This is the fifth of our instructor-led online discussions for Mu 101 (Spring 2020). 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 (adding your own ideas, responding to others’ ideas, and asking questions that others can respond to) — these are all the same parameters of good conversation that happens offline, too!

The most effective comments in an online forum are short — think about how you skim past others’ comments if they’re more than a couple lines long instead of engaging closely with that person’s ideas! If everyone involved in these weekly conversations only posts a single long comment, it won’t be a conversation, and we won’t all benefit from opportunity to learn from each other. Rather than dropping in on the blog once during the week and adding a single long comment, think of this forum as an opportunity to have a conversation with your fellow classmates. A conversation, whether online or in person, involves back-and-forth contributions from everyone involved: adding something new based on your own experiences or ideas, asking questions, responding to the ideas of others. The best way to get the most out of this learning experience is to share your single best idea, give room for others to respond, and then build on each others’ contributions later in the week.

There are a lot of ideas to digest in this discussion (click on these descriptions to jump to that part of the discussion):

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 20 minutes, not counting any audio media.

Introduction: A man’s world

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 celebration 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—or even the list we created together in class of classical musicians you’ve heard of. 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 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.” Sexist expectations are often set early in life: baby clothes and toys are color-coded, blue for boys and pink for girls (although these colors meant the very opposite at the beginning of the 20th century—pink was seen as the manly color then and used for boys!). Some parents today use “neutral” colors like yellow and green—they reject the blue/pink colors because they seem to have so much power in shaping a child’s sense of identity.

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, like 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. Sexism also shapes our attitudes towards activities in which gender is not obviously an issue. For example, students usually perceive male professors as being more intelligent or capable than female ones. 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?

To answer this question, it’s helpful to recall James Baldwin’s assertion that we are living within structures and systems that control our lives, even though we didn’t create them, and 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.)

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.”

“Tradition” here refers to legal hurdles and socially-constructed assumptions about women which 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)

As a result, 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 from a couple weeks ago?).

An anecdote: Abbie Conant


One particularly egregious example of gender-based prejudice can be found in 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


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

“Good music”


If an orchestra is performing a piece of music, it must be “good,” right? By performing a piece, an ensemble is saying to their audience that they think the piece of music is worth listening to.

However, there is 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. 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 annual three-day festival in Connecticut 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?

42 thoughts on “Music and gender (Online discussion Feb 24-Mar 1)

  1. I think a lot of the time, tradition and precedent set the way for future outcomes, and music plus its history is no exception. Gender may not actually have any impact on the ability of people as a category to become great musicians, but traditionally it seems that in classical music, composers who became famous or popular just so happened to be male. It’s unfortunate that there are able people discriminated against because of their gender, but I do also think that people are becoming more open to new ideas, and some of these new ideas include a less tradition-oriented perspective.

    This poses the question – Is discrimination endemic to music? Or could it be the byproduct of something else entirely unrelated to music? What exactly determines a person’s musical ability or talent if the quality of being capable in music cannot be measured? What do you guys think?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do also agree that people are becoming more open to new ideas which in my opinion is most definitely the best thing to do.


    2. i agree tradition and precedent sets the way the future is shaped. I think our beliefs are usually caused based on how we were raised by our parents.


    3. I do agree that because of old traditions we are held back even today. The newer generations are trying to brake those slowly and maybe we will see more inclusion of females in classical music but only time will tell.


