Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies – Special issue on “Music, gender, inequalities” (Eds Pauwke Berkers & Josephine Hoegaerts)

(editorial article overview)

“Since 1999, the Dutch public radio station NPO has broadcasted its Top 2000 at the end of every year. The show draws more listeners than any other Dutch radio programme. Voting for the Top 2000 songs and the subsequent airing has become a very popular end-of-the-year tradition in the Netherlands. The number of women artists represented in the list is, however, low. The percentage of women in the Top 2000 was fourteen per cent in 1999 and dropped to less than ten per cent in 2017 (Geels & Wassens, 2018). As a result, four women initiated Top 2000 Vrouwenstemmen [Top 2000 Women’s Voices] in November 2018, a call for action to get more songs of women artists amongst ‘the best songs of all times’. A similar initiative had been made in Belgium in 2017 by the centre of expertise on gender and feminism (RoSa) to make sure that Studio Brussel’s Tijdloze 100 [Timeless 100] would never be ‘titless’ again (see Purnelle, this issue).1 Both in Belgium and the Netherlands, the percentage of female artists on the respective lists slightly increased in the years after these campaigns, but – admittedly – it is hard to say whether this was due to the aforementioned initiatives. These calls were widely – and often positively – covered in the media, ranging from the main public media station NOS (2018) and newspaper De Morgen (Ceulemans, 2018), to glossies Linda (Doogan, 2018) and Flair (Debie, 2018). But, they also received much criticism.

For example, DJ Ronald Molendijk explained the scarcity of women in the Dutch Top 2000 in lifestyle television programme RTL Boulevard by stating that ‘women simply do not make good music’. His individualist – and sexist – explanation disregards the fact that gender is a social structure: gender inequalities result from complex social processes. For example, as individuals, women are (still) raised with a strong focus on others instead of themselves. Unsurprisingly, 44 per cent of women music makers – compared to 25 per cent of men – feel uncomfortable promoting their work (Berkers, Smeulders, & Berghman, this issue). Yet, in the informal, flexible music industries, negotiation and self-presentation are key for having success (Mullens & Zanoni, this issue). These skills are generally associated with stereotypical masculine traits (‘assertiveness’) and even self-confident women are often not taken seriously in their interactions with men. Hence, 74 per cent of women music makers define the Dutch music sector as ‘truly a men’s world’ (Berkers, Smeulders, & Berghman, this issue).

The relative inaudibility of women in music, even if they often serve as the stock image of ‘the singer’ (Buscatto, 2007), and the supposed intrinsic masculinity of various musical practices, particularly those of ‘creating’ or composing music (Citron, 1993), has been increasingly well documented. Particularly for pop music, there has been a long tradition of studying gender inequalities from a range of academic perspectives, building on the seminal work of Frith and McRobbie (1990). Outstanding work has been done on the position of women from the perspective of particular pop music genres, such as electronic dance music (Farrugia, 2012), grunge (Strong, 2011), hip-hop (Jeffries, 2011), metal (Hill, 2016), rock (Bayton, 1998; Schippers, 2002), and punk (Leblanc, 1999; Reddington, 2016). With our present issue, we aim to contribute to these lively debates on women’s representation in and gendered practices of pop music in three ways. First, despite an increased interest in these issues from academia as well as from a wider music-loving audience, existing research has left several issues unattended – such as gender ‘behind’ the scenes, or non-binary gender constructions. The articles in this volume hone in on these gaps. Second, this issue attempts to encourage interaction between the ‘international’ scholarly study of gender in pop music and its particular iterations in the Low Countries, where studies on gender equality are – thus far – relatively rare. Finally, the issue aims to help to cast our minds towards the future, imagining new and more equal ways to think music and the music industry.” […]

(Berkers and Hoegaerts, 2019, p. 1:2)

Table of content

Editorial: Music, gender, inequalities
pp. 1-6(6)
Authors: Berkers, Pauwke; Hoegaerts, Josephine

‘Mothering the artist’
pp. 7-26(20)
Authors: Mullens, Francisca; Zanoni, Patrizia

Music creators and gender inequality in the Dutch music sector
pp. 27-44(18)
Authors: Berkers, Pauwke; Smeulders, Eefje; Berghman, Michaël

Vrouwen en muziek
pp. 45-48(4)
Author: Purnelle, Bieke

‘Are you at the correct concert?’
pp. 49-65(17)
Author: Schaap, Julian

‘Bivouacking in the borderlands’
pp. 67-84(18)
Author: Wasserbauer, Marion

Lights, cameras… mentors
pp. 85-94(10)
Author: Berkers, Pauwke

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