3 August 2009

Rage, indeed.

I used to listen to triple J when I didn't have a television, but I stopped about 10 years ago because they played so much shitty depressing music. cough*powderfinger*cough*
Nevertheless it didn't take long before news of the hottest 100 of all time filtered through to my world.

There were no women in it.

In one way, that surprised me. No women at all? Why, I would have thought there'd be one a couple of half a dozen or so token women! But, in another way, it didn't surprise me at all. Because I've been noticing something about my music collection over the last year that bothers me. It's mainly comprised of men. Ditto my books. Ditto movies.

I've been making a conscious effort to bring more female artists into my life, and in the process pondered the questions of why there are so few in the first place.

One thing I know is that the women I encounter most often just don't play the kind of music I like. You know these women - they get in the top 40, they all look the same, they gyrate and shake their booty while singing about sex, men and/or submission. They are they cultural norm, they are what we're told we want. That's why we encounter them most. I sometimes like their attitude, their persona, very occasionally their looks. Pink does it for me on all levels except one - her music is shite to my ears. I can't bear to listen to it. I've tried. I liked her in concert, but I don't want to have to listen to her cd. I don't like R&B, I don't like country, I don't like pop. Show me the woman playing ska, playing funk, playing something interesting to me, and I'll listen to her.

But it's difficult to find these women. Women who play the kind of music I like don't have the publicity, the recognition, the resources to be found by me. I use google, but it's actually really fucking hard to find music by women that I like, because women are not supported or recognised in those areas of music. They are certainly not promoted in the genres that I like. When they do succeed, it is often because they are supported by men, rendered acceptable (and the exception) by the presence of men. Do you like Ruth Underwood? She is an amazing percussionist. You may not have heard of her. But if you have ever heard the funky percussion on Frank Zappa's album Apostrophe, then you have heard Ruth Underwood playing marimba. Ever heard of Mathilde and Alice Burguière? Probably not, but without them Les Ogres De Barback would not be the amazing band it is. Women are often there; but they are rendered invisible by the belief that 'women don't play this kind of music'. Even the famous ones just aren't that famous. When Amanda fucking Palmer toured Australia earlier this year, I didn't even know who she was. She's fabulous. Why had I never heard of her, or the Dresden Dolls? Because our society supports women who fit a certain stereotype, and ignores the women who don't. I know the names of heaps of female singers who fit the stereotype. And yes, the stereotype is fucking boring. That doesn't mean that women are fucking boring.

Triple J sometimes showcases albums by women, but their general content is predominantly male. Should we be surprised that women drop off the list when we are fed a diet of male music? The impression JJJ gives is that a few exceptional women make good albums, but most of the good stuff is by men. That's not really much better than the impression given by other radio stations - that there is great music by men, and shit music by women.

It takes effort to change that kind of paradigm. I am making that effort. I am making that effort because it is important to me. Because I want to play the kind of music that 'women don't play', and I want to listen to other women playing that kind of music too.

Many other people have got the shits up with JJJ's list and the cultural paradigm that enables a list like that. If you want an alternative list, go here.

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