This is the fifth of our instructor-led online discussions for Mu 101 (Fall 2019). Refer to the handout you received the first day of class (click on this highlighted text to go to that page our class website) which describes the amount and kinds of contributions you’re expected to make to these online discussions — they’re all the same parameters of good conversation that happens offline, too!

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.

BEFORE WE BEGIN: A REMINDER ABOUT EFFECTIVE DISCUSSION FORUM PARTICIPATION

Most importantly for blog-style discussions, do not try to respond to every idea in this post. Focus on the ones that you have a strong reaction to, and learn from other people’s comments that address the other questions. Leave space for others to move the conversation along. There is no prize for trying to do it all yourself.

Limit each of your comments to addressing a single question or topic. By doing so, you make it easier for others to see your point quickly and easily, rather than letting your good idea get lost in the middle of a long, multi-topic post. If you have several different ideas you want to share, make several different comments. Let each idea speak for itself.


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. What do they sound like? 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)?

Piece #1:

Piece #2:

What is sexism?

sexism-rosie

Sexism refers to using a person’s sex as a basis for prejudice, discrimination, or stereotyping. It includes stereotypes that might even seem “positive,” 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

clara young
Clara Schumann (1819-96)

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 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:

“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

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 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

sexy-classical-music-album

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

composer-gender-orchestra-2014-15

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 was the 2018-19 season.

Surely this year is better? Not really. During the 2019-20 season, in which 2,039 works will be performed, only 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 this 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 unapologetic experimental American composer
  • Jane Little (1929-2016) — A double bass player who, at the time of her death, 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 2016.
  • Jessye Norman (1945-2019) — 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 ColemanGabriela Lena FrankJennifer Higdon, Bun-Ching Lam, Tania LeónMissy Mazzoli, Meredith Monk, Shulamit RanBelinda ReynoldsKaija Saariaho, Hilary Tann, Joan TowerEllen Taaffe 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.

Looking to the future

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.

Final thoughts

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.

-Dr. J.

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 based on how these works sounded?

79 thoughts on “Music and gender (Online discussion Oct 14-20)

  1. There are not too many women in leadership because women are generally underestimate because of sexism and the stigma associate with gender role. In my opinion this is all ignorance a woman should be able to do whatever men can and be treated equality.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Because historically speaking, the only way a woman’s worth was really proven was through her looks. That applies today as well. Male models make less because society would rather see men in suits running billion dollar corporations. This standard is stupid, but was initially created by men in the first place.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. And those women models endure a lot in the modeling industry compared to men. From starving themselves, immense peer pressure and women of color in the modeling field are subjected to unfairness.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. But we should also know that for women to really Excel in modeling they go through a lot ..and to be honest most men can’t endure what they go through and society does want to see the woman then the men this day but back then it was the men . That says the worlds changing

          Liked by 1 person

      3. Female models make more primarily due to the fact females being the majority of the model field. The top 10 most paid models of 2018 were all females and didn’t have a single male.

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    1. And women are still generally underestimated because a lot of people still hold on to tradition and fail to acknowledge that the world is changing and as much as a man is talented a woman is too sometimes more talented.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I totally agree with you. The men will be ashamed if a women becomes a leader. Because men still today thinks that they are god or something. But I think a women can do better in leadership then a men. But still some places women are doing really good in leader ship.

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  2. Female musicians in the classical era or even nowadays, are not given much appreciations because they were always viewed as inferior to men. Remember Hildegard von bingen 1098-1176 given away to the church as a gift? Not, I think just because she was the tenth child there was not a desire from her family to accept her. Why not give her brother to the church? Remember, during that time period, women were considered to be lesser then men (the weaker sex). She ended up writing many works for the church. She became very famous but not getting much appreciation. From Von Bingen in the middle ages to Amy Beach in the 1900’s now Cardi B to present time. She is still viewed as the stripper who happened to make it in the music industry. female are always under the scrutiny of not being good enough. I don’t think prejudice should matter in music. I feel that the idea of women can’t do what men do is because somewhere along the line women were to be the care giver or the mom not the classical composer. I’m against that idea and think that they should get credit for all the wonderful contributions in music and in other things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t “remember” any of that since I never learned that back in middle school or high school, but it’s still interesting and quite controversial!
      In the past, women were often bought and sold by pirates and slave traders.

