It doesn’t feel provocative enough to start this post by saying that I love music, but I’m doing it anyway. I listen to full albums multiple times in a row, trying to discern the exact meaning and emotion, painstakingly devoting my free time to whichever songs showed up on my Discover Weekly this Monday. I always crave new music, and going to shows is a great way to find new bands if you can afford it and they’re near you. In New Hampshire, music is extremely local unless you dive into large venues like Meadowbrook. When I saw the announcement for Plymouth State’s Battle of the Bands, I was elated that there would be music at my doorstep for no charge. Putting aside the quality of music, I discovered something unfortunately unsurprising about Plymouth’s representation of local, student music: there was a distinct lack of female performers in Battle of the Bands. I am not trying to claim that Plymouth State University is somehow not being inclusive, because I’m sure that this isn’t an intentional move by the university. I also don’t think that any of the bands intentionally and maliciously denied any female performers a chance to be in their bands. I do, however, think that there is a larger social structure in place that makes performing in a rock band stigmatized for girls.
How does this relate to critical theory? I think that this is a perfect example of patriarchy. As Rivkin and Ryan explain it, this is “the long tradition of male rule in society which silenced women’s voices, distorted their lives, and treated their concerns as peripheral” (765). There is a long-standing tradition of female under-representation at msuical events, and this continues even in an age of mainstream feminism and progressive thinking. The Huffington Post did an analysis of some 2016 music festivals and found that 78% of acts were composed of only male members. 10 percent were mixed-gender, and 12 percent were only women. Even if we try to fudge the numbers to benefit the festivals, only 22% of acts contained a woman, which is a travesty for both the music industry and the concert goers. The same article claims that 51 percent of attendees are women, which is much more representative of the population.
The reasons for this are very complex and beyond me, but the cliff notes version is that society sucks. No, really. Us, too. It’s not that less women want to be musicians, because that would be a very hard claim to substantiate. The problem is with the male-dominated subcultures of music concerts and festivals, or even with the industry as a whole. How many famous female rap artists can you name? How many have won Grammys? We need to be better at encouraging each other to perform the music that we want to, when we want to, and where we want to; especially women. Some of my favorite artists are women, and I know that there is no shortage of musical women on PSU campus. We need to make an effort, as a group and a community, to break down these barriers and dismantle whatever structures prevent artistic women from performing for the world. Music lovers deserve it, and so do the women that are surely destined to create masterpieces for the more equal generation we strive to be.