This is a guest post from Georgia Kral, re-posted with permission from On The Issues magazine.
Scan through the pages of a major music magazine, the arts section of The New York Times, Pitchfork.com or myriad other sources and count the number of female bylines you find on pop music criticism. Not many, right? (Or in the case of The Times, zero.) In music writing, gender disparity is a persistent feature.
One theory that has caught on about why there are so few women in pop music criticism builds on the idea that a woman is trained from a young age to be a fan and not a critic. In an article for the music-oriented Loops Journal, critic Anwyn Crawford writes that young girls are socially trained to be reactive, as opposed to considered and thoughtful, in their response to popular music. Girls absorbing this sensibility decrease the likelihood that they’ll become, or even see themselves as, critics.
“Wordless, intensely emotional and undeniably sexual — this is the state in which teenage girls are understood to connect with music, and with those performing it,” writes Crawford, an Australian journalist known for her feminist music criticism. “It is all in their bodies: they do not intellectualise; their opinions are instinctive rather than considered.”
Stereotypes and hardened historical frameworks are hard to shake. According to Crawford, if women are placed in the position of adoring fan at an early age, they are less likely to believe that they can then be critical — or harder yet — thought of as critical.
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