This online discussion is open for comments March 11-17. An overview of these assignments and how you’ll be graded is available here.
There are no questions at the end of this post to get the conversation going. Use your own critical thinking to make this conversation substantial: compare or contrast its ideas to your own experience or other things you’ve learned about, think about what surprises you, and think about what aspects resonate with or contradict your own experiences. The approximate reading time of this post is 16 minutes, not counting any audio media.
In the classical music world, just like in other fields, women have been present and made significant contributions as long as the profession has existed. However, women as a group generally have not been acknowledged or lauded to the degree or consistency that men have been in the field. When people compile lists of the so-called “best” composers of all time, they’re almost always all-male: like this one, or this one, or this one, or this one. Try it for yourself: Google “classical composer” and see what the list that comes up looks like.
The emphasis on male composers, conductors, and top performers in music education, public imagination, dramatic settings (TV, movies, literature), and concert programming suggests that making classical music is a man’s activity and that all the greatest achievements have been made by men only. This implication has had repercussions for how classical music evolves as well as the challenges it faces in terms of remaining relevant in today’s world.
[Side note #1: Men have obviously had some fantastic musical moments; we’ve listened to a lot of them in class. They just don’t have a monopoly on musical ability, and addressing non-male contributions and the difficulty women have in asserting their value in this field is the focus of this online discussion.]
[Side note #2: Everything that applies to women in this online discussion applies to other groups of people who have been traditionally underrepresented in the classical music world, too. The content of this course has skewed heavily, nay exclusively, to music by dead white guys — this is a bit of a selection effect, since the topic of the course is Western music, and for the historical periods we’ve covered so far, the European population historically consists of approximately 50% dead white guys — but in addition to that, the social structures that benefit white men in European society, allowing them to become musically trained, present concerts, publish music, and earn money, are often the same structures that make the same activities difficult for their non-white, non-male counterparts.]
But is this relevant in music? Can a sound be “feminine”?
Listen to the two works below. Does one of them sound more “feminine” than the other? What musical features seem “masculine” (i.e., manly or likely made by a man), and which seem “feminine” (i.e., womanly or likely made by a woman)?
What is sexism?
Sexism refers to using a person’s sex as a basis for prejudice, discrimination, or stereotyping. It includes stereotypes such as women are “kind” and men are “strong,” and it begins early in life: baby clothes and toys are color-coded, blue for boys and pink for girls (although at the beginning of the 20th century pink was for boys, and some parents today reject this binary in favor of “neutral” colors like yellow and green).
Sexism influences our perceptions of ourselves, our abilities, and our roles in society: boys who feel they need to be good at sports, or girls who think they’ll never be good at math or science. Here’s an entry the pianist-composer Clara Schumann wrote in her own diary, revealing how she began to tell herself that she couldn’t be a composer because she didn’t see any evidence to the contrary in the world around her:
“I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?” – Clara Schumann, 1839
Sexism frames and shapes romantic or sexual interactions (telling women that they should smile more because it will make them look pretty, expecting men to be gentlemen who hold doors open or pay for dates) as well as our attitudes towards activities in which gender is not obviously an issue (perceiving male professors as being more intelligent or capable than female ones, questioning whether women can hold political office because they are too emotional or not emotional enough, or arguing that women should hold political office because they are more compassionate). Sexist stereotypes and presumptions are often contradictory and shift over time — like all aspects of culture, they are not fixed, they can be changed, and they are something that we collectively invent based on what we believe, perceive, or need at the time.
[Side note #3: The terms “sex” and “gender” are often used interchangeably in day-to-day conversation, but they refer to slightly different things. Sex is biological: chromosomes, hormones, and sex organs. Gender is socially-defined: the way that we present masculinity or femininity outwardly in terms of behavior, clothing, and social roles. When we talk about “sexism,” we’re really often talking about gender-ism — interactions based on 1) what we perceive people’s gender to be, and 2) what we expect them to do as a representative of their gender. But “genderism” is an awkward word and a more subtle distinction than we need to make right now.]
Why does sexism matter in music?
Legal hurdles and socially-constructed assumptions about women have prevented them from rising to prominence in the classical music field:
- Fears that playing wind instruments would disfigure women’s faces and seemed too much like phallic objects in their mouths;
- Women being legally the property of their husbands and unable conduct business on their own; and
- Notions of domesticity, that a woman’s place is in the home, and believing that women will stop being inherently feminine if they are employed in any kind public work:
“Gentlemen may employ their hours of business in almost any degrading occupation and, if they have the means of supporting a respectable establishment at home, may be gentlemen still; while, if a lady but touch any article, no matter how delicate, in the way of trade, she loses caste, and ceases to be a lady.” –Sarah Stickney Ellis (1812-72)
Musical training was often seen as a way to make women more attractive or marriageable, not necessarily a foundation for a professional career (remember this online discussion?). And the domination of the professional music world by men is tradition, the way it’s seemingly always been. Such long-standing beliefs about the physical capabilities of women and men led the Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov to say in 2012 that women could never be real conductors because “The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.”
James Baldwin’s “great force of history”
In many ways, this discussion is a deeper dive into James Baldwin’s assertion (there he is again!) that we are living within structures and systems that control our lives, without our even being aware of them:
“The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.” —James Baldwin, 1965
Assumptions about what people of a particular gender can or cannot do, or should or should not do, create the social structures in which we live. In terms of the classical music world, such structures have the effect of maintaining the illusion that classical musicians could only be men. Here’s how this works:
1. If women are assumed not to be musical, professional, or competent, then they will either (1) self-censor and not pursue their musical interests, or (2) not be admitted into the best music schools or receive the best training.
This leads to…
2. If women not admitted into the best schools, they will have a smaller chance of building the network of peers and mentors that will help them secure the best jobs and reputation.
As a result…
3. If women are not holding professional positions of power, influence, or respect, then they cannot mentor or guide another generation of students to follow in their footsteps; they cannot be advocates for younger candidates because they aren’t seated on a school’s admission committee or a professional organization’s job hiring committee. There aren’t enough of them to exert their leverage to insist on equal pay, family leave, or other issues that an all-male governing board might overlook (and that would be a barrier for other women to enter or remain in the workforce).
