Sunday, 29 July 2012

Sexism in indiepop band selection and Indietracks

Earlier today Daniel Novakovic and Jennifer Reiter posted an awesome blogpost on the So Tough So Cute blog about gender inequality of performers at Indietracks 2012.

Twitter erupted, Facebook erupted as band members and promoters denied their sexism. And cos Daniel and Jennifer had used statistics to make their argument it was all a great heap of awesome.

They had analysed the male/female/x make up of all the bands listed as performing at Indietracks 2012, then categorised the bands into being male, female or 50:50
This is how we counted performers at Indietracks. The process is based on the Ladyfest Malmö method.
  • A female act is an act where the majority of band members are female
  • A male act is an act where the majority of band members are male
  • A 50/50 act is comprised of half females and half males or equal members of males, females and trans people
and with the help of lovely polkadot pie charts summarised the findings as
  • 56 acts were booked in total.
  • 38 were male acts
  • 7 were female acts
  • 11 were 50/50-acts
Clearly since 51% of the population is female there must be sexism at work.

Similarly for individual performers at Indietracks 2012
  • 159 were male
  • 64 were female
  • 3 trans or genderqueer.
It doesn't really represent the population.

But how badly should indiepop promoters feel about this? Is indiepop particularly sexist compared to other musical genres? I've always felt that indiepop is a broad musical church, inculsive of all genders and sexes. Compared to pop, punk, rock and metal, there are far more people in skirts in indiepop bands.

Anyhoo, So Tough! So Cute! only looked at the data for Indietracks 2012. Which could just be a blip, so I've poured over the old festival guides for Indietracks 2009, 2010 and 2011.

For performers, without investigating the privacies of trans and genderqueeriness

Total female performers75585964
Total male performers138143120159

%female performers35.2%28.9%33.0%28.7%
%male performers64.8%71.1%67.0%71.3%

Its roughly 70:30 male to female, how much variation were you expecting? About that much?

2009 2010 2011 2012
Female bands 7 5 7 7
Male bands 40 43 35 38
50:50 bands 13 11 11 11

That is remarkably consistent, considering all the thousands of indiepop bands who could possibly play, more often than not there's always 7 female bands and 11 50:50 bands

Personally I think there's something a bit off about calling Allo Darlin' a male band, since without Elizabeth Morris, they wouldn't be half as successful.

So, as I have access to the raw data, we can categorised them differently, thus:-

2009 2010 2011 2012
All male 19 17 17 15
Mixed mostly male 21 26 18 23
50:50 bands 13 11 11 11
Mixed mostly female 3 3 2 4
All female 4 2 5 3

Thrilling stuff that doesn't really change the argument much, except that if promoters were being sexist in their selections, there would perhaps be more 'All male' bands.

There are, of course, flaws in the methodology here. Flaws such as Dan and Jonny from Pocketbooks who as a mobile rhythm section play bass and drums in a couple of different bands, most of them featuring female members, when considering Indietracks, do Dan and Jonny only count once or multiple times or as fractions adding up to whole people. Likewise Remi from Electrophonvitage/Sunny Street and as a solo artist, the Colin Clary/Lets Whisper/Smittens, and Simon Love, cos he's worth ten normal men.

On the female side there's Emma from Knickers, Owl and Mouse and Darren Hayman's band who's trying to make up gender inequality single-handedly.

What's to do?

I can only propose that all women in general are forced to form bands and get on stage even if they don't want to.

Any musically talented women must join at least five bands.

I don't know.

As mentioned earlier the original piece didn't cover other music genres outwith indiepop, so I thought I'd venture into other worlds...
These are the details for The Didmarton Bluegrass Festival 2012

Total female performers 28
Total male performers 118

%female performers 19.18%
%male performers 80.82%

All male 19
Mixed mostly male 14
50:50 bands 5
Mixed mostly female 1
All female 3

So thats most imbalanced than Indietracks, with overwealmingly male bands.

1 comment:

  1. Hey now, I'm only in half the bands that Jonny's in. No, seriously. He's in six. If he joined one more we could sustain the gender imbalance between us. ;)

    Serious point: I've read enough ethnographic studies involving female musicians to believe much of the issue lies in women feeling too intimidated by the existing male predominance in the music industry, lacking confidence in their own musical abilities, and fearing negative judgment to a greater extent than their male counterparts. That is, it's often less a case of not *wanting* to get on stage than not feeling able to.

    That goes far, far beyond the indiepop scene (as your stats from the bluegrass festival show) and represents something much more deeply culturally-embedded than simple sexism, conscious or subconscious, on the part of promoters. I think the only way to combat it is to nurture self-confidence and creativity in girls from as young an age as possible, and there is no easy way to ensure that.

    I say this as someone who spent half my life playing classical music, but was also too paralysed with fear to join a band until recently enough that you'd probably be surprised. I was in that group of intimidated women. How things change, eh?

    (I think Rose Melberg's got everyone beat, though: she's currently active in seven bands. SEVEN.)