This week Reading and Leeds announced the bulk of its line-up for this year’s festival, including third headliners The Libertines. Noticeably though, in this announcement there is a glaring omission of bands featuring female members which is bizarre and alarming, and yet another example of how gender blind our society isn’t, like we needed another reminder. However, as Noisey have pointed out this week, this isn’t abnormal. Festivals are like this all the time.
Taking a look at the main stage headliners of ten of the biggest U.K. festivals from 2014 (British Summer Time, Download, Glastonbury, Green Man, Isle of White, Latitude, T in the Park, Reading & Leeds, V Festival & Wireless), there were twenty-nine all-male bands and only three bands featuring females, and two of these were Arcade Fire who headlined both Glastonbury and British Summer Time. The boss of Reading & Leeds Melvin Benn has come out in response to the attacks on his festival by arguing that “For me, it’s never been about the gender of the band, it’s about the quality of the band.” Really Melvin? Freelance illustrator Phoebe Summers drew up a line-up on Thursday featuring only bands with females in, and the quality looks as good, if not better, than the current line-up. And it still misses out some stellar artists such as Hole, Laura Marling, The Subways, Milk Teeth & Lady Gaga. Festivals need to start showcasing the talents of females, because they are so hideously under-represented currently. The omission is symbolic of the fact that rock music is still, disappointingly, a man’s game.
Indeed, somehow females in bands are still seen as novelties and often become the focal point of the buzzwords surrounding said band. Any band with a female vocalist is immediately dubbed female-fronted… When was the last time you heard a band described as male-fronted? Similarly, all these bands featuring female vocalists are immediately pigeonholed together and described in the same vein simply because their lead singers mutually share some common ground- a vagina. The drummer in Marmozets, one of the eight bands with a female in playing R&L this year, tweeted his outrage this week at their songs being compared to Paramore. Anyone who has heard these two bands, who are both excellent in their own right, will agree that this analogy is lazy and an example of the aforementioned inattention given to the bands as an entity as opposed to simplifying it down to the gender of their respective lead singers.
I regularly hear many people question and denounce the importance of feminism in today’s society, but issues like this are examples of the ways in which society is still very much under-representing women. The importance and necessity of feminism in society today is that we need to advance women to a point where they are genuinely equal to men, not only in U.K. festivals, but in society in general.