Recent BBC research has found that only 6% of headline acts at festivals this year are women, and shockingly there are no female headliners at Glastonbury at all, despite its liberal leftie reputation. Lorde, the biggest star out there right now is only second on the bill on the second stage! Is it really that much to ask in the 21st century to have female headliners and a 50/50 split of male and female acts on a festival bill?
The thing with discrimation is that it is often subconscious, and insidious. A couple of years back a music blog edited posters to show how few women were on festival lineups but despite that nothing has changed. Look at TRNSMT festival this year in Glasgow where only one act on the main stage – London Grammar – have a female singer. No major UK festival has anywhere near equal representation – the closet you get is Green Man and End of the Road festivals, with around a third of their acts being female. Despite this shocking lack of representation some people, sorry some men, still don’t see this as a problem.
Take veteran Scottish music journalist Billy Sloan for one. He participated in a BBC Scotland phone in on this subject today and his utterly pathetic response to the debate was mansplaining on the highest level. Listen from 1 hour 35 in and hear him rudely dismiss the issues, before talking over and talking down to the three other women on the show. He calls the issues around representation at festivals ‘female paranoia’ and dismisses the debate as ‘not worthwhile’ and ‘nonsense.’ These type of ignorant attitudes prove that there’s just no point talking to men about sexism. We need to come together as women and fight for equality ourselves.
If we want to improve female representation on festival bills we have to get young women involved. These girls are the future. They already use social media to promote a more diverse and equal society – just look at the success of the women’s marches. Give these girls something to support, a cause to fight for and they will mobilise. We need to overthrow the dinosaurs in charge of these festivals (and radio stations but that’s another matter). We need female acts on these bills to show everyone that women can be just as successful as men in music.
If things are really going to change then a major female star needs to put their money where their mouth is. If they truly care about equality they need to make a stand – insist on a 50/50 split of the line up or don’t agree to play. Or even better, do something like Mumford and Sons did with their Gentlemen of the Road project and set up your own festival. Invite female only acts and encourage young people to attend. If you prove a female only festival is a success then you can convince the mainstream festivals to book more female acts. Together we can change the system.
Haim are the ideal people for this task really since they have already mooted the idea of bringing back Lilith Fair, which ran successfully in the 90s. Or someone like Lorde is a really intelligent and forward thinking kind of pop star who has a large enough fan base and critical credibility to make things happen. Or Paramore. Or Solange. Or Chvrches. Or Wolf Alice. There are so many awesome female acts out there who could headline any festival given the chance.
Giving Beyoncé, Florence and Adele the headline slot at Glastonbury isn’t enough – that’s just three women in thirty years! All festivals have to strive for equality every year at the very least. Imagine if one day women actually outnumbered men on festival line ups! Until then we can’t stop fighting for fair representation.