Rihanna Osman covers Doc’n’Roll Festival’s UK Premier of ‘Play Your Gender’ and Q&A with Catherine Marks.

When considering gender equality in the music industry, to the naked eye, it would appear as if there isn’t much to worry about. ‘There are plenty of female artists in the charts, dressing how they want, and singing about what they want, there’s nothing to worry about!’ Well actually, yes there is. There is a shit load to worry about.

Doc n Roll is a festival that premiers documentary’s about the music industry across the nation. ‘Play Your Gender’ was premiered in the UK on the 9th of November. This documentary was created to show the shocking lack of women in the music industry. There was a particular focus on the careers behind the music, e.g. sound engineers, producers, tour managers and back of the house. It was followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with Jess Partridge who is the founder of London in Stereo, Estella Adeyeri from Girls Rock UK, Fred MacPherson from the band Spector, Olga Fitzroy (Engineer and Mixer) and Catherine Marks (Engineer and Producer).

During the testimonials of women who currently work in the music industry, it was highlighted that less than 20% of songs are written by women. A majority of female artists are singing words written by men, so the experiences that we would imagine lie behind lyrics that we hold dear are dreamt up…by men. Whereas some may say that as long as you connect with lyrics, who cares who they were written by, the lack of female songwriters omits the pure, genuine female voice and narrative from the public sphere. Women also represent less than 5% of producers. This means that any female artist who wants their vision executed by a woman, will struggle- or simply find it impossible.

It was shown throughout the documentary that one of the massive deterrents and barriers to female participation in these roles is the genderization and socialization of instruments and activities, especially in rock. Instruments such as the drums and guitar are seen as loud, and therefore ‘masculine’. Women are still expected to adhere to outdated (and frankly, fucking infuriating) gender roles, the only time in which a woman is permitted to stray from stereotypes is if they are artists in the Hip Hop or RnB industry. Then they are allowed to have an ‘urban edge’, only for the sake of profit. Back of house roles are typically not given to women, due to the idea that a woman ‘would never be able to move equipment or tune a guitar’. Estella stated that she knew of women who had worked their way into music tech, only to be “pushed out by the machismo”.

“Society has this expectation for women, you have to be able to do everything. If you can’t do everything you’re an idiot”, Sara Quin (from Tegen and Sara).

Females have to do everything and look good while doing it, whereas the same is not expected from men. Women essentially have to work twice as hard as men to land the same role. When a man says that he can do something or has a certain experience, it is taken as fact. A woman, however, has to prove that she is not only capable but can go above and beyond.

Fred MacPherson also brought up the issue that women are still being over sexualized in the workplace:

“Someone might comment about a woman in a meeting, those things are so inherent and aren’t called out. It creates a gender imbalance. There are so many rock n roll clichés, it’s still a massive patriarchy which needs to be dismantled. That has to begin by men calling out other men, and not just in front of women to show off! It’s easy for me to come on this panel and say hey I’m a massive feminist! It’s much harder to say to a room of men who are my seniors. This is not just something that should be done in front of other women to show how ‘woke’ we are”.

Some say that disparities reflect the lack of female interest in the technical side of music production. However, when there are no role models and figures in these positions, it is not reflected to them that it is even an option they are capable of. It makes it seem like an impossible task- in which the onerous duty is too high. The lack of women does not encourage participation, which is further affected by society telling young girls that this is not the path for them. Representation is the only way to ensure participation.

I’ll leave you with Catherine Marks parting words of wisdom, “don’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks, just keep doing it”.  Occupy the spaces, encourage other women to do the same and take no shit.

Rihana is a Researcher, Rebel Witch and is working forwards her life goal: fucking the patriarchy.

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