Add to these structures any additional prejudicial beliefs about women or their abilities, and it’s not hard to see why there have been so few women in leadership or famous positions in the professional classical music world historically. (If you re-read these bullet points and substitute any other minority group — a group defined according to race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, for example — you would also have an explanation for why this group of people traditionally has been excluded from the professional classical music world.)
An anecdote: Abbie Conant
In one particularly egregious example, gender-based prejudice derailed and marred the career of Abbie Conant. Conant is an American trombone player who played in the Münich Philharmonic (Germany) in the 1980s and 1990s.
Since the 1970s, orchestral auditions take place behind a screen (remember this article assigned for class: dorris-the-audition?) so that the auditioning committee cannot see the performer. It allows them to hire the player who sounds the best rather than being persuaded by seeing someone they know, being affected by the player’s physical gestures, or discriminating based on gender or race. Conant won her position (solo trombone) over 32 other applicants with the Münich Philharmonic in 1980 and was approved by the other members of the orchestra during both her audition and her first year with the orchestra, but the conductor of the orchestra refused to let her play the role that she had won. He instead insisting that she play second to another male trombonist because he believed that only a man could really handle the role:
“You know the problem: we need a man for solo trombone.” —Sergiu Celibidache, General Music Director of the Münich Philharmonic, to Abbie Conant
Conant was officially demoted to the position of second trombone in 1982 by the Music Director (a position that requires substantially more work but earns significantly less pay), and she sued. Over the next 11 years, she and the orchestra were embroiled in a legal battle involving court appearances nearly ever year, and she had to complete several arduous tests and tasks in order to be able to play in the position she had already won:
- 1982: Orchestra leadership argued that Conant did not “possess the necessary strength to be a leader of the trombone section.” By her husband’s account, she “underwent extensive medical testing to measure the capacity of her lungs and the speed at which she could inhale and exhale air. She had blood drawn from her ear to see how efficiently her body absorbed oxygen. She stripped and let a doctor examine her rib cage and chest. She also solicited forty-three testimonials of her musicianship from guest conductors and other musicians.”
- 1987: The court ordered Conant to play for another trombone professional to assess her physical strength, endurance, and durability. She was required to play a series of the most difficult excerpts from the orchestral repertoire, all of which were chosen by the Music Director. In her re-audition, which was more rigorous or demanding than any regular audition (including the one she had already won in 1980), she played each excerpt several times, altering her performance each time to meet the auditor’s instructions to vary the style, dynamics, phrasing, and vibrato. The auditor’s court report praised her playing fully:
“She is a wind player with an outstandingly well-trained embouchure, i.e., lip musculature, that enables her to produce controlled tone production in connection with a controlled breath flow, and which gives her the optimal use of her breath volume. Her breathing technique is very good and makes her playing, even in the most difficult passages, superior and easy. In this audition she showed sufficient physical strength, endurance, and breath volume, and above and beyond that, she has enormously solid nerves. This, paired with the above mentioned wind-playing qualities, puts her completely in the position to play the most difficult phrases in a top orchestra, holding them out according to the conductor’s directions for adequate length and intensity, as well as strength.” —Heinz Fadle
- 1988: The court ruled in her favor, and Conant was reinstated to her position of solo trombone. The orchestra, however, refused to pay her at a soloist level until ordered to do so specifically by the court.
- 1990: The orchestra created a special lower solo category to pay her less than her other 15 (male) soloist colleagues in the orchestra.
- 1993: The court ruled that Conant should be in the same pay category as her colleagues, finally allowing her to truly say, 13 years after joining the orchestra, that she was its solo trombone.
With her reputation affirmed, she then left the orchestra and accepted a prestigious position at the State Conservatory of Music in Trossingen (Germany). The Münich Philharmonic hired a seventeen-year-old man who had no prior orchestral experience as her replacement.
Conant’s story is not unique, either. In the Pittsburgh Symphony, trombonist Rebecca Bower was similarly relegated to playing second after winning a principal position by a male conductor. In 1941, French horn player Helen Kotas was the first woman appointed to a principal position on any instrument except harp in the US, but she left the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1948 after being demoted to third horn, and the orchestra currently has no women in principal positions. Tina Ward, a clarinet player, was complimented in her audition for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1970 precisely because she didn’t “sound like a woman.” In the Boston Symphony, principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe settled an equal pay lawsuit against the orchestra in February 2019 because the principal oboist (a man) made more money than her.
In the top orchestras in the US today, women make up 50% of the players on average, a huge increase from around 5% in the 1970s. The shift isn’t due to affirmative action but rather a switch to blind auditions. Screens don’t hide the sounds of shoes or musicians’ breaths, so there is still opportunity for gender bias in the process, but the implication is that when gender is largely taken off the table, well-trained women are as competent as their male counterparts.
However, there is still a huge disparity in terms of who gets to hold prestigious positions within orchestras and the classical music world. Most conductors and most principal or solo positions in orchestras in the US, Europe, and Asia are held by men (except for harp, a position which is almost always held by women). Tenured professorships at prestigious universities and conservatories are more often held by men while women are more commonly found at smaller, less well-known schools or in adjunct positions.
Gender and musical meaning
Gender shapes how people perceive and talk about all music, and classical music is no exception. Sex is more often used to sell albums for female classical music performers and reviews of female performers — and reviewers are mostly male — often discuss what clothes they wore (which is almost never the case for male performers). Women are also more often and more harshly judged for their appearance:
Overweight men in opera, who sang lead roles, could pretty much expect to be judged on their voice and their acting, with no mention of their size. But a large woman would always be criticized for her size, often before any comment was made about her voice or acting. — Deborah Voigt, soprano
Gender perceptions also affect the way classical music sounds are described. Composer Missy Mazzoli (b. 1980) notes that the same piece is often described using very different vocabulary choices, whether the audience thinks it was written by a man or woman:
“I have a friend, a composer, who told me, ‘When a man writes something lyrical it’s seen as brave and courageous, but when a woman does it it’s seen as sentimental and indulgent.’ This was in the late ’90s and she was commenting on how sexist the new music community was. I’d like to say that times have changed, but I think this is still totally true.” — Missy Mazzoli
There also exists gender bias in terms of what music is performed on classical music concerts. In the 2016-17 season, 14 of the top 21 US orchestras didn’t program a single work by a female composer; in 2014-15 of all the works played by the top orchestras, only 14.8% were composed by women. The 2017-18 season overall wasn’t much better.
