Disrespect runs rampant with female country music artists

Opinion Column: Essentially Essex

Country music has always been my favorite genre, there’s a song and artist for every mood and feeling you might be having. I have a lot of family in the South and have spent a lot of time on farms during my equestrian career, so I pretty much grew up on country. Just this last summer I went on a road trip to Nashville, Tennessee, a place very close to my heart. It was an eye-opening experience that made me love and appreciate country music that much more.

Country music is full of women. Many of the top country artists that hit the billboard top charts are women. But this does not mean that sexism does not exist in the genre. Just the other day I was on Facebook when an article with a headline about Carrie Underwood and sexism caught my eye. Intrigued, I looked more into the topic and was inspired to write about sexism in country music because it doesn’t get enough attention. Recently country music artist Sara Evans responded to a sexist radio executive who stated, “Country music would not be what it is without women.” The controversy started when radio consultant Keith Hill compared female vocalists in the genre to tomatoes. Apparently in his full comment, Hill compared country music to a salad. The men Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, and Keith Urban being the lettuce, and the female artists being the tomatoes on the salad. Basically saying men are the foundation and women just sit there. Hill also suggested that radio programmers feature less female artists on their stations if they want to keep their ratings. It is appalling that in this day and age after all the progress women have made that sexism to this measure still exists.

Sara Evan’s full response was brief, but she noted that she was glad Hill made his comment. “Because we women of country music have been talking about and dealing with this for the past five to seven years ... we have seen it get harder and harder to get played on the radio almost to the point that we feel that we have no genre anymore. They just will not play women. It’s so ridiculous.” She also went on to say that now that Hill has brought it up, women and everyone else can officially address the problem.

After Carrie Underwood’s headline from Billboard, I discussed the controversy with my dad. I brought up a point that even though women have broken into country music, they only use their songs to discuss a few topics, like broken records, and this is another form of sexism in the genre. As much as I love them, songs by female country artists really are always about the same thing — break-ups, love or religion. Sara Evans spoke about the differences between her first songs and her current music. It was back in 1999, the year of big name artists such as Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood. Evans’ single “A Little Bit Stronger” was No. 1 on the charts for two weeks. Once her second single came out, her record company warned her how hard it was for female country artists to get on the radio. “Country music would not be what it is without women,” Evans said. “If you’re not going to play women, you’re going to have to call it another genre or split it up and give females somewhere else to release music.”

Martina McBride also responded to Hill’s comment on her Facebook page saying, “Wow ... just wow do you not like to hear other women singing about what you are going through as women? I’m really curious. Because to me, country music is about relating.”

The question to be answered here is why? Why are males in the record label industry so against having women on their labels and on the radio? There is no good reason, because simply stating that you “don’t like it,” doesn’t do anything. There’s no logic behind such a statement. This clear bias is so confusing and unnecessary, but if there is a real, logical reason as to why women are frowned upon in country music, I’d like to know.

Diana Essex is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her column, “Essentially Essex,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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