Following on from my last post, I got thinking about the reception of women in music, rather than just their representation. Now, this is something that encapsulates the world of music as a whole entity, in that not only are female artists themselves subject to a torrent of abuse regarding gender, but there is an entire orgy of horror stories bubbling away beneath the glitzy neon lights of musical stardom.
Pulling back the curtains to take a behind-the-scenes look at the business as a whole creates a strong foundation for the injustices of an industry to be built upon. The world of music has been long-attributed as the realm of men; the heavily-tattooed shady-looking sound tech, the seedy, leering merch guy, the archetypal womanising rockstar persona – there is no end to the list of Jaggers and Osbournes setting a precedent for the industry as a well-guarded fortress for men only. The entire thing carries a sense of masculine bravado that instantly ostracises any woman who steps into the field. In a way, contemporary society, influenced in part by media portrayals and the romanticisation of the grungy, local dive venue, has condemned even the physical space that music sets itself within as carrying an inherently “manly” badge of honour. The politics of music production and performance, particularly at grass-roots levels are extremely skewed towards its male participants, with the DIY approach seeming only to further encourage the exclusivity of the local music scene as an out-and-out boys club. Not only is the stage a big no-no for girls, but everything around it (that isn’t throwing your bra amorously at the lead singer) is often deemed out-of-bounds it seems too.
Stacie Huckeba wrote a piece for The Huffington Post on sexism in the industry from the “bottom up”, in which she details just one of her encounters with men in dingy musical environments that resulted in a male co-worker either calling her a bitch or telling her to not ‘get bitchy’. This one instance is microcosmic of the multitude of condescending male workers in the business, on whatever level they find themselves to be on, automatically supposing themselves to know more than a woman based on gender assumptions alone. What really stood out to me though from the article – perhaps more strikingly so than the explicitly barbed, biting words of the reported exchange – were the joint feelings that Huckeba and a meeting of fellow women in music shared:
‘We all felt marginalized, ignored, disregarded and disrespected in instances, where if the shoe were on the foot of a man with our credentials, it would never have happened’ (Huckeba, 2016).
The issue of the other foot sums up much of the gender inequality and hypocrisy in music today. This is just one of the ways in which the problem transposes levels of visibility in music to popular performers. Recently, Lauren Mayberry, outspoken vocalist of Glaswegian synthpop band Chvrches came under intense fire from online trolls as a result of her perceived sexuality. One of the main sources of fuel for this is her appearance in the band’s 2015 video for ‘Leave A Trace’.
In the above video, Mayberry is seen to be wearing a dress with wet hair. This apparently makes it totally acceptable for online trolls to hit her with a barrage of insults such as this vile comment made on the singer’s Instagram page:
My band is lucky enough to have some of the most awesome, supportive and respectful fans in the world and we are so excited to be in the studio making an album to share with them. Yet, on a daily basis, we still receive communications like this. These people never learn that violence against women is unacceptable. But they also never learn that women will not be shamed and silenced and made to disappear. I am not going anywhere. So bring it on, motherfuckers. Let's see who blinks first.
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident, as following the Leave A Trace video, Mayberry tweeted a link to a page set up on website 4chan (known hangout for sexual deviants and general weirdos) dedicated entirely to sick, demeaning comments and rape threats towards her. It’s sad that any slight action, even the donning of an appearance for video aesthetic can let the floodgates open for misogyny.
The candid Scot has been very vocal in opposition to this, as well as brave in exposing some of the explicitly misogynistic messages she receives, such as these (note the others in the picture’s description). She has also written an op-ed for The Guardian discussing some of this abuse, expressing her disgust at it, and promoting zero-tolerance. Most pertinently, she wishes to de-normalise the idea that a man can say whatever he likes to a woman, musician or not, just because he is a man and she is a woman. Whether it be in brutally shutting down a guy offering marriage at a concert, rejecting an offer of dinner on Facebook, or denouncing the notion that someone ‘will give u anal and you will love it you twat’, her message is that women of the industry and thereafter should not tolerate this.
‘Alex Turner has his hair slicked back all the time, but no-one’s calling him a slut and saying they’re going to break him in two. We just want to be treated the same as everybody else‘ (Mayberry, 2015).
A.V. Club. ‘Lauren Mayberry in Chvrches’ “Leave A Trace” Video.’ 2015. Image. Accessed 19 February 2017.
Brinnand, Emily. ‘Chvrches.’ 2015. Image. Accessed 18 February 2017.
‘Chvrches Lead Singer Lauren Mayberry on Misogynistic Trolls.’ Channel 4 News. 27 August 2015. Web. Accessed 21 February 2017.
Chvrches. ‘Leave A Trace.’ YouTube. 17 August 2016. Web. Accessed 20 February 2017.
Giles, Jeff. ’25 Years Ago: Ozzy Osbourne Tries to Kill His Wife.’ Ultimate Classic Rock. 2 September 2014. Web. Accessed 19 February 2017.
Huckeba, Stacie. ‘A Professional’s Perspective on Sexism in the Music Industry.’ The Huffington Post. 7 May 2016. Web. Accessed 18 February 2017.
Mayberry, Lauren Eve. ‘Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry: “I Will Not Accept Online Misogyny”.’ The Guardian. 30 September 2013. Web. Accessed 21 February 2017.
Mayberry, Lauren Eve. ‘My band is lucky enough…’ Instagram. Web. Accessed 20 February 2017.
Pocklington, Rebecca. ‘Ozzy Osbourne admits he is sex addict who repeatedly cheated on wife Sharon with “mortifying” stranger romps.’ Mirror. 3 August 2016. Web. Accessed 19 February 2017.
Rettig, James. ‘Watch Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry Put Marriage Proposing Fan in His Place.’ Stereogum. 2 October 2015. Web. Accessed 21 February 2017.
She’s Pretty Good For a Girl. ‘Sexism in Music.’ 2012. Image. Accessed 18 February 2017.