They call it the dog eat dog industry. Where the best of buddies turn into sworn enemies overnight. An industry which can bring the best of men to their knees. What more women?
The plight of female musician begins at home, long before she ventures into the industry. Parents have their own dreams for their daughters and these usually include university, weddings, and children. Therefore, as a female child having a dream of releasing an album, let alone penning one song is usually received with much scepticism negativity. Most parents believe that this industry is for the indecent, uncultured and loose girls. Unless if one wants to venture into gospel. As a result for some girls, a dream dies before seeing the light of day whereas the passion driven soldier on without the initial blessing of the parents.
Romantic relationships and marriages also pose as a challenge for women in the industry as some parents are protective of their women. They find only a thin line between performing and prostitution. Such opinions are influenced by the portrayal of women as sex objects in the music industry.
In issues affecting the women in the Zimbabwean music industry, sexualisation is inevitable. Although sometimes it works in favour of women, female musicians are viewed as sex objects not only in music but also in newspapers, magazines, televisions and marketing. One example of a female artiste who has been highly sexualised is dancer-cum-newly turned musician Bev. Therefore, it has almost become a requirement to look sexy and attractive. Those who choose to dress otherwise have to constantly justify themselves.
Female newcomers if not careful are usually used by promiscuous promoters, producers and certain bands in the pretext of promoting them. Many women have been left crying foul after realising that they were being used to push personal interests and agendas not directly related to their own dreams. They also face the challenge of being judged at face value by promoters or investors as they are usually described more by appearance than talent.
The issue of gender inequality are rather gender equality stands as a large boulder blocking the path of Zimbabwean women in their quest for success in the music industry. For a while now, women have been advocating for equal rights and this has changed men’s view of women as delicate humans to be protected and respected. Men have since stopped giving women preferential treatment and to a certain extent, they now regard women as potential rivals much to disadvantage of women as it is mostly men who hold top positions in recording companies, events companies, media houses and other vital areas.
Gender marginalisation also goes hand in hand with gender inequality. Although women such as Sandra Ndebele have made significant strides towards being accepted and respected by their male counterparts, the industry still remains a man’s world and acquiring the same amount of respect as men has remained a difficult task. Even though female musicians have behaved professionally and focused more on their talent, their vision is usually belittled as people are of the opinion that long term plans with women are not viable as they can get pregnant or married and retire anytime.
The industry is obsessed by younger women and it is unfriendly to older performers as they are usually refined to certain genres for example traditional music. For instance Thandanani Women’s Ensemble, they are welcome and appreciated because they do a genre which informs, educates and reminds us of our culture. However, if they had taken to Kwaito or House music they would have been received differently. But in Hollywood women old as fifty can sing Pop music like nobody’s business. When it comes to Zimbabwe, when a woman reaches a certain age, she is expected to get married and settle down. This belief spreads to the society as a whole, mainly because of our cultural background and norms. Taking into consideration that even though women are getting more and more involved in male dominated industries Zimbabwe still remains a patriarchal society therefore, men do not adapt easily to such changes.
Being picked by the media is another one of female musician’s woes. If there is a scandal which involves a woman or a woman is behind it, it gets double the attention which would have been awarded scandal involving a man.
There are also very few female producers, song writers, bands and more role models for women even though female artistes have characteristics suitable for that. Same applies to the number of women in positions of power. This can be mainly because when most women get married they retire and shift focus, thereby depriving future musicians the privilege of having female directors, managers, producers, promoters and much more.
In conclusion female musicians should understand that stereotypical views of women not only affect mainstream artistes or musicians with big names only it also affects the underground and upcoming. Therefore, even though the music industry is a masculine world, women must adapt and not necessarily play by the men’s rules. To be respected, they have to earn it, focus on their talent first and be professional in every way. Without more women in positions of power, the situation is likely not to change significantly. More female role models, producers, song writers are still needed too.