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Southern Cross University

ePublications@SCU
Theses

1996

De-gendering the electronic soundscape: women,


power and technology in contemporary music
Jennifer M. Brown
Southern Cross University

Publication details
Brown, JM 1996, 'De-gendering the electronic soundscape: women, power and technology in contemporary music', Masters thesis,
Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.
Copyright JM Brown 1996

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DE-GENDERING THE ELECTRONIC


SOUNDSCAPE
Women, Power and Technology
in Contemporary Music

Jennifer Brown
(BA, Dip Primary Tch., Dip Migrant Tch.)

A thesis presented to the Faculty of Education, Work and Training,


Southern Cross University, Lismore, in partial fulfilment of requirements
for the degree of Master of Education (Training & Development)
by research.

October 1995

ABSTRACT
In this project, I focus on women's relationships with technology in the context
of contemporary music culture. In choosing this focus, I intend to elucidate the
interplay between social constructs of gender, power and technology as they
enacted in a particular arena of artistic and economic activity. The nature of this
interplay is informed by prevailing regimes of truth which have emerged
through historical processes and which surface in diverse social contexts, of
which this is but one. My intention here is to identify such regimes and to
situate women's discourses within them. In this undertaking, I draw on a body
of theory which lies at the conjunction of contemporary feminist critique and
the later work of Michel Foucault on power and the 'technologies of the self' to
explore a model of power which promises cogent strategies in the feminist
project of reworking notions of gender and social agency.
The inquiry enlists the perspectives of women students in a university school of
contemporary music through a guided interview process. The technologies
referred to include musical instruments both of traditional and twentieth
century design, as well as a range of sophisticated systems of equipment used
for recording and amplifying, for composing and arranging music.
Through analysis of the interview data and through readings from social
science and musicology, I identify a dominant discourse, or regime of truth,
which privileges men and marginalizes women in the realm of techno-musical
activity. Alongside this prevailing regime are women's discourses which both
comply with and dissent from its assumptions. In examining these discourses, I
seek insights into the processes by which women collude in their own exclusion
from a male-colonized terrain, but also exercise power to insist on entry. The
alignment of technology and masculinity in contemporary music creates serious
training and employment disadvantages for women in many facets of the
industry. I contend that this anomaly demands attention in the interests of
socio-economic justice, in the interests of the industry itself through full
utilization of human resources and market potential, and in the interests of
women's desires to expand their creative options and employment
opportunities.

DECLARATION
I certify that the content of this thesis has not previously been
submitted for any degree, nor is it being currently submitted for
any other degree. I certify that any help in its preparation and all
sources used have been acknowledged.

ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to express appreciation and gratitude to my supervisors,
Brenda Huntley and Michelle Wallace, for their steady
encouragement and critical interest in my project. Brenda, in
particular, has given very generously of her time in the midst of
a busy teaching schedule and the demands of her own research
work.

iii

CONTENTS
ABSTRACT................................................................................................................ i
DECLARATION ...................................................................................................... ii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.....................................................................................iii
CONTENTS ............................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF TABLES .................................................................................................... vi
Situating Myself A Prelude Lavished with Accidentals ...............................vii
Chapter 1. ORIENTATION .....................................................................................1
1.0 Introduction and Focus..................................................................................1
1.1 Definition of Key Terms.................................................................................2
1.2 Context and Rationale ...................................................................................5
1.3 Research Paradigm.......................................................................................21
1.4

Purposes and Delimitations of the Project ...............................................22

1.5 Overview of the Thesis ................................................................................23


Chapter 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ......................................................................25
2.0 Introduction ..................................................................................................25
2.1 Changing Perspectives on Culture and Technology .................................26
2.2 Gender Awareness in the Literature on Culture and Technology ...........28
2.3 The Science-Technology Connection ..........................................................29
2.4 Defining Technology ...................................................................................31
2.5 Feminist Critique of Culture, Technology and Gender.............................33
2.6 Women and Technology in Contemporary Music ...................................56
2.7 Conclusion ....................................................................................................67
Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY................................................................................68
3.0 Introduction ..................................................................................................68
3.1 Feminism as a Political and Epistemological Enterprise...........................68
3.2 Feminist Research Methods.........................................................................71
3.3 Validity in Feminist Research......................................................................73
3.4 My Role as Inquirer......................................................................................75
iv

3.5

Overview of the Design and Implementation of the Inquiry .................75

3.6 Strengths and Limitations of the Methodology .........................................83


3.7 Significance of this Study.............................................................................83
3.8 Summary .......................................................................................................84
Chapter 4. FEMININE GENDER AND MUSIC TECHNOLOGY
EMERGING THEMES ..........................................................................................85
4.0 Introduction ..................................................................................................85
4.1 Motivations for Undertaking a Contemporary Music University Course 86
4.2 Gendered Patterns of Instrumental Activity in Contemporary Music ....87
4.3

Women Describe their Relationships with 'Technology' .........................96

4.4 Chapter Summary ......................................................................................102


Chapter 5. DE-GENDERING THE ELECTRONIC SOUNDSCAPE ..............104
5.0 Introduction ................................................................................................104
............................................................................................................................105
5.1 Feminism, Post-structuralism and Foucault ............................................105
5.2 Regimes of Truth in Contemporary Music Culture ................................108
5.3

Feminist Agendas and the Limits to Foucault ........................................123

5.4 Radical Reinventions - Women Power Up The Circuitry .......................125


REFERENCES........................................................................................................131
Appendix A. INTERVIEW GUIDE.....................................................................139

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1:
Participation in Paid and Unpaid Musical Activities

