My friend and I were sitting on the cold hard concrete outside a music venue.
It was a mid-December afternoon in typically sunny Southern California, but with cloudy skies and freezing temperatures, it wasn’t hard to imagine we were in England. Dedicated as ever, we sat outside the music venue for six hours, sipping hot coffee and jogging in place to keep our bodies warm. As the long line finally began to move forward, the stomach butterflies and jittery excitement began to bubble up between us the same way it always did. Except this time, it was cut short as a large man who worked for the venue approached the group of guys behind us and asked them if they wanted to go in the venue before anyone else, and then proceeded to lead them inside. With furrowed eyebrows and confused glances, we watched as the same security guard came back outside asked every male he could find the same exact question.
I asked the girls behind me if they had seen it happen and all they said was “Oh sure, they do that sometimes. Don’t want the band to look like they only appeal to girls.”
Only appeal to girls? Were girls not a valid enough audience to them that the venue had to pick out the few men in the crowd to come closer to the front near the cameras? Incredulous, I tapped on my friend’s shoulder and asked if she had noticed. As she nodded indifferently, I felt a rush anger that had nothing to do with the crappy spots I knew we would end up with, and everything to do with a small link in a long chain of sexist acts that I had experienced as a female music-lover.
If there’s one thing that annoys me, it is the way female audiences are perceived by the rest of the population. I can’t help but wonder, why is it that when a band’s demographic is mostly female, they are automatically deemed as unworthy of respect, but if their demographic is mostly male the words “legendary” and “influential” are the first to come to mind? As women’s lives are difficult enough, it frustrates me that we can’t even approach our creative passions without fear of judgment or manipulation. Not only does this misconception discourage girls from expressing their love of music, but the worry of being judged mainly by their fan base’s gender is prevalent amongst artists themselves.
Gender-based music criticism has been around ever since man began to depict women as an irrational and impulsive being that is only valuable for house chores and reproduction. The basis for this belief in the industry has it’s rooted in the same exact place as all other sexist issues we encounter to this day, whether that be equal pay, double standards or even sexual abuse.
While the majority of the population holds on to this belief to some extent, no one buys into this idea more than the industry itself. Just last year, Noel Lee, CEO of Monster, one of the largest headphone and stereo companies in the world expressed his belief that “ladies have different priorities – sound quality isn’t the top of the list”. We also can’t forget that Jimmy Lovine, head of Apple Music, expressed his concern about women’s ability to discover good music by saying, “I always knew that women find it very difficult at times — some women — to find music.” But clearly, his comment wasn’t sexist enough, as he later went on to say “I just thought of a problem: Girls are sitting around talking about boys. Or complaining about boys, when they have their heart was broken or whatever. And they need music for that, right? Essentially, he believes that women don’t have the ability to find good music by themselves and that all we like to do is sit around and cry over boys. I don’t know which assumption is worse, to be honest. It is terrifying to think that the people sitting at the very top of the music industry have such an outdated perspective of our demographic.
In the end, I know my taste in music is just as valuable as a male’s, but sometimes it is easy to forget. Whether it’s the bouncer who asks the guy behind me if he wants to go in the concert venue first, or when a twenty-something loser smoking weed in the corner of the street feels entitled to let me know how pathetic girls are for waiting around to get the band’s autograph after the concert. At the end of day when the stage lights go out and the bass thumps turn into silence, it’s the little things that waver my enthusiasm. In a world where being a female is a hindrance from birth, it is hard to imagine that not even our passion for the arts is a safe space for us to escape from judgement.