Updated: Jan 30
In the face of omnipresent gender inequality in the music industry, female artists often find themselves in uncomfortable situations, hoping that the degrading comment or behavior of a colleague or business partner is just a joke. Unfortunately, sexism in the music industry is not funny - it is something women musicians of all genres and positions have to deal with on a daily. We have compiled a couple of the most outrageous gender-related remarks our favorite artists have come across throughout their respective musical careers.
All too relatable.
HAIM, a California band consisting of the sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana, is known for their outspoken and challenging attitude towards sexist comments and behavior. Featured in our article for equal payday, the trio is no stranger to unfair and degrading treatment based on gender inequalities. Years before the three sisters unceremoniously parted ways with their booker after learning that male colleagues received ten times more for a festival performance than them, an A&R asked Este about her facial expressions in the bedroom - all within a professional context. We are sure this label representative was very concerned with how well the band would have suited the ideals and work ethics of his company.
“Women and technology, that’s really sexy, isn’t it?”
As a woman who sings, produces and performs, Jessiquoi, a Bern-based artist from Australia, has also come across male colleagues who underestimate her and choose to address her sexuality, rather than her musical work. When talking about her self-taught production work and music in an interview, a Swiss radio DJ chose to talk about the sexiness factor of her profession, rather than her professional development and artistic vision. Surprise: most female artists do not make music to be sexy for the opposite sex, but because it is their passion.“You turn up for a show and then the white male audio engineer treats you as if you don’t know your own set-up”, Jessiquoi describes her experience with not being taken seriously at her own gigs.
"Oh that's beautiful, that's nice, why don't you unbutton the shirt a little lower, pull the skirt a little higher, it's really nice."
Even superstar and power woman Alicia Keys recalls early points in her career, when male colleagues would encourage her to sell her sexuality and femininity alongside her music, instead of letting her work speak for itself. In show business, it is no secret that showing a little more skin than not can make male power players feel more inclined to support one's career. Do not get us wrong - there is nothing wrong with using our physical features to make a career, but it should be up to us to do so.
"When will the drummer (guy) be here?"
Perhaps more than singer-songwriter women, female musicians who have chosen to pursue a career playing an "atypical" instrument - like male-associated drums, electric guitar or bass for instance - are all too familiar with being underestimated in their musical profession. The wonderfully weird trio of BLOND, a Chemnitz-based pop band, experienced so many uncomfortable encounters with stereotypical males in the music industry that they wrote an entire song about it. In "Thorsten", Nina and Lotta of BLOND give the fictional sound engineer who thinks he knows more about their own set-up than the female musicians themselves a taste of his own medicine.
"I’ve been told by men in the music industry that I needed to stop being so emotional; such a girl. I’ve been told to stop moaning and write a happy, upbeat song that befits a female pop star."
Over the course of her relatively fresh career, 24 -year-old English singer-songwriter Lauren Aquilina has already encountered an impressive spectrum of sexist remarks and degrading treatment due to her female sex. From being suggested to lose weight to support her career to being asked to be less emotional, Lauren has heard and seen it all. Her experience, as fully elaborated in this 2019 article by Marie Claire magazine only scratches the surface of what women artists deal with on the daily.
At the end of the day, it is up to each individual artist whether they want to address their feelings, sexuality, and gender in their work. However, an artist's gender does not automatically make them less or more worthy, talented, hard-working, or qualified. A woman's sex or sexuality does not make her anyone's object of desire, a puppet, or a marketing tool. And the professional environment of the music industry - or any industry, really - is no place for degrading jokes or comments. Today, on April 1st, and on any other day: do not make a fool of yourselves. Sexism is not a joke.