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  3. In piece one I think it was made by a man, just because it was more likely to be be men composers. I can picture this song being played in a movies with a woman sipping wine and looking out a window contemplating her marriage tho.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In piece two at 1:37 it seemed to be light and fluttery and cheery. It can relate to a women’s mood. Pice two could be by a woman. Women cam play just as strong and fast note songs as men. Like Alecia Keys.

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  5. The essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.” Wow this is so not true. Women are strong also we carry a life for nine months while men cry from a splinter or the cold. And women have emotional stability to lead husbands through hard times and poverty while men get depressed when they loose their jobs.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. By the way, don’t be surprised if the next building fire happens and we get carried out on the shoulders of a female firefighter. Yes, females are as strong as males. They are truck drivers, construction workers, pilots, mothers but still can’t be president of the United States yet. Why America? Aren’t they good enough to lead?

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      1. Females are strong as men, but the idea that they aren’t equal is primarily due to the fact of our past. Women were looked as housewives only back in the days and people still follow by that idea and believe women don’t deserve the same rights as men. Personally I think it’s ridiculous people still think like this in 2019

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    2. There are articles claiming that women are “superior” because “women generally seem to have higher social and emotional intelligence than men, are less violent and aggressive, are almost never serial killers or sexual sadists, and are far safer drivers”.
      Then there are articles claiming that “Male supremacy is real. Women are docile creatures designed be controlled by men. Powerful women? They’re called dykes, that is, women imitating the male biological/cultural configuration.”
      I guess the people that write these types of articles simply compare the biological advantages and disadvantages of men and women, and then form their conclusion on who is better.

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  6. Our mentality about women’s capabilities and worth has been hunting us since the Bible era. Think about it. why is the mother of Jesus had to be a virgin? Pure of all female drama to be the mother of our savior. Was Joseph a virgin too?

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    1. According to the bible, Mary was a virgin, meaning she never had sex, but still conceived Jesus because of God. We don’t know why anything about the bible “had to be,” which is why people should do their own research about certain things.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But notice the story of Mary is clouded in male supremacy. You just mentioned God and Jesus as attachments to her story. She’s mostly used as a prop who birthed a man.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with Professor Alice Jones’s definition of sexism. A lot of people grow up affected by it, including myself. Not only can it have a negative impact on our confidence and negatively affect our musical careers, but it can also give some people an unfair advantage. There are instances of people doing “experiments” where they pretend to have a man “harass” a woman in public while having the woman “harass” the man in public too, and then more people would defend the woman and shame the man, proving that society is often biased towards different genders.
    Contrary to popular belief, not all people are “created equal” and there isn’t much I or anyone else can do about that, which it why I, and many other men, join what is called the MGTOW movement, meaning Men Going Their Own Way. It’s when they choose not to have a girlfriend, get married, or have kids. We focus on ourselves and try to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, which helps us in the long run, since people can be very stressful.
    The problem today is that feminists are trying to redefine sexism as basically anything that a man does or says that a woman does not like or agree with. Ben Shapiro for instance, request to have a debate with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She referred to the request as “cat calling”. The whole thing was documented on Fox News. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEDLb_TWJSo
    People are also these days trying to redefine things like racism, which used to mean “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race,” but is also now being redefined as whatever someone does not like or agree with.
    Both sexism and racism have kept people from ascending into their careers, including music. The good news is that these things seem to be declining, but they could still be prominent in places that I don’t know about.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I feel like it has a lot to do with culture and tradition, because of these traditions women’s ability to perform these types of activities has always been suppressed. I think that is the main reason why majority of classical musicians were male.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are right. Around the classical era, majority of women understood and accepted the fact that certain things weren’t for them to venture in to.? Composing music was probably one of them. It was a custom and culturally acceptable. That was the reasons why the few who did composed had hard times getting recognitions.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I also think that it has a lot to do with tradition and cultures which can also be somewhat affected on each country’s value. For example, when I was growing up in my country, my grandfather specially always instructed me how to be a “proper lady” such as keeping proper posture, clean all day, and even avoid using pants or any other clothing he deemed as “manly”. However, compared to both my mom and my aunt, he was more lenient with me as I acted more tomboyish and I think that he started to realize that time was changing and now he seems unbothered with me or any of my female relatives using pants or playing sports such as soccer.

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  9. I think system always has been against women’s ability to perform and system don’t want women to grow. I think both men and women should be treated equally, I don’t think there is anything that men can do and women can not, but even these days women are not treated equally for example women gets less pay than men, according to “https://www.aclu.org/issues/womens-rights” women still make just 70 cents for every dollar earned by men. It’s just not fair.

