Björk, Thelma, Madonna: Taking a stand against sexism

I don’t know if it’s just me but I feel as if the word sexism has popped up a lot in music this year, sexism is not unknown or unfamiliar, it’s something we see in the media and even in the workplace across many professions regularly.

bjork-press-billboard-2015-650
Photo: Billboard

Unfortunately the music industry is not immune, to be honest with you I was inspired to write this article after reading Icelandic music artist, Björk’s latest Facebook post about her experience with sexism as a performer particularly with the ever critical media, stating how female artists are criticised if they “don’t cut our chest open and bleed about the men in our lives.”

I think its fair to say that for anyone who has witnessed Björk’s musical magic would know that she is not the stereotypical and romanticised type of female performer we are traditionally used to. Her lyrics aren’t about love and heartbreak rather her lyrics and music are abstract and alternative combining concepts of art and science.

“But some media could not get their head around that I was not “performing” and “hiding” behind desks, and my male counterparts not. And I think this is sexism.” She added that male performers at the festival including – Aphex Twin, Matmos and her former collaborator Arca – played similar sets, but didn’t get the same critique.Bjork hasn’t been the only one bringing this often masked but serious issue into the forefront. This  year sexism in music was in the spotlight a fair bit.”

“Women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends,” she wrote.

“If they change the subject matter to atoms, galaxies, activism, nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized. Journalists feel there is just something missing … as if our only lingo is emo …”she said.

When Australian singer-songwriter, Thelma Plum publicly exposed the abusive confrontation she had with Sticky Fingers frontman, Dylan Frost. Plum accthelma_plum-web_-hi_-res_-e1466065108669used Frost of spitting on her and physically threatening her which raised Frost admitting that he had an addiction and mental health issues.

Plum’s words on the confrontation were received shockingly by the Australian music community. Despite the widespread support, unfortunately Plum became a target of mean comments from some Sticky Fingers fans and internet trolls.

Although these harsh comments were most likely from a minority, it makes you question whether our society is truly accepting of exposing such a real and prominent issue.

On the international stage Madonna got real about sexism,  in her acceptance speech upon receiving the Billboard’s Women in Music Woman of the Year award exposing the sexism and doubt she faced throughout her career.

“I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean, as a female entertainer” Madonna said, “Thank you for acknowledging my ability to continue my career for 34 years in the face of blatant sexism and misogyny and constant bullying and relentless abuse.”

She also acknowledged the blatant double standards that women not just in music but in everyday society experience.

“You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness. And do not, I repeat do not, share your own sexual fantasies with the world,” she said. “Be what men want you to be, but more importantly, be what women feel comfortable with you being around other men. And finally, do not age. Because to age is a sin. You will be criticized and vilified and you will definitely not be played on the radio.”

However one must not forget the empowering role music has had on women and gender equality in moving forward, for example take a leaf out of the song’s and boldness of Beyonce, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga or even Madonna herself.

Speaking up about sexism is the only way we can move forward and bring about change, like the powerful lyrics of Beyonce’s ‘Run The World, Girls’, the truth of Madonna’s speech, the shock of Thelma’s post and the realness of Bjork’s post that all help to expose this often ignored issue, inspire the next generation and show that the times are changing.

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