Flat White

Why are women in festival lineups as rare as women in management?

7 May 2018

5:57 PM

7 May 2018

5:57 PM

Nothing can instil bubbles of joy like the release of a major festival line-up. Whether local or international, ignoring the likelihood of getting the time off, the opportunity that comes with a new line up, the prospect of a day/s frolicking in the sunshine with friends, dancing and great music that makes you cry, a timetable to make or break hearts.

The thought of so much great talent in one place is like slurping down a mojito that someone else paid for, in the pool on a public holiday… even for those who hate gumboots and drink tickets.

Splendour in the Grass has released its 2018 program. After months of speculation, the artists coming down under for a blissful three days of Byron heat in the middle of winter are confirmed.

And they’re mostly male. The Splendour line-up is on par with female representation in top managerial positions.*

Of course, there are many great female acts, (defined by acts including at least one female) but they are concentrated on the bottom half of the billing, with only one all-female act, Lorde; the spokesperson of our generation, in the top 20 acts. This isn’t a new story.

Misogyny in music is a tale that has been told before, from sexual harassment of female staff to female acts being questioned backstage. The only area where there is equality in music is in festival attendees.

So why, if females are making festivals money through their attendance, aren’t they represented on stage?


Is it because female artists won’t sell tickets? Put on as good a show? Or simply because there aren’t enough female artists available?

One gender cannot be empirically more good or bad at music than the other. There were more songs with a female artist in the top songs played on mainstream radio this week than only male artists. Female artists clearly have talent and commercial value. But this hasn’t been acknowledged by festival organisers.

This issue is not endemic to the Australian music scene. Major US festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza, Governors Ball and Bonnaroo, have been called out for these issues.

The issue is not endemic to music either, Female art more broadly is seen as “chick art”, and discredited as not having value beyond what it contributes to women.

When Wonder Woman was released, there was so much chatter around it being a chick superhero movie, not just a superhero movie. Male dominated art is the norm.

Anything that strays is questioned and must be proved.

Personally, I know that I face a battle when trying to get my male friends to watch female TV shows, and have had to sneak the fabulous Mindy Kaling’s’ show The Mindy Project in like a trojan horse. I consume a lot of content and, generally, my taste is appreciated (to my face at least), but because The Mindy Project is made by, and stars a chick, it’s assumed the humour won’t apply to them. “Mindy is universal! Why are you fighting me!”

I feel it in my bones that when I suggest a show with a male protagonist, that doesn’t ooze “chickness”, my suggestion is taken up without complaint. They’re always keen to give it a go, without me having to bite at their ankles like a needy puppy.

Even amongst my fairly “woke” friends, male and non-male, there is a constant kickback to any female content. Female content has to work 2.5 times harder before it’s even trialled. The “idea” of it is more important than the content. The Great Wall of China sits between getting that person to the screen/Spotify link/gig that has nothing to do with the talent, or message of the artist.

There’s more excavation needed to expose the history of this assumed misogyny. I think it’s the last battle in the war on women(s’ content). When women can become the default and not the “Oh, ok, I’ll give it a try” maybe we’ll really start to view them as equal.

*I started crunching the numbers but didn’t finish this calculation. Help a sista out!

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.


Show comments
Close