    4. I totally agree with you on people being more open to new ideas, and are gradually becoming more open to non- traditional roles. One artist that comes to mind is Janelle Monáe, when she first came out she would wear a black and white suit and tie. If your someone who values traditional roles people feel like men are supposed to wear a suit and tie, and women are supposed to dress more ladylike, perhaps wear a dress. Today people are breaking that social norm, such as herself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just reading Abbie’s story is pretty upsetting, she fairly showed her musical talents in the first audition to be the solo trombone. Yet she had to jump through 1,000 other hoops just to actually get the position, she was chosen for in the first place. 1980 wasn’t that long ago yet it shows not much has changed from the ideology of Clara Schumann even though she was talented and could do whatever her husband did, he was held at a higher view. It makes you think how people can keep basing hiring someone on looks, in my eyes I would much rather hire someone that has had experience and is proficient at what they do over how they look. The way someone looks can’t be changed but the amount of work they do to become the best they can be whether it’s musically or anything else could be changed. The head of household for me is my mother and she will always be everything to me from strong to kind whatever the male and female stereotype is, she supersedes that way of thinking for me. My mother worked up to the position she is at now, and I believe if a female composer is working to be the best. She should be given the same chance as the next composer, not an elaborate path to prove she is on the same level as a male composer or simply turned down just because she isn’t male.
    It just makes you wonder if we did all the hiring blind just based of lets say a experience, merit and listening to the interviewee, how different the positions held today would be. What do you guys think would be a better way to change the way getting a position is done today?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think Abbie’s situation could have been changed through changing the way a position is received within her environment since she clearly demonstrated ability on par with, if not even superior to, that of her male colleagues who were paid more. I think the main issue with her environment was that she wasn’t being treated with respect because of her gender, and that nothing beyond a less unfair environment would have changed things for her, unfortunately.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi everyone!!!
    The topic “Music and gender” is very interesting, showing that sexism is real and the effects it may have. It’s sad that people are judged and given opportunities based on their sex especially in the music industry. However, the world is constantly changing and so are people views. Do you guys think someone’s sex may affect their opportunities in the 21st century ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe that sexism is still relevant when talking about opportunities in the 21st century. In fact there was a movement for women who get payed less then men when they are doing the same things and have the same credentials. The movement is called the #metoo movement. Its very interesting to read about.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. For sure someones sex will certainly affect their opportunities in the 21st century. Unfortunately, its just the world that we live in. When two people meet for the first time judgement automatically flows into their mind. Because really you are trying see what that person is about and how they move. Like for example, when a boy meets a girl he could think that (shes a girl so she must be sensitive, fragile, etc.). But the girl could be something completely different like aggressive and strong.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Before today I was unaware of how sexism could relate to music. Reading about the women who suffered in their career due to being categorized into a gender was very enlightening. Many women today face the same issues as Abbie Conant, who I find to be a strong individual. She did not give in to the way she was treated and instead stood up to the people treating her differently. She was well aware of her abilities and knew that she should not have been given such a demotion. Even though getting payed less than her male colleagues was a major issue, I agree with cardiqcc “… the main issue with her environment was that she wasn’t being treated with respect because of her gender…”.
    A personal example would be how many people look at a young girl like myself. Although times have changed, some things remain the same. I was once asked what my favorite song was, at the time I had been listening to various rap artist. When I answered their question, the facial expressions I received were priceless. It was almost as if I was not allowed to listen to such music because of my gender and appearance. I believe that if I want to listen to rap, country or hip hop, it should not matter. Therefor, if a woman wants to create music in a certain way she should. Same thing goes for men.
    Sexism is something that can be taken a very wrong way. This normally happens when you hear extreme sexists talk about women’s rights but completely forget about men. if a women should be able to play something “masculine” or create music that sound masculine, then men should be able to create music that sounds feminine or play an instrument considered to be “feminine”.
    How do you feel about this topic? Was there something I may have missed?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the past does shape the future. What we watch on tv and what our parents and professors teach us is what shapes our beliefs. When we’re younger we’re impressionable and thats when we start learning whats right from wrong and thats what i think happened back then. Past generations were taught men were a certain way and women were suppose to behave a different way. I do think it is changing but there’s definitely still sexism today.
    do you guys agree? what do you guys think?


  6. Music and gender is a very interesting topic and especially because I was unaware of how music can relate to sexism. We are not only experiencing sexism with music but sexism is still interfering with our talents,dreams and careers. Women had to suffer because others feel like they didn’t have what it takes. Reading and learning that sexism happens in music which i am still in shock by and also reading its effects Is sad that people are only given opportunities based on their sex. I believe males and women shouldn’t be judged because we all have individual skills and capabilities in the music industry. Does anyone think that sexism will continue ?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely not! Sexism should not continue, nor be allowed. It is the 21 century, things are getting better but not to a point where women, transgender are being viewed or treated as equal as men.


    2. Sexism will not continue. Its 2020 and i see its getting better. In the music industry today everyone male and females with talent are upcoming artists both genders doing the same thing and even working together


