When I first saw the list of Record Store Day 2017 releases, I had two immediate thoughts:
1. Thank God there are only two items I want, because I’m in the middle of a move and can’t afford to splurge.
2. Where the hell are all the women?
I had hoped to see some gender diversity in this year’s Record Store Day offerings … and I was disappointed. Now, I never expected a 50/50 split — women struggle for recognition and representation in every aspect of music, from producing to reviewing to collecting — but the absence of female artists or female-fronted bands in RSD this year is staggering. I took the list and calculated the percentage of women present, removing items like soundtracks and compilations. What I discovered is that only 12% of the RSD items are by female artists or female-fronted bands. TWELVE PERCENT.
Why aren’t more people talking about this?
I have so many issues with this list. Not only is it lacking in women (did I mention that whole TWELVE PERCENT thing?), but most of the selections are white dude bands. Overwhelmingly white dude bands. The lack of racial diversity also needs to be addressed, but for the purpose of this post, I’m simply looking at the absence of women. Where the hell are they?
I honestly don’t know how the selections are chosen, whether it’s something decided by the event coordinators themselves, or by labels, or by artists. I’ve tried researching this topic, but it’s hard to find details. Still, whatever the process, it’s obviously broken. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, given that only 10% of the RSD ambassadors have been women. I think it’s fantastic that they’ve chosen a woman for their 10th anniversary of Record Store Day, but what took them so long to have female representation?
This makes me wonder if it goes right back to the target audience for vinyl: men. Did they worry that having a woman as ambassador would turn guys off? Are they heavily pushing the dude bands because men don’t want music by female artists? I’m in the YouTube vinyl community, and a lot of the guys there seem to like ALL kinds of artists and music, but are they the exception to the rule? Is it too much to expect that men who collect vinyl will be okay with an even gender split? Where the hell are all the women?
It’s a question I ask a lot as a member of the vinyl community. Women are underrepresented here, though a recent article has sought to highlight women-owned record shops. Yes, we are out there. Yes, there are a lot of us. But we’re outnumbered by our male counterparts, and even when we do seek to carve out a space for ourselves, we’re often ignored, neglected, relegated to dabbler status, as if we’re unable to hold vast knowledge of music and records in our fragile female brains. Many men on the vinyl community forums believe that women only show up to record stores to stand around and nag at their boyfriends as they browse vinyl. They believe we aren’t serious collectors, serious students of sounds, as if this entire format exists solely for consumption by men.
And it doesn’t stop there. Female music critics are skewered for their informed opinions and judgments far more than male critics. And why are there so many white men writing about and talking about music? I find it difficult to see photos from SXSW panels where the stage is filled with white dudes and believe that truly radical discussions took place around any artist’s work. Or that any conversation about music could have possibly included experiences outside the single demographic represented on stage.
I seethed recently listening to a well-respected vinyl site’s podcast wherein two dudes dissected the debut record of an African-American woman. They loved the record, by the way, but their assumptions about her past, about her background, about her identity within this world really rubbed me the wrong way. The way they said the music is rudimentary at best, but her voice is really what makes it a good record. How she needs to be careful not to repeat this in the next album, or it won’t be held in as high regard (in their minds). Do what the men say you should do, or else. Be a better musician, even though your record is getting wide acclaim (and rightly so).
Why is it okay for men to do this? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we continue to allow it. We elevate mediocre music made by men while refusing to recognize the work of so many female artists/producers/label execs/etc. I’m not suggesting that we reward or congratulate women who aren’t making great music, but we do seem to allow for that when it comes to men. If I see one more article passing off the creepy/odd things Father John Misty does/says as “quirky,” I might scream. And yes, I lump him in with the mediocre lot, with apologies to the FJM fans out there. Don’t even get me started on Ed Sheeran.
There have been numerous discussions around the lack of female representation when award nominations are announced, particularly during the 2016 Juno Awards. Amy Millan (of Stars) sparked the #JunosSoMale movement on Twitter, and the conversation was continued again this season. Even if the reason behind the lack of representation comes down to women not submitting their work, we need to look at why they don’t feel that they’re able to throw their names in the hat. Many say that they’re held back, or not taken seriously, or have been told from the beginning that they won’t be taken seriously so why bother? And this doesn’t just happen with awards submissions — it happens to women at all stages of music-making, from booking gigs to buying instruments. Why is that okay?
I have so many questions. And I’m looking for answers. What do you think about the Record Store Day list this year? Why are there so few women? If you’re a woman who collects vinyl, what have your RSD experiences been like in the past? I know for me, I’m usually one of the only women there buying vinyl for herself. Reach out to me and we’ll talk. Let’s figure out why #RSDsomale.