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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Pop Women

December 19th, 2009 at 20:21

One of the cool things I will remember about the blogosphere in 2009 was the amazing response to the TripleJ Hottest 100 of all time, as people across Australia responded to the gaping (and for many of us, quite shocking) lack of female representation in that list by celebrating women’s music. The conversation that spanned across so many blogs and Twitter accounts was layered and fascinating, and went a long way to making up for some of the more jawdropping kneejerk reactions/excuses for so many people not voting in female artists (women’s voices are higher… men are more likely to write/perform those epic songs…)

An uncomfortable theme that was raised in various circles was that women’s art is still seen as less, and that when forced to think about it, people can come up with a long list of justifications why this is so, because ‘actually I’ve been socialised to think that male=better/stronger/wiser’ is often a hard thing to admit, let alone come to terms with. One list that did have a substantial proportion of women was the “songs I am embarrassed to admit I like.”

Which brings me to Amanda Palmer, singing a song about Lady Gaga and herself and Madonna, apparently the final act of an ongoing debate with Neil Gaiman. It seems to belong to that conversation from several months ago – or maybe it’s the beginning of a new conversation. In any case, it’s a very cool song, not least because of the circumstances under which it was created. If you’re not already following Amanda’s blog (her posts are, this one notwithstanding, loooong and hard to navigate at times), she is definitely an artist to watch for the ways in which she experiments with form, social media and the changing face of technology and the internet. She’s basically the rock chick version of Cory Doctorow (ha, okay, someone has to get those two on a stage together if it hasn’t already happened), and its her willingness to throw herself, unrehearsed, into her art; her willingness to get messy, screw up & show her knickers (both metaphorically and literally) in various public forums that make her such a compelling figure.

I love the fact that Neil and Amanda have basically become the Posh and Becks of the lit/rock music world.

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7 Responses to “Pop Women”

  1. Aleximus Says:

    Thanks for the heads-up about Amanda Palmer [I will chase down her stuff].

    On the other matter, I would be very uncomfortable about advocating equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity. As for claiming that the invisible hand of the market is male … I just don’t buy that :-)

    cheers

    Alex

  2. tansyrr Says:

    In the case of the JJJ hottest 100 it’s a) fairly clear from the evidence that the majority of voters were male and b) likewise from the evidence that many women also voted for all-male lists.

    There was a deep sense of alienation and upset that many female JJJ fans felt upon discovering that not a single female vocalist was voted for enough to make it to a list of 100 ‘best of all time’ songs, and the ramifications for it are still being felt.

    The argument in this case is not that 50% of the songs should have been female, it is that there were NONE. There are no easy answers as to why this should have been so, but the most obvious conclusion is that the Triple J audience value women’s music less than they do men’s. Dismissing the issue is neither helpful nor welcome.

  3. Melander Says:

    Women are marginalised in art in a way that can’t happen in work….
    How many festivals, workshops etc provide access to childcare? How many developing female artists can afford to devote themselves to their art in the same way men can, without someone screaming about them not doing housework, cooking, cleaning? How many women can afford to spend the years gambling with the chance of a future income stream from their art – and feed the kids? Pay the childcare bills?
    I know, get pissed off with the theory, but seriously men are allowed to be selfish and focused on whatever they choose and we have to learn to juggle. It’s no surprise that the hottest one hundred included no females…..

  4. tansyrr Says:

    Absolutely right, Mel – women have to work so much harder just to have time to make art and then the art they make is dismissed as being less important. Indeed, types of art predominantly made by women is itself dismissed as less important, regardless of who is making it.

  5. Melander Says:

    “craft” vs “art”
    Pretty much sums it up – cooking vs master chefs…. Who does the daily household cooking for Ramsay and all the Michelin star men??
    Fashion designers are predominately men, women are seamstresses and make clothes.
    Someone once told me that female arts students tend to work on much smaller canvases than male students too. I wonder why that is? Surely it can’t all be down to practical things like the canvases being too heavy for us poor wee things??

    My house still hasn’t recovered from Nano….. utter pig sty.
    The Governor General Quentin (I’m too tired to remember her name, it’s not Blake is it?) said wisely in an interview – “Women can have it all – just not all at the same time.”
    I HATED her saying that but in some ways it makes sense. We do need to allow ourselves to be imperfect in certain areas when we are striving for perfection in others. Society expects too much.

  6. tansyrr Says:

    Yeah I hate it when people say stuff like that but it’s still TRUE. Staying silent doesn’t make it less true.

    My mum came over armed with a bucket, a carton of bicarb, a bottle of white vinegar and a book called ‘Speed Cleaning’ (by Shannon Lush and someone else – I recommend it!)

    she worked wonders on making this place look less awful with our houseguest on her way :D

    And no, I truly do have no shame. The only way to write a book is to be crap at housework.

  7. Melander Says:

    Quentin Bryce…..
    That woke me up at 1am.

    I miss my Mum…. and so does my house!!! :0

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