When Unify Festival announced their 2017 line-up six months ago, they caused a bit of a stir. The 26 bands on the line-up consisted of 119 band members. Of those 119 musicians, 117 are male. Which leaves only 2 female musicians in the entire line-up of the festival. This extreme example of gender imbalance caused quite a discussion (or argument, more so) about the issue, and why it exists. It was exciting to see both female artists and punters speak up about their experiences and get their voices heard. Six months onward from the whole debacle however, nothing has changed and everyone has moved on with their lives.
With Unify just a few days away and some killer sideshows and tours coming up to boot, Australia will see some amazing heavy acts this year. It’s all good and exciting, that is until you remember that everyone you’re excited to see is, well, a dude.
Going on my personal experiences, the heavy music scene is home to some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. But that being said, every time I rock up to a gig on my own I’m always met with the anxiety that maybe I’m not welcome in this space. This space has killer music and I think I deserve to feel welcome. So, then why don’t I?
Perhaps it’s because the male to female ratio at any gig I’ve ever been to is pretty disappointing. Not only do we lack a representation of female artists in the heavy music scene, but this leads to a lack of female fans being present at these gigs. I’m not interested in a sausage party unless it involves me consuming an unhealthy amount of hot dogs with mustard.
Looking back on all my live show experiences, it’s sadly too easy to pick out multiple instances in which I either did not feel safe or witnessed another female gig-goer being mistreated. Now don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the chaos and intensity of a heavy gig mosh-pit. I know things can get rough and tough in there and this isn’t a piece on being knocked around. Ingrained sexism is a thing but a shitty person will be shitty regardless of gender ratio. This is a piece on why I don’t see more people like me in these spaces.
When I ask those around me why they think there is a lack of representation, the most common response I receive lies somewhere along the lines of “guys just pick up instruments and start bands”. Don’t girls do the same?
Following the Unify controversy last year, Josh Merriel of Triple J’s short.fast.loud took to the show’s Facebook page to voice his opinion on the issue, and raised a very valid point on how we can make a change.
In order to see representation, we must first support and encourage people to represent us.
There are as many female musicians in the scene as there are punters – we just need to give them the platform to thrive. Perhaps the answer lies in bringing these ladies to the front. There’s no need to undermine one’s talent based on their gender identity, so perhaps we need to collectively change our perspective on this so called “male dominated” industry. Let’s even it out.
The best way to do this is by starting from home. Support local bands, go out to gigs (they’re usually dirt cheap!), buy some merch; let them know they want to be seen and heard.
Camp Cope rock for a reason, because someone gave them a chance and decided to support them. Maybe we should do that with female artists more often.