Entertainment Work Experience

It’s Time to Stop Policing Women in Pop

The #MeToo Movement was revolutionary for women across the world but female artists within the pop music industry are still put under more pressure than their male counterparts. Could this be due to patriarchy and capitalism? It’s time the problem was acknowledged, and something was done about it.

Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson and Madonna are some of the women who have influenced society with their art. Yet, just like half of the women in the United States, surveyed by OnePoll, they face discrimination almost every day.

When women are called, “Inauthentic”, “Ugly”, “Calculated”, “B*tch” and “Wh*re”,  for simply living their life when do we say enough?

These women are often too scared to speak out and even when they do, they’re still dismissed. From Lady Gaga’s revelation of sexual assault to Kesha’s court battle, the music industry is just as toxic as the film industry when it comes to acknowledging and fighting sexism.

But the problem doesn’t just lie in front of the camera, it also runs behind the scenes. “The voices of women are missing from popular music,” said Stacy L.  Smith, a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “This is another example of what we see across the ecosystem of entertainment: Women are pushed to the margins or excluded from the creative process.”

Although, several artists including Ariana Grande and Dua Lipa have shared their personal stories of dealing with sexism. Ariana told Billboard, “I feel like there are certain standards that pop women are held to that men aren’t.” She also revealed that women are pressured to fit into certain stereotypes. “They’re unable to accept the fact that women are a million things, and not just two,” she told Billboard.

Sadly, it’s not just keyboard warriors and music executives who these brave women have to deal with. In November of 2018, Piers Morgan had an exchange with Joan Grande, Ariana’s mother, about Little Mix. He tweeted, “as for Little Mix, I’d just prefer they use their talent to sell records rather than their nudity.” To which Ariana replied, “women can be sexual AND talented. naked and dignified. it’s OUR choice.”

We should focus on creating equality

Through all the misogyny, misogynoir and discrimination there has been a group of people who have consistently supported women in pop and it’s Twitter stans – an obsessed fan who idolises a famous person.

After her confrontation with Piers Morgan, one Ariana stan said, “Female artists are beyond capable so put some respect on their names. Period.”

Marisa, who was 17 at the time tweeted, “this ain’t it. where’s the equality. where’s the RESPECT? we can be sexual if we want. we can wear tight dresses, mini skirt and no bra if we want to. it’s 2018, when will things change. also thank u for making me understand that i can be whoever i want ariana! love u.”

It’s not just Ariana Grande’s fans who believe women in pop deserve more recognition for their hard work and creativity. Lewis Jones, 21, told me, “As a Harry Styles stan, I believe male artists should promote female artists and give them the recognition they deserve. It’s women who are carrying the industry and without them the men would be nothing.

He added, “The view that women in pop are the leaders of new music is echoed through all of stan Twitter, which makes me wonder why these women aren’t treated equally to men?”

Rolling Stone magazine released an article on March 6, titled, ‘Finally, Research proves Female Artists Are More Creative Than Men.’ In this, a study conducted by Sharon Koppman et al. found, “Female artists actually create more novel songs…than male artists.”

Unsurprisingly, the study notes that women’s higher rate of novel music production appears to be a result of unfairness. Researchers observed, “For the same levels of performance, women tend to receive more negative evaluations than men, and they have to outperform men to receive comparable evaluations. To overcome this ‘double standard,’ female minorities work harder.”

Some male artists also face discrimination but research shows that women face the brunt of almost all the sexism.

“Patriarchy and capitalism are to blame”

Earlier this year, USC Annenberg released their annual music report which concluded that women are less likely to reach the top of their profession, are paid less, are nominated for and win fewer awards compared to male counterparts.

Professor Stacy L. Smith said, “The perception of women is highly stereotypical, sexualized and without skill. Until those core beliefs are altered, women will continue to face a roadblock as they navigate their careers.”

The report also highlighted several possible solutions for change within the industry. These included creating environments where women are welcome and ensuring that role models and mentorships are available to women. 

PRS Foundations Women Make Music scheme has been a great champion of supporting female musicians. 

 But what can we do to fight sexism within the music industry and society as a whole?

“For starters we could examine magazines and look at how they force a certain type of ‘image’ on women,” said, Louise (25) – a self-proclaimed feminist. “Magazines like Glamour are owned by publications [which are] run by men. The editor of the magazine might be a woman, but the actual owner is a man. Glamour is owned by Conde Nast, whose parent organisation is owned by Robert Sauerberg – a man.  How can women be treated equally when money hungry men are in power?

Patriarchy and capitalism are to blame for the over-sexualisation and underappreciation of women. Men run everything behind the scenes.”

It’s time for us to stop buying magazines rooted in sexism and racism. Especially, when Black women and other AME (Asian and minority ethnic) women face the majority of the discrimination. 

To help put an end to sexism we need to start by teaching boys it’s not okay to call a girl a slut. We should also encourage girls and women to be comfortable in their own skin and sexuality. This can be done by engaging in conversation in households, classrooms and on billboards. The problem won’t vanish overnight but being more careful with our words and respecting women by giving them credit and not unfairly comparing them to others is a start.

It’s constantly shown that women are beyond capable, not only in music but across all industries. They are leaders, pioneers and creators. Women are behind some of the most amazing creations and it’s time they were appreciated beyond stan Twitter.

“Boys will be boys, but girls will be women.” – Dua Lipa