Gender continues to be difficult. The different dimensions one can approach gender through, the different lenses and ideologies, are many. In spheres of public life one’s identifiable gender, if one is a woman, is a noticeable and salient feature. If the sphere is one dominated by men like the output of much of electronic music generation, production and composition in subcultural, commercial and academic contexts then to think ‘gender’ is often, to think ‘women’. To be a woman or person of difference is to be noticed. Some women may want to be recognised as women in their difference and some women may not want that difference recognised, wishing that the accordant social roles would become background to the tasks at hand: composing, audio production, performing, engineering, publicity, mixing, DJing. There are feminists in music with both opinions.
Gender is not only about social roles or apparent physical sex, it is also about male-female difference in idea. This is where binary opposition, through culture, shapes understandings of male values as Universal and female values as contingent, lacking and deficient (Hansen 2000). These values are not necessarily tied accordingly to the bodies men and women. For example, we may associate feminine with a queer man who is based in the home. While male/female seems distinctly binary in our society — most especially played out in mainstream culture and family units — the thing is, there is a continua where a sequence of imperceptible elements move from one edge to the other. This is the range of gender complexity.
Recently, in the media there has been much talk about women being under-represented in the Australian music industry. This has sparked articles on the jazz sphere, a conference, and an APRA initiative. While I welcome all these initiatives and believe, particularly of APRA, that they’re necessary, I think there are some concerning blind spots. It is the role of feminism to draw attention to to the needs of a diversity of women and inequities, however, it is not the role of feminism to employ a term like gender as a placeholder for White, straight, able, middle class women in general.
‘Being’ a women can be prescriptive in social and cultural contexts, and is tied up with power and inclinations that may be operating on a subconscious level. It takes mindfulness and awareness of the multiple and interlinked forms of oppression that can make lived experience a struggle for people of colour, those with disabilities, mental illness, queer folk, the working class and poor. In many instances, even if one gets to the supported opportunity in the music industry, everyday racism/ablism/classism occurs because the comportment of the person is does not match the culture, and they have not come through the right networks.