  7. Surprisingly I thought of the opposite where the first piece was played by a woman and the second piece a man. Why? Because I have Clara Schuman in my mind the entire time, her story touched me deeply during class discussion. And now knowing more of her story, it saddens me as a woman and a mother too. But uff with 8 children, I would’ve to believe if Clara Schuman was committed to the mental institution instead of her husband Robert Schuman. I have a son myself and he is driving me bananas, plus 7 more. Oh boy, Chaos! Anyways the first piece does sound masculine, but with how deep it sounds tagging with an extreme depression sounded like Clara Schuman’s story. I was really going to give the first piece a man until I heard the second piece of music, describing as cheerful, molly, relaxing, definitely a piece to dance and swing. Keeping in mind that men had more outside experience than women, more fun to be exact. Where women stayed home, caring for the family, neating up the house, doing errands here and that. I would have assumed that a man played the second piece but I was wrong. I`m definitely blown away that Clara Schuman wrote the second piece. As well as emotionally heartbroken, first to Clara’s quote ” I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose- there have never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?” Lastly, on her international tour when she was in her 70s she played and published her husband Robert Schuman’s music. Also supporting the rest of the family, 8 children! Oh my god, I may understand why her husband Robert was committed to the mental institution and committed suicide. From the pressure of society’s views, the pressure of approval and acceptance. Being viewed as talented, known by everyone that is tough. But Robert look at your wife Clara. At her age of 70, she tours internationally playing your music, pursuing your dream. Allowing your music, your ideas, your mind, and soul to be known by everyone. Where the effort is on Clara, the one touring in sweat and exhaustion, in the 70s god, the soreness and weak muscle the aches, the pain here and there and the discomfort from walking, acting in motion. Such a talented woman, beautiful to the core inside and out. Letted down by society. She would have been an amazing composer. If she didn’t live at that time. Does anyone agree with me? Or perhaps is thinking the same? Knowing that the majority is speaking of Abbie`s story which is unfair.


    1. P.S. Bugs me why Sexism is even allowed. With the form of inequality, it’s frustrating. Like women as just as strong as men, tough as men, thoughtful and smart as men. But aren`t view and treated like men. Just hoping things would be better with time, I believe it just a matter of time. Right? Does anyone see Sexism with a different view?


      1. Im not a feminist and that is because most feminists are known to be completely biased against a women’s choice to involve themselves with men or agree with men on the same principals. I am a person who believes in equal choice and opportunity but I completely agree with you. I feel like sexism along with many other form of prejudices will always be around as long as human life exists. This is because it is a natural instinct for someone to automatically put down a person or idea that they are threatened by. As long as all genders have the same opportunities I believe society will be a better place.

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  8. I never really thought of music as masculine or feminine before so this is a different perspective than what I was used to but I can definitely see the music industry being sexist or preferring male artist over female. I feel like we should all be made aware of this though so we as a society can learn and grow.
    I think that in the future we can and will be more inclusive in the music industry just like in other aspects, but what do you all think?


  9. Hey guys! I feel like people still share these same sentiments about gender roles currently. It’s unfortunate, because a lot of individuals are overlooked and under appreciated for the talent they have. They should be acknowledged as well. When I heard the two pieces of music, I noticed that the first piece was possibly for a Man, based on the fact that I heard more low pitched sounds. This definitely relates to sexism because a lot of people feel like a guy should have a deep voice to display manliness. I noticed the second song I heard, had high pitched noises. Which made me believe, this song was meant for a women. This is sexist as well because I feel like people in society, feel like women are supposed to sound soft, and talk with these high voices.Which I thought was conveyed in that melody . What do you guys think? Do you agree/disagree with my perspective?


    1. I completely agree. I believe we should begin to steer away from these stereotypes, and move into a new era, where a women can be seen doing something for both genders, as well as doing something a female should “not be doing”.


  10. I never thought that gender went so far into music before reading this. “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. In the story of Abbie Contant, blindly without seeing the contesters she won her position over 32 other applicants. Although she rightfully won she still had to go through challenges to be accepted into her role which is the whole concept of females constantly getting pushed to the back for years and years. “He instead insisting that she play second to another male trombonist because he believed that only a man could really handle the role:”instead of giving Abbie her win, the conductor suggested she played second, a blatant form of disrespect. Although Content’s story was not unique it was one of the many examples of how people base many jobs, roles, and even hiring process on how one looks and what gender they are.


  11. Music endorses patriarchy, even today. In music women are known for their high pitched vocal ranges but back then women in music were always being belittled but as for men who display a high vocal rage they attract applaud and raving reviews and I find that to be unjust. For women to be successful in the entertainment industry they are forced to sexualize their auras and those who are not sexualizing them, are criticizing them for being “too provocative”. I see women my age today who are fans of more modern rap, pop and even indie or alternative music actually referring to themselves as the vulgar terms that they are portrayed as and I think the fact that women do that is disgusting.