And neither is the 2018-19 season. Or the 2019-20 season, in which 2,039 works will be performed, and 151 of them were written by women and 93 were composed by people from underrepresented racial, ethnic, or cultural minorities. In contrast, Beethoven alone will have 215 works performed by US orchestras next season. No US orchestra is programming more than 32% of its works by women composers, and no US orchestra is programming more than 25% of its works by composers of other underrepresented racial, ethnic, or cultural minorities.
It’s worse in the movie industry: from 1999-2004, only 2.4% of the 500 top-grossing films had scores written by female composers; women are commonly only asked to write scores that can appeal to other women.
All of this means that young women and girls who attend orchestra concerts won’t see role models that they can follow, and the same is true for all minority groups: the message classical music is sending is that white men are the ones who are successful, a lesson that can be extrapolated to the world beyond music. And other non-women in the audience? They’re being fed the same message that classical music is a (dead) white man’s world.
Notable women in Western music history
Despite all of this, there are some notable women who have been excellent composers, performers, teachers, and conductors, and here’s a list of women that you might be interested in learning more about:
- Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) — An abbess who, in addition to composing liturgical music, was also an expert on science and medicine and received prophetic visions
- The Ladies of Ferrara — An ensemble of highly-talented noblewomen who sang in the courts of the Medici family (Italy)during the Renaissance
- Francesca Caccini (1547-c.1645) — An Italian noblewoman who played lute and was also a singer, poet, and the first female opera composer
- Barbara Strozzi (1619-77) — A singer and composer from Venice, Italy
- Anna Magdalena Bach (1701-60) — Johann Sebastian Bach’s second wife and a composer in her own right who wrote the manuscript copies of many of Bach’s works
- Louise Farrenc (1804-75) — One of the best French 19th composers, Farrenc was the second-ever female professor at the Paris Conservatory, but she was only allowed to teach piano and not composition
- Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-47) — An admired pianist and composer; Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in a letter to her younger brother, the composer Felix Mendelssohn, wrote “give my regards to your equally talented sister.” Although people admired her compositions, the family persuaded her not to publish them so that she could continue to fulfill her role of being a “dutiful daughter and sister.”
- Clara Schumann (1819-96) — A remarkable pianist and composer whose married life was wholeheartedly devoted to her husband, the composer Robert Schumann, and his professional needs, rather than her own career. In their house, he had dibs on the piano for his composition, and he could practice only when it wouldn’t bother him. Nevertheless, she premiered every one of his works that included piano and programmed his music on all her international tours, and when he was committed to a mental institution, she supported the entire family (8 children!) by touring across Europe well into her 70s and publishing critical editions of Robert’s works.
- Jenny Lind (1820-87) — a Swedish soprano referred to affectionately by the press and her fans as “The Swedish Nightingale” and who helped popularize opera in the US by being one of the first famous European musicians to tour in America
- Amy Beach (1867-1944) — One of the first American symphonic composers
- Florence Price (1887-1953) — The first Black American woman to have a symphony played by a US orchestra. Her manuscripts were recently re-discovered in a house being renovated in Ohio, and her works are being programmed more widely now than ever before.
- Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) — A French composer, conductor, organ player, and one of the most influential teachers of the 20th century. Nearly every major American composer of the early 20th century went to her studio in Paris to finish their training, among others: Martin Amlin, Burt Bacharach, Daniel Barenboim, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Ingolf Dahl, David Diamond, Irving Fine, John Eliot Gardiner, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Leo Kraft, Per Nørgård, Astor Piazzolla, Walter Piston, Virgil Thomson
- Gwynne Kimpton (1873-1930) — One of the first female orchestra conductors. When she conducted the British Women’s Symphony Orchestra in 1924, the performance was not taken seriously and given harsh reviews. A clipping of one such review is available here.
- Marian Anderson (1897-1993) — A Black American singer who was barred from performing in the US due to racism and instead made her career in Europe. When a concert promoter arranged a performance for her in 1939 at the Daughters of the American Revolution hall, and Anderson was banned from singing because of a whites-only clause in the organization’s contract; the performance was moved to the steps of the Washington Monument where she sang for 75,000 people.
- Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-53) — An edgy and unapologetically experimental American composer
- Jane Little (1929-2016) — A double bass player who, at the time of her death in 2016, was the longest-serving musician in any American orchestra, having held her position in the Atlanta Symphony for 71 years. She died onstage during a performance in May.
- Jessye Norman (b. 1945) — An American opera singer
- Marin Alsop (b. 1956) — The first female conductor of a major American orchestra (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, 2007) and the first female conductor at the BBC’s annual Proms (2003)
- Claire Chase (b. 1978) — A flutist who began the successful new-music collective International Contemporary Ensemble, also known as ICE. She won a MacArthur Genius Grant for her entrepreneurial skills in 2012.
- Some additional living, working female composers: Chen Yi, Unsuk Chin, Valerie Coleman, Gabriela Lena Frank, Jennifer Higdon, Bun-Ching Lam, Tania León, Missy Mazzoli, Meredith Monk, Shulamit Ran, Belinda Reynolds, Kaija Saariaho, Hilary Tann, Joan Tower, Ellen Taafe Zwilich
Also, here’s a free 78-hour playlist of music by female composers over the last 1,200 years, featuring the women in this list and others.
There have been some steps towards gender equity in the classical music world, including awareness, activism, and systematic change.
- Composer Diversity Database — A new online research tool launched in 2018 that allows users to find works by composers of marginalized groups, including women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, and individuals with disabilities.
- Women in Music — A New York City-based organization that advocates for women in the music industry, from composers to performers, songwriters, managers, administrators, engineers, attorneys, and agents.
