Term Paper: Women's Music? Anyone

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[. . .] While such things are very difficult to quantify, to qualify as women's music, a group and its music would have to score over 50% compliance in each of these categories to qualify as women's music - although a group that played only at women's music festivals, for example, could include more male musicians than other groups and still be considered a "women's music" group.

The figure of fifty percent is, admittedly, just a tad fictitious, but it is certainly arguable that in order to be considered a women's music group that group would have to comply with the basic conditions of the genre more than half of the time. This definition sounds complex and even unwieldy, but it does in fact reflect the way in which women's music is defined as McRobbie and Garber (2000) suggest. Art is almost always complicated.

This interview with singer/songwriter Teresa Trull on Technodyke summarizes a number of the complexities and ambiguities in the world of women's music today:

As far as Women's music is concerned, I think it was high time for it to change from what I considered to be a narrow definition. Women's music was momentarily weakened as I was, but the diversification was long overdue.

RZ: The women's music festival circuit brought many artists to a greater prominence, developed the women's community and brought many diverse elements together. With rising acceptance of women (and lesbian) musicians in the mainstream music world, is the age of women's music festivals over?

TT: Heavens no...BUT... just as in the industry, when women's culture and lesbians are more generally accepted, you are going to see less need for a separatist environment and more leaning towards worldly and humanist events. The creative people that that diversifies and include will probably enjoy a greater success. I know that growth for some of us old timers is hard, but I, for one, welcome leaving the womb and I hope for a truly brave, new world. I am proud of my roots and know that certainly there are many battles yet to be fought but we also have to embrace the new and be glad for the changes.

Trull's interview brings up an important point, which is the nature of the relationship of lesbians and "lesbian music" to women's music. This is a relatively new issue, given that so few lesbians were open about their sexuality until recently, and it plays into the larger issue of who is included in the community of women that women's music is addressing. Today that community tends to be defined very broadly indeed as women of different classes, races, and generations are included.

The women in the audience - and to some extent on stage and in the executive suites - have grown more diverse as a group since the second wave of feminism broke over the country in the 1970s. The women in this group also relied on music to help define them as a community and to give them a sense of purpose (as Kimball [1981] explores). They were not the first to do so of course, for the same was true of the first movement of feminism, during the Progressive Era of the teens and twenties that brought women the right to vote as well as rights to many common laborers. Indeed, movements composed of those with relatively little social power have for centuries used the power of the expressive arts to unify, motivate and fortify their causes.

What sets the modern women's music movement apart from the women's music of the 1970s or 1920s - and apart from other forms of popular music - is that combination of factors discussed above.

Works Cited

Giroux, Henry. Stealing Innocence: Youth Corporate Power, and the Politics of Culture. London: St. Martin's 2001. http://www.technodyke.com/features/teresa4.asp

Hanna, Judith. Dance, Sex, and Gender: Signs of Identity, Dominance, Defiance, and Desire. Chicago: U. Of Chicago Press, 1988.

Kimball, Gayle. Women's Culture: The Women's Renaissance of the Seventies. Los Angeles: Scarecrow, 1981.

Koskoff, Ellen. (ed.). Women and Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Urbana: U. Of Illinois Press, 1987.

McClary, Susan. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minneapolis: U. Of Minnesota Press, 1991.

McRobbie, Angela. Feminism and Youth Culture (2nd ed.), London: Routledge 2000.

Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation. New York: Morrow,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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