  12. Hey everyone reading these passages it really shocked me I didn’t know 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 sent me back a little bit I didn’t know this type of feeling of sexism occurred in music back then.. I do agree with JBrianna point on that today we still share these same sentiments about gender roles currently because we have a lot of individuals are overlooked and under appreciated for the talent they have. I also do agree with Kem I think its a little bit different also for us because its how we were raised from our parents. To me its all about fairness, equality everyone deserves an equal opportunity to do what their passionate about nobody should do more or less than what the other gender is doing and I hope it changes one day. What does everyone else think?

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  13. YERRRRRRRRRR yall already know what time it is. I feel like women would be kept in their husband’s shadow back then and definitely did not get the respect they deserve. Women did not have as much power back then as they now have, but today they have way more power. In the article it says that “Sexism frames and shapes romantic or sexual interactions, like telling women that they should smile more because it will make them look pretty, or expecting men to be gentlemen who hold doors open or pay for dates”. Now this is straight FACTSSSSSSSS like bro if we on a date we SPLITTING THE BILL. Like bro don’t act like your broke cuz you rocking mad designer and got all these Louis, Gucci, and Michael Kors bags. Like you not SLICK you got BREAD!!!!!!! Same thing if we go to the movies, we going half and half. If I pay for the tickets you pay for the snacks and vice versa, SIMPLE. Why do you think this mentality is right or wrong? What would you do if somebody asked you to pay for the bill but hey make more money than you?.


  14. Hey everyone at first I didn’t really notice that music in the classical era was sexism until after reading this passage. It wasn’t right for women to be judge base on their appearance instead of their vocals while men were only judged only by their singing and acting. Also how all the critics were all men who would judge the women harshly than the men. Also during that time men dominated everything even music if you were a woman they would never have a shot for being famous unless being well known or being married to a famous musician. But today in the 21st century they’re so many women, singers, and musicians. I believe that sexism will not continue.


    1. Hey David, I agree with you! I don’t think sexism will continue in today’s society, even though there are many countries were women have not the same rights as men.. there’s also a lot of campaigns and movements around the world to avoid this issue and give word to women worldwide.


  15. From the overall sexual of women in society it definitely made its way into the music industry, female musicians are almost expected to be sexual to appeal to the masses. Also there attractiveness is always the center of conversations before there skill or proficiency. Even though gender shouldn’t have impact on how like the artist is, one thing i know is that people like a “pretty/sexy” females musicians more than an “ugly” one. Do you guys think that females musicians attractive play a part in there musical success?


  16. Hi guys,

    I liked this week’s discussion. I think is important to know the struggle that women had and still have in some parts of the world to be recognized for their work. Trough history women have had barriers to entry In a lot of fields. Including sciences, sports and music as we know. Music has always play an important roll in society since the first idea of music was created therefore both men and women have contributed to the creation of this type of art. Because of this for me is interesting reading about sexism and how the different was society and how much woman in the last decades have achieved to be equal with men.

    The case of Clara Schumann is one of the most popular Referring to sexism back in the 1800s and the one we have discussed in class. Schumann‘s case is one of the biggest representation of how sexism shaped our society in the music industry and how being a woman back then meant to serve men and children and not stand out more than a man.

    What did you guys think about the other women musicians cases?


  17. It’s currently 8:06 and I’m sitting here on my laptop reading everyone’s comments and questions. I’ve had a really long and rough week, I’m so in need of a vacation from school, life, well just about everything and I’m sure everyone else would agree…but anyways hmmm sexism. That’s a really broad topic to discuss. I’ll be honest I didn’t know gender had anything to do with music at all up until now. It’s sad that females are always being victimized just because we’re just well..females. It’s so unfair. It’s prejudice to discriminate against another gender. Women deserve the same rights as men. Women are as equal as any man. In Proverbs 22:2 God says “ The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all.” It doesn’t matter what you are we’re all the same and gender shouldn’t define who you are as a person. Sexism can lead to killing our self-confidence as well as doubt ourselves. Listening to the first and second piece I assumed the first one was more towards a woman and then the second was more towards men. The first piece gave me a whole lifetime killer movie vibe and the second gave me a happy fun exciting kinda vibe. But I really like the 1st piece. I actually played it 4 times as I was typing because it just filled in the quiet gaps in my room odds from the 2nd piece which was too cheerful for my mood right now. One person who really caught my attention was Clara Schumann. She had so much dedication to carry on her husband work when he got admitted into a mental institution as well as take care of her 8 children. I mean 8 kids are a lot especially when their young that’s like double the work. Then imagine not being able to see your husband or confide in him for anything for 2 years. Even after he died she continued to work and publish his work. Definitely admire her for sticking by her husband side no matter what. But back to sexism. I think sexism needs to be addressed more seriously. It’s so sexist to discriminate against women. Women are always targeted negatively more than men. Men and women should have gender equality regardless of gender, which leads me to ask in today’s society English language use masculine and feminine versions of words such as blond/blonde, host/hostess, and actor/actress? Is it sexist to use such words? I don’t think sexism will ever be seriously addressed in today’s society because everything is always double sided. It’s never equal or fair.


