The Music Industry’s Problem with Women in Rock

What exactly is the music industry’s problem with women in rock? And why do they insist on relegating female musicians into this mythical “female fronted” genre? 

There are countless listicles, playlists and opinion pieces that attempt to uplift women in rock music, but miss the mark by recognizing the same dozen women in their year-end round up, and fail to promote new female artists at any other time.

Instead of continuing to ask women the tired question “what’s it like to be a woman in music?” why don’t we start asking men “what’s it like to benefit from male privilege in music?”

In this episode, we’re joined by She Will Rock You podcast to look back at the women who defined rock history and how they were treated – from Heart being called incestual lovers to Debbie Harry being sexualized to promote Blondie.

Then we bring it into the 21st century to see how artists like Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless, Phoebe Bridgers and Haim are still dealing with the “women in rock” label. 

For more rock music stories like these, check out She Will Rock You on all podcast platforms + Twitter and Instagram.

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Want to talk more? Find us: @name3songs | @sara_feigin | @jenna_million

Learn more about the mistreatment of women in music throughout history by listening to past episodes such as, How African American Women Pioneered Rock Music and Successful Women and Their Inescapable Exes.

Sources for The Music Industry’s Problem with Women in Rock

Women Make Up Less Than 8% Of Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees (NPR, David C Barnett, 2020)

When it comes to rock, women are not a gender (The Guardian, Charlotte Richard Andrews, 2012)

“Woman” Is Not a Genre: Why the New, Female-Led Rock Revolution Is for Everybody (Flavorwire, Jillian Mapes, 2015)

Indie-rock star Mitski: ‘I’m waiting for everyone to decide to hate me; (The Guardian, Alexandra Pollard, 2018)

Not Another Women in Rock Article (The Ringer, Lindsay Zoladz, 2018)

Grammys president responds to controversy after telling women to ‘step up’ (NME, Nick Reilly, 2018)

Grammy Chief Neil Portnow Walks Back ‘Women Need to Step Up’ Comment (Variety, Jem Aswad, 2018)

Beyonce, Taylor, Dua Lipa, Megan: Women dominate the 2021 Grammy Nominations (Los Angeles Times, Suzy Exposito, 2020)

‘It’s a statement of exclusion’: music festivals return to UK but lineups still lack women (The Guardian, Laura Snapes, 2021)

Where are all the female headliners? Festival bookers, bands and fans weigh in on how to change the narrative (NME, Rihan Daly, 2020)

Music’s biggest stars are women. Music festivals would make you think otherwise. (Vox, Allegra Frank, 2019)

Live music acts are mostly male-only. What’s holding women back? (The Guardian, Naomi Larsson, 2017)

Ann Wilson Reflects on Same-Sex Abuse Message of Heart’s “Barracuda” (Ultimate Classic Rock, Martin Kielty, 2018)

New Janis Joplin Biography Reveals The Hard Work Behind The Heart (NPR, Terry Gross, 2019)

Debbie Harry on drugs, sexism and surviving it all (Evening Standard, Ellie Austin, 2020)

Debbie Harry And Cindy Sherman Compare Notes On Sex, Sexism, and Success (Interview, Cindy Sherman, 2019)

Taylor Momsen: “I had given up on everything, I gave up on life” (The Forty-Five, Tyler Damara Kelly, 2021)

Why Taylor Momsen Turned Her Back on Hollywood (The Daily Beast, Marlow Stern, 2021)

Interview with Untitled Magazine (Untitled, Indira Cesarine, 2013)

Interview with Loudwire (Loudwire, Full Metal Jackie, 2014)

Interview with Indie-Mag (Indie-Mag, 2017)

Beyond the Boys’ Club: Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless (Consequence of Sound, Anne Erickson, 2020)

Halestorm, Pretty Reckless Singers on ‘Guy Bitch Fights’ and ‘Freaky’ Fans (Rolling Stone, Kory Grow, 2015)

Smashing guitars is nothing new, so why are people so rattled by Phoebe Bridgers’ SNL performance? (Guitar World, Marianne Eloise, 2021)

Haim Open Up About ‘Women in Music Pt III,’ Protesting in LA & Music Industry Sexism; “Not a Lot Has Changed” (, Pamela Chelin, 2020)

Haim: “A lot of feelings you have, you don’t really recognize how deep they go…” (Grazia Magazine, Rebekah Clark, 2020)

Haim Talks Sexism, Strength and Sticking Together in New Album ‘Women in Music Pt. III’ (L’Officiel, Jack Irvine, 2020)

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