The original playlist is 1236 songs long, the new one is 146 songs long. 11.8% female voices. Ouch.

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most listened to bands over the last 7 days – After experiment day 1.  From tweekly.fm

Day 2

Using my Women playlist. Better. I’m listening to it at home and no one has even noticed there’s anything unusual about it. This is great, and expected, because there’s still my usual mix of angry shouting, poppy dance worthy singalongs, and indie tunes.

I should have known that the Distillers would extremely quickly become my number 1 listened to female fronted band. Because they are awesome and I already have lots of their music! Raarrrr!

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most listened to bands over the last 7 days – After experiment day 2.  From tweekly.fm

Day 3

I’m going to have to expand the playlist because I’m getting too many repeat tracks. This is fine, I have other playlists with more songs I can filter into the Women playlist. Playlist is now at 345 tracks.

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We have reached equity, of a sort. most listened to bands over the last 7 days – After experiment day 3.  From tweekly.fm

Day 4

I need to investigate some new people to listen to. Today is all about listening to artists I’ve been meaning to find out more about. Kate Tempest and Patti Smith are first on my list.

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I clearly listened to A LOT of Kate Tempest today! From Tweekly.fm

Day 5

Why have I never listened to The Lovely Eggs before?!?

Why have I never listened to Patti Smith before?!?

Why have I never listened to Kate Tempest before?!?

Why?!?

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ALL THE WOMEN! from tweekly.fm

Day 6

Today I’m asking my friends to recommend me their favourite female solo artists or female fronted bands. It’s all gone a bit mad. 100+ responses. Mostly sensible.

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Day 7

I have had a marvellous week of listening to a lot of new to me music. I have listened to artists who will be some of my favourite artists now. It’s been great. There are artists I have been meaning to listen to who, for some reason I never got around to. Honestly, I think I have to put it down to internalised misogyny.

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Conclusion

After my week of only listening to female singers or female fronted bands, I have a lot more balance in my main play list. I’ve discovering amazing artists I should have listened to a long time ago. I still have a lot of people to listen to.

I feel great for supporting more female artists and singers. There’s still a big problem though. It has to be clear to anyone looking at these pictures that I have an even bigger problem than the one I’ve tried to address here. I have a ridiculous BAME problem. I’m embarrassed by how white these photos are. I can do better than this and there is a whole world of BAME singers and artists that I’m currently missing out on by virtue of most of the bands and exposure being given to white artists. Next mission set!

Also, the BBC Glastonbury website lets you make your own Glasto poster! Here’s mine! Looking forward to watching from my sofa this weekend.

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Book Review: Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit

This is a brilliant collection of seven essays on feminism. It sets out succinctly and in a clear, straightforward way, all the shit that we need feminism for. They describe the ways in which women are not equal. Each essay covers something different. We have the title essay – now widely known as mansplaining, but more about that term in a minute. We have violence against women, class war and terrible economic history,  marriage equality, the efforts to make women invisible in society, intellectual freedom, and finally how ideas about feminism can’t be put back in a box and ignored: they are out there and won’t go away! It’s all the things I wish I could memorise and repeat when I meet someone who scoffs and states we don’t need feminism.

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untitled by Ana Teresa Fernandez

 

Each essay has a cover page with an image by Ana Teresa Fernandez on. I really liked these. Occasionally they are referred to in the essay themselves, but not in most cases. Throughout each essay you get key sentences written out again in bold and large lettering. I think to break up the text. They are a bit annoying. The only negative thing I have to say about the whole book. There are some great phrases in these essays:

part of the same archipelago of arrogance.

I’ll leave you to imagine what this was in reference to.

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Disney store mug featuring Black Widow

The first and title essay is funny, and depressing and so familiar.

It’s about the thin end of a scary wedge. This essay is describing the phenomena now widely known as mansplaining, though Rebecca Solnit doesn’t like that phrase as she explains in an addition to the original essay featured in this collection.

The point of the essay was never to suggest that I think I am notably oppressed. It was to take these conversations as the narrow end of the wedge that opens up space for men and closes it off for women, space to speak, to be heard, to have rights, to be respected, to be a full and free human being.

Rebecca Solnit

The second essay, The Longest War, is about rape and violence against women. It’s stark and depressing and motivating. I needed a bit of a break after the second essay before I could read the third. It was just too much to take in all at once. This isn’t a criticism, it’s powerful reading.

The third, is framed around Dominique Strauss Khan and the hotel maid scandal. It touches on class war, the damaging policies of the IMF and the rich fucking over the poor.

Chapter four is marriage equality. It explores how gay marriage is an affront to people who want to preserve traditional gender roles (i.e. men being the source of power in the marriage) because a marriage between two men or two women is inherently equal.

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untitled by Ana Teresa Fernandez

Chapter 5, Grandmother Spider, is about the erasure of women. In biblical genealogy, lineage is from father to son. Women are ignored. The entire side of someone’s family on their mothers side is erased. Women’s names are erased on marriage. You used to become Mrs husbands name. I’ve had post arrived addressed to me in this way and it’s infuriating! Veils are a way of disappearing a women. So is confining her to a home and not enabling women to take part in public life. It starts out looking at the bible and ends with examples in the modern world. I really enjoyed this essay, especially because I’m already so familiar with the history of women in science and how often women have been overlooked.

When I was young, women were raped on the campus of a great university and the authorities responded by telling all the women students not to go out alone after dark or not to be out at all. Get in the house. (For women, confinement is always waiting to envelope you.) Some pranksters put up a poster announcing another remedy, that all men be excluded from campus after dark. It was an equally logical solution, but men were shocked at being asked to disappear, to lose their freedom to move and participate, all because of the violence of one man.