- Women’s Composers Festival of Hartford — Established in 2001, this three-day festival presents concerts, awards, and commissioning of women composers
- Project 19 — The New York Philharmonic is commissioning 19 women composers to premiere new works by as part of the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote in the US in 1920. The picture at the top of this discussion is from this project’s marketing materials.
Sexism hurts classical music — it creates barriers that prevent certain musicians from participating, from making music, or from becoming widely known. It also contributes to the sense that classical music is irrelevant in today’s society. Part of what makes classical music seem irrelevant is its sense of stodgy tradition, and one of the ways that this sense of tradition is expressed is in the ways women (and others) have been unwelcome in its world. It’s difficult — but certainly not impossible — to appeal to audiences if they can’t see a bit of themselves in the music, and classical music has been behind the times in terms of acknowledging, supporting, and celebrating the range of musicians in its midst.
P.S. The first piece in the discussion was by a man: Frédéric François Chopin (1810-1849), Nocturne Op. posth. 72 No. 1 in E minor (1827). The second piece was by a woman: Clara Schumann (1819-96), Scherzo No. 1 in D minor, Op. 10 (1838). Were you surprised to learn the composers’ genders?
76 thoughts on “Music and gender (Online discussion Mar 11-17)”
I think that women are great at music because they are able to reach that certain pitch that guys cannot do. They are able to sing an entire song and follow through on the texture in monophonic or polyphonic if there is a group of woman like Fifth Harmony. The woman that is very inspirational is Clara Schumann speaking from a different opinion here sparked things for women in other things involving music like playing instruments such as the piano, flute, clarinet, oboe, violin, trumpet, trombone, and other instruments. It shows that it does not matter what gender you are, you are capable of making a spark in the music industry. Women made a definite change because in music throughout it’s time the pitch is what gets the audience in applauding you because the pitch is something that girls can do perfectly rather than how we learned back in the 1500’s or 1600’s using people that were not.
It’s really interesting to see how off my guesses were concerning the two pieces above. However I believe that gender or sexual orientations have nothing to see with a particular piece of music. Music is an art that was created purposely to enhance some types of feelings (happiness, Sadness, love…) or to make a parallel with a story or the world we are currently living in. I was not surprised by those hurtful stories about the tremendous efforts by those women fighting to be equally judged and compensated in the music industry. I believe that it’s a cultural issue and also because of how the were classified. It’s a beautiful thing to see women doing things that other women ever done in the past and it gives hope to any other minority with a dream to break the barriers of sexism, racism and prejudice.
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Exactly you have brought up a lot of great points in what you are trying to say. It is great to see women do things with music that other woman have done in the past. Its a good sign of equal fairness for both genders in the music industry. I agree that it is a cultural issue of them fighting to be equally judged and compensated in the music world. It shows that they are gonna do whatever it takes to be equal with men playing and performing music. I feel that music cannot only be allowed for men since it should be for women as well it is unfair that it is only for one gender it should be for both in my opinion.
Women are a huge part of music and they deserve more respect.
GREAT THOUGHT!! ok so come up with an idea that we can use to do that in real world I am with You😊😊😊
Totally agree with u talent never born in you according to ur gender, and yes its true that women can sing in some pitch’s that we are not able too. There are always few good female singers and artist in every culture in the world.
I totally agree with you women and men offer different things, its way ore likely to find a female soprano than a male. I find it interesting however how certain people can exceed expectations like the lead singer of Alabama Shakes who has a really deep and fantastic voice. You should listen to ‘gimmie all your love’ if you wanna know what i mean. Do you believe certain genres are gender dominated ?
First time hearing Alabama Shakes and I honestly did not know what to expect but was equally captivated and surprised. Thanks for putting me on. It’s true about us being different, generally. But I do have to second the thought that we shouldn’t always generalize because more than likely, you’d be surprised by what one person can bring to the table.
Sexism is, was and always will be the problem. Whether we like it or not, we are biased. It’s clear that women have been oppressed in many ways. There is nothing that will justify any oppression of any kind. It should be everybody’s will and purpose to accept the work of women in any field, so we explore more talented people by giving them equal opportunities. People are biased and it’s caused by the awful culture we all live in. Almost every favorite music of mine has a woman singer in it. The problem always leads to one solution, throw away the authority, the governing power. It is ridiculous that ONE GUY decided that Abbie Conant is not good enough. Nobody should be in charge of such a powerful decision alone.
I hope one day we will realize that there are no enemies anywhere, that we are all fighting for the same thing, for love, peace, and equality. People who promote inequality, violence or oppression should be educated. Usually, ones who do such things, tend to get away with it, because we always think that someone else will handle it. Only after we are in their shoes we realize that no one comes for help. I hope soon, we will have the least amount of bias in society. People need to realize that defying yourself simply by your religion/gender/sex/background/zodiac is just a silly way of justifying your next silly, stupid, unjustifiable move you are about to take.
In my humble opinion, nobody should be given such an authority to take rights from literally ANYONE ON THE PLANET. And to this day, we are brainwashed, still let politicians and media who are owned by rich white men dictate our perceptions of others, such as women, or nationality or religion.
I AM TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU! I think the parents are responsible for that sexist that we have, because if you teach to your kids that girls have to play with barbies and guys with cars they are brainwashing their own kids and that’s how all starts. I think that we live in a society that love to put us in categories like if we care about it and i don’t because we are humans and we cam from from the the same creator. I hope one day our society changes and stop to put in us etiquette.
What I am thinking? Even tho ur saying right thing but u some how ur repeating same mistake. Human are considered most smart creatures on this planet because they have – BRAIN AND TALENT. With which any one can play or even can wash it in just few words. Every person like you, me, or any other person reading this comment has a new physiological disorder. They tell people that they(people) are doing wrong or something happening wrong in this world instead of showing them or make them experience same thing. The fact is all these issues are already discussed countless time. Reality is It we who don’t want it to be solved. You know why if these issues get solved we will have nothing to discuss on this discussion board. HERE I WANT TO CLEAR THIS I AM NOT SAY that there is no need to solve this issue. If u guys are still reading I am pretty sure that u have notice I capitalized that few word- just an another example to tell u how to show people this will drag there attention. I have notice that u mentioned word ” white Men” in your comment I a don’t want to tell my opinion about this just introducing counter claim to this WHAT ABOUT OTHER COLORS? Believe me brother they are free too they have rights too its just they do not want to believe it. They want to live in like that . They want to give more attention to this that what happened to their ancestors years ago and who they are? what is their skin color? NO I AM NOT WHITE MAN!!! I have sympathy for Clara that she have to give up on here own personal carrier after marriage but more I appreciate that she did an excellent job to present and promote her husband work. Believe me not every person or an artist want to be famous. some just do art for themselves and their love once like Clara. A HUMBLE REQUEST DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONAL PLASE!! and don’t forget to tell me what u think about this ?
