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Female voices and the Hottest 100

Well, it is good to see the issue of female representation in the Hottest 100 now being picked up all over the place. Hoyden About Town presents a wrap up of the blogs on the subject and I notice the subject has been picked up by News Ltd in the form of this article on The Punch. And as I write this the issue is being vigorously debated all over the place on Twitter (albeit with the limitations that Twitter imposes on debate).

Triple J’s Hack picked up the story tonight and led off with expert commentary (ho ho) from yours truly. Most disappointing was how defensive Zan Rowe was – it is not the fault of Triple J, it is the fault of the dominant paradigms of society. Triple J does quite a good job of promoting female artists and other divergent voices. However, it alone cannot change the way we think about the world. And slightly disturbing that in the second 100, there were only 6 female artists!

What was edited from my commentary was the fact that what I think this represents is the massively culturally constructed nature of “taste”. We didn’t choose songs for our Top Tens just because of their innate quality, we chose them, at least in part, because of the cultural, social and, even personal, meaning that attaches to them. One of the callers on Hack showed insight when she noted that amongst her friends people voted for the songs they thought would be in the Top 100, rather than necessarily their favourite. At the beginning of the week I asked on Twitter whether it was cooler to have all your songs in the Hottest 100, or to have them miss out because you are sooo cutting edge. Clearly for this set of people, inclusion was compelling. This of course means that what we have is a reproduction of social norms, of what people think that should like – and this construction is not always conscious.

So, the meaning that attaches to songs sung by women is obviously different to the meaning which attaches to those sung by men. This is hardly surprising in a society where the social meaning attached to anything about women is vastly different, and, unfortunately, unusually still inferior to that attached to men. So how do we change this: well, not easily, but at least the fact that this is a debate being had – and being picked up in the increasingly mainstream media, has got to be a good step forward.

I could say something really negative about ideology and the obscuring reality here, but I’ll try and end on a positive note.

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