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    1. That is true, but it has to do with hours worked, and job types. There are many outside factors. It has been illegal to pay women differently than their male counterparts since 1963. You can argue that women are pushed out of higher jobs but I don’t know how much concrete evidence there is for that in the general world. I think we can see discrimination in classical music, but not as easily in the rest of the world. I think it is most likely that this is a case of equality of opportunity vs equality of outcome.

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  10. In the beginning era, woman were just looked as a housekeeper. Organize the house, wash clothes, dishes, take care of their. Children. Women were not allow to do whatever they wanted. I believe this was also apply into feminine musicians. Women’s would obey what the man will have to say. Woman where just on the side. Until later I’m the years woman started to go to school and having jobs. This situation is still going on. Some people might even disagree that fact now a days woman get paid the same as a male. Why can’t we all be the same?

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    1. I agree with everything you said but just think about the primitive beings or the uncivilized tribes. They are not exposed to modern world or civilized cultures. But instinctively the male does the hunting and live the women behind. I don’t think they know about sexism. Do you think we as human beings discriminate by instincts?

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      1. That is a very interesting question. I think men hunt because they are physiologically in better shape for it. Is letting the men do hunting while women stay behind with the children inherently sexist? What would happen if a woman did want to hunt?
        I think the reason discrimination is what it is, is because most roles in western society that we think of as male roles are roles that women are just as capable to holding, for example, playing in an orchestra. Perhaps our origins, (men hunting and women staying behind), play a role in discrimination in the current age.

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    1. I believe it to be horrendous to judge such a thing like this as people should be treated as people, not by a skewed set of standards that are just social constructs of classification. But then again, humans are nothing if not judgmental.

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  11. To answer the question” can a sound be feminine?” No disrespect but that kind of stupid. There’s no such things. Music is played by musicians. Unless you know or saw the creator, we can not determine male or female composer just by listening. Musical instruments don’t project genders.

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    1. Couldn’t have said it any better myself. I don’t think of a male or a female composer when it comes to a piece of music. I think of the piece of music as that’s what I’m supposed to be focused on.

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  12. Although it was tragic, I must say we have to credit World War II for opening opportunities for women to work because of the vacancies soldiers left after going to battle.

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    1. Not to forget women working in assembly line. The mass production of planes, tanks and war machines. All because of women.

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  13. This article was powerful and interesting. Women have been looked differently than men for years and in some sense still happens today. On the flip side of the coin so have men. Everyone is going to have a sense of bias towards everything. Unfortunately, it’s the world we live. I was raised in a very female dominated household. So, my value and views on women is completely different than others. Growing up I’v been through the trenches with my mother and seen her do some incredible things and I know just based on that women can do whatever they set their mind too. That does go for anyone as well. Their are professions that are male dominated and female dominated. As, Christen pointed out in a response earlier females dominate that field and to be honest a lot of women are more graceful. There are movements that give certain people and genders and such to give them more of a chance to flourish in certain fields, which is awesome. Anyone should have a chance in any field to take charge and teach/guide. A lot of the times some people lose their way and just remember how hard i is, as a woman or man, to get into that field and to be honest a lot of the times that is where bias opinions occur. I’m not saying that’s right but everyone should have an opportunity to strut their stuff.

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  14. It so true. Jut like nursing was mainly a female dominated field. Now more men is breaking through the career. Likewise for female as firefighters

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    1. Sociologists actually explain that in great detail of why that is. Primary socialization means your environment and who you surround yourself with the most in crucial times of development. From birth, male babies and female babies are already being socialized different. Women typically condition the female children to prioritize nurture and empathy and to take care of others. It lead to a lot of resentment for me personally because there were so many things my male relatives were allowed to express and explore while I was being raised to be a “lady”. I ended up rebelling and it causes a huge rift in female relationships when you refuse to conform to society’s expectations of womanhood. I wasn’t allowed to go out and climb trees with my male classmates (I did anyway) and getting dirty was an absolute no. I conform to certain things expected of a woman now (like makeup, nails, traditional woman’s clothing, etc) but my personality borders on “masculine” and those kinds of things cause a lot of strain and punishes you socially. A lot of women who are nurses say they are taught since they were young to care about things and people. A lot of “rougher” women in male dominated fields say they were also conditioned that way and did everything in their power to go against the norm. It sucks but it’s all a science and attributed to how we decide to treat our children the minute we know what “gender” it is.

