Female artists like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga may rule the charts, but that doesn't mean that they haven’t had to deal with sexism in the music industry – even chart toppers aren't immune to misogynistic band stories. Most music executives and producers are male, so though the calendar may say one thing, the working environment in music may seem more like 1957. Stories about sexism from female musicians, from being plied with sexist interview questions to having unbelievably misogynistic articles written about them, abound.
Sex sells; that’s a fact. So when a new hot young female artist puts out an album, many music executives are going to push her to show a little more leg or perhaps undo a couple top buttons. If the artist is okay with doing that as part of their image branding, that’s one thing. But what if, like a young Alicia Keys for example, the artist does not want to sell records based on her sexual image, but the merit of her artistic talent?
Female artists face a double standard that their male counterparts may never understand. How close is the line between sexy and slutty or driven and bitchy? Add in all the negative sexist social media comments, and it’s easy to see why so female musicians have had enough.
Perhaps Madonna said it best: “I stand before you as a doormat. Oh, I mean a female entertainer.” Check out her story and more. Women musicians share tales of sexism, and it ain't pretty.
Women constantly have to deal with a gendered double standard. Nicki Minaj, a rapper who has cross-over appeal in popular music, has never been one to sit pretty and keep quiet. However, the "Feeling Myself" singer also knows that there is a price to pay for speaking up.
During a 2015 interview with Time, Minaj discussed how women are judged differently than their male counterparts:
“You never know how much is too much – too much emotion, too much vulnerability, too much power. Everyone wants me to be something different. Women in the industry are judged more. If you speak up for yourself, you’re a bitch. If you party too much, you’re a whore. Men don’t get called these things.”
- Photo: flickr / CC0
Alicia Keys is now a confident veteran in the music industry who is known for her artistic talent and musicianship – not for being scantily dressed in music videos. But when she first arrived on the music scene in the early 2000s, she felt a lot of pressure to market herself in a sexual nature.
During a 2013 interview with The Telegraph, the singer-songwriter described the early battle of a young girl getting her feet wet in the music industry:
"That was a huge battle. As a young girl coming into this thing, I felt huge pressure. You don't know how to navigate it because everyone's going 'Oh that's beautiful, that's nice, why don't you unbutton the shirt a little lower, pull the skirt a little higher, it's really nice'. And you're just trying to figure out how to not look like an idiot. I trusted people and then I would see things back and feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. That kind of set me on my path to be stronger about not letting people tell me anything, only trusting my own instincts, but that's tricky too."
When Lady Gaga accepted her award for Billboard's Woman of the Year in 2015, she used her speech to point out sexism in the music industry and how difficult it is for a female musician to be taken seriously:
"What I really want to say is that it is really hard sometimes for women in music. It’s like a f*cking boys’ club that we just can’t get into... I tried for so long, I just really wanted to be taken seriously as a musician for my intelligence more than my body ever in this business. You don’t always feel like when you’re working that people believe that you have a musical background, that you understand what you’re doing because you’re a female."
- Photo: Brian Cantoni / Wikimedia Commons
Taylor Swift is one of the most successful artists making music today. The singer-songwriter is also known for writing extremely personal songs about her life. Yet, she still has to deal with people who think that she doesn't write her own music. In fact, Imogen Heap, who even worked on Swift's 1989 album, wrote in her blog that she just assumed Swift was getting a lot of help from music executives.
Swift responded to what she calls are "sexist issues" that men do not have to deal with during a 2014 interview with Billboard:
"Everyone's got their own relationships and dramas, so they don't have time to create a complex opinion of every celebrity. Do I get offended when people don't fully understand how much of the workload is done by me? No, they're busy with their own lives. If someone has studied my catalog and still doesn't think I'm behind it, there's nothing I can do for that person. They may have to deal with their own sexist issues, because if I were a guy and you were to look at my catalog and my lyrics, you would not wonder if I was the person behind it."
In 2017, Swift found herself at the end of a protracted legal battle with Denver Radio DJ Robert Mueller. Swift claimed that Mueller had groped her after one of her concerts in 2013, and the grope was captured on film. Mueller sued Swift for her claims, and Swift counter-sued in response. The jury ruled in favor of Swift in August 2017.