13

Table 2:
Participation in Symphony Orchestras,
Chamber and Choral Groups

14

Table 3:
Music as a Primary Source of Income

15

Table 4:
Enrolments in Contemporary Music Studios, 1994-5

17

Table 5:
Enrolments in Audio-Engineering Courses, 1994-5

18

Table 6:
Gender Representation in
Music Technology Magazines

19

Table 7:
Gender Roles in Music Video Clips
Shown on ABC's Rage

20

vi

Situating Myself A Prelude Lavished with Accidentals


Turning forty was a germinal experience for me. It precipitated a major reevaluation of my achievements to date and led to the rather disquieting
realisation that, while my CV told the story of an adventurous and varied life, I
had yet to settle solidly into a True Vocation. I had been a factory worker,
cleaner, teacher, artist, ships cook, photographer, research worker, musician
and instrument repairer, song-writer and singer, farmer, house-builder,
political activist, traveller and mother. I quailed at the looming spectre of a
geriatric life with its options cut down to size by the material constraints of an
old age pension. But, more than that, I yearned for some monolithic and
consuming passion in which to invest the consummate energies of the mature
years to come. I decided on composing.
After careful preparation, I auditioned for entry to a BA in Contemporary
Music at a provincial university some 1200 km from where I was then living
and was offered a place. My young son and I relocated from a secluded mudbrick home on a hundred bushy acres to a suburban caravan park and
embarked on a challenging new phase of our lives.
The course was unique in that it encompassed a wide range of twentieth
century genres of music including blues, country, jazz, rock, pop, world music,
movie and television scores and commercials. I took composition and music
theory as major strands of study, wanting to become more familiar with the
various styles of popular music and improve my songwriting and arranging
skills. Quite how I would make the transition from solo folk-singer with a few
basic guitar chords to professional versatile composer was far from clear, but I
have always been prone to leaping trustfully into voids of one kind or another
and have mostly landed on my feet.
On Day One we were given a guided tour of the facilities: performance space,
recording studios, and of course the MIDI or electronic music studio (see
definitions in Chapter 1) - a small densely equipped room which resembled a
Boeing cockpit with a computer as the nerve centre controlling numerous black
boxes, rows of knobs, buttons and flashing lights, all hooked together with a
keyboard synthesiser which was the only device that looked even remotely like
a musical instrument. This, we were told, was where we would be doing a
vii

great deal of our composing activity. Having so recently emerged from an ultra
low-tech lifestyle in the bush (powered by wood heat and a modest solar
system) wherein I had never touched a computer and had forgotten how to use
even common domestic items like pop-up toasters, the expectation that we
would compose in a MIDI studio came as a something of a shock. I had always
written songs very simply by humming the tune and hammering out a few
guitar chords. My brazen self-confidence began to wobble slightly.
An introductory course in music technology which covered not only MIDI
applications, but sound reinforcement and recording studio equipment and
practices, provided ample scope for plumbing depths of technophobia I had
never imagined possible. Having always been a person who loved tools and
gadgets and was confident in tackling practical tasks, I was staggered at my
apprehension - even terror - at getting my hands and mind around this
wondrous array of techno-toys. I understood general principles easily, but had
difficulty latching on to specific button-pushing practices in operating
equipment and was constantly in fear of damaging something worth thousands
of dollars. Each tutorial was a trip way out of my comfort zone and I felt dull,
stupid, angry and frustrated as well as excited and motivated to learn by the
powerful creative possibilities of the equipment.
Other women students also appeared to be having difficulties. The lecturer
was obviously sincere in his desire to help all students succeed and offered
extra tutorials for those who were struggling. But I wondered why these
groups were composed almost entirely of women and secretly began to suspect
that it might be true that women's brains were designed for something other
than intimate relationships with technology. My feminist conscience roared in
protest and there were, of course, shining exceptions in a very few women who
excelled. Determined to succeed, I studied from text books and worked hard at
practical assignments. This earned me a reasonable mark in the overall
assessment, but I still felt inept when it came to working with the equipment.
I came to realise that a major part of the learning of audio-engineering and
electronic musical instruments took place, not from attending classes, but from
working the studio equipment with peers in self-styled co-operative learning
situations. This was culturally difficult for me. Every time I looked in at a
studio with the intention of sitting in on a session, it would be invariably
inhabited by young men intent on their projects and I would feel too

viii

anomalous to even attempt entry. There were certainly no gangs of older


women with whom I could hang out and work on each others music in the
way these boys did. The few successful women seemed to be those who
became 'one of the boys', cruising their scene and observing the nuances of
male culture.
I also observed that, in the course generally, there were quite a lot less women
than men and that there appeared to be very clear gender lines drawn around
music performance. Men played drums, electric guitar, bass, synthesiser and
basically any other instrument appropriate to the style of music. Even in
keyboard (piano has traditionally been acceptable as a woman's instrument)
women were practically non-existent in the instrument studios. They clustered
heavily in vocal studies and were referred to as 'chic singers' and appeared to
be accorded less status than the 'real musicians' who played instruments. The
human voice was not necessarily perceived as being an instrument. This is not
to say that many women did not play instruments - in fact, they did. They just
didnt do so as visibly and with the same overt displays of virtuosity as men.
In the composition studio there appeared to be more of a gender balance in
terms of numbers, but marked differences in the ways that men and women
composed and presented their work. The men were far more assertive in
presenting their work in class and generally much more conversant with
electronic modes of music making than were the women. Women were more
likely to work with instruments such as acoustic guitar, piano and voice in
writing music. These at least were my impressions.
Over the mid-year semester break I sought individual MIDI studio tuition from
a congenial male student and a technical support worker and began to gain
confidence and competence. The possibilities of this high-tech equipment
excited me, not only because of the hugely extended sound palate it offered
and the ease with which multi-track arranging and composing could be carried
out, but because it was becoming increasingly cheaper and accessible for home
studio use. As a single parent, the long-term possibility of setting myself up to
do serious creative work at home was enormously appealing. I convinced my
mother (by then ill and living with us) of the potential of this plan and she
helped finance a second-hand synthesiser. In the furtive safety of a room in our
new home, I set off tentatively into the land of the techno-muse. At the same

ix

time, I began to get acquainted with computers by learning basic word


processing in the university lab.
Two months into the second semester of the course, my mother died and I was
devastated by the loss of such an old and close friend. My son was homesick
for the bush, kept refusing to go to school and suffered chronic migraines.
Surviving on a low income was an ongoing challenge and stress and I felt
dislocated from community in the new town. I began to lose confidence in my
musical abilities and to wonder what on earth I was doing there at all. I sat in
class with fellow students who hadn't even been born when I was first at
university more than twenty years before and felt old, tired and anachronistic.
We studied the popular music of my youth as if it were ancient history, a sort
of Dreamtime of the rise of rock. My struggles in learning the technology and a
constant uneasy feeling that I was not only out of my time in this course, but
out of my place in terrain dominated by young men, led to a sense of alienation
and disempowerment. I dropped to part time and, after three semesters,
withdrew to reconsider my options.
The resulting re-evaluation led to a decision to consolidate former academic
qualifications in social science and education. I enrolled in a Master of
Education (Training and Development) program and chose women's place in
the culture of contemporary music as my research area. The inquiry process interviewing other women students and gaining insights through reading
feminist critique, musicology and social philosophy - itself became a journey of
personal empowerment. I re-entered the BA course after a year's absence,
undertaking a Production major simultaneously with a Masters program. My
academic interests were thus kept grounded in the 'hands-on' world of the
music school. In setting my own experiences within a larger cultural
framework, I was able to reinterpret them and recreate myself as musician and
technician. I hope, in the long term, that it may assist other women to do the
same.

