Yesterday I stumbled across a post UNIFY Festival made about the lack of gender diversity present on their lineups; in the statement, the author spoke about the backlash they received after last year’s announcement, recognised the widespread inequality present in their festival, and noted that “…Now there are conversations happening around race, gender and sexuality in which I don’t have a place to talk – I just have to listen”. I personally felt that the statement was a good step forward in their journey toward inclusivity; the fact they took all the feedback onboard, admitted fault, and then began the process of remedying the inequalities present is a sign that hopefully, UNIFY as an entity will grow to be a more inclusive heavy festival in the future.
Then finally, someone who understood.
Dan, you’re bloody onto something there mate.
A note; The rest of this article will predominantly refer to ‘women’, however many of the issues raised are also representative of the the social disadvantages and mistreatment that often accompanies being gender diverse (including identifying as queer or transgender). I am a middle-class, cisgender, heterosexual white woman, and recognise that it is not my place to assume I fully understand the oppression of a minority I am not a part of, and it would be a disservice to gender diverse individuals to assume that I can fully offer insight into their experiences; I do however want to make clear that many of the issues I will raise that affect women, also affect many others too.
If the people giving their two-cents on UNIFY’s statement paused their “Feminists Ruin Everything!!!!” and “Political Correctness Has Gone Too Far!!!!!” circle jerk and looked around, they’d realise that the reason people want to see gender diversity on festival lineups is because the hyper-masculinity present in heavy music needs to be dismantled so it stops discouraging and disadvantaging anyone who isn’t a cisgendered, heterosexual male from participating, and a great way to encourage women at a basic level to be involved is having women and gender diverse people visibly present to inspire others!
The sausage fest that is pop-punk, rock and heavy music is problematic to it’s core, and the ripple effect the deeply ingrained misogyny has on band members, fans and all other women who work in this scene is damaging in more ways than people realise, all because many refuse to contemplate that maybe the #1 reason that this genre is so male dominated is basic sexism.
Despite the overwhelming opinion present in the comments section of UNIFY’s post, people do not want to see ‘token’ female-containing bands on any sort of lineup just to ‘placate the angry feminists’ or to ‘fill a quota’; we want to see them on lineups because there are talented women in heavy music who deserve a place at the table. The idea that women are only included in things because they are female is genuinely offensive. Sydney musician Lauren Guerrera, who has played in a number of bands and also studies music, who has experienced sexism in many forms put it best:
“Speaking from experience as a woman in a couple of bands, if one of my bands only got gigs because I’m a woman rather than based on our merit that’s more infuriating than anything else. Women in music don’t want special treatment, as that will only discredit all of the time and effort we’ve put in to being good at what we do……. I’d consider myself a pretty proficient bass player in the grand scheme of things and I’ve had so many implicitly discouraging things said to me that have been purely based off gender (e.g. “people only compliment your playing because you’re an attractive girl”) so it’s no wonder so women don’t see playing music an option for them”.
The gross assumption that women aren’t capable of making good heavy music or that they even want to is absolute bullshit. Bands like High Tension, Code Orange, and Cursed Earth are fantastic examples of talented women succeeding in heavy music – but that fact I can only name three prominent bands off the top of my head is pretty disheartening and sad. There is a plethora of other examples of women being affected by sexism in the industry, but I genuinely do not have enough time or patience to go through them.
People also often seem to forget that even though they may have never experienced oppression due to their gender or sexuality, many have and those people need social change to stop unnecessary inequality negatively affecting their lives. If you don’t like the fact that some people actually want to dismantle a problematic social structure, maybe check your privilege before opening your mouth and denouncing movements that only working for positive change.
At the core of it all, the main issue is WHY all of this even occurs and is an ongoing problem. It is the culture of the scene and the social ideologies stemmed in basic sexism that have stopped more female-inclusive bands from existing, because the words and actions these ideologies create discourage women from participating and succeeding.
I understand and acknowledge that lineups need to pull punters, but the fact that a limited number of bands with any female members have ever succeeded to a level where they would be considered able contribute to pulling punters and thus be added to lineups is because there isn’t enough grassroots support for them to rise through the ranks or even exist at all, and the industry is riddled with social hurdles that are often too high to clear.
All-male Australian bands like Parkway Drive, In Hearts Wake and Northlane*** began their careers in their local heavy scenes, and grew in popularity firstly because they make music people enjoy, but also because they had the crucial support in the local scene that they needed to grow their fanbase and advance their careers. The change that will eventually see far more women present on festival lineups in the future has to start at the bottom of the music industry food chain to open entry level doors for women and gender diverse individuals to be involved. The culture has to change throughout the industry for any of these issues to be resolved. It is not as simple as “putting more chicks on a lineup” or “well more girls should start hardcore bands”.
(***It is also important to note that no one has ever written an article where questions about their hair and fashion sense are brought up, mentioned their ‘sex appeal’ or penned a live review of these bands that contains commentary on what they wore on stage. Interesting.)
It isn’t that people can’t enjoy the music because there isn’t enough oestrogen present, it’s that people are fucking disappointed that there aren’t more women involved in music in general due to the number of prejudices working against them. All of this can also be applied to punk, rock, metal, pop-punk and any other male-dominated genre that has a history of excluding women, whether intentional or not.
If you have any sort of power, make an effort to speak and act in a way that works on changing this culture into something more inclusive and comfortable for everyone, because women and gender diverse individuals are damn tired of having to constantly fight to be a part of the genre and prove that they are worthy of being there.
If you’d like to discuss this further, share your own experiences with sexism in the industry or just yell at me for being an angry feminazi, you can find me on Twitter.
Written by Georgia Moloney.
The 2018 UNIFY Line Up is announced Thursday August 31st