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The Problem with 'Girl Band'

Girl Band: noun

a music act featuring several female singers or musicians.

The term ‘Girl Band’ has often been used to describe a music act mostly or completely made up of women. To many the term may seem harmless, a way to describe them, definitely. But this verbiage is inherently flawed. Would you describe the Killers as a boy band? What about Led Zeppelin?

So why can women not escape ‘Girl Band’ in every article or interview they do?

This may have something to do with the stunning lack of women in the music industry. According to data from Forbes February 2019, in three creative roles in the music industry, women make up just 21.7% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters, and 2.1% of producers. In addition to this, between 2013 and 2019 only 10.4% of grammy nominees were women.

The Instagram account @bookmorewomen also gives some insight into the music industry, showing the lack of women and non-binary artists in festival lineups.

To read more about book more women head to our article here:

Or check them out on Instagram.

So what exactly is the problem with the term ‘Girl Band’? To put it shortly, it limits an artist to their gender. In a quote from Gemma Thompson from the band Savages, “It never occurred to me that being female was a reason I should or shouldn’t be playing music… It surpasses gender”. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Haim had a lot to say on the issue. Este was quoted saying “We’re a band. Not a ‘girl band’.... I think people just need to change the verbiage and the way they describe music and the way that they look at women in music”. Girl band is not a music genre! A ‘girl band’ could be rock, they could be pop, folk, or what have you.

I understand that many people may still be confused, and many may think “But I mean it as a compliment! I love girl power!”. To reference Haim again, I truly do believe that the lack of verbiage is partially to blame here. In response to this, I also think back to a story that Joni Mitchell often tells. Mitchell often references a time when she was walking down the street and a fan approached her and said something along the lines of “Joni! I just wanted to let you know that you’re my favorite female songwriter of all time”. After this, she just kinda shrugged it off and said that she should be someones favorite songwriter of all time, not a female songwriter. This can also be seen in the sports world where Serena Williams has been called the greatest female tennis player of all time, and she’s like “No! Call me the greatest tennis player of all time”. By using this wording it’s insinuating that, yeah you’re good, but you are still second to a man of the same skill. I believe it will take a collective unlearning to get to the point of telling women you’re not great ‘for a girl’, you are just great.

Overall representation matters. Whether that’s people of color, women, LGBT+ or whatever else in your industry, seeing that matters.



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