Your opinions are very interesting. I think this was a great article by our professor. It provides anecdotes, a background in sexism, and takes on a perspective that is supported fully with evidence; therefore, I believe the article is not a product of ignorance or any kind of “disorder”. The professor’s choice of words, “white men”, is not intended to cold-shoulder other ethnicities. Context is an important thing, and if you look closely at this one, it specifies the European population, not the general. Europe has always had a dominant white population, especially during the time periods we studied in class. I digress- after all, this discussion is about sexism in the music industry. A very real problem that has been affecting female musicians’ lives for literally centuries because of tradition; not because we are afraid we might not have a topic to discuss on our weekly dialogues, God forbid.
The thing I have about music and gender is that the things that men musicians do with music should be the same thing for women. I feel that sexism is a very huge problem for women in music. It prevents them of rising to fame in the classical music field in which I find very unfair to woman. I feel that by sexism in music they are unable to make a name for themselves. Fairness and equality is very important I believe that this has become a major issue. Music is meant for everyone not just one gender.
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I agree completely some female artist I really love are forcefully over shadowed by men. Unless they have a sexual appeal most of the time they won’t be as big as the man.
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here are few example.
NOTE: I do not listen to English music except public places.
Exactly it shouldn’t be that way at all.
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I agree with you its totally unfair and women in music today have to work 10 times harder than a male artist to make a name for themselves and 90% of the time they are being sexualized
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@mrrugby123 – I understand mostly what message you are trying to show about womens’ role in classical music. However, there is one sentence that threw me off and that is “I feel that by sexism in music they are unable to make a name for themselves.” What do you mean by that and what does sexism in music remind you of?
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From what I read about music and gender for intense that men are able to make a name for themselves in which it makes it harder for women and the thing that it reminds me of is that it gives men an advantage but women a disadvantage thats how I look at it. In what I find very unfair in my opinion because I believe that there should be equality for both genders instead of one. Only because that we all should be equal and do the same things like music , life and mostly everything.
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@mrrugby123- Now I know what you mean. Thanks for interpreting it.
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I agree with your analogy, it’s extremely difficult for women within the music industry I was too indignitied when I read revolving the injustices done to women trying to succeed. How do you think we can reach this equality? From a males perspective.
I feel that women have come a long way in terms of the struggle they had to go through fighting for equality. Women shouldn’t be seen as any less capable than men because each individual has their own strengths and weaknesses. Women in the music industry deserve credit because they worked just as hard as anyone else to reach the point that they’ve come to today. Without women, it would be really different because their unique talents have made such an impact on music today. Also, I’m glad that women are now able to inspire and mentor other women through music.
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110% true !! Totally agree
I completely agree, women work harder everyday and still are limited. Your right about their unique talents having an impact on music today. In many works of musical artist, there is girl empowerment and such movements that it’s great we are helping each other up and moving past obstacles in the way.
I think many women who made it in the industry must had worked harder to prove that they were as good as or even better than men. I am also happy that right now women are getting more chances to prove themselves and show their talents in music.
I also think that everybody both men or women should get credit for their production and not just because of their gender, because they are men, women or belong to any particular group. It should be strictly because of talent. For example if someone can sing, without being judged one should get credit for their singing abilities, not their gender,race, social status etc.
Gender can hinder someone’s greatness I agree with your strong sentence. However can gender also be a factor in which can facilitate someone’s greatness? What do you think?
I agree with you how you said that without women in the music industry it would be completely different because they provide a different kind of feeling to a piece a music. although when it comes to amount of work I think women who are successful have had to work 2x harder just so they can make it to that platform or even get some recognition from others.
Yeah it’s really unfair. And I think what drives successful women to work harder is all the negativity they receive which ends up working out for them because it gives them more recognition.
I totally agree with you, most woman also play/sing about totally different situations than men do. I do hope that one day women won’t have to work harder than men.
Hmmm sexism is terrible idea that hinders people’s potential for greatness. But like all ideas good or bad can’t be destroyed but weaken. Where it isn’t as affective as it use to be. And that goes the same for sexism. Where it’s influence is dwindling like a flame. There used to be a time around the 11th and 19th century it be nothing but white men’s music being took by the populace and being praised for its genius. But over time during the 20th and 21st century there’s more aceeptence of musical works done by women and other races. Where things are progressing for the better for all.
I know that it is getting better in parts of the United States but what about worldwide. There are still countries that are not very progressive in this area.
True but there are some parts in the world it’s getting better as well. Things are slowly overturning getting better in this new century. Where equality is rising and the only thing we can do it is keep fighting for it.
Sexism is and still is a big problem in music even to this day. Although it’s not as bad as when women where not even allowed to partake in musical concerts such as thee opera. Women have the most beautiful range in singing rather than men in my opinion and a lot are famous and successful artist. But they still till this day don’t get the same treatment as male artist receive in the music industry. Sexism blocks the actual potential of how a artist can progress in the future and all though it seems it has gotten better, it shouldn’t be a thing at all. Does anyone else think some female artist are treated differently than males?
Women artists are always treated differently than male artists. Society doesn’t seem to like successful women. Look at the headlines, there is always some negative thing about a female artist when it comes to what they wearing or what they did that day. It’s ridiculous. Do you see this? Besides sexism, what else makes you think women might get treated differently then men?
True !! but its because we want to read it.
i feel like in politics women aren’t taken seriously like men are but today women are breaking records and glass ceilings in politics
I agree that in politics, women aren’t taken serious. It’s almost as if people see it as a joke.
