ARTICLE | 16 MARCH 2023
The month of March brings many things – unexpected snow, the start of Spring, and International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day (8th March) aims to create “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive”, goals that resonate with the aims of Donne. It is the perfect time to shout from the rooftops about gender equity and bring awareness to issues of equality for women, from unconscious gender bias to the extremes of misogyny.
It is always wonderful to see organisations going the extra mile to bring light to these issues and to have a little encouragement to implement strategies that might support a move towards a world of gender parity. While initiatives and special days like these have their detractors, and while it can seem performative, it’s interesting to think about to what extent these sort of awareness days help their cause and to what extent they hinder. In my personal opinion, as Tesco says, every little helps. Large organisations can often feel the pressure to post about international women’s day and create initiatives to support it due to the nature of the event. This can mean that the message is reaching groups and audiences that might not be part of, what can sometimes be, an equality echo chamber. I often think about my own experience with politics and equality (while not always specific to gender). One example was the EU referendum. I thought Team Leave was doomed to fail until I worked in a polling station on referendum day and realised that the organisations and people I’m surrounded with mirror my own thoughts and the interesting pieces and thoughts that they were sharing weren’t always getting out beyond an inner circle.
On the other hand, it is sometimes frustrating to see performative actions from groups who don’t seem to be committed to equality the other 364 days of the year. It can be galling to see shallow posts claiming to champion women from companies that are known to have large gender pay gaps and other diversity issues. Especially in an age where social media and online presence is everything, performative diversity seems to be on the rise. The key thing is looking for where words and actions collide – they’re celebrating women but are they working on any strategies that support women? If a huge number of organisations suddenly post about supporting women one day of the year, can it actually hinder gender equality efforts by giving a false image of how tuned into diversity issues people are?
While I don’t have any clear answers to the above, the day inspired me to think about who my women in music heroes are this month:
Grace Petrie – folk-singer, songwriter, and activist – as well as being an amazing musician (her tracks are seriously addictive), she raised a great point on Twitter last month about often getting booked my festivals and radio stations to talk about gender issues but not to actually play and share her music.
Vanessa Threadgold, Nadia Khan, and Vick Bain – I put them as a trio because they gave amazing and shocking evidence at the House of Commons regarding misogyny in music as part of the Women and Equalities Committee last month.
Socials: @weareqveen @NadiaCTRL @vickbain
House of Commons link; https://committees.parliament.uk/work/6736/misogyny-in-music/publications/
Elizabeth Hardman is Soprano & PhD Researcher
Music PhD | OOC-DTP Studentship | “Confronting canonicity and promoting diversity: Gender and contemporary concert programming”
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
You can find her on Twitter @Lizzylikespie or on her website.