Chapter 1. ORIENTATION
1.0 Introduction and Focus
The focus of this inquiry is women's perspectives on their relationships with
contemporary music technology. Such an exploration may be situated in the
conjunction of a number of broader research fields, most of which have
established themselves in academia only in the past few decades - popular
musicology, feminist musicology, feminist research, cultural studies, and critique
of culture and technology both from within mainstream social science and from
feminist social science. All of these fields provide points of reference in the
process of designing, conducting, interpreting and evaluating this inquiry. It may
thus be seen to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and to tap the rich
networks of ideas characteristic of the late twentieth century.
A primary contention of this thesis is that cultural constructions of gender have
intersected with cultural constructions of music technology in such a way as to
marginalise women and to privilege men in contemporary music culture.
Idealised notions of masculinity have become strongly aligned with technical
competence and, conversely, those of femininity with non-competence and,
therefore, dependence on men's skills and knowledge. I examine the implications
of this for women musicians in training and the significance of technical
proficiency in their professional agendas.
In a 'prelude' to this chapter, I declared my personal involvement and interest in
the topic - I do not pose, as traditional science would recommend, as a detached
and disinterested observer. Rather, I embrace a strong commitment to cultural
change which supports women's self-defined interests and view the world
through a gender-sensitive lens which colours my field of observation and picks
up imbalances, distortions and injustices.
In this initial chapter, I have begun by defining the focus of the study, placing it
in academic context and introducing its basic contention. I now proceed to clarify
key terms and then provide a rationale for the project in the contexts of its time
and place and the cultural politics in which it is embedded. This will involve
reporting on technological developments in the contemporary music industry at
large, sketching the structure of the Australian industry as part of a global
market, commenting on gender relations in the industry, and providing statistical

descriptions of men and women's patterns of participation. I discuss the selection


of a research paradigm and particular stylistic features of my writing. I conclude
by commenting on the purposes and delimitations of the study and provide an
overview of the structure of the thesis.

1.1 Definition of Key Terms


contemporary music
Following Sly (1993), I define this as music which is being made and played now
and which is relevant to our times. She points out that Australians live in one of
the most multi-cultural societies in the world and so contemporary music is a
pluralist term, taking in a great variety of genres such as jazz, rock, pop, reggae,
world music, ethnic, indigenous, blues, folk, country, experimental, electronic,
ambient and soundtracks for movies and television. In the late twentieth century,
many of these previously separate genres are being fused into new synthesized
forms of music and the boundaries are blurring. 'Rock' and 'popular' music are
terms often used as synonymously with 'contemporary' music, especially when
these new genres are set beside traditional classical Western music. I use
'popular' and 'contemporary' as inter-changeable terms to refer to music that is
either commercially designed for popular consumption or that is grounded in
and emerging from the people, as in folk culture which is associated with local
community-based production or individual craftspeople (Shuker, 1994). The
classical arena of music operates differently from the rest of the industry and so is
not included in this definition of contemporary music (Sly, 1993).
music technology and the electronic soundscape
Music technology refers to material objects such as musical instruments (new and
traditional, acoustic and electronic) and the vast array of devices now used in
composing, performing, amplifying and recording sound. However, they are
more than objects - more than conglomerations of wood, metal, plastic, silicon but artefacts embedded in a culture of information, skills, economics and politics.
I therefore use the term 'music technology,' 'technologies' or 'the electronic
soundscape' in referring to a diverse array of equipment and the purposes and
practices through which they are embedded in the web of social relationships of
contemporary music culture. (See Chapter 2 for a fuller definition of 'technology.')

MIDI
MIDI is shorthand for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a set of universal
specifications for interfaces between electronic music equipment, developed in
the early eighties. This standard interface enables instruments and modifying
devices to be connected with one another and to a computer so that digital
messages can be passed from one to another and their musical resources
combined in ever more complex and creative ways. The invention and
widespread embrace of MIDI has revolutionised many facets of the music
industry and has profoundly altered the process by which many composers
work.
feminisms and women
Feminism is a multiple term referring to ideologies which advocate women's
political rights and cultural transformation. As numerous writers have pointed
out (eg. Wolff 1990, Bonner et al 1992), the word feminism has most often been
used by middle-class white women, predominantly in Europe, the USA, Canada
and Australia and has produced a partial and excluding discourse representing
the experiences of such women. The larger project of feminism, however, appeals
in varying degrees to women of all cultures, ages, races, religions and classes.
Feminist women around the globe continue to pursue a fundamental brief of
naming and challenging the gendered relations of power, and of exposing the
limitations of androcentric theory and philosophy in many different cultural
contexts. Feminism in the nineties takes more conscious account than earlier
feminisms of the enormous diversity and legitimacy of positions from which
women speak. It is critical of totalizing theories which claim to embrace the
experiences and viewpoints of 'women' and inclined to embrace multiplicity and
instability see Wolff 1990: 7-9). Feminism as epistemology is explored in Chapter
3.
gender and women
Feminist critique has foregrounded the concepts of 'women,' 'men' and 'gender'
and scrutinized them through a variety of philosophical filters. Debates have
raged over essential (biologically determined) or constructed (socially
determined) notions of gender. Essentialism is characterized by the idea that
'women are born, not made,' that gender is innate. Constructivism is based on a

