Get seen, not just heard, women musos told
June 11, 2018
Women musicians need to get more visible to show their true contribution to music, a local forum to promote female music talent has been told.
Radio New Zealand presenter and Music 101 producer Kirsten Johnstone told a forum at the National Library that the damaging perception that musically talented women are inherently limited was still around.
Personal as political: Women’s narrative through song, a night of discussion and performance to celebrate and showcase local talent, was hosted by Johnstone and paneled by acoustic singer/ songwriter Ariana Tikao, Brooke Singer of dream pop duo French for Rabbits, musician and teacher Jessie Moss, and electronic writer, producer, and performer Cooki, who performs as Strange Stains, playing highly technical DIY drone music.
Johnstone said one pervasive stereotype about women was that they’re technophobic, and this stemmed back to childhood.
“It’s not just in music, it’s across lots of different industries. From primary school, boys are encouraged to take things apart, and put them back together again, girls are encouraged into softer things.”
Johnstone said many women in New Zealand managed to overcome this. “There are heaps of women making great electronic music.”
Johnstone said there had been a lot of progress toward equality in New Zealand’s music industry, but women still had to be tough to make it.
“Young girls need to see kick-ass women doing well in the music industry, and in New Zealand, they definitely are, but we’ve still got a way to go.
“It’s a funny thing, women’s music used to be a genre in the 80’s and 90’s.
“There are amazing songwriters who were pushing the boat out for everyone: Mahinarangi Tocker, Charlotte Yates, Shona Laing, the Topp Twins.
“For people like Lorde to come out and do her own thing, at 16, in absolutely her own way, and be quite insistent on her own marketing strategies, and her own dance moves, and her own costumes, it must be so inspiring for young women, young musicians.
“People who represent songwriters are coming out with these astounding figures – only about 24 percent of registered songwriters in New Zealand and Australia are women. And that goes the world over, it’s about the same in the UK and the US. Why are women not participating at an equal footing as men?
“Women need to be visible to get their numbers up.”
Johnstone said the timing of the korero wasn’t accidental. “[The national library] wanted something around New Zealand Music Month, they also have the Topp Twins exhibition there, and the Topp Twins are hugely important to New Zealand music, especially protest music in this country. But you’ve also got an exhibition about 125 years since women got the vote.”