Of course women are treated differently. Especially in genres such as rap. There are women rappers today but they will never get the recognition for their work the way men will.
I can agree with you some of these women deserve more with the work they put out. But can’t receive it because they are a women. I also can agree that it blocks the potential of how a artist can progress in the future, because if there were no female musically artsiest today we would only be hearing music from one perspective.
I’m really annoyed that I was able to guess which gender made which song. I guessed right away that the first one was made by a man because it was so dark yet intricate. I was able to guess that the second one was made by a woman because it was higher in key. The fact that they were so contrasting in sound made me associate deeper sound with a man and higher more happier sound with a woman. This is a topic I feel really strongly of because, being a woman and having dealt with sexism first hand, it is something I want to push against and help make a change. No matter what we all have bias and it something that us as individuals have to learn to acknowledge and be able to check ourselves. I also want to say that the difference between “sex” and “gender” is so important for people to understand. Since it is so common for the two to be used interchangeably I think it is a big reason that sexism and ignorance on the topic. It’s something I feel should be taught to everyone in school because it could possibly help make society a little less sexist. Being taught and exposed to these topics at a young age could really make a difference.
That’s weird!! I would’ve expected the first audio to be masculine. It’s noted that we all hear things differently but why do you think we assumed differently when associating these sounds to the concept of gender?
I meant to say that I expected the first audio to be feminine, sorry!
Why does our society need to put us in categories or criticize us because of our gender? Sexist is an etiquette that misvalues women and makes them inferior to man. In the case of Abbie Conant, she has to demonstrate her ability to play the trombone, even when she won that position because the orchestra thought she (women) cannot manage the solo trombone. She has to fight in court for her position and for equal pay. I identify with her because since I was a kid, my classmate, professors, and my parents told me that I cannot play some sports, be good in science or dress differently because I was I girl. I never heard them, I showed them that I can do the same things as a boy and that we have the same opportunities and rights. This is one of the motives I am feminist, this means that I fight for equality! not superiority. However, why do women have to show that they are good at something and men do not have to do it? Why Do we have to do extra work than men and receive less pay?
When I listened to the two pieces, none of these sound more “feminine” or “masculine”. This is just tags that the music world is putting to the composers.
In my Anthropology class, I learn that our ancestors started sexist without knowing because women were very important that they didn’t allow them to go hunt with them because without women they cannot reproduce and the population will extinct, so they thought that women had to stay at home and since that moment they created that women cannot do the same things as man.
I hope one day our society changes and make women totally free, without any prejudice.
Sexism has always been a huge problem in our society. Though to be honest I never associated it to music. Reading this had really helped me to realize how we often don’t think of how sexism affected the women on the past in music. Clara Schumann knew that she possessed great talent but simply because a woman was never a composer she doubted whether or not she could be one. This is the case for many professions, and even know society is evolving this same mindset is enstilled in the minds of many girls around the world. They are told that they can’t simply because they are female and they believe it. Conant’s story is so absurd, she had already won her position, And proved that she was amazing, but because a man decided that a woman couldn’t be the best, that woman was forced to take matters into her own hands and fight for what was right. She was a strong woman and her fight being recognized is important because women need to fight, it might now be fair but in order to bring change we must fight. In my opinion for a man to view a woman as less than in whatever position, means that he himself is insecure of his talents. This idea of a patriarchy is what has made all of this ignorance continue. Men believing that they are superior over women was installed in society from the beginning, and this is something that needs to be changed.
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I agree that sexism is a major problem and I completely agree with you that I never truly associated sexism with music. I love your ending sentence because it gives a stance on where you stand in the topic and I stand the same side as you.
It’s disappointing that most women that read this article, including myself, were most likely unperturbed by most of the facts presented here. It’s almost common knowledge that women are treated as the inferior gender in most situations. The musical industry is no exception. Abbey Conant’s case was the highlight of this read, in my opinion. She did not sit back and allow others to compromise her career opportunity that she knew she deserved. Thirteen years is more than half the time I’ve lived on this earth, and to think she never gave up inspires me. It also sickens me. Why should any woman have to work harder, be judged harder and be discriminated harder than men, only to be rewarded with less pay, less recognition and less honor? This has been the controversy for years. It’s inexcusable, but I can’t deny we are making progress. It’s only a matter of time before women are considered equal. It only took hundreds of years…
I believe talent is talent, it does not matter by who. People tend to be egocentric and because the ones who are in charge have always been white men, they believe that they were the best in everything even having the best talent. Therefore they created a world to suite themselves in music and every other aspect of life. That does not mean that talent does not exist in other group or classes. At the time and up to present everything that we do is being ruled or controlled by the same group of people. Do you think women would have given preference to other women if they were given the leading or ruling roles at the top of the hierarchy?
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I agree with you Sashox. Talent is born in the mind and not in a certain sexual organ and although certain musical feats such as being able to hit higher or lower notes in singing does depend on gender because of the anatomy of the vocal chords, other aspects of music such as playing instruments, conducting or composing are gender neutral but because of discrimination we see them dominated by white men.
It makes you think just how many endless works of beautiful music humanity has lost out on because sexism and discrimination has suppressed talent based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity. I mean just think about how many more Mozarts and Beethovens there could have been in female versions or chinese, black, latino or indian versions in history if sexism and racism didn’t exist. How many great works of arts we could be appreciating right now if discrimination did not exist. The thought of it is just so frustrating and sad.
Sexism is a major problem in the world, and as we continue to have gender-roles, it will always exist. Likewise with @breana07, I never associated sexism to music until reading this discussion. The story about the trombone soloist, Abbie Conant, is what really let me see this. Even with a blind audition competing against males, and achieving a part that she most definitely deserved, she was still denied just because the conductor thought a male would do it better. The sad part is, that it took her 13 years to truly get the position (she already was given) and the pay that came with it. This is outrageous. Whether someone gets a position or not should be about skill, not about looks or gender. with 50% of the music industry being woman, it is time for them to get equal pay and opportunity. As said in this discussion, sexism is based on standing gender roles. I feel that everyday in society we are becoming more and more progressive which slowly but surely lead to less sexism to occur, but it is up to us and previous generations to facilitate that change.