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  15. If women, especially women of color, were given the resources and opportunities of men at the same time, and not just now, we would have much more female composers as well as other forms of musicians in the classical music field. Men, especially white men, were given a 300 year head start of everyone so it will be a very long time before we truly reach that equality everyone seems to think we have.

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    1. True. But it wouldn’t take 300+ years if, we, the people, allowed it to be this way. It’s not just white old men fault it’s our fault too.

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      1. we all indirectly still contribute to society’s misogynistic culture, women included. But let’s be honest, contributing is still badly different from creating the disparity in the first place.

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  16. Shara
    I believe that sexism won’t be forgotten anytime soon , we still dress our boys in blue and our girls in pink . Color is color, it shouldn’t matter . And I agree with aljgaze saying that males would be categorized in the aggressive listener category and ladies listen softer songs although now ladies are trying to fit in and listen more aggressive songs .

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  17. Shara
    @mymu101 you have brilliant examples , when I was younger I wanted to become a firefighter and my mom would say no I can’t handle I’m a girl and I would say I want to be able to drive trucks but my mom would change the conversation . Additionally, around 7 years ago my mom was hospitalized and she had a male nurse and I was also judging I wasn’t comfortable with a male helping my mom .
    So great point .

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  18. Who else thinks that music piece number 1 is more calm and sounds more like a female musician , while number 2 is a little more rushy and quick and sound like a male trying to get finished ?

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    1. I believe you are correct because music piece number 1 has more of a soothing sound with the piano and the second one has more of a fast paced rhythm.

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    2. I agree with you piece 1 has a soothing vibe to it while piece 2 does sound a bit rushed, but both pieces could of been made by any gender.

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    3. Honestly it can be a man or woman who wrote either piece , both are capable of creating very different pieces of music. From the structure of music of the first one would automatically think that it was written by a woman because of the soft gentle sound which usually represent women. Meanwhile the second piece was fast, strong and you would expect a man to be the composer of such piece. But that’s what is expected . That’s doesn’t mean that’s how it is . Gender isn’t a barrier when it comes to skills, talent, or creativity.

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    4. I disagree with this, these peices could have created by any gender and thinking that a peice of music was created by a male or female based on whether it sounds female or male is sexist in itself. Why does “light and airy” have to be related to a female, just as how “dark and strong” has to relate to a male. If this is what we assume, then we are a part of the problem.

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  19. I’ve tried to decolonize my brain from using sex as a base to judge someone. I am not surprised to learn the sexes behind both piano pieces. Personally, I’ve always thought women should rule the world as equally as men.

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  20. Women are cable of doing the same type of work as men do if given the same opportunity. The difference between a man and a woman is that a man cannot carry a baby in his stomach until birth and a woman cannot produce sperm.

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  21. I believe that perception is also an influencing factor that leads to such prejudices, such as how we expect a man’s voice to be deep and loud while on the other hand we expect a woman to have a soft and sweet voice. Take the following performance as an example, when the judges turn to see the person singing they all more than likely expected to face a woman and were shocked to see the opposite of their expectations. Even I assumed it was a woman singing when I first heard his song, Huan Cheng Dun, without seeing the singer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYdyBHCYhAQ&t=2s Why or what do you think that makes us generally associate certain voice types with a specific gender?

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  22. For decades society have done women of all age, culture, and race a great dis justice in challenging them in what they can and cannot do, should and should not do because of their sex, and not been given equal opportunity of becoming great musicians, engineers, pilots or astronauts and the list goes on. Society as well as some cultures have promote the idea that women are subordinate to men. As a whole we as individuals need to change the way we think, and as women we all need to come together, as one (Together we stand divided we fall). I was impressed with the story of Abbie Conant who fought for her position as a solo trombone that she rightly earn which took her 13 years,but she never give up. The strength of woman.

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  23. there has always been a barrier between men and women when it comes to who is superior to one another, this ongoing issue has always been a huge set back in society.

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    1. I agree with you that this idea of which gender is more superior to the other is a major setback for us. Instead of coming together as one to progress forward people tend to fight over stuff like this which really doesn’t matter. One thing which people should argue over is women being paid less than men, I think it’s completely unfair and a hourly pay shouldn’t be decided over gender but rather than rankings and experience.