notion of gender as an enormously malleable cultural phenomenon with the


potential for radical modifications and reconstruct-ions. The latter concept is
explored in this thesis.
Elspeth Probyn (1993: 1) suggests that "a gendered self is constantly reproduced
within the changing mutations of difference. While its sex is known, the ways in
which it is constantly re-gendered are never fixed or stable." The category of
'woman' is thus highly fluid and fragmented if viewed over time and across
cultures. The notion of gender as a culturally constructed category of human
experience is a useful tool in reworking, in diverse ways, existing power relations
between men and women. It holds the promise of emancipating both genders
from the constraints of rigid and debilitating stereotypes and creating far more
fluid and constructive ways of playing out our 'femininity' and 'masculinity'.
power and empowerment
From years of involvement in various grassroots radical feminist organisations, I
had devised a working definition of power as something potentially available to
everybody and as that which enables knowing and doing. My focus was less on
oppressive notions of patriarchal power than on what might be possible for
women if we took our attention off men and attended fully to our own desires
and capabilities. The discovery of resonant concepts of power in feminist critique
of the work of Michel Foucault, French philosopher and historian, has been useful
in substantiating and refining my rudimentary ideas about power and provides a
framework for discussing the findings of this inquiry in Chapter 5. Foucault
explores the productive possibilities of power as well as its repressive aspects and
suggests that it "produces things... induces pleasure... forms knowledge...
produces discourse" (cited in Fitzsimons 1994: 125).
I also use the term 'empowerment,' though a little cautiously, since it has lately
had bad press in feminist circles by association with white middle-class
hegemony. In my use of it, I refer to the process through which people enable and
authorise themselves to speak and act on their own behalf in accordance with
their own self-defined agendas.

1.2 Context and Rationale


In identifying historical, socio-economic and political influences that bear on the
issue of women's engagement with music technology in the 1990s, there emerges
a sense of the context of the study and also of elements of a rationale for
undertaking it. This is a unique time in the history of music with unprecedented
developments in a plethora of new kinds of instruments and new ways of
creating and manipulating sound. It is a time when local and national industries
are increasingly linking to a global market-place with new cultural exchanges and
syntheses. And it is a time when second-wave feminism is achieving maturity
and delving ever-more deeply into the dynamics of gender and power, raising
new questions about processes of change and empowerment for women. The
interaction of these factors makes particularly cogent an examination of the ways
in which gender constructs and constraints have influenced women's engagement
with technology in contemporary music culture.
1.2.1 The Technology Explosion in Twentieth Century Music
Music industry technology has found its way, in a very short time, into every corner of the
earth. Both software and hardware can be found in even the remotest village in every
country, irrespective of social or economic system. No other technology has penetrated
society so quickly - what is more, the rate of penetration appears to be accelerating (Wallis
and Malm 1990: 160).

Throughout the twentieth century there has been unrelenting and highly
innovative development in the ways in which sound has been produced,
amplified and recorded and this technology explosion has had a profound impact
on the whole structure and dynamics of the global music industry in which
Australia participates. The relatively simple technologies of the acoustic
instrument, the megaphone and the gramophone have been modified, refined,
elaborated, revolutionised, enhanced, replaced, electronically simulated and
bypassed by an enormous array of highly sophisticated and complex equipment
that requires very different kinds of expertise and virtuosity from its human
exponents than previously required. The demands on practitioners who choose to
journey in contemporary soundscapes are complex and there are far-reaching
implications in terms of how the distribution of knowledge, power and resources
occurs differentially in our culture. Not the least of these differentiating factors is
gender. The way in which gender dynamics embedded in the broader culture are
replicated in the highly technologised terrain of popular music culture offers
fertile ground for inquiry.

The relationship of music and technology became an especially problematic issue


during the 1980s when, with the advent and accessibility of MIDI based
instruments, new modes of music-making which exploit techniques only possible
with this new equipment began to develop. Writing in 1984 at the beginning of
the MIDI era, Wallis and Malm comment:
Musicians everywhere are now aware of the progression through amplified and electric to
electronic instruments and gadgets. There is no critical debate in the popular sector
regarding positive or negative effects of always incorporating the latest "black box" into
one's music. The desire to have access to the latest means of producing new sounds
encourages musicians to try to keep abreast of the state of the art everywhere. Information
about new "black boxes" is gleaned from listening to recordings, reading specialist
magazines, or through travelling and travellers (164).

Durant (1990) comments on how the development, not only of MIDI but the
technologies of recording and production, has caused profound changes in the
very structure of the music industry and the aesthetics of popular musical tastes.
He says that new musical technology can be seen as adding to and diversifying
existing musical genres and that the reproductive aspects of digital are
transforming the conditions under which all types of music now circulate.
Compact disks (CDs) and digital audio tape (DAT) affect... the size, kinds, and social
characteristics of audiences likely to exist for different musical styles, and so also the
revenue that can be collected by the music industry on them - in this way moulding the
industry's plans for capital investment and selective promotion. Such overall restructuring
of music production and distribution in turn governs the resources available for, and the
social profile of, even those kinds of music which have no direct connection with digital
music technologies at all. Beyond this, such changes in music production gradually alter
how people... think about music's aims, styles and properties, setting up different standards
of excellence and musical ideals to be aspired to, and challenging many existing practical
ideologies of music theory, technique and education (Durant 1990: 175)

Jones (1990: 20) suggests that changes in technology and its relationship to
popular music and sound have created a potent climate of experimentation,
anticipation and apprehension. He asserts that the technology of popular music
production and consumption is driven by the desire to capture sound and
understanding the diverse motivations that lie behind this desire is the key to
analysing popular music culture. Because the ability to preserve or modify sound
is a means of controlling sound independent of its creation and creator, "the
recording of sound is a profoundly politically act."
Deciding what is recorded, what song or what sound, what is heard and what is not, is the
critical political struggle in popular music production, not only because most people's
experience of popular music is mediated via recordings (and therefore sound is the means by
which the audience identifies music and the recording artist) but because it is the site of

power, the area where one can "impose one's own noise and to silence others" (Jones with
citation from Attali 1990: 20).