I believe that both men and women have the same capability to make good music and impact their audience. The problem is that for a long period of time the music industry has tried to suppress women’s music. When you look at the music industry there a lot of women singers out there but for some reason men get most of the attention. The music industry is male dominant but over the years I believe women have made some progress so that they could be equal to men. Yet sexism is still a major problem and it doesn’t only happen in the music industry but also in our regular world.
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I feel like women have to work harder than men to make it in the music industry. It should not be that way, but sadly sexism exists. women have to work harder to prove that they are also capable of doing the same things as men.
sexism is still a major problem in society with many things such as in the workforce , double standards , and of course in the music industry.In the hip-hop industry woman and men are treated differently. For example female artists are constantly put against each other and mostly marketed as sexual objects, which they then get criticized for. Men however are celebrated when rapping about the amount of sexual partners they have had and are not put up against each other as much as women
As a man we don’t have to deal with most of these social obstacles that females are forced to put up with just because of their gender. That part about women being sexualized in music is something i highly agree with and is found heavily is music today. For example, just take a look at Cardi B or Nicki Minaj’s lyrics in most of their songs and what they wear during performances and music videos.
Ive seen this a lot lately, women being put against each other as if they had to compete for the “better spot” and women being talked down at because of their decisions.
Sexism is present in everything that we do. gender roles are deeply embodied in our society and we are programmed to act a certain way from childhood. It is clearly present in the music industry from album covers where women are advised to play at sex appeal all the way to guys that stunt how many girls they got. In rap two artists can talk about the same topic and audiences will be very quick to critique them. There are many male rappers however when a new female rapper emerges they are quickly pinned againt classics like lil kim or niki minaj it seems like society thinks there can only be one.
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I totally agree which is clearly relevant in today’s music. the one that you tag as an example is what I am thinking about right now, just like you’ve read my mind. A lot of critics embraced by many female rappers are much more of a heartbreak just to convince a lot of audience when it comes music. The society needs to wake up and be sensitive enough for our female artists.
The essence of this lesson contributes to the significance of gender roles within music. Sexist ideologies and inherited biased stereotypes created by males within male ran societies, was a continuous chain within various eras and times as shown in history. The ramifications excluded women from embracing music and creating music as much as men had contributed. We saw examples on how skills and years of experience and hard work can be ignored due to sex. As a women its clear to see that we are always being viewed as the inferior gender within all aspects. The music industry, another example on how with no exception. I believe that its essential to still speak up regarding this major topic and try to address it to the public. Overall I enjoyed this lesson its a refreshing reminder that women’s history is still relevant.
Music and sexism are closely intertwined , from the objectification of women in lyrics to the exploitation of female artists . Sexism is woven into the music industry and women have always been at a disadvantage. Nowadays in the hip-hop music and videos there are lots of explicit words that degrades women , and some of the videos women have no individuality and are promoted as sexual playthings. Also Diversity does not only lack in performers , its even worse behind the scenes from the lack of producers and songwriters. Out of 2,800 songwriters credited on popular songs there’s only 12% were women , and even rarer producers. I think its really unfair that women have to go through obstacles to show their talents in the industry , while it takes a man fewer qualifications. What do you think needs to happen to end sexism in the music industry?
There are different stands about sexism in the world of classical music. Women in domination of the world of music, had inherited multiple of inferiority against males. Which I believe is not appropriate and a falsely fact. Gender justification must prevail and let equality kick in. This lesson is so interesting that made me realize a lot of things regarding sexists in the classical world of music. As a man, it’s so important to look into this issue and make a review and an opinion that can be an eyeopener to any person.
Its really nice what you said, what kind of things could society do to help women in the music industry?
I had the same mentality as Clara Schumann believe it or not. I always felt that I was not good enough compared to a male when it would come to sports, or a job. Then I quickly realized that females are just as good as males. However, a lot of males make women seem unworthy and degraded by a lot of their music. The lyrics that they sing about women aren’t embracing women. A lot of great women have created beautiful music throughout the years but it seems that men get more recognition then women due to their appearance, lyrics, music videos, personal records, etc. That shouldn’t be weighted upon. Good music is good music regardless of who created it.
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Maybe you thought you were not good enough because this is a stereotype that has existed and have heard before. I completely agree with you that good music can be created by anyone.
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I partly agree and disagree with you. In one way, I agree that I have felt in the past that men are better than us at sports because I felt that they are physically superior to us or that they make better political leaders because they are less emotional. In another way, I have always felt that when it comes to singing we women make better singers because we can hit higher notes and because we are better at expressing and articulating our feelings and emotions. So I guess in one way I have been sexist in one direction thinking that men are better at sports and politics and then sexist in the other direction by believing that we make better singers and lyric composers.
We label and define everything that we come across. It’s inevitable to categorize people. I actually thought the first audio was Chopin because it reminded me of another piece that was shown in class by him. But then I heard the second audio and thought to myself well this is probably what you would expect something “masculine” to sound like. The fact that the first audio was a male and the second was female just goes to show how limiting stereotypes are on our own perceptions.
This reading was such an eye-opener for me and an inspirational one as well. Even though I know that since the beginning of time women have been made to seem inferior to men, I didn’t realize to what extent men went to, to suppress women from being their equals in almost all facets of life. It really made me angry and have great empathy for all of those women who were suppressed and made to feel that they are not good enough and that what they were pursuing was only deserved by men. From what Clara Schumann went through in life so that by 1839 she would be heard saying, “I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose—there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one? “ all the way to what happened in more recent times to the trombone player Abbie Conant who had to pursue a legal battle lasting 13 years in order to receive equal pay and be granted the solo trombone role in the Munich Philharmonic, it really astonished me how much men (especially white men) want to maintain control and dominance in all aspects of life.
