I was listening to one of my favourite Australian podcasts today from the broadcasting network Triple J. The episode, which is from last week, looked at a concert that had been organised in Australia where every single band on the line-up was all male. This then spurred on a discussion about whether having no women on a line-up was acceptable and shed light on the broader issue of whether society needs to be working harder to include women or whether things are fine as they are.
So, lets unpick the debate about if we have reached equality and if we need to place any time and resources into ensuring the art community features women as frequently as it does men.
To start with, 50% of the population is female and thus the art community, prizes awarded to artists, line-ups etc. should be comprised of a 50% female component. That’s not a ground-breaking idea, it’s just basic statistics. If you had 10 red grapes and 10 green grapes and you gave them to a child whom you told could eat 10 grapes it’s logical to assume that the child will eat 5 red and 5 white to make up the 10 total. Unless bias intervenes, an equal amount should be had of both grapes. Not rocket science, just statistics.
Unfortunately, a massive bias exists in our society today which has resulted in men being far over represented. According to ‘A Room of Her Own: A Foundation for Women Writers and Artists’ only 9 out of 52 people to have won the National Book Award for Fiction are women. Only 9. This is just one statistic of many that highlight the under-representation of women in art. Another example that nearly all of us would be familiar with is a budding author named Joanne Rowling is advised to go by the title J.K Rowling in a bid to sell more books as people may have been reluctant to purchase a fantasy novel authored by a female. If you think equity exists within the art community, try explaining that to your daughter who is perplexed as to why J.K Rowling didn’t use her first name.
To think that gender equality exists already within the art community is utterly naïve. Men need to start making space for women and everyone needs to acknowledge that work needs to go into ensuring women are justly represented in the arts and elsewhere. Unfortunately we have not yet reached to day where someone is able to book a line-up for a concert without being mindful to get women on the bill, but one day we’ll get there if we start acknowledging that things are not perfect and work still needs to be done.