It was only this time last year, when Glastonbury proudly announced the introduction of the first ever women-only venue, ‘The Sisterhood’. The organisers even said themselves that the ‘revolutionary clubhouse’ was ‘necessary in a world that is still run by and designed to benefit mainly men’. It seemed like a step forward, or so we thought.
‘The Sisterhood’ is described by the organisers as an ‘intersectional, queer, trans and disability-inclusive space’ and was designed to ‘open conversations [about oppression against women], and maybe start a bit of a movement’. However, they had clearly not anticipated the level of hatred it would ignite within people. Barring men from the conversation of equality? Really? Not surprisingly, ‘The Sisterhood’ was not enough to rectify the gender disproportions in the industry and as festivals announce their woman-less line-ups, 2017 has seen another wave of outrage.
The issue of gender imbalance at music festivals is a complex one and has been debated a lot over the last couple of decades, especially as Beyoncé and Adele have been the only two solo female artists to headline Glastonbury in 25 years. Melvin Benn, organiser of Wireless, Reading & Leeds and V festivals, said that ‘what we put on is representative of what people are listening to’. Oh, is that right, Mr. Benn? Maybe next year your headline acts should be Muse, Muse and more Muse?
Just when you thought this debate could not get any more controversial, Reading and Leeds festival announced that 57 men and 1 woman will be appearing this year. So what about Haim, Halsey and Lorde? All of these female acts appeal to the age and musical genre of most festivals yet they are continuously left out of the line-ups. If it is true that successful female artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez do not appear at major festivals because their audiences still have a bedtime, then what about acts that have appeared at other international festivals, that do have the desired fan base and are alternative enough for the festival scene? Why can’t these artists headline festivals?
This debate has many contributing factors, has no clean-cut solution and no one person to blame but with the intensity of outrage increasing every year, it is clear that something needs to change. If male-dominated line-ups are a result of male-dominated audiences, then maybe a mix of male and female artists will encourage a more proportionate crowd. The equality debate will continue in its many different forms but the music industry needs to do its part to reflect the change we want to see on the stages of our most loved festivals.