The story of Abbie Conant hit home to me more because it took place more recently and I really did not expect to read about such a story taking place in recent times in a developed country such as Germany. She auditioned and fairly won the role of sole trombone player in 1980. The fact that the auditions took place behind a screen and the committee members could not see her, shielded her from being discriminated against and be granted the role solely on merit. It infuriates me to learn to what extent her orchestra’s conductor went to and how sexist and stubborn he was to deny her the role of sole trombone player and then, after much legal pressure and all of the loops he made her go through to try and make her fail that she in fact passed again, to finally let her have the leading role, only to then lower the pay of that category.
She finally got justice and was paid the same as the other leads and was appointed the sole trombone in the orchestra in 1993 (the year that I was born). She should’ve had the role that she won fairly since 1980 but it took a drawn-out legal battle so she could finally get it in 1993. The conductor should have been stripped of his position and be shun from the music industry as punishment but that didn’t happen. I really admire her will and determination to fight for her rights and how she brilliantly left the orchestra right after they were legally forced to give her the role. This sent a message to the orchestra that she was better than them and that she finally got justice and was then able to fire them for being below her.
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@ingridluna65 – I totally 100% comprehend and agree with what you mean. These musical figures Clara Schumann and Abbie Conant are great examples of what you are trying to prove. They both acknowledged that they had a special talent to give towards their audience and judges, but on the other hand, they knew the risk factors they were going to face. Although, the only difference was that Schumann was not determined to compose music because she was frightened to question and challenge mens’ assumptions about her as a female musican. In contrast, Abbie Contant would not allow her music director and conductor to treat her like dirt and fought like hell in courts for what she believed in and ended up earning what she deserved as a solo trombone player.
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During the classical period the males were the famous composers of their time. Sexism has existed and still is present today. Sadly this is an issue we face in society being treated unequal because of our gender. Even though there was a known composer named Clara Schumann was a one female composer that became known. During this time when they drew a frame of a female they had to smile, look pretty, and more sexual since they were women. It was said that women as professors were less intelligent than men. This made it difficult for women to come up during this period. I find this very unfair that they treated women unequally than men. But this is still an issue we still face that based on the gender there is bias.
After listening to the two pieces neither one came off to me as masculine or feminine so the genders of the composers didn’t really surprise me. Throughout history women have been discredited for many of their accomplishments while men have received all of the glory. I had no idea however that this was relevant to music because of the popularity of females in now music (Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, etc). But after seeing the above picture about how less than 15% of women were among the top composers its clear there is a sexual division.
I agree with you, I feel like the two examples shown in the reading weren’t feminine or masculine but instead the two pieces of music shown above could’ve been based on the person’s creativity or mental state.
When it comes to music, sexism plays a controversial role especially towards women. As women become musicians, they are viewed as second class citizens that are incapable of either composing, performing or even conducting pieces of music of their choice. Music critics, including back then in the classical period, believe women do not have the strength and capability to be part of the music profession and they are better off staying home with their children cooking and cleaning while their husbands went out and create music themselves, which women could have done. However, it seems like female musicians in the past and still today felt they had no input in contributing new ideas for pieces of music that can be successful because their husbands were in charge of controlling them and their careers. For example, according to an article similar to this situation but without dealing with music, “Women and the Law in Early 19th Century” provided by Dr. Jones herself, married women were not allowed to make financial decisions and form business transactions without their spouses’ permission because wives were considered property and they possessed no legal rights at all.
This is exactly the same thing, but this time it is with music. Women should not be treated like peasants and serve under men in musical performances like orchestras, string quartets,etc. They should be able to play the same instruments as their fellow male colleagues and should not be judged based on their weaknesses and appearance, but based on their knowledge and skills.
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As I was growing up i never even considered that sexism existed I just assumed that in order to get the job that you want I would have to work hard for it. But sexism effects everything now even music. After seeing the composer gender in concert performances chart, I wondered why I don’t see women conducting or composing classical music. I didn’t know sexism had such devastating effects. Sexism takes away many opportunities for women to compose. I fine that very annoying.
I find it interesting to know that women make up a big portion of music, but aren’t acknowledged as much as men are for their accomplishments. In the past women were viewed a certain way when it came to music, while training for music was perceived as attractive , to actually have a career in music wasn’t… which makes me glad that today it’s the opposite and some of the top artists are women. I was also surprised to learn that women are judged for their talent and in addition as well as their appearance. (Ex. woman’s body shape in opera) However men will mostly be criticized on their acting and talent. This is something that I’ve noticed a little and still happens in society today.
Women have been treated unfairly! Even now sexism is such a big deal and women are limited to what they can do. Women have to work harder to achieve the same position as a man just like Abbie Conant. and it’s not right at all. She did not deserve to be treated like that just because she didn’t fit the male role. She is a true hero for holding up a stand and fighting back. I believe Women shouldn’t be working twice as hard just to make it but with the industry women have come a long way. Now, there is a huge percentage in women on field of music especially amazing ones.
I thought that the way she fought for the position she deserved was amazing and inspiring myself. I would love to watch a movie or a documentary about Abbie Conant. The way they kept trying to obstruct her from what she earned shocked and disgusted me. Especially when they created a whole new category for her just to obstruct her pay so she wouldn’t make as much money as her male colleagues. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one touched by that story.
I honestly find it sad that some people can’t simply accept talent without knowing if the person is male or female, whether it’s music or a sport. I personally never thought I wasn’t good enough to do something as I grew up doing martial arts and hearing instructors telling the boys “don’t be scared to kick her, she’s a black belt” because we were all treated equally. It’s as if woman in the music industry have to work twice as hard just to be successful and its unfair. I found it ridiculous that a conductor refused to let Abbie play a role that she deserved, simply because a man was needed for the solo trombone. I believe that sexism will continue to be a problem, not only in the music industry but in everyday activities.
This was a really interesting read. I constantly hear about how minorities have a harder time getting into certain careers. For example my mother recently sent me an article telling me that about 1% of video game developers are black men. And its interesting to think about that because just like music, so many minorities love video games. So why don’t we have more minorities contributing to these communities? Since clearly women love music, how would it be moral in any way to obstruct them from to contributing to music, or limit the ways they can contribute to music? Its a sad thought, and its even sadder to read the statistics on this, but I think at the very least, even though it may be slow, the issue is improving overtime, and the more we converse about it and bring attention to this issue, the more it will be remedied.
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