By Rose Kelleher
Let’s just address the elephant in the room. Female musicians, especially women of color, are often held to a higher standard than male artists. But why? Why is it that women have to work harder than men to gain approval from their directors and the public?
In the musical era we are living in it is becoming normalized for women to create music focusing on empowering other women and their bodies, helping many listeners gain self confidence and appreciate themselves for who they are. Women like SZA, Lizzo, Megan Thee Stallion, Nikki Minaj, Cardi B, and so many more are the reason that women and body empowerment have become the new normal of the music coming from our generation. But it has not always been this way.
The issue of gender and racial inequality in the music industry goes back to the very first classical music compositions, created by older white men. These pieces are still taught to aspiring musicians today, which subtly implies that music is a male industry.
After talking with sophomore Maya Horwitch, it is evident that women feel that they have to prove their talent in the music industry, which has profound impacts. She touched on the idea that studying compositions created by only white men makes it “much harder for women to make waves in the music industry, and when they do they are often portrayed in a sexual way, rather than for their musicianship.”
The sad reality of the situation is that women face the need to work harder than men to obtain the same recognition that men obtain ever so easily. Horwitch explained that she has had to work significantly harder than male peers to get the recognition she receives today. Constructive criticism is a crucial part of perfecting a skill, which Horwitch understands and is open to. “When I am critical with my peers, they will see me as ‘bitchy’ or ‘moody,’ a ‘hard-ass’ or ‘perfectionist,’” turning constructive criticism into a double standard.
Women entertainers are held to such a high standard, that many performers partake in actions that stand out, and may even be considered dangerous to many. It is almost like they have to do these things, while simultaneously wearing provocative clothing, in order to receive recognition for their performances.
Women like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Beyonce are infamously known for going above and beyond what the public expects their performances to be. This can often involve props or dangerous stunts to catch the attention of the viewers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t generally see male performers doing anything remotely near what these women have done.
The attire of these female performers oftentimes consists of less clothing in order to highlight their figure and features. When women wear clothes that make them feel powerful and confident they want that to be appreciated, instead of overtly sexualized. Sexualization in the music industry has always been a relevant issue, regardless of the type of performance at hand.
“My directors dressed me in low-cut, provocative dresses and high heels. I was taught choreography to go along with my singing. The men around me gave half the effort and received double the rewards,” Horwitch explained.
This all being said, some type of change is urgently needed among the musical community in order to end the misogyny once and for all.
“Once we start respecting women in the music industry at the highest level, and studying the powerful and talented women that have helped shape the music industry as a whole, gender equality in the music industry may be able to exist,” Horwitch said.
Rose Kelleher (she/her) is a Staff Writer for Bell. She is a sophomore at UW–Madison and is majoring in Communication Arts.