Women And The Music Media

Posted on May 13, 2013


How women are portrayed in the music industry is a wide scale, controversial topic today. Anna Van Heeswijk from the Object campaign stated that “In many cases there is no marked difference between pornography and some of the pictures in the tabloids” (Leveson, 2012). In many cases, for women to be successful they have to present themselves as a sexual object. Is it wrong that women are displayed in this way? Or is it a necessity for female artists to make money? Artists like Rihanna have hit global success due to their sexual behaviour on stage, in their music and music videos.

Even well respected artists like Beyoncé have to live-up to their reputation of being beautiful. During her performance at the Super Bowl in February, unflattering pictures were taken of the star’s ‘energetic performance’. Her publicist asked for them to be removed, showing concerns that Beyoncé may not be perceived in the same way because of them. Beyoncé is a world wide representative of feminism and women’s independence, but this incident shows that (even for her) a flawless appearance is mandatory.

How women are displayed and treated does not stop at the cameras, it also continues behind the scenes of the music industry. Only 15% of the members in the Music Managers Forum are female, and they are paid a lot less than men, with only 6% earning over £29,000 (Lindvall, 2010). Equality between sexes is thought to be far better in today’s society but it seems the notion that women are less adequate than men still prevails beneath the surface.

One very opinionated perspective on why women are displayed as sexual objects is put forth by 1980s producer, Mike Stock in The Daily Mail: “It’s both easy and lazy. And probably shows a lack of ability to do something else” (Watson, 2012). He believes that artists such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna choose to be portrayed sexually to cover up the fact that they have no talent. Stock supported this by discussing Adele. She is a great female icon in the music industry, but has never strutted around a stage provocatively, because her songs are what’s important, not her image.

In the music business, equality is not a top priority – money is. According to researched at the University of Colorado, pop music is “cruder, more self-centred and sex-orientated” (McCormick, 2003) than ever before. But if half-naked women are what makes money then politics and ethical considerations will be pushed further into blissful ignorance. There is a reason why the phrase ‘sex sells’ circulates the media.


Leveson, (2012) Five things about women in the press. The BBC. [Online]. 3 December. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20554942 [Accessed: 10 April 2013]

Lindvall, H, (2010) Behind the music: the gender gap shows no sign of closing. The Guardian. [Online]. 7 May. Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2010/may/07/behind-the-music-gender-gap [Accessed: 9 April 2013]

McCormick, N, (2003) The music business is more brutal than the sex industry. The Telegraph. [Online]. 4 December. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandjazzmusic/3607733/The-music-business-is-more-brutal-than-the-sex-industry.html [Accessed: 25 April 2013]

Watson, L, (2012) ‘Sluttish pop stars are harming children’: Leading record producer slams the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna for ‘using sex because they lack talent’. The Daily Mail. [Online]. 20 May. Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2147107/Mike-Stock-slams-Lady-Gaga-Rihanna-Sluttish-pop-stars-harming-children.html [Accessed: 24 April 2013]


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