Over the Halloween weekend I had the pleasure of going to two concerts to supply coverage for the radio station I currently work at. While working in the music and broadcasting field for about 4 years now, there have been many wonderful experiences and opportunities that I have reeked the benefits from, however it also gave me the chance to see how the music industry works when it comes to the treatment of and mentality towards women in this setting. This weekend I experienced two nights where I had a lot of fun, while at the same time was reminded that we still live in an age of gender bias, specifically within music settings.
The first night was the concert of a larger band on Friday held at State Farm Center. They are known for having a very extreme fan base comprised mostly of teenage girls. Not pertaining to this specific experience, but in my general experience working with album reviewers and fans, bands are taken less seriously when they’re audience is a group of screaming girls. Take the Beatles for example, who were known for their audiences being comprised of screaming women and were looked down upon for being overtly “sexual” in their performances (what seems like a simple shaking of the hips in todays society was considered too sexual at the time.) In the essay Beatlemania by Barbara Ehrenreich et al., she states her theory that because it was such a sexually liberating time in the U.S., and girls were still supposed to be pure and innocent in the established within the hegemonic femininity ideology, they had no outlet for any other sexual liberation albeit a group of four men gyrating their hips on stage (85). This also makes me think of the gendering of culture norms where fantasy and emotion are frequently considered to be on the feminine side of the spectrum.
Long story short, teenage female audiences have a bad rep. And I was able to see this bias firsthand when we were in the stands at State Farm Center and a group of young girls, perhaps fourteen to sixteen years old moved into the row in front of us. They stood next to two middle-aged men, and I watched as they looked at the group of girls, grimaced, and continued to leave their seats and move to a different spot visibly a few rows behind us. The girls were in no way being rude or even loud at this point, however this pair of men, from the conclusions I could guess, thought they would enjoy the performance less if they were seated next to this group of young women.
My second experience this weekend had me more personally involved in the situation. I had to provide press coverage for another show this past weekend and the performance was definitely more intimate than the State Farm Center performance. It was a less popular band and probably ten to twenty times smaller of an audience. So after the show we were able to mingle with the band and talk with them, which led us to be invited to an after-party. By the end of the party my friend and I had been invited back to a hotel room with some band members with an obvious agenda, and we politely declined. Reflecting on it after it occurred, I was disappointed that some members didn’t genuinely want to speak to us as their fans, but rather expected intimacy by the end of the night.
As someone who has to interview and meet with bands as part of the job, I have had frequent interactions with bands that went the same way as that evening. Not surprisingly these bands, as most alternative rock and electronic bands, aka “indie” bands, are almost always comprised of only male members. As times are changing, I’m seeing more and more females come out in rock and other commonly indie genres, however it is an overwhelmingly male dominated field. This all supports the discourse of Kearney’s article on Pink Technology, that women are media consumers, not media creators. In the specific case of the music industry, it’s no coincidence that the idea of groupies developed in the 70s for women who traveled with rock bands, known for providing intimacy and fandom. In my experience this weekend, I was able to see it firsthand again the objectification and I would go as far as to say the ego inflating business that happens within the music industry. It’s opening Pandora’s box to even begin to explain where and how this societal norm was developed within the music community, but I would hypothesize that it starts somewhere in the female hyper-fans and societies views on them.
|Ehrenreich, B., Hess, E., & Jacobs, G. (1992). Beatlemania: Girls just want to have fun. The adoring audience: Fan culture and popular media, 84-106.
Kearney, Mary Celeste. “Pink technology: Mediamaking gear for girls.” Camera Obscura 25.2 74 (2010): 1-39.