Rebecca Solnit

Next we have a chapter starting with a Virginia Woolf quote:

The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think

Virginia Woolf, 1915.

It wasn’t really clear what this is about at first. It talks of Sontag and if art is hopeful or dark or something. It’s a bit more abstract that the others and so I struggled with it. It references another of her books Hope In The Dark and is about having hope. How your actions might have unintended, amazing consequences. you can’t know if your actions will have the effect you want, but you should try just in case it does, or in case it has unintended consequences. There are examples to illustrate all this. It gives a great case for wandering about and walking being great for creativity and introspection.

This essay is still great, but it’s also a bit advert for Rebecca Solnit’s other books (which I know I will end up ordering and reading – in fact, Hope in the Dark arrived yesterday!), which I now want to read (Hope in the Dark was already high up on my wishlist because of Josie Long singing it’s praises on Bookshambles). I also now must read some Virginia Woolf and her essay on wandering the streets of London! I love how reading one thing makes me want to read others. Though I really don’t need any more books… says every reader, ever.

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Grace Kelly: rock star

Essay 7: Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force is about the progress feminism has made. About how once an idea has been released it can’t be put back in its box.

Homophobia, like misogyny, is still terrible; just not as terrible as it was in, say, 1970. Finding ways to appreciate advances without embracing complacency is a delicate task. It involves being hopeful and motivated and keeping eyes on the prize ahead. Saying that everything is fine or that it will never get any better are ways of going nowhere or of making it impossible to go anywhere. Either approach implies that there is no road out or that, if there is, you don’t need to or can’t go down it. You can. We have.

Rebecca Solnit

I’m going to need to reread these essays several times, just so the next person who says we don’t need feminism to me, can get a well thought out, intelligent earful about exactly why we definitely do. I struggling to put quotes in this review because I highlighted almost every other sentence. Rebecca Solnit is my new hero.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Awakening – Kate Chopin

A rich, married woman in 1890s New Orleans falls in love with a young man. She realises that she is completely dissatisfied with her life as a mother and housewife, and sets about changing her life so she is happy with it. A really evocative book about a woman’s rejection of society, and her discovery of who she really is.

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Edna Pontellier has what seems to be a pretty nice life. Her husband is a kind man – he doesn’t believe in ordering his wife about, or even worse. Her role is to, well, lounge about entertaining people from what I can gather. But she isn’t passionately in love with her husband. When she spends a summer in the company of Robert Lebrun she slowly realises that she is unfulfilled and desperately unhappy with the mundanity of life. She craves independence and passion.

An indescribable oppression, which seemed to generate in some unfamiliar part of her consciousness, filled her whole being with a vague anguish

As an insight into Edna’s state of mind, it’s really insightful, convincing, and beautifully written. A criticism would be that clearly Edna’s life is actually not that bad. She has an ok husband, who provides for her, is generous, and is supportive of her (so long as she behaves in away that fits in with societal expectations of her). She is expected to care for their children when their maid is not around, but she’s quite free to socialise as she likes. I’m not saying she should just put up with being unhappy, just that she actually has a whole lot of options – especially given that during the story she realises that with her paintings becoming better, she has a means to support herself.

She is quite indifferent to her children. She doesn’t have much to do with their day to day upbringing and she sends them away fairly often to her family.

She was fond of her children in an uneven, impulsive way. She would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart; she would sometimes forget them.

What The Awakening does really well is to describe how a daily life, living up to other peoples expectations of how she should behave, can grind you down and make you miserable. Edna decides to change things in her life…

Mr Pontellier had been a rather courteous husband so long as he met a certain tacit submissiveness in his wife. But her new and unexpected line of conduct completely bewildered him. It shocked him. Then her absolute disregard for her duties as a wife angered him. When Mr Pontellier became rude, Edna grew insolent. She had resolved to never take another step backward.

Her action so far had been to ditch her usual Tuesday receiving and visiting of other society ladies. Scandalous! It’s admirable how once Edna sets out to free herself she goes for it without giving a fuck what anyone else thinks.

…she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.

You need to be aware that as it was written in the 1890s there is a lot of racist language used in the descriptions of the staff they have serving their lives. There are specific words used to describe people that refer to the colour of their parents. In fact, these terms are used in place of their names. They are just referred to as ‘the …..’ or ‘the ……’ in reference to their skin colour. The lady that brings up Edna’s children is not even given a name.

Given that the whole plot is driven by infidelity, or the idea of it, it is almost devoid of sexual interaction. This is not Jilly Cooper. When an illicit kiss happens it’s description is electric, and it’s a refection of the whole plot that she is the instigator:

She leaned over and kissed him – a soft, cool, delicate kiss, whose voluptuous sting penetrated his whole being – then she moved away from him.

It’s a fleeting glimpse into one character, but this small insight into the douchery of Robert is spectactular:

He looked at Edna’s book, which he had read; and he told her the end, to save her the trouble of wading through it, he said.

Un.be.liev.able. Run away, Edna! He’s a bad ‘un!

Book review: Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol

Great for the early punk stuff. Wish I’d then just abandoned it.

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His account of London and the early punk scene is great. He was there when it all started and I really enjoyed this part of the book. I am much more of a fan Generation X rather than most of his later music anyway (except White wedding and Rebel Yell, obvs!).

The rest of the book is  him completely wrecking himself with drugs. Random explicit pornographic stories.Then getting over heroin and cocaine addiction with a two week holiday. Also, spirits are real. And women are just objects. At one point he is at a brothel with women who just have numbers on them. He even gets someone else to choose because these women are nothing but warm holes to him. Yuck.

This book details his addictions in such a lighthearted way, along with his destructive, violent side. So then I wrecked another hotel room, oops. Paid them some money then did it again. Oh well!

I would read the first third, then forget the rest.