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Jim Auton: Professional Cynic #IWD2022 Special – Break the Bias

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is “Break the Bias” aimed at the concept of unconscious bias against women. Because, as with all discrimination, you may not outwardly be discriminatory but due to societal behaviours and attitudes, you don’t even realise you are doing it.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the music industry, so dominated by men for 60+ years that it is ingrained. Yes, women have been involved in the industry for that time too but there is an automatic assumption made all too often.

For a start, the term “female fronted bands” is problematic. You wouldn’t refer to a band full of men as a “male fronted band” now would you?

There is the reflex assumption that women don’t write their own songs which Damon Albarn perfectly illustrated a few weeks ago. Initially, you don’t necessarily see it but his immediate statement was that Taylor Swift doesn’t write her own songs. Would he have accused someone like Liam Gallagher of the same? It is fairly well known Noel wrote 90% plus of the Oasis songs and even last month Liam said producer Greg Kurstin and Dave Grohl wrote “Everything’s Electric”. Would that be something assumed immediately though?

Why is that though? Women have been writing songs since Eve was a wee lass, and some of the finest songwriters this world has known are women, such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Madonna, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Louise Wener, Jo Bevan to name but a teeny, tiny few. It seems inconceivable that there would be any doubt any female artist wrote their songs and yet here we are, in 2022 and there is. It seems to be hard wired,  ingrained in male psyche that a woman can’t have written a lyric or the music. Somewhere there was help.

Regardless of whether someone else added music, added a line of lyric, if they are on the credit, they are the songwriter. This has got to stop. This isn’t the dark ages of misogyny where songs were ignored because they were written by women, we are supposed to be enlightened. We are supposed to recognise brilliant music when we see it regardless of who made it.

There is still a prevalence in the industry for the assumption that women don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to technology. Singers with pedals to apply an effect to their voice, guitarists with pedal boards etc. In 2020 women only made up 5% of the music tech industry. Eloise Bulmer wrote in Vice in that year “When I started my degree in professional music production in 2014, a male peer broke the ice by quipping: ‘Why aren’t there any women producers? They can’t use Reason or Logic’.” It was probably supposed to be a joke but why is that even necessary? Did he make a joke that men tend to keep the mics up in the control room because they can never find the button? Probably not but why not. Pride? Men aren’t great at self deprecation when it comes to their inabilities in the sack. Tiny man problems.

I jest, but what can improve this? Think before you speak, men. Really think about your prejudice, why you might think a woman couldn’t possibly have written that song, played the guitar, recorded and produced that record, was the sound technician for that gig. Because they are definitely better at it than you.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.