Women in Music, Cast Aside by Gender Inequality

By Maricel Drazer  (IPS)

Photo: “Las Mullieris” band, Santiago del Estero, Argentina

HAVANA TIMES – They’re musicians. They’re women. They’re fighting for equal opportunities in the sector. So that their rights are respected, both on and off stage.

“Women’s work in music has been overshadowed by the patriarchy, which has led to always thinking in the male,” Costa Rican singer and composer, Amanda Quesada, tells DW.

“There is a certain gender division of work in the music world. People are still suspicious if a woman is a percussionist, bassist, sound engineer or electric guitar player,” she says. “They might not be mistreated, but they are definitely underestimated,” Quesada says from the Costa Rican capital.

“In the case of female pop singers, a lot of emphasis is placed on their appearance, their image. Even more so than their voice,” she says, speaking from her own experience.

Photo: Amanda Quesada: Costa Rican pop singer.

You make your career, you aren’t born with it 

Meanwhile, Colombian musician Alejandra Gomez adds another aspect: gender visibility and representativeness in the field.

“Lots of women not performing right now, aren’t playing because they haven’t had a “career”. They aren’t hired because they lack experience, and they don’t have experience because they aren’t hired,” co-founder of the Todopoderosa group (“an ecosystem of women in music”) weighed in, when consulted by DW.

Where are these female music heavyweights going to come from, if they are never given an opportunity? Instead, the same old musicians are hired,” the alternative band manager also criticized.

“Often the answer we get when addressing the inclusion of professional women in festival programs is: “there aren’t any women”,” Gomez says.

“But it’s not because they don’t exist, it’s because they just don’t know about them,” she refutes.

Photo: Alejandra Gomez: co-founder of the Todopoderosa group.

Women in action, a model in question

The list of problems and injustices that women are exposed to in the music world also includes discrimination and sexual harassment. Likewise, a lack of opportunities for professional development, the gender pay gap, and prejudice, of course.

However, female musicians all over the continent are banding together to provide a more coordinated response to this issue. They are joining their efforts and making their voices heard.

In Argentina, the Women Musicians Civil Association from Santiago del Estero has held three editions of the “National Congress of Women, Lesbians, Transvestites, Transgender, Intersexuals and Non-Binaries in Music.”

“We create, project and long for this congress, convinced that we are political subjects that are fighting for more equal, democratic and federal public policies,” said Carolina Haick, one of the main people behind the association pushing the initiative forward.

Photo: Carolina Haick: pop music singer and band member of “Las Mullieris” from Santiago del Estero, Argentina.

She puts the struggle into context: “While a Female Quota Law is in effect since 2019, by the National Institute of Music, under a non-binary view, we still feel like there is a lot of hesitation in applying it,” the “Las Mullieris” band member says.

Argentinian women musicians pushed for the first law in the world that establishes a female quota for music events, demanding that at least 30% of performers at festivals are women.

In 2020, they have gone even further, as a result of the pandemic. Harnessing the Internet, they founded Red TRUENA (The Transfeminist Multinational Network of Music Workers). “It has the key mission of strengthening a network of workers in the music sector, with a gender focus.”

A similar initiative is being led by Colombian group Todopoderosa: a continuously growing gathering of women and other genders in the field. “We are the beginning of music in the future,” they promise.

Meanwhile, Costa Rica holds the International Symposium of Women in Music, which has already celebrated its third edition and is renowned across the continent.

“The Symposium manages to be a window so that women can display their work, or for people to learn about women musicians’ projects. We are interested in giving women a platform,” Amanda Quesada explains.

Anyhow, the landscape is still problematic. Gender inequality is huge. However, the struggle for a shift in this model is gaining more and more ground every day.

For all women who make music, and for all those people who deserve to be heard.

This article was originally published in Spanish on the DW, the channel for Latin American on German TV Deutsche Welle.

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