Where All The Women At?


Brigitte Zabak

Recently, I was asked to contribute to a music-related blog that corresponds to a national indie music magazine that I’ve been writing for over the last few years. And with this new endeavor came the irksome responsibility of having to write a bio. As I struggled to come up with a witty introduction to rival what had already been posted by the other writers, it dawned on me that I was the only female contributor. It’s not a new realization, but one that I have shrugged off for awhile now. When I first decided to take a leap of faith and begin writing about music, I had the good fortune to be within email reach of one of the finest music journalists I would ever have the privilege of knowing. And that journalist just happened to be a woman.

What I needed from her was encouragement and validation that I wasn’t jumping head first into an area of journalism where I would be considerably out of my league. Aside from a few UIL choir competitions in high school, my technical knowledge of music is what some would call “lacking.” What I had instead was an intense passion for music and the overwhelming desire to help promote musicians that needed to be heard. What I was most afraid of centered on the fact that I was a newbie in an industry that was teeming with an overabundance of male perspective and I feared my thoughts would never be taken seriously.

When I first got the chance to speak to Lorraine Ali, I was quick to bring up the “issue” of the dearth in female music critics and how to handle that. Unlike me, Lorraine is an awarding winning journalist having written for publications like Rolling Stone where she was a senior critic back in the 90s. She was voted 1997’s Music Journalist of the Year and won Best National Feature Story honors at the 1996 Music Journalism Awards. Clearly, my success as a writer does not compare, but having someone who could give me perspective was invaluable. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get that chance again and I was incredibly grateful to have been so young to the process and have the perspective of a woman who had learned a great deal along the way.

Was it necessary or even wrong of me to bring gender into the equation? Lorraine is a woman and a damn fine writer of not just music, but pretty much everything. Does it matter that a large percentage of the music critics/writers I happen to know or read are male? I ask this question because I have noticed, on a number of occasions, that editors or other writers point out when I am the lone girl in the proverbial room. I have noticed other publications openly search for more women, or any women for that matter, to contribute to their music writer repertoire. I guess that means women aren’t busting down the doors (What is with me and clichés?) to write about music?

A Google search on the subject of women and music critique yielded more information on female musicians than females who write about musicians, so I turned to my social networking buddies to try to gain some perspective on the issue. I was met with silence on the Twitter front, but greeted with some interesting dialogue through Facebook. Some felt the question of why there aren’t more women writing

about music could be applied to any profession, from djs to comedy writers. Steven Bailey offered a more in-depth opinion on the matter, “The simplest answer is that women do not write about a variety of music; they tend to write about folk music, singer-songwriters. That is fine, but the people who are most often published have an interest in a variety of styles and eras of music. The more difficult answer is that women typically eschew what I call for lack of a better term, the harder forms of pop music: Punk, gangsta rap, heavy metal. There are some women going to those shows, but few of them are, how I shall say it, inclined to pick up a book, put a few words to paper, real or online.”

Without solid research, I can’t say definitively what contributes to the lack of women in music journalism. I suppose I am being bold by making such a statement in the first place. I just wanted to pose the question and get some dialogue going. Maybe what I was really looking for was an outpouring of response that would lead me to an untapped resource of badass women writing about the kind of music I love in a way that would inspire others.

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