Music technology, the means by which sound is manipulated and re- produced
and the source of creating and controlling sound, is therefore a primary site of
musical and political power in popular music. It plays an important role in
determining whose sounds will occupy the airwaves of popular media. An
examination of women's relationship with music technology will therefore yield
insights into the political position of women in the industry and reveal some of
the "diverse motivations" that drive the creation and control of sound. The extent
to which women are gaining competency in technical fields and ownership of
technological resources is an excellent indicator of their power and influence in
the industry generally.
1.2.2 The Australian Music Industry
The Australian music industry in the nineties is not a monolithic entity, but a
large and loose collection of individuals and businesses of various sizes
concerned with the enterprise of making money from a diverse range of musical
genres. These genres express both the historical and contemporary idiosyncrasies
of Australian identity as well as our participation in global culture and
economies. Over the past three decades, Western capitalism has become
increasingly globalized in its operations and especially so with regard to popular
music (Hayward 1992).
Just how much the industry is worth to the national economy is unclear because
no detailed and systematic research has been conducted. However, AUSMUSIC,
a Commonwealth funded body established to promote Australian music,
estimates that the music business is worth more than $2 billion to the Australian
economy and employs about 80,000 people (Sly 1993). By a range of quantitative
criteria (national and international record sales, equipment sales, songwriting
royalties, live performance, investment in video promotion, music exports) the
industry is substantial and appears to be expanding. Sly notes that Australia is
the third largest repertoire source for international charts in the world after the
US and the UK - not a mean feat, given the relative size of our population. On
economic criteria alone, therefore, the contributions of women to this potentially
lucrative industry are worthy of consideration.

1.2.3 Gender Relations in the Music Industry


Popular commercial music - often referred to generically as 'rock' - has a longstanding reputation for sexist attitudes and practices. In this section, I survey
commentary on women in the industry from a range of sources informed by
direct experience as participants or by research.
The overt sexuality of rock'n'roll is in one sense its most positive achievement, but the point
is that, by and large, rock'n'roll has expressed a male view of sexuality and sexual relations.
Because male concepts of sexuality are dominant, the only ones which female performers
can cultivate (to be successful) are those deemed appropriate by the men within the music
industry and society as a whole. For women to succeed in rock'n'roll they must adhere to
and reflect a male-defined image. There are any number of rock'n'roll images for women from the innocent, wide-eyed angel, to the hard, aggressive whore - but they all preclude
women being accepted as serious musicians and performers (Douglas and Fletcher 1979:
44).
Women who are in rock'n'roll have one job to do: what the men want them to do, and any
one who steps outside that role has got a tough road ahead. I don't see any future for it. I
used to think women could make it in rock'n'roll - of course they can play and sing as good
as anyone else and in their own style. But nobody wants to know about it. I think any selfrespecting women shouldn't have anything to do with rock'n'roll. You have to trek with
agents, television, they have got their ideas about what they want women to be, and unless
you can squeeze your ideas around to what they want, you haven't got a hope. (Janie
Clifton, ex-lead singer for Melbourne based band Stiletto in an interview with Radio 2JJ for
International Women's Day, 1979, cited in Johnson 1992: 128)

Since 1984, the Australian Government has passed numerous pieces of legislation
aimed at improving the marginalised position of women in the paid workforce.
These have included the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act (1984), the
Public Service Reform Act (1984), the Affirmative Action Act (1986) and the Equal
Employment Opportunity Act (1987). As well as this, Offices of the Status of
Women, a Merit Protection and Review Agency and Affirmative Action Agency
have been established in all States and a wide variety of business and
professional organisations have emerged whose primary brief is the advancement
of women in the paid work place (Huntley 1995: 4). Feminist activity at many
levels and on diverse fronts has continued to draw attention to gender inequities
and to take action to improve womens lives.
The music industry appears to have emerged through all this cultural ferment
with its traditional gender imbalances unscathed, strengthened even, by the
advent of music video clips which regularly bring the magnified and stereotyped
images of performers into the loungerooms of the masses. In the USA, cable
television MTV broadcasts music video twenty-four hours a day into homes all
over the country.

In Australia, there are a number of music programs on the ABC and commercial
channels which are shown weekly or more often. Stephanie Lewis, programmer
for ABC's Rage comments that there are a lot of cliched images coming from
bands aiming for mainstream success and that a lot of rap bands have imitated
and integrated into their own style the sexist material that characterised heavy
metal music. "...they are the worst perpetrators of abuse of the female form" (Sly
1993: 126). These genres of the 80s and 90s continue a long tradition of the
stereotyping and abuse of women in music, from cultural attitudes and practices
rooted deep in western culture and expressed historically in classical music
where women were not regarded as capable of composition or instrumental
virtuosity (McClary 1991, Samuel 1992, Radic 1993-4 among many others).
Voices of the nineties - music journalists, entrepreneurs, educators, performers
and academics - monotonously echo those of the seventies in depicting restrictive
and marginalised roles for women who seek success in the music industry.
Ironically, it is an industry which presents itself as being thoroughly up-to-date
and socially aware, yet a collage of these infomed voices seem to suggest that its
attitudes towards women are verging on the Neanderthal.
Lesley Sly - musician/composer, music journalist and editor, author of The
Power and the Passion: A Guide to the Australian Music Industry, Sydney
This is a tough business but it's even tougher for two kinds of people - women and
Aboriginals (Sly 1993: 27).
Vicki Gordon - founder, president and artistic director of Australian Women's
Contemporary Music (AWCM)
The rock industry is disgusting, really disgusting. The attitudes of men who run the
industry are no better than what they were twenty-five years ago and in some ways even
worse.
(Women who want to be successful in the industry) have to be beautiful. They have to be
sexy. They have to be prepared to show some flesh. They have to be young. And as long as
all these things are in place and to some extent they're malleable, then the record company
takes over. (Quotes from an interview I conducted with Vicki in May, 1994).
Annette Shun Wah - presenter and producer of The Noise, MCTee Vee and Eat
Carpet for SBS-TV, Sydney
I don't think women are encouraged. Women will rarely be signed (to a record deal), no
matter how talented they are, unless they're slim and good-looking. In the business, there
are very few women even in middle-management positions, and I don't think that will
change until attitudes at the top change, and until women get a lot more training at the
grassroots level. (Sly 1993: 31)
9

