Music, Gender, and Society: Outstanding Student Essays

Beth Denisch

In any age, popular music is a reflection of cultural values. Cultures that label “women engineers,” “women presidents,” and “women rock bands” are labeling men as normal by default.
Dunbar, Julie. Women, Music, Culture.
Routledge, 2016 (381).
Begin with basics. Always lead with the question, “What’s it like to be a composer and a woman?” or “How does being a woman influence your music?” Women love having their personal, defining creative impulses reduced to outdated stereotypes of gender, and don’t at all find it ironic that men are never asked “How does being a man influence your music?” as if estrogen and testosterone were the creative juices feeding all artistic inspiration. Or, maybe estrogen just makes it harder to compose?
Ambrose, Alex. “How to Talk to a Female Composer.”
WQXR. Q2 Music. 26 August 2014. Web. 16 May 2016.
LSOC-220 Music, Gender, and Society course introduces musical genres, repertoire, producers, composers, and performers that reflect and/or inspire various gender images and identities in society. Drawing on interdisciplinary discourse this course provides a variety of sources regarding music and gender in society and facilitates discussion of these topics. Students read, write, talk, and reflect about otherness, marginalization, and gender identity in music using examples of historic and contemporary musicians and musical styles.

Each semester students choose their own writing topics within this broader subject area. The following five essays represent a diversity of perspectives that inspire us to more deeply consider, discuss, and consequently act as innovators to readjust the current gender injustices that define today’s music industry.

Aaron Larson Tevis’ “Freedom: Gender and Technology in Music” explores the social perception of gender difference in the creation and use of music technology and production. Jordan Popky’s “’Female As a Sub-Genre” reflects on the positive and negative connotations of using the term “woman” in front of one’s professional identity. Leonoor Rinke de Wit’s “To what extent do women in the music industry support feminism?” discusses contrasting stances on feminism by popular music celebrities including whether or not it is unfeminine to be a feminist. Paola Pierce’s “Hip-Hop and Reggaetón: Parallel Grounds” compares their similar messages of sexual objectification of women through videos and lyrics.

Professor Beth Denisch, D.M.A.
Composition Department, Professional Writing and Music Technology Division
and Adjunct to the Liberal Arts Department, Professional Education Division
(author and teacher of LSOC-220 Music, Gender, and Society)
Featured Artwork:
“Public Domain Images Concrete Light Sky Silo Windows Sunlight Rays”, Public Domain Archive, 27 October 2016,