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  24. I believe it is true that women were lead to believe or in fact shown that classical music was a genre they weren’t able to participate in because its a dead white mans game. For so long that was the narrative that was fed to women of skill and talent to establish certain roles in society, women belong in the kitchen and men belong in the factories. But this is beyond untrue, i mean for the better half of the years during WW2 women were allowed work in industrial factories to fill in for the lack of men present. And they did amazing jobs possibly even better than men seeing as how they were steady handed and already filled with discipline. In today’s society i would say that theirs actually more women playing classical music then there are men, roles are reversing, progressing, and changing. Men such as Frank Ocean an openly gay studio artist has mad many wonderful and passionate tracks that aren’t seen as masculine or flamboyant but in fact emotional and personal sort of the sound they would describe coming from a female artist. Rules are meant to be broken and ideas and pieces of works are meant to transcend, it saddens me that Clara Schumann didn’t believe in herself and downplayed her self before she could even try and fail, because failure was already preset in her mind based on her era and surroundings. For all we know had she tried she would’ve been all we learned about in music class today and one of the best classical music composers to date.

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  25. Knowing a composer gender would be a more concern in older eras because of men only being the one in the spotlight.Of course there were women who composed many songs to then men taking create for it but wouldn’t do anything about it because of sexism being a huge issue in those time. Plus would it be that if a women created an master piece in the older era , would her music be brought into spotlight or pushed to the side? But men indeed knew that women could compose music but took credit for it because it may not look right for a lady that needs to look pretty in a dress and laugh at anything a man would say.So yes i believe that knowing an composers gender in the older centuries was important but not for today’s society. Society today has music from both genders and of course the most listened music comes from women and not men.

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    1. It’s sad to say that for years men have been the face for numerous things, not only music. Although now it’s not like before , but men will continue to be more dominant in society than women, and that’s the sad truth.

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      1. I disagree, its this kind of thinking that will keep us underneath a man “men will continue to be more dominant in society than women” personally, i think women are quite equal to men, if not greater. We can do anything a man can do with hard work, and were better at making a house a home, and we create life. Thinking that men will always be “dominant” is just keeping us beneath them.

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  26. This topic is an important discussion because it influences our life. People should bring more awareness to the treatment of gender gap. As we observe most of the classical music on the radios, they mostly cite man composers, such as Beethoven, Bach, among others. Therefore, we see clearly the gender gap in their success of the classical music.

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  27. Let me start off by saying that i was not suprised the first musical peice was created by a man and the second by clara Schumann. In the case of what kind of music one composes, i dont see how females are stereotypes to gravitate toward the lighter, airy notes, rather than the heavy, deep notes. If there is one thing that does not discriminate it’s emotion, despite whether your a woman or a man you can feel the same anger as the other. I guessed that the second peice was created by shumann because of the strength i heard from behind the notes. I imagine all of the pent up anger she must have had from being recognized as secondary to her husband, came out in her music. Being male or female doesnt not mean you create either “feminine” or “masculine” types of music. I think it has to do with emotions and how one feels while their playing music.

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  28. There’s a general confusion between the use of terms such as women and men compared to female and male. Female and male are terms to classify distinctions between sex while men and women are terms to classify distinctions in society. I believe the whole root of sexism and genderism originates from the use of these two words entirely. To be a man is to be strong and responsible plus many other specific characteristics, while to be a woman is to be kind and nurturing with the inclusion of other traits as well. These were standards set into the foundations of society which is the reason why we carry them with us today. It is ridiculous to believe you could only be one or the other, yet so many thinkers of early generations were purely dogmatic. The truth is a mans could have traits of a woman and still be male and vice versa. The problem is whether or not we recognize and classify people for their accomplishments rather than their characteristics. Pragmatic approaches within newer generations makes us realize the flaws in the way society has been set from earlier times. A female artist today would be just as praised as a male composer back then. I believe it’s due to the time period that these female composers did not get the recognition they deserved, as their accomplishments were not acknowledged if they were out of bounds from the set of standards society put out for them. It truly wasn’t fair, but at least society is learning to be amicable and understanding of what needs to soon be changed. All in due time.

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  29. I think back I the days women were not treated equally. They had the talent but couldn’t express themselves, because men thought they were god and didn’t want the women to succeed. And kept the women in the dark. But now a days women can express themselves. Women is more powerful then man. A women can make a man successful in life. Now a days there is lots of women in the music industry who is doing way better then men.

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  30. Nowadays women’s have a lot of potentials to provide in society but they have been underestimated, in the past women’s didn’t have the same equal rights as men and they were not that notorious in any field, now we can see throughout history how it has changed and how we started to perceive more their work

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