Music as an industry is rich with amazing women who have inspired generations of listeners to either look deeper into the world or pursue the medium for themselves. From Sandie Shaw to Annie Lennox to Pussy Riot the music industry in a lot of ways has become a platform for women’s views to be put across despite making up less than a sixth of the profession, as a whole. The gender gap shows across the industry, with the objectification of female musicians becoming so common it has become an accepted trope. This has reached such an extent that critics and fans will now judge a female performer on how they choose to dress rather than how well or not they performed.
At the beginning of the month David L. Garcia reviewed Californian rock band, Best Coast’s, San Francisco gig last month for the San Francisco Foghorn. Garcia was not struck by Best Coast’s performance commenting on how Bethany Consentino (lead singer) only addressed the audience twice and “barely smiled”. He opened his review mentioning how Consentino “looked sexier and badder than any rock star I have seen in years”. Granted, he does go into how the music itself was favourable, but as a general trend, more than half of the review focuses on how Bethany Consentino looked and behaved rather how she sounded. Consentino hit back at David L. Garcia’s article saying “If you aren’t happy with my show that is perfectly fine, but leave my looks and outfit out of it.” on Best Coast’s Instagram.
The most distressing part of the article is the fact that it is not out of place within the world of criticism of female musician’s performance and material. Closer to home, Scottish electronic trio Chvrches, fronted by Lauren Mayberry, are no strangers to sexism. Mayberry shot to prominence as a feminist icon after she published an essay in The Guardian in 2013 on the misogyny she has encountered as a woman in the music industry. Despite receiving a huge amount of praise from many throughout the industry, sexist internet trolls have followed Lauren Mayberry and Chvrches for the vast majority of their career. The spotlight was once again put on Mayberry last month with the release of their second album, Every Open Eye. In particular, attention was drawn to the music video for the album’s opening track, ‘Leave a Trace’ when members of 4Chan “criticised” Mayberry’s attire in the video. In reality, the comments were closer to slut-shaming than anything else. As Mayberry said when she appeared on Channel 4 News in August, “there is a difference between criticism and hatred.”.
How Bethany Consentino and Lauren Mayberry and other female musicians are presented and credited in the music press is nothing short of objectification. Too often are women in the music industry shamed for failing to follow convention. Other than entertainment, no other industry would judge a woman’s worth in their profession based on how they looked. It would be unthinkable. Surely after all this time we should be able to get past looking at them as a dress and instead see them as the remarkable people they are?