Thursday, February 21, 2008

Music World (College Radio Too) Still a Boys Club

It's pretty sad that in 2008 we're still hearing women who are bashing other women for being less intellectual about music. Jezebel covers the backlash after a female radio big wig described women's reactions to music as emotional vs. men's intellectual take on music. Wow.

A BBC female executive was speaking about programming changes at a radio station when she said, “For women, there tends to be a more emotional reaction to music. Men tend to be more interested in the intellectual side of the music, the tracks, where albums have been made, that sort of thing.” (Quoted from The Times)

Of course this is a huge generalization and being personally involved with scenes full of music fans and intellectuals, I can find counter examples for each of her assertions.

However, as the BBC exec's quote highlights, there is institutionalized sexism in the music industry, in part because women are often in the minority in radio, college radio, and record labels. In the music biz women still don't often hold positions of power.

The "boys club" vibe within the music industry and college radio was covered in Ellen Riordan's PhD dissertation (2000) "Negotiating Commodified Culture: Feminist Responses to College Radio." She provides a lengthy overview of institutionalized sexism in the music industry, including reactions from some female label owners who talk about their struggle to be taken seriously when talking about music on a critical level.

She also covers the Riot Grrrl scene and how female DJs with riot grrrl sensibilities worked to resist sexist practices in the music industry. Summarizing her interviews with female college DJs she writes, "A re-occurring that college radio stations represent a very androcentric or male-centered environment...this was referred to in several interviews as a 'juvenile boy' culture." (Riordan, 235-6).

She points out, however, that not all female DJs consider themselves to be feminist or program their shows with a specifically female or feminist sensibility. Even those who do maintain feminist leanings aren't often willing to make those known. She argues that, "...several women interviewed who produce explicitly feminist shows did not identify their shows accordingly because they thought it would be too political and cause a reaction from some people at the stations." (Riordan, 262).

I'd have to agree. Based on my college radio experience, resistance among women (and other station minorities) is often subversive, versus explicit. I consider myself a feminist and that informs the way I program my radio show in a subtle way, but it isn't necessarily obvious to listeners or station staff.

The author, like many of the female radio scholars I've encountered (perhaps I'll cover some of them in future posts), was also heavily involved with the radio scene and even now as a professor at University of St. Thomas (Minnesota), she's the advisor to the campus cablecast radio station KUST. It's inspiring to me to find radio scholars who are also radio participants, especially in college radio.

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