Diane Langman in an article for Perfect Beat, an Australian musicology journal


Sexual discrimination occurs at all levels of the industry, from the ownership and
administration of record companies through to decisions about the employment of creative
personnel. To begin with, there is no Australian record label owned or headed by a woman
and women who do work in the management side of the business rarely, if ever, proceed
past middle level positions. In terms of production personnel, there is not one recognised
female record producer in Australia and, although there are many skilled female sound
engineers, there are only 10 employed on anything like a regular basis. Similarly, 95% of
all DJs employed in clubs and radio in Australia are men. In terms of performing talent,
there are of course several successful women solo singers but it was not until 1992 that an
all-female band of musicians, Girl Monstar, signed to a major label. Aboriginal women
fare even worse. Not only has there never been a female Aboriginal artist signed to a
major label but there is no record of any Australian music company ever employing an
Aboriginal woman in any capacity on a continuing basis. (Langman 1993: 90)
Graeme Smith, writer of music education kit Sounds Australian: Australian
Popular Music, Sydney
It has often been pointed out that women have a subordinate position in rock music.
Many song lyrics project an image of women as something to be sexually exploited by the
character represented by the male singer... Rock has had the image of aggressive and
powerful music, and has thrived on the mythology of the individual male with no social
backing or support gaining personal strength through the power of the music he plays.
The vehicle for this image is the electric guitar... The electric guitar has a strong gender
identification. With it slung low over the hips, the player typically emphasises its phallic
nature by thrusting or jabbing motions. The guitar becomes part of a male role of sexual
dominance and assertion of power (Smith 1991: 90).
Roy Shuker - senior lecturer in media studies, Massey University, New
Zealand, and author of Understanding Popular Music
Most rock musicians are male, as are others working within the broader rock industry.
The masculine emphasis within rock culture, and the relative absence of female
performers, has been a traditional aspect of rock... The general treatment of girls and
women in rock and youth sub-cultures has continued to see them as absent, 'invisible' or
socially insignificant... In relation to rock, a number of factors work to restrict the likely
involvement of women. There are few women working in music industry management,
studio engineering and record production, and 'girls' magazines rarely review records or
inspire their readers to learn to play instruments or take music seriously (Shuker 1994:
101).
Amy Raphael, music journalist and author of Never Mind the Bollocks: Women
Rewrite Rock, London
The fact is that gender will remain an issue as long as the music industry is dominated by
men, and female musicians remain an exception to the rule. While the infrastructure of
rock is essentially male, from A&R to producers, from record company executives to
journalists, female musicians may be successful - but in a man's world and on a man's
terms... The reality is that the world of rock music intimidates women on the most basic
10

levels and this has held true from generation to generation. Most female wannabe
musicians are intimidated by the idea of even walking into a guitar shop, never mind
sitting down and trying out the latest model surrounded by a bunch of muso lads
(Raphael 1995: xxvi-xxvii).
Kathleen Endres - academic researcher, USA
The clearest indication of how rock music views womanhood is in its lyrics. Women
certainly can't complain that the image presented there is one-dimensional. On the
contrary, the putdowns are remarkably multifaceted, ranging from open contempt to
sugar-coated condescension. Above all, however, women are always available sexual
objects whose chief function is to happily accommodate any man who comes along (Endres
1994: 9).
Gillian Gaar, freelance journalist, senior editor of rock music paper The Rocket
and author of Shes a Rebel: History of Women in Rock & Roll, USA
If women performers (or songwriters, DJs, managers, etc.) are only seen as exceptional
because they are women, this justifies the relegation of women-in-rock to an obligatory
chapter, where their contributions are acknowledged but are also portrayed as being a step
removed from the history as a whole. The implication is that these women-in-rock were
able to make an impression in spite of the fact that they were female. This in turn
perpetuates stereotypical views regarding womens capabilities to be anything other than
entertainers of the most passive kind: a malleable body with a voice. Such an inherently
sexist perspective denies women the chance to avail themselves of career opportunities in
other areas of the industry as well (Gaar 1993: xii).
Some popular musicologists manage to ignore gender issues in their research and
commentary on the industry. Those who do place gender as a major critical
concern seem to be remarkably in agreement about the profoundly sexist nature
of the industry both in local and global contexts. What is perhaps even more
insidious than the overtly degraded position of women in the industry is that
those who do work inside it with some degree of success are essentially muzzled
from speaking up about gender issues under the threat of loss of livelihood. In an
anonymous feature article on women in the Australian music industry in a 1988
edition of Music Business, the writer begins in a contradictory manner which is
both complacent and agitated:
In the course of this survey, a number of interesting and surprising things were brought
into focus about women in the music business. Pleasantly surprising was the absence of
feminist hysteria and the overwhelming presence of balanced intelligent and humorous
insight into the position of women in the industry. A little disturbing was the reluctance
of several women - particularly those employed by major companies - to participate on the
grounds that they placed their jobs on the line by speaking publicly on such a sensitive
issue. (Anon. 1988)

11

This concern is also expressed by Vicki Gordon of Australian Women's Contemporary Music in relation to performers with recording contracts:
We can't get a female artist to come and support the AWCM board. We've approached
(successful singers). They won't even meet with us to discuss it. I assume they're scared
to get involved with us in case it means that it could jeopardise their recording career
(interview May, 1994, Sydney).
It would seem from the above commentary that women's roles in the music
industry are severely constrained by male ownership and control of resources
and the imposition of sexist stereotypes on female performers. Those who
challenge this status quo may simply not get work in the first place, be subjected
to coercion to fit the required attitudes or image required by the company, or
even be threatened with loss of livelihood. This project is a small part of a much
larger movement which seeks to maintain and increase pressure on the industry
to change its oppressive attitudes and practices toward women and to empower
them to move into the industry at every level and in every capacity.
1.2.4 Stories that Statistics Tell about Women in Contemporary Music
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
Tables 1, 2 and 3 are derived from ABS data and provide an indication of
gendered patterns in paid/unpaid music activity, the proportion of women
performing professionally in the classical arena (both for comparison with the
popular field and as a means of extrapolating statistics about the latter), and
participation rates in various roles within the music industry.

