Lack of women in music lists

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Medea

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Lack of women in music lists

Postby Medea » Mon Feb 13, 7:59 2017

One of my main interests is listening to music albums of different eras and genres. Sometimes I want to find useful information, so I search for music magazines or music websites. They often have lists of the best albums according to critics or according to anyone who wants to vote. What's bothering me is the lack of women in those lists. For me it's normal that about half of my favorite albums are by female artists or mixed bands. In most album lists however only 1 to 10% of the acts are female or mixed. Let's look at one example: The top 100 of all time on rateyourmusic. This list is just one of many examples.

https://rateyourmusic.com/customchart

You will see that there aren't many women in this list, and the few that are there are sometimes a small part of a predominantly male act. Let's look at the women in this top 100:

3. The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967): Yes, a woman in the top 3! However she only sings on four of the tracks, and those are the lesser known songs.
25. Talking Heads - Remain in Light (1980): The bass player is Tina Weymouth, but the others are men.
39. Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988): The bass player and singer on a few tracks is Kim Gordon, another woman in a mostly male band.
62. Portishead - Dummy (1994): This band has a female lead singer, Beth Gordon.
97. Björk - Homogenic (1997): And we have the first female solo artist!

So it depends on how you look at it. The people who defend this top 100 would say there are five women in it, which they find a perfectly normal number. There is no problem according to them. However I think the first three don't really count, because they're predominantly male bands. That leaves two women in the top 100, at #62 and #97. There are no black women.

On music forums people don't see this as a problem. I on the contrary think female artists are hugely underrepresented. I think 25% mixed or female acts should be the minimum. Every decade has its great women in pop, soul, rock, jazz etc. Why don't they get the recognition?

So what do you think about this? Are women in music misrecognized? Should this issue be addressed on music websites if you know they don't see it as a problem? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

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felipefs

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Re: Lack of women in music lists

Postby felipefs » Mon Feb 13, 10:40 2017

So, genre could be a factor. However, publishers inclining to publish one band because rather than the other because of of its members color/gender/religion/etc could be another factor. Before the public (the fans), I can think of two filters:

1. The artistic filter:
1.a) "I'm a female singer trying to make death metal, I need to adapt my way of singing to sound male."
1.b) "Or if I choose to sing in my way, I might not get recognized."
2. The publisher bias:
2.a) "It's a woman/black woman, and I don't think it will have impact in that public"
2.b) "It's a woman, why would I invest in her?"

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Sonic#
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Re: Lack of women in music lists

Postby Sonic# » Mon Feb 13, 12:33 2017

So I can imagine someone reading the list and saying, "What's the problem? All of those top 100 are worthy acts or sets, and it just happens that five of them include women." Given how opaque their ranking system is (proprietary algorithms, amirite?), it appears that they are responsible for the disparity, and in addition it reflects in some way the broader preferences of user rankings, wherein large groups of people tend to more highly evaluate male artists.

I'm with felipefs that there are these selection biases in effect, where women perhaps aren't seen as fitting into a certain genre. To that list I'd add a media bias, where mainstream publications are perhaps more apt to recognize and celebrate the works of male artists. And white artists, if you recognize arguments made on behalf of Beyonce at the Grammy's last night. Who gets the buzz often ends up getting more attention from fans. I'd attribute a final bias directly to listeners, who perhaps unconsciously tend to give male artists higher ratings.

Also this list skews strongly towards rock. That leaves out several compelling women who have had careers in adjacent genres like country and folk: Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Alison Krauss are the first three off the top of my head. It also leaves out the women in rock: sorry Janis Joplin.

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DarkOne
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Re: Lack of women in music lists

Postby DarkOne » Mon Feb 13, 12:50 2017

I don't really have good answers to your questions... Maybe it's not an issue of them being under-recognized; it's entirely possible that accurately reflects the makeup of artists in that genre. Perhaps the issue is straight under-representation in music, kind of like STEM. Maybe this is true of other Arts fields in general.

I will, however, validate your observation with a minor observation of my own. I have a 3-yo girl who I recently allowed to pick what we listen to in the car. She has decided that she only wants to listen to songs sung by female voices, and I cannot exaggerate how long I have to scan through the stations to hit the elusive female-sung song. Mind you, this makes me go through all the radio stations - country, rock, alternative - so I get the feeling the under-representation spans multiple genres.
"Winston Churchill once said 'The eyes are the windows of your face.' " -A man who's very scared of plants.

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Medea

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Re: Lack of women in music lists

Postby Medea » Mon Feb 13, 19:21 2017

Thanks for these interesting answers. The list I gave as an example is based on ratings by anyone who votes on that website. I found another top 100 on acclaimedmusic.com, based on logarithms using lots of list by music critics. Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Patti Smith and Portishead are in that one, so it's more dominated by classic rock, but the amount of women remains roughly the same.

Teen pop, dance and R&B seem to be the genres with most women, but those are often looked down upon by critics. The genres with the least women are heavy metal, hip hop and alternative rock. In the 90s there was a new generation of rock singers: Björk, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Sinéad O'Connor, Alanis Morissette, Heather Nova, Garbage, Skunk Anansie... There are many great female soul singers, but the standard opinion seems to be, "Yes, they're good, but we'll still put twenty male rock bands or rappers in front of them."

People who use these lists as a starting point to discover music will listen to 95% men and think that's normal. I listen about 50/50, but that seems to be abnormal.


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