Music is one of my favorites arts, but I’m biased. As a classically-trained pianist and music nerd, I do not (or at least try not to) discriminate against men and women musicians. I try to listen to both men and women musicians. But why is it that the majority of musicians on this 100 Greatest Musicians of All Time list are men?
There are many reasons for this, particularly cultural and media influences. I mean, the list was produced by Rolling Stone magazine, what more should I expect? These lists, however, have influential value over rock music.
Men musicians might get more attention over women musicians may have to do with “sound” or “lyrics.” I put those in “parentheses” because sometimes those are bullshit excuses. When someone says, “I like men musicians because they have a deeper voice” or “The content of song lyrics by men aren’t cheesy like lyrics by women”—note that those are opinions, not objective statements (Can I also point out a billion musicians who defy those stereotypes? To put it out there: the Scissor Sisters, Bee Gees, and Peaches). Everyone has a right to their own opinion as to what music they like and don’t like, even Rolling Stone, but having a significant list like that has dire consequences. It tells me that there just aren’t a lot of women musicians out there.
There are a ton of lady musicians that get enormous amounts of attention, mostly because they fit into either the “prude” or “slut/whore” dichotomy and tend to be manufactured to fifteen year-old girls–the quality of this music is lacking yet the popularity remains. Think: Britney Spears and Taylor Swift. Lady Gaga is one of the rare exceptions to this rule.
Moving from the popular music genre to more of the classical music genre, there is a noticeable lack of diversity there. For rock music, there are women musicians out there. But for classical music, there just isn’t the same number of women to men musicians. I remember going to the orchestra when I was little with my parents, and my mom told me to count the number of women musicians up on stage. That number was at most 15% of musicians on the stage. Now it’s changed (I’m in my mid-20s)—but it’s still significantly less than half.
These “Best of” musician lists not only lack in the diversity of gender, but also race, class, and….country of origin. Lately I’ve been falling off the indie music wagon and try to go out of my way to look for “world music” (I hate the name of that genre, couldn’t that have called it something else?). I find it difficult to seek out women musicians in this specific genre.
The lack of gender diversity on the Rolling Stone “Best of” list is not news to anyone. But this issue should be discussed and a concerted effort should be made to recruit and listen to music outside of the male-dominated art. What women musicians are awesome and/or do you think deserve to be on that list? Here are my suggestions (though they’re 100% objective, and I do not work for Rolling Stone):
- Joan Jett
- The Donnas
- Jefferson Airplane
- The Cranberries
- Pat Benetar
Who would you put on that list? And what are your thoughts about influential lists where the majority are men musicians?