Celebrating kick-arse women in music

Resistance and Socialist Alliance members in Newcastle, New South Wales, have initiated a poll on the social networking website Facebook to decide the best 100 songs by women musicians of all time. The poll is timed to coincide with International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8.

In 2009, Australian radio station Triple J ran a poll to find the "Hottest 100" songs of all time. Only two of the songs in the final list were sung by female vocalists, and only three bands had women in them.

Since then, alternative polls have been organised to represent the talent and diversity of women musicians. For one such poll, the "Hottest 100 Women", the number one song was suitably Aretha Franklin's "Respect".

Initiator of the IWD poll, Katie Cherrington, told Green Left Weekly: "We reflected on the past year, and the many issues that exist today for women's rights. The case of the couple in Queensland that were criminally charged for procuring an abortion is one example of how far we still have to go.

"This year there have been T-shirts for sale saying things like 'It's not rape, it's surprise sex'. Football players still getting away with rape and assault show that violence against women is still a serious issue.

"But Triple J's poll is another example of the discrimination experienced by women. No one voted for women artists. Why? It's because of sexist attitudes within society."

The music industry is hugely sexist. It markets women as sex symbols and puts pressure on female artists to accept commercial stereotypes. Women are slotted into particular genres, rarely recognised as artists in their own right.

"There are so many amazing women singers and bands out there", Cherrington said. But women struggle to be recognised as stand-alone musicians — at least not enough to make the Triple J top 100.

Social attitudes compare and judge women much more, and more harshly, than men. Sexism exists in advertising, all over television, in film and also on the streets, in the attitudes of many people — women included.

"The purpose of the poll was to raise awareness about such sexism. Each year, IWD is a chance to discuss women's rights and the struggles we still face", Cherrington said.

IWD is a global day that recognises the economic, political and social achievements of feminist and women's liberation movements around the world. But every year, there are more women suffering severe poverty, more violence in homes and in the streets, and more attacks on women's rights.

Cherrington said: "Women all over the world have sung of these struggles."

To slightly paraphrase the inspiring feminist singer Ani DiFranco when she sang Hour Follows Hour: "I have something to prove, as long as I know there's something that needs improvement, and you know that every time I move, I make a women's movement."

[Votes can be emailed to until midday March 7. A listening party will be held on March 8. For details, visit www.resistance.org.au/newcastle.]

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