We live in a world that deals with misogyny on every level, and in any industry a woman decides to be employed in, she will be faced with the challenges of gender wage gaps, double standards, harassment, and disrespect. Unfortunately, the music industry is not exempt from these instances either. Why are we still accepting such blatant hypocrisy in music and our world? Even with the progress in gender equality and the strides in feminism that have been accomplished in recent years, misogyny in the music industry is still very evident and has been overlooked for far too long.
When you compare the reaction of listeners when it comes to female and male artists, the double standard is extremely obvious. The backlash that gets thrown at female artists in the industry for the things that they say and write about is unfair when you compare it to the positive reaction that male artists get for doing the same things.
This is not to say that misandry does not exist in music, because there are plenty of songs that generalize the male gender from a female perspective, but the problem and sexism comes from the different reactions of their audiences and critics. Strong female artists like Taylor Swift get hate or critiqued for songs like Blank Space, where Swift describes men saying “Boys only want love if it's torture / Don't say I didn't say I didn't warn ya”. Some critics and audiences might say that this song unfairly generalizes men, however, this backlash is not as present when you look at songs with similar generalized insults when it comes from a man who is speaking about women. People that praise male artists such as Juice Wrld for songs like All Girls are the Same where he generalizes women and uses derogatory terms to describe them are often the same people that critique female artists who are writing similar themes towards men. The sexist perspectives coming from these double standards are obvious and it goes to show how accepted and normalized misogyny is in music, as certain themes are okay for men to write about, however it is often seen as annoying or inappropriate when coming from a woman.
There are many people in the world that will be quick to say that they dislike artists such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Madonna, and other successful female artists because they find it bothersome for them to be writing about exes, sexual concepts, and relationships frequently. However, these female artists are not the only, and certainly not the first people to have albums and songs written about breakups or exes, so why are they the only ones receiving the backlash for it? The answer is simple. Expectations for what women in the industry can write about and how they should act are completely different than the ones in place for men.
In her 2016 Billboard woman of the year award, Madonna speaks up against the unfair standards for women in the industry saying, “If you are a girl, you have to play the game. You are allowed to be pretty, and cute, and sexy, but don't act too smart, don't have an opinion that is out of the status quo at least. You are allowed to be objectified by men, and dress like a slut, but don't own your sluttiness, and do not share your own sexual fantasies to the world. Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being.”
If you look through the albums of some of the biggest male artists in the industry today such as Ed Sheeren, Harry Styles, The Weeknd, or Kanye West, they are all writing about exes and speaking about sexual concepts however it is often viewed differently or offensive when women do the same.
Taylor Swift described the different vocabulary and criteria used when talking about men and women who write music in a CBS interview promoting her album “Lover” when she said, “A man does something, it’s strategic. A woman does something, it’s calculated. A man is allowed to react, a woman can only overreact.” Opinions from this misogynistic group of music listeners and industry professionals with annoyance towards women for writing these songs stem from the basic sexist ideas that women should stay quiet or in the background about their experiences along with female modesty ideals and expectations present in our society. However, men could never be considered “too loud” when it comes to these same concepts.
It seems that misogyny is inherent in our world because of the ideals and social constructs enforced by the media that eventually become ingrained in our minds and subconscious. Therefore, is blame for misogyny in our society partly resting on the shoulders of the music industry? I think that is entirely possible. So much of our media and world revolves around the music industry and the ideals promoted by it. Therefore, the popular content produced within the industry can end up deeply influencing the opinions present in our society.
So many of the popular songs that we hear on the radio or see on the charts use insulting and derogatory terms when referring to women. Since this is so common, the generalization of the female gender in music has been completely normalized. By overlooking these disrespectful remarks that are everywhere in pop music today, the industry is guilty of promoting misogyny in our world. When famous male artists put out songs with lyrics that disrespect women, their use of derogatory terms allow some people to think that saying these things is appropriate because of the overwhelming popularity of these songs. In music by female artists, the use of degrading language referring to men, although present, is much less common, showing this unfair double standard that is put up regarding the appropriate vocabulary that artists should use when speaking about men vs women.
The degradation of women is not exclusive to the music industry, as it is present in a majority of the world around us, so by no means will there be an easy fix to this problem. However, we can start by criticizing the use of insulting terms and acknowledging the misogyny present in past and current artists in order to reverse the normalization of sexism in music. Discussions like these about the music industry’s role in gender inequality are long overdue.
Also, the attention to the personal life of women in the industry is so much more of a focus compared to men. The gossip around a specific situation behind an album or lyric and the interest in the opposite perspective is far more evident in the press for music that is written by female artists, and this often undermines female accomplishment by diverting attention away from their music. It gets to the point where often a song by a female artist is talked about solely because of the rumors or drama that goes along with finding out who the song was about and the details of that relationship’s situation rather than the person who wrote it or the quality of the song itself. The talent and success of a female artist is often overshadowed in the media, and once again, her publicity and image revolves around the man that she was onced linked to.
We have seen this time and again with successful female artists who release songs with concepts to do with breakups or exes where all the press for the release ends up being about an ex boyfriend and the details on him. One example just recently that we can see this happening with was the popularity of Driver's License by Olivia Rodrigo. It is recognized that this song is very special and showcases her talent as a songwriter massively, but this got overshadowed quickly, as the popularity soon came from people talking about who she wrote the song about. This song is incredible, but almost immediately after its release, people were theorizing the song’s connection to her ex boyfriend and co-star, Joshua Bassett.
Gossip would never happen to this level of intensity if it were the other way around, as the media coverage for male musicians runs on completely different standards and does not always revolve around their personal life. This again shows the misogyny present in the industry, as some people cannot talk about a song by a female artist because of her talent, but they must make a relationship that she was once in with a man the main focus. It is obvious that this happens way more with female artists compared to male, and for some reason the media must always associate a woman with a past or current relationship, while this is not always a focus for men within the industry.
Women face inequality within every career in the music business. Any woman who is looking to be employed in a career within the industry is automatically faced with a disadvantage. In an article by Marie Claire that investigated the music industry, it was mentioned that 67.8% of jobs and positions of power in the music industry belong to men.
The lack of acknowledgement in female artists and musicians in the industry is clear. Between 2013 and 2020, women only accounted for 2% of Grammy nominations for the producer of the year category, and only 7.6% of the nominees for album of the year are by female artists. Talented female artists in the industry are being overlooked at large scales because of the gender inequality that is so evident in the industry.
Just like the musicians in the spotlight, women that work behind the scenes within the industry face challenges with misogyny everyday as well. Oftentimes, women who work as producers, composers, or audio engineers in the industry are not respected or taken seriously for their craft. The underrepresentation is clear when you see that The Grammys, that have been recognizing a producer of the year for the last 45 years, has never once had a female winner, and only six women have ever had nominations. Women usually must work twice as hard as men to even begin to be taken seriously in the industry, and this must change.
We are all guilty of accepting misogyny in both the music industry and our everyday life. But now, with the progress being made everyday to fight against toxic masculinity and double standards, it is time for the music industry to take action to reduce their role in promoting these issues. By speaking out against the inequality in the music buisness, we can finally take a step forward in undoing the sexism and misogyny that so much of this industry is built on.