Women Writing Rights

The discrimination of female music journalists

Visible Women

Female Voices to the Front (Page)

Most people regard it as common sense to feature a ‘female voice’. They call it the “obvious thing”, a “done deal”. By now, we know this does not always go without saying.

What is certain though is that women writers have been important contributors to popular music discourse; whether through movements like punk and riot grrrl, through their experiences, through feminist actions or through simply adding some balance.


Martin James, Professor of the Music Industries, on some influential female writers


Andy Prevezer, Vice President of Press and Publicity at Warner Music UK.
Photo by Pat Pope
The highlighting of female strengths does not intend to create a reverse discrimination against men. Instead, it stresses the need to include the female voice in cultural discussions. Andy Prevezer, Vice President of Press and Publicity at Warner Music UK, says:


“Music journalism has to embrace everybody.
It's got to be totally and utterly inclusive,
otherwise it's not valid. It´s not worth anything
if it doesn't embrace every voice”


Women make up 51% of the human race and with some magazines like Kerrang! 51% of readers. Caroline Coon, artist and former star journalist at Melody Maker, says: “Luckily in the modern world we are going to eradicate gender and sex differences and the differences will be worked out in capacity, ability, character and type.” Women journalists' experiences as females in society feed into their characters and types. It defines what music they like and what they deem credible. Gilbert and Pearson say in Authenticity as Authentication that “artists must speak the truth of their and others' situations” to be authentic. So, female critics may ascribe credibility to (female) artists that may be rejected by their male colleagues.

“In terms of female musicians, men would talk about pixies and fairies, goddesses and witches. They wouldn't be talking about female performers and feminism in a logical, constructed way,” says Ngaire Ruth who wrote for Melody Maker in the 1990s. To not be covered as women first and musicians second, lots of female acts have relied on female journalists. It lead to the rise of online magazines such as The Girls Are, Wears The Trousers or The F Word during the noughties, all dedicated to female artists and mostly written by women critics.


Melody Maker critic Ngaire Ruth with Les from Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine
at Reading Festival 1991.

Photo by Michael Craddock


Female writers' approach to interviewing also often differs from male music journalists'. According to Lucy O'Brien, freelancer for Mojo, female writers ask different sort of questions – maybe more emotional, more about personal motivations. They dig a bit deeper.


Mojo journalist Lucy O'Brien talks about how the female nature can be an advantage


Former editor of The Face magazine Sheryl Garratt confirms this. She says: “I found this about a lot of musicians who are meant to be macho, men's men. If you send a girl to interview them you'll get a completely different interview. They love it because women ask different questions.” Women's different involvement with music in their adolescent years may be the reason for this. Garratt and Steward discuss in their book Signed, Sealed and Delivered that boys tend to be more interested in the technical aspects of music. Girls get into the lyrics, songs' potential to dance to and the artists themselves.

Simultaneously, women critics may be able to establish better or at least different rapports with female interviewees than some male journalists. Women share a similar cultural heritage and mutual experiences in the music industry. They can relate to each other. Their interviews may be less about the posturing ego, but getting behind the person.


Warner Music's Andy Prevezer on how musicians can benefit from female journalists

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© Ines Punessen 2013