2013 Is NOT The ‘Year of The Woman’… It’s Just A Cute Misogynistic Slogan


For those who are familiar with my articles, you’ll know
that I am a proud feminist. I have spent most of my country-listening life
consuming almost exclusively female artists. That wasn’t a deliberate choice,
but rather one based simply on the music I liked, which sounds and lyrics I
preferred. For me, the women's music was better.

But the country music industry is one that tends to sideline
female artists, particularly in the wake of the newly masculine marketing that
resulted in the ignoring of many female superstars of 10-20 years ago (I
have previously written about this
). Despite this, 2013 has seen person
after person claiming this year to be the ‘Year
of the Woman’
(a term I hate, we’re a gender not an animal on a Chinese
calendar). It’s true, there are plenty of female artists coming out the
woodwork and saying something: Ashley
Monroe, Kacey Musgraves, Holly Williams, Pistol Annies. Of course, women making
proficient, insightful music have always been there, it’s just the men of music
journalism ‘discovered’ that women can suddenly do something cute and use their
brains to make intelligent music. Maybe Shania showing her belly during the 90s
made them forget.

My scepticism aside, has all this positive press about women’s
musical abilities over the masculine trend of beer and truck songs actually
affected how they perform in sales and on country radio? Well, the answer is I’m
not sure. For the past month I’ve been collecting data from all 5 of the
Billboard country charts: Hot Country Songs, Country Airplay, Country Digital
Songs, Country Streaming Songs, and Top Country Albums. I have also been paying
general attention to these charts for most of the year so far and let’s be
honest with ourselves; the women everyone is raving about simply aren’t making
the dent in the charts they being built up to make.

Kacey Musgraves may be country music’s hot young thing and people have pitched her as leading the pack, but
her breakout hit ‘Merry Go Round’ only just made the top 15 of Hot Country
Songs and just about reached #10 on radio. Her follow-up single ‘Blowin’ Smoke’
is still slowly rising on radio (currently at #23) but has dropped all the way
to #33 on Hot Country Songs, despite not being released all that long ago. Her
album ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ fell significantly after coming in at #1
and never really recovered, while Ashley Monroe’s hugely critically-acclaimed
album ‘Like A Rose’ debuted at #10 and dropped after that. The same thing
happened to Holly Williams and LeAnn Rimes, who despite endless promotion
couldn’t achieve higher than #9 before the unfortunate plummet.

It’s only the Pistol Annies who are showing some force in
the charts, but lead by award shows’ golden girl Miranda Lambert I’m hardly
surprised. While she is a fantastic artist and has been charting pretty well with ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’, she is of
course lying in the shadow of her husband Blake Shelton, who did a disservice
to the plight of feminism by singing “the girls round here, they all deserve a
whistle, shakin’ that sugar sweet as Dixie crystal”. Of course, Miranda and the
other Annies took part in that single, which saddened me greatly.

That brings me to the worrying point that when I totalled up
percentages for representation of women in both radio and sales, taking into
account chart positions – there are more sexist-tinged songs on the charts than
songs actually sung by women. Of
course it depends how you interpret a song, but with a female representation ranging
between 25 and 33% of charting songs (and that includes bands with female
members, and even women featured on tracks like Taylor Swift on Tim McGraw’s ‘Highway
Don’t Care’), it’s a horrifying truth. It’s 2013, supposedly the Year of The Woman,
and each week I saw woman drop slowly down the chart positions, the week before
the latest chart seeing an overwhelming fall. On a typical week, there was no
more than 6 tracks (on a 25-track chart) featuring women, and usually only 2 or
3 purely female tracks (for example a female solo artist or an all-female
group). It was only Top Country Albums where it was more equal at 40%
(including mixed bands and features).

Surprisingly, radio actually typically showed a slightly
higher representation of women than the sales-based charts, and higher chart
positions that rose over time, but overall there wasn’t much difference. My
advice? Don’t believe the propaganda. As a feminist I’m not asking for a
female-dominant universe, just an equal one,
and the Year of The Woman comes across like a misogynistic attempt to convince
people women are doing well in country music too. It’s condescending because
any idiot can see there’s still miles to go before we’ll even see that equality
in the distance.

Woman have always made good music (arguably better than half
the men) but I demand to see a change in this industry and in the mindsets of
country music fans.

Posted by Vickye.
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