Our Place: Appreciating Women in the Arts
Many autumns ago when I was old enough to drink but young enough to still laugh about it, the world felt fuzzy and soft. I was sure on the outside, frozen on the inside. I showed a male acquaintance some of my favorite female-fronted bands like The Breeders and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He grimaced as the front woman Karen O's signature howl seared through the sound waves over the arctic prairie wind and replied, "I just don't like any female-fronted bands or vocalists. It's not that there aren't talented female musicians, I just don't like their voices. Women's voices just weren't meant for a rock or metal vocal range either. It's just not their place ya know, no offense."
Clearly the issue was much broader than the tonal quality of a specific female vocalist. It was deeply embedded in sexism and antiquated notions of where women do and do not belong. I felt gobsmacked that men still felt this way, as a woman who played bass but more so aspired to be a writer and in publishing.
Unfortunately, the thread of sexism is bigger than this solitary dude I mentioned, it weaves through the creative industry: women in music, publishing, film, art, etc. are sorely underrepresented, underappreciated, underpaid, and have to work extra hard to have the same recognition for our art.
Why should you care? Because movies, music, books, art all shape our cultural landscape~ our views, attitudes, beliefs. Women deserve to be heard and seen.
The arts industries claim to be progressive and expand people's minds and challenge stereotypes. Yet unfortunately they often uphold male domination and power, it is not for a lack of women's talent or trying that this power structure is being upheld. I was talking to my friend who is attending to screenwriting boot camp in LA about this, about how it is a uphill struggle, how unheard we felt at times, how creating is a form of important activism and fighting sexism.
Women were often only represented in one-third of publications. One staggering example: They found The New York feature 449 men and only 139 women. See the graph on the left, courtesy VIDA. Women are the blue.
Meanwhile in the music industry, the Performing Rights Society states only 14% of its members are women. Women are recognized more for being sexualized, being scantily clad straddling a guitar recognized for their bodies more than their talent.
This is unacceptable! We are half the population. Women certainly are pouring our hearts and souls out creatively, generating work that has just as much quality and artistic merit and passion as males work.
So how do we combat this? How can we show women we appreciate the fruits of their creativity? It's simple really. Read, listen to, watch, appreciate women in the arts. Support us.
Examine your music/ record/art/movie/ book collections. How many are by women? We can be intentional about supporting women. If we are women in the arts, we can stay diligent by submitting, publishing, creating, putting on shows, staying bold and courageous, not giving up. I will feature some suggestions in my blog for now on, but here are my current faves in a few categories
Band~ Dilly Dally
Singer/Songwriter~ Courtney Barnett
Actor~ Greta Gerwig. My favorite performance of hers is especially in "Frances, Ha."Female
Comedy Writer in a Series~Mindy Kaling "The Office" + The Mindy Project
Poet/Hybrid genre~ A.M. O' Malley, Expecting Something Else