  18. @Michelle. I definitely believe the way a female looks portrays the outcome of their career. There’s a lot of female artist that use there looks to get a head on in the music industry. Like for example say I was a female artist just starting my career. If I was to go sign a label with a guy and he saw that I wasn’t attractive but I had the voice he wanted, 95% chance of him not picking me because no record label wants someone unattractive. Everything in society is about looks, what you have to bring to the table as well as how are you going to look representing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never really thought about gender in regards to music, so to read that it was such an issue was surprising. Abbie Conant had earned that position through her talent and yet she had to jump through all these hoops to get it. Sexism affects music making in a negative way. It makes this sort of fence for artist. Some people assume that women will only make soft music or perhaps that they can’t even make music at all. This in turn, limits the music industry as many women who can make significant contributions to music are looked over. I believe a lot of consumers have been taught this sexism. For instance, I like to sing a little. I’m not adele or usher or anything like that but none the less I like to sing. However, when I do sing, sometimes some guys I know will look at me like “hey man that’s feminine” or seen as soft. Not all women are soft spoken singing song birds. Women have more to contribute than just that. My question I would have to ask after reading all of this is how would music be different if women weren’t discriminated against from the classical era?

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Hi everyone, before this I didn’t really thought about how music was before between the genders. “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. This quote interest me because Clara wanted to do something that she created and couldn’t because of how things were back then. It made realize how things have really changed.


  20. It is so upsetting that sexism is a thing; for both men and women. For men, people mostly expect more from them and build them into tough people that protect and provide for their families and people. For women, they don’t expect much from them unless it comes to nursing and chores, it actually makes people look down at women because they think that’s all women are capable. It is upsetting that such standards are included when it comes to careers.

    However, as new people with new perspectives has been born, society has grown to be more open minded. Which is great, not only for music but for every career. Even when it comes to doctors, lawyers, accountants, and such, people usually think of men, at least that’s what movies show.

    Nowadays, more females musicians are appearing on the map, normalizing that women are capable of creating art too. Slowly but surely people will stop looking down on women.


  21. I really don’t like how society look at women differently from men in general. I believe that both men and women were created equally. There’s nothing to boast about base on the gender. I believe that what men is capable of doing, women can also. Men and women are human beings. Everyone is unique in their own way. I was disappointed when I saw that Clara Schumann said that her compositions are not better than other men’s composition, and that she should give up her role as a composer. I want to tell her that music itself has no gender. Music is for everyone. If you want to make good music to let the audience enjoy, then pour your spirit into your masterpiece.


  22. hello everyone!
    in the world of tradition gender means power, as we can in the reading. if you are a man your future is already set out to be great but if you are a woman then its the opposite. in my opinion, thats just not fair for the talented women who are just trying to be great. for example, when a conductor of an orchestra didnt let Abbie Conant play the first role that she had won but instead he wanted her to play next to a man because he believe that a man can handle it better. when a man is being put next to her then her spotlight is taken away. sometimes man have an easy way of getting things just because they seem to be more masculine.
    Do you guys think that men having it their way its right? while some women suffer??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like women and men both have it bad in different scenarios. But for music men did have it nicer. That how it was for centuries. The only way things will ever change is if us women do it ourselves.


  23. wow this is a very big subject to talk about. I feel like women always had to write certain songs to sell albums. Even to this day. The women make songs that the fans will like until they get famous then they set out to do what they wanted to originally, make the music that they like. I feel like no matter how many years change men will still have stereotypes over there masculinity, such as men writing lyrics would give them a soft stereotype but thats not the case. They just make good music.


  24. Before this reading I didn’t really think about the lack of female musicians, and then I started to realize that this article is completely right. As a kid you’re taken to a bunch of musicals, where you see orchestras play, and now thinking about it, the very few females that were in the orchestras never had some sort of sit up front. It brings light to a very big divide in our country, in where we believe we are beginning to close the gap, we look towards music and musicians, and we see that this is not the case. Have you ever seen a female instructor? probably not, and that’s most likely because people “believe” that the people that are playing might get distracted.


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