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Beyond the Awards, Part II: Partnering with Musicians and Feminist Activists

Posted by: Reza Clifton on 3/1/2012

Click on the sound file above or here to listen to an excerpt from my interview with feminist media activist, Jamia Wilson.

On my last post I began to talk about why certain female musicians do and do not make lists, and how feminist activists and musicians can work together.

To answer these questions I spoke to feminist media activist Jamia Wilson. As a writer and educator, Wilson travels and trains women and writers on getting their voices heard through traditional and digital media. She is also the Vice President of Programs at Women's Media Center, an organization that convenes panels, issues reports, leads grassroots campaigns, and trains members of the media to
address issues of women’s representation and general diversity.

Wilson clarified that even when you look at independent media and new online networks, women and people of color are still underrepresented in leadership positions. Most places you look, she says, even in alternative spaces, “there is a normalizing of masculinity and whiteness,” and they are “not doing the work” to de-normalize this lens. What you might see, explains Wilson, is “let’s diversify once a month or once a year” without any authentic attempt to “put marginalized groups at the center.”

‘But what about artists like Beyoncé or Katy Perry that are household names?’ I asked Wilson. How can musicians and activists maintain an argument when there are those female artists that do get attention and placement on lists?

“If you look at what it took for Katy Perry or Beyoncé to get on the list,” begins Wilson, “it is often different.” She points out that there is often more reliance on what they wore, how little they wore, or what else they were doing besides music. “You don’t see men being listed and compared in the ‘who it wore it better’ columns and pictures,” says Wilson. “And if you don’t fit into the social sexualization model, you might have trouble.”

So what can women in music and advocates do to counter these trends and raise their profiles? One thing Wilson suggests is creating “consciousness-raising open mics” and “speak[ing] to audiences before performances,” about grassroots and legislative issues. One way to do this, says Wilson, is by partnering with organizations or "join[ing] coalitions to demand equal pay for male and female artists.”

Wilson also believes a prime strategy is “women creating our own media” – like RightHer, the blog from Women’s Fund of Rhode Island. From writing editorials about personal experiences or writing about women in music to using Facebook and “doing tweets about the issues they’re facing,” Wilson says “get out there and do it!”

To listen to a segment of my interview with Wilson, click here. To read more about diversity in the media, click here to view some of my archived presentation notes or here to read the 2012 Women’s Media Center report on "The Status of Women in the Media." Cranston East high school student, Kathryn McDaniel, should also be recognized for her assistance in compiling this year's music list.

Contents of this blog constitute the opinion of the author, and the author alone; they do not represent the views and opinions of Women's Fund of Rhode Island.

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