A hot topic lately online seems to be festival bills and gender equality. I touched on this briefly in my first column, in appreciation of all the diverse incredible talent we have in Melbourne. It’s a pretty common debate for anyone who is involved in the music scene and one many people have heard before, which is why it absolutely astounds me to see festivals still releasing lineups with one or two women on the entire bill while not considering gender diversity.
Over the past month we’ve seen two major festivals release male dominated lineups. I’m going to break down two classic responses:
1. “There will be more women on the second lineup announcement.”
Are the female centric bands not good enough for the first announcement? Did you intentionally want to release a lineup with all men the first round because you think that will sell tickets? Do you have the rest of the lineup just waiting to be released in a month or are you now frantically searching for more female bands to book now that you’ve been called out? If women aren’t on your line up it shows us that gender diversity and changing the industry isn’t an important issue to you. You should care.
2. “There are women working on our festival behind the scenes.”
OK, great. More women working in the industry is amazing. I am a woman working in the industry, and it’s great to see many more women in these roles. However, the old saying goes: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. Having women in producing, booking and curatorial roles while still releasing a predominantly male line up isn’t an excuse. Major music festivals have a responsibility as a heavily influential part of the music scene to promote diversity on their lineups. Their stage can make or break an artist, and especially for local music festivals booking Australian talent, they act as a showcase to international audiences. Putting women on these lineups shows us we can perform, we can do it, and it’s inspiring.
Finally, gender diversity isn’t just up to women to advocate for and work towards. I read a Facebook thread during the week where a woman called out one of these festivals and got attacked by people on the thread saying “make a fucking change then” and accusing her of being a keyboard warrior. She then had to respond listing all of the things she was doing for gender equality to shut these people up, which is not only exhausting, but counteractive. I’m sick of seeing women have to justify and prove they’re worth, while doing the work towards gender equality. We have to prove we can play our instruments and our skills still get questioned. We have to prove we’re good at our jobs, because it’s just assumed otherwise. This is where men need to take more action, stop with this casual misogyny, and be proactive to make a difference.
If you’re in this position, take your responsibility seriously and don’t think it’s not your problem. If you’ve asked ten bands with women in them and no one can play, look harder. There are plenty of acts out there.
And to anyone thinking ‘book on talent not on gender; women don’t make good music’ – don’t even. That close minded, misogynistic attitude won’t solve anything.