Icelandic singer, songwriter, and producer Björk has been on the music scene since the early ‘90s, but less than a year ago she started DJing. Though her fans have been supportive, the media has been much less friendly. After DJing alongside some of her favorite artists – Aphex Twin, Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Matmos – at the Day for Night festival in Houston, Björk released a letter on Facebook responding to the negative criticism she received for her performance, as a result of the double standard female performers face in the music industry and announcing her hopes for change in 2017.
Critics of her show claimed that Björk was “not ‘performing’” and “‘hiding’ behind desks.” In spite of the fact that her male counterparts had similar shows, she was singled out for her lack of visibility and movement around the stage. “I think this is sexism,” Björk wrote, “which […] is not something I’m going to let slide.”
Elaborating on the constraints the media places on female recording artists, Björk claimed that “women in music are allowed to be singer-songwriters [when they’re] singing about their boyfriends,” should women try to “change the subject matter […] they get criticized.” She demonstrates the truth in her statement with her own experiences releasing music about political activism, pedagogy, and sci-fi to the media’s disdain. However, once “[she] shared a heartbreak” through her album, she gained the media’s acceptance. Meanwhile, men are permitted variety in their music, achieving critical acclaim for work that explores science fiction, history, humor, and creative soundscapes, claimed Björk.
Other women in the music industry also feel that they are taken less seriously than their male counterparts. In 2013, Canadian singer Grimes spoke out about unprofessional, unaccomplished male musicians believing that she’s incapable of succeeding in the industry without their advice. Similarly, a member of electronic group Au Revoir Simone, Erika Forester, claims that she and her bandmates were often mistaken for groupies. Musical talent in female musicians is often overlooked by the media and the music industry.
Though Björk admits she hasn’t complained much about misogyny in the music industry in the past, she is a veteran when it comes to speaking out against stereotypes: from voicing her opinions about how women are viewed in the media to a Spanish TV reporter in the ‘90s to speaking about female-directed ageism and distasteful treatment of actresses over age 30 in mid-2016.
Although Björk has been heading conversations about gender-driven stereotypes for years now, she feels particularly optimistic about the advancement of equality for women in 2017. “Change is in the air,” Björk wrote, declaring that we are surrounded by a “revolutionary energy.” She describes the changes needed to the lift the limitations on women, releasing them from their stereotypical role and allowing them to be true to themselves, as something “we all deserve.”
She closes the letter with the belief that this year will be the year that the media ceases perpetuating sexist stereotypes. “Let’s make 2017 the year where we fully make the transformation!” Björk proclaimed. “The right to variety for all girls!”
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