Roadblocks for Women in Music

Rebecca Caulton, Staff Writer

Within every industry, sexism acts as a roadblock for women. This is especially true within the Music and entertainment industry. As time has progressed, the gap between the number of male and female artists has not gotten smaller and men dominate statistics used to measure success such as top earning artists and top 100 music charts. While many people enjoy listening to music made by women, why is there such a discrepancy when it comes to the success those women receive?

When it comes to why less women are in the music industry, sexual harassment seems to be one of the main factors. According to the Rolling Stone, “A recent survey published on Forbes found that objectification and sexual harassment are some of the main roadblocks women face in the music industry.” Additionally, the survey also cited ageism as another factor stopping women from reaching long term success. When women experience discrimination and harassment in an industry, they are less likely to invest their lives into it. Lady Gaga is an example of an artist who experienced the power balance that can lead to these crimes as according to BBC she alleged that when she was 19, “’I was working in the business, and a producer said to me, ‘Take your clothes off,’ she recalled. ‘I said no, and I left, and they told me they were going to burn all my music. And they did not stop,’” leading to her getting raped by said producer. Unfortunately, assaults within the music  industry are not uncommon stories shared by female artists unfortunately due to power imbalances between largely male producers and often young female singers. According to Escapist Magazine, “It is clear that the tactic is to intimidate female stars, especially when they are young and new to the industry as they would hold less power and their case could be easily buried if they came forward.” Within this article, Escapist Magazine refers to the K-pop recruitment industry, an industry that often preys on preteen girls, with controversy flaring up recently over a member of girl group ‘New Jeans’ debuting at 14. In depth studies done on the kpop industry by the National Human Rights Commitee of Korea found that “even when they were harmed sexually, the report pointed out, victims ‘were not able to proactively speak out about their victimization due to concerns about earning disfavor or because of the daunting nature of raising a complaint.’” While Korea is not an outlier in how its music industry preys on young women, recruitment agencies that train and house hundreds of girls and work them to the bone as well as survival shows humiliating young girls for entertainment creates an insidious system. Many girls admit struggling with self-worth, disordered eating, and physical/emotional abuse during their trainee days, displaying that abuse of women by men in higher positions is a global issue for all female artists.

Additionally, ageism towards women puts a timeframe on many women’s career and cuts off their success or prevents older women from trying due to the uneven pressure that women face about their looks. Sophomore Robert Fischer observed that “women definitely seem to be objectified in terms of the music industry and they will be treated different because the audience will be looking for different things.” This creates an additional obstacle that filters out many potential talented female artists. Senior Issaac Cheung pointed out that “male artists are generally given more opportunities and representation than female artists. Another way they are treated differently is through objectification, with female artists often being sexualized more than male artists.” Because these expectation of being sexually appealing exists for many women, especially women of color or women in rap or pop, it creates a standard that is unwanted to some. This can contribute to the sexual harassment, including inappropriate interview questions or requests by managers. When women are harassed, many obstacles prevent them from coming forward. An example of this is Megan Fox who was blacklisted from Hollywood after she spoke out about Michael Bay being uncomfortable to work with.

When it comes to awards and recognition, women are also often overlooked. According to Billboard, “Women comprised the lowest percentage of nominees in album of the year, with 9.7 percent female nominees over ten years, and producer of the year, with just 1.9 percent female nominees in this category over ten years.” This displays bias and discrimination with what music award shows considered groundbreaking and worthy of recognition. Also, women face unequal treatment when it comes to how media outlets treat them. Junior Haley Ross observed that “there is a discrepancy between what women and men can talk about or say. I was watching a Selena Gomez documentary and it was talking about how she was not able to move on because interviewers kept bringing up past relationships and her past relationships were used as a weapon.” Women are often shamed more heavily for divorces, multiple marriages, and short flings. Additionally, domestic violence against women is a common occurrence in celebrity couples. When a female artist dates a male one, she will receive accusations of being a gold digger, using her partner for ghostwriting, and her career becomes defined by being this partner. Freshman Tasha Gilmor noted similar discrimination stating, “I feel like people try to bring up controversy and beef between two female artists like Taylor vs Selena.”  When two women do well in pop or rap it is seemed as a battle between the two as if there is only room for one popular female artist per genre.

With these issues compounded, it becomes clearer why women dominate so little of musical statistics and award shows despite how important they are to music.