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Music, Gender and Social Change – Contemporary Debates, Directions and Challenges

Conference contribution
Authors Cecilia Björck
Published in Keynotes, Music and Gender in Balance, 5-6 April, Tromsø
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Education, Communication and Learning
Language en
Keywords music, gender, gender-equality, social change
Subject categories Music education, Music


For decades, various efforts have been made to counteract the effects of male-dominated and/or sexist music cultures and to balance the number of women in areas and positions where they are underrepresented. In popular music, such efforts have often been channelled into creating alternative women- and girls-only spaces, offering opportunities to network, to perform, and to develop technical and artistic skills in a supportive environment (Björck, 2013), for example through rock camps for girls. The recent #metoo movement, which has shaken various professional sectors during the fall of 2017 including the music industry, indicates that different forms of power misuse in popular (and also classical) music remain. In Sweden, the #metoo critique is situated in an ongoing arts and culture debate about the benefits and risks of gender equality policy goals in relation to artistic freedom and quality. In a larger and global context, the critique also relates to negotiations on how democracy and equality are to be understood and carried into action in contemporary society. This presentation will map central issues currently discussed in music practice and research and show examples of ongoing gender-equality efforts in music, today applying to a broad range of genres and musical activities. I will also discuss how ideas about gender equality in music relate to themes such as freedom/limitation, visibility/invisibility, and neoliberal/social justice discourses, and also how gender-equality work is complicated by calls for intersectional perspectives.

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