For some, feminism is one of the easiest topics in the world to discuss. Are you against inequality? Do you think everybody should be afforded the same opportunities? Then you’re a feminist. However, there are others who believe the term has been warped to mean something that it didn’t once mean, that women are better than men and that retribution is in order. I describe myself as a feminist or, if I’m talking to a particularly pedantic person, an egalitarian. That being said, I can understand why this discussion has become more of a talking point and that there are nuances to the argument that can often be left behind, instead focusing on the definition of terms rather than the real issue of inequality.

As I got older, my love for music grew, and with that growth came interest in more than just the sounds. I don’t write about music just because I like listening to music. The music industry is a perplexing place, so while the foundation for my love was the sounds, the building is comprised of investigating the world of creation that music comes from. I hate the term ‘industry’ when it comes to art and creation, but that is what it is, and with industries comes the need to group people together. Companies and their employees find it easier to sell their goods when they can clarify to the consumer exactly what it is they’re selling, so segregation becomes a part of what starts as an art form.

Alongside the need for groups, there is also marketing. It should come as no surprise to anybody that I, and many others, believe that women get a harsh deal when it comes to marketing. In the context of music, it has become pretty much the standard that women can be used as an item, both in music videos and as lyrical content. Rap and hip hop gets the most stick for this, but when you consider Mötley Crüe’s video for ‘Girls Girls Girls’ or Van Halen’s ‘Hot For Teacher’, it becomes clear that this is a trend that started well before ‘bitches and bling’.

When I decided I wanted to write an article on the subject of feminism and sexism in the music world at the moment, I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, and so decided to ask two females currently living in it. These women are Kate Stonestreet, a recent addition to the line-up of Joanna Gruesome and lead vocalist of Pennycress, and Emma Fleur Doran, a woman working extensively behind the scenes at Band On The Wall, a venue known for its diverse bookings.

Anyone who is familiar with Joanna Gruesome will know that it’s unlikely that Kate will be fighting for the anti-feminist side. “I’m a feminist. It affects so much of what I think and how I react to things, so hearing other people’s stories and reactions through really good music is amazing to me.” From her mentality, the music and her search for it come naturally. Some of her connections within the music industry were also brought about by her feminism, including her inclusion in Pennycress, which came from a pirate radio session entitled Queer Punks.

With Kate I discussed a lot about her music past and how many of the people she has met during her time in Glasgow are “mainly cis white males”, but that “most of the time they’re pretty aware of their privilege”. What really stood out during our talk was her use of the phrase: “I see feminism as freedom”. This resonated with me. What could possibly be freer than the production of music and song writing? Surely that means music is one of the perfect art forms to tackle the issue of feminism and sexism, especially within its own industry.

When chatting to Emma about her take on the lack of sexism in the music industry, she told me that she is “offered the same opportunities as a guy would”. I think this is an important point as well, because there are many women who would argue they feel feminism implies they had to fight against a prejudiced system to get where they are. As for why there are more men than women involved in the music industry, Emma offered the possibility that women just aren’t drawn to the industry as much as men. Although this is a possibility, I find it doubtful, especially as she herself said that she had been drawn to the industry at an early age.

Another point Emma made was that she didn’t believe “you should have music projects that are geared towards only women or only men”. This is an understandable point and one that I feel can alienate many from music and song writing that is fighting for gender equality, but it is also a point that misunderstands the concept. There are many men in the world of music fighting for feminism and against inequality in all its forms. If you’re a white, cisgender and straight male, there is nothing stopping you from engaging with these concepts in the music. While I am happy that Emma has never faced sexism in her line of work, I have to disagree with her that there isn’t an issue. As Lois from PINS told me in a recent interview, “There’s sexism everywhere”.

Here is another way of looking at it. Are men used in marketing as sex objects? Yes. Can they suffer negatively in this world due to their gender? Yes. Does it happen to women far more than men? I believe so. I can understand why this subject is up for debate, because it is a nuanced argument that will never be black and white, but for me the overarching concept is simple. There is inequality in this world and most feminists just want there to be equality. Individual responsibility is important, but that individual responsibility can only be fully investigated when starting from a level playing field.

Feminist men reading this now can leave their computer knowing their lives won’t be judged because of their gender to a great extent, while feminist women will go back to a world that will periodically judge, use and abuse their gender on a daily basis. This means that sexism is so proliferated in many women’s lives that it is impossible to separate from any woman creating music or working in the industry. For me, it’s whether or not this ends up bothering you in a mild or massive way that decides whether you’ll categorise yourself as feminist or not.


Jacob Ormrod