12

Table 1: Participation in Paid and Unpaid Music Activities


The ABS conducted a survey throughout Australia in rural and urban areas as a
supplement to the Monthly Population Survey in March, 1993. The table contains
estimates of the number of people who worked in selected culture and leisure
activities, including paid and unpaid work or a combination of the two. The table
shows these figures divided by 1000.
Activity

Music as a
live performer

Unpaid - Men
- Women

Music without
live performance

Both

Total

73.2
69.4

9.5
11.2

82.8
80.6

165.5
161.2

51
49

Paid - Men
- Women

10.8
5.7

3.7
2.3

14.5
8.0

43.5
16.0

73
27

Both - Men
- Women

29.1
10.3

4.2
1.5

33.3
11.8

66.6
23.6

74
26

Total - Men
- Women

113.1
85.4

17.4
15.0

130.6
100.4

275.6
200.8

58
42

Men and women participate fairly evenly in unpaid music activity.


Men constitute 73% and women only 27% of those receiving at least some
remuneration for their musical activity. A male musician is therefore far more
likely to be paid for his work than is a female.
In terms of overall participation rates in music activities, paid and unpaid,
women represent 42%.
These findings are backed up in a comment by Green (1994) about the
participation of women in domestic music activity and their disadvantage when
it comes to paid work outside the home.
Women all over the world have for millennia made music in the home; and as the
nineteenth century proceeded, western women also took up music teaching in massive
numbers. The fact that so many women were to be found, and still are found, studying
music, is directly linked to the perpetuation of their 'respectable' roles as domestic musicmakers and teachers of children. If we go to the separate sphere of paid musical work
outside the home, we find a very different story (Green 1994: 66).

13

Table 2: Participation in Symphony Orchestras, Chamber and Choral Groups


In March, 1991, the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted a survey of the
numbers of professionals involved in music and performing arts organisations.
Table 3 shows the figures of those working both full- and part-time in symphony
orchestras, chamber and choral groups. Performing artists refers to musicians,
singers and conductors. While figures for technical personnel were included in
the material provided, this refers to production managers, carpenters, electricians,
property buyers, stage hands and dressers. It is not clear whether sound
technicians are included as members of this category and the figures provide no
indication of numbers of audio-engineers employed in the classical field; these
figures were therefore omitted from the table.
Occupation
Performing artists

Men
n

Women
n
%

452

60

301

40

Total
n
753

As employees in orchestras, chamber and choral groups, women thus


represent 40% of performers. Assuming men and women are fairly evenly
represented in choral groups, the figures give an indication of the proportion
of women working as professional classical instrumentalists.
Therese Radic (1993-4) reports on a pilot study conducted by the Australia
Council and the Western Australian Department for the Arts on women in
performing and visual arts in WA in 1991. Women in all types of music were
found to be among the most disadvantaged of the women artists of WA. A 1989
study of orchestral music in Perth found that women were 'well represented in
amateur classical music making' but that there was 'a particularly noticeable
absence of women in key creative (principal) positions' (Radic 1993-4: 25). The
study found that 37% of the players were women but that no women composers,
conductors or concertmasters were included in the work under review for that
year. This figure is in accord with the ABS statistics above.

14

Table 3: Music as a Primary Source of Income


In the August 1991 Australian Census, a number of categories described music
activities as primary sources of income. These categories are ordered from
strongest female representation to weakest in Table 4.
Occupation

Men

Women
n
%

Total
n

Music teacher
Concert and opera singer
Popular singer
Other (music professionals)
Music director
Instrumental musician
Composer
Light technician
Sound technician
Piano tuner

1489
126
463
139
238
4029
175
323
1851
212

27
46
59
68
70
78
80
87
88
93

3965
147
322
65
104
1139
43
50
247
16

73
54
41
32
30
22
20
13
12
7

5454
273
785
204
342
5168
218
373
2098
228

Total

9045

60

6098

40

15143

The figures indicate an overall pattern of male dominance with women


representing 40% over the full range of professional activities given.
All occupations, apart from music teaching and classical singing, are
dominated to varying degrees by men. Sound or lights technicians and piano
tuners are overwhelmingly masculine occupations.
In popular music there is a higher proportion of professional male singers
than female.
While 65% of the women who make a living from the music industry do so
through teaching, only 16% of men are professional teachers as a primary
source of income.
If the categories of teaching and singing are omitted (traditionally acceptable
women's spheres) then women's participation in all the other roles averages to
only 14% and men's to 86%.

15

As instrumentalists, women are noticeably under-represented at only 20%.


This data does not distinguish between classical and popular genres.
However, data on classical performers (see Table 2) indicates a much higher
rate of female participation. Even allowing for a small proportion of singers in
the 40% rate of classical women performers, there is a strong suggestion that
women's presence as instrumentalists in popular music is extremely low.
Combining information from Tables 1 and 2, it may be extrapolated that
women's participation as instrumentalists in popular music is somewhere
between 4 and 10%.

Tertiary Enrolments in Contemporary Music Studies


Enrolment figures in Contemporary Music courses in the university in which this
study is set are also revealing as to women's likely participation in certain roles
within the industry and not in others. Clear patterns of gender differentiation
emerge with women clustered in one performing studio (voice) and being
completely absent or very minimally represented in others, as shown in the table
below. This institution thus appears to reflect industry attitudes and practices and
to assist in maintaining the status quo.

16

Table 4: Enrolments in Contemporary Music Studios, 1994-5


Students majoring in performance or composition enrol in two units of
Contemporary Music each semester - one in music theory and the other
specialising in a particular composing or performing studio.

Year
Unit

Spring Semester, 1994


Males

Spring Semester, 1995

Females

Voice

25

Composition

25

Males

Females

27

75

12

32

25

68

69

11

31

33

80

75

25

67

23

79

21

15

86

14

Guitar

21

95

Drums

19

100

Total

109

69

48

Keyboards
Sax
Bass Guitar

20

33

21

71

29

29

97

15

100

31

115

73

43

27

79

The only area female dominated area is voice. Women are cast very strongly
in the role of singer in popular music.
Composition and all instrumental studios are strongly male dominated, with
bass, guitar and drums being severely so. It appears that very few women
gain entry to these bastions of masculine culture.

17

Table 5: Enrolments in Audio-Engineering Courses 1994-5


There are three successive units offered in this area. A basic course offers an
introduction to music technology to first semester students. Two further more
advanced units in audio-engineering and three video units constitute a major in
Production.
Year
Unit

Spring Semester, 1994

Spring Semester, 1995

Males
n
%

Females
n
%

Introduction to
Music Technology

42

60

28

40

72

70

31

30

Audio-Engineering I

37

69

17

31

67

74

24

26

90

10

22

85

15

66

46

34

161

73

59

27

Audio-Engineering II
Total

9
88

Males
n
%

Females
n
%

All these courses are male dominated and this trend increases as the units
advance with relatively few women completing all three units.
Women's participation rate increases from '94 to '95.

Self-Conducted Surveys of Gender Representations in Popular Music Media


To find examples of the ways men and women are differently portrayed in the
media of popular music culture, I conducted two simple surveys involving headcounts as to quantitative presence of each gender and also noted some qualitative
differences in gender portrayal.

18

Table 6: Gender Representation in Music Technology Magazines


Six music technology journals were surveyed to gauge the relative frequency
with which images of men and women appeared both in advertising and feature
articles. The latest issue of each magazine available from the library shelves was
selected for a gender head count. The images appearing in these magazines are
photographs illustrating feature articles on the work of particular audio artists,
producers or engineers and advertising for an extensive range of electronic
musical equipment.
Magazine

Males
%

Females
%

No. of Images
n

SOUND ON SOUND
(Britain)
April 1995 (Vol 10, No 6)

84

16

49

THE MIX
(Britain)
March 1995 (Vol 1, Issue 9)

83

17

42

EQ
(USA)
October 1994 (Vol 5, Issue 9)

88

12

56

ELECTRONIC MUSICIAN
(USA)
April, 1995 (Vol 11, No 4)

89

11

62

MT
(USA)
May 1994 (Issue 91)

88

12

26

DIGITAL
(Australia)
April 1995 (Vol 1, Issue 5)

90

10

42

Total Average

87

13

277

The proportions are remarkably consistent across all six magazines with an
average on only 13% of all images being of women.
A qualitative assessment of female representation was also carried out. While the
figures are consistent with the census information which puts womens
19

participation as professional sound technicians at 12% of the total, they are


markedly at odds in terms of qualitative representation. The magazines are
dominated by images of male technicians posed with equipment and the
technological culture is constructed around these. Women are marginalised, not
only in terms of numbers but also in the way they are portrayed in relation to the
technology itself. While men are portrayed as either actively engaged with the
equipment or posing comfortably in the midst of it looking confident and
competent, women are very rarely seen either operating technology, posing
beside it or even holding an instrument. In the magazines surveyed, all the
women appearing are young, slim and attractive and the vast majority are white.
The only piece of technology appearing near women, and appropriate to their
role as singers, is the microphone. The message reiterated throughout the pages
of these magazines is that to be a music professional, one needs to be technically
competent and that, to be technically competent, one needs to be male.
Table 7: Gender Roles in Music Video Clips Shown on ABCs 'Rage'
On the 12th June and the 13th August, 1994, I recorded the 'Top 40' video clips
screened on ABCs program Rage and did a head count as to who was doing
what, genderwise, in the performance of the music. The two programs yielded 69
different video clips (a number of clips were still charting after two months and
these were not included twice). I did not count singing crowds or musicians who
did not actually appear performing in their clip (in some clips music plays behind
a visual narrative). I counted performers who were singing or rapping, playing
an instrument, or both.
Activity

Men

Women

Total

Singing or rapping

61

58

44

42

105

Playing an instrument

88

96

92

Singing and playing

21

95

22

Total

170

78

49

22

219

Overall women represent only 22% of performers featured in the clips.


The proportion of women playing an instrument or singing and playing in the
clips is extremely low at only 4-5% of the total number of instrumental

20

musicians. This is remarkably consistent with the estimate arrived at from


Tables 2 and 3.
Of all the women appearing, 90% are singers only.

1.3 Research Paradigm


I wish to explore women's perspectives on their relationships with the music
technologies integral to their daily study/work activities and to offer critical
commentary on the social contexts in which these perspectives have formed and
continue to evolve. By engaging with a process of inquiry of this kind, my
primary interest is not in quantitative measurement of 'the facts' but with
qualitative insights into how participants locate themselves in contemporary
music culture. I am intrigued by the prospect of learning the stories that women
tell about their places and possibilities in the challenging arena of contemporary
music with its burgeoning technical demands. I aim to identify ways in which
women's access to and competence with techno-tools and -skills may be
facilitated. I am also alert to more fundamental questions about the widespread
adoption of new music technologies and associated ethical questions which may
have profound implications for women. This will therefore be a qualitative
research project with critical intent and will require a methodology and style of
reporting appropriate to such a framework.
Fundamental to my approach is the notion that 'reality' is not objective and
independent of human consciousness, but a subjective construction of the
interplay between inner and outer worlds. In this view, social reality is perceived,
not as natural and ordered, but as created by people with vested interests and in a
state of conflict, contradiction, tension and illusion (Sarantikos 1993). My task is to
explore the dynamics at work under surface appearances and to make informed
interpretation of their cultural meanings. Of particular concern as a feminist
researcher is the task of addressing the position of women in social formations.
I aim to construct this text in a style appropriate to the above paradigm. As
already demonstrated, this style uses the active rather than the passive tense and
applauds admission of the subjective and the open acknowledgment of my own
vested interests in the project. There are many presences, apart from my own,

21

who inform every stage of this inquiry and their voices sound through lavish use
of direct quotes - they enrich this project immeasurably.
(T)he writer may leave unexplained and taken for granted the conceptual framework she is
working in, or may present it as a given rather than something open to question. Or she
may depersonalise herself, hiding behind the spurious authority of an 'objective
commentator' by not making it clear where she stands, politically and intellectually, in
relation to the ideas she discusses (Cameron 1985: vii-viii).
(W)e see 'objectivity', as this term is presently constructed within the social sciences, as a
sexist notion which feminists should leave behind. We echo Adrienne Rich in insisting that
'objectivity' is the term that men have given to their own subjectivity (Stanley and Wise
1993: 59).

I avoid offensive or sexist language and use gender specific or neutral terms. I
aim to write clearly and simply, or at the very least in a way that does not
deliberately mystify with ill-explained assumptions and ideas, or use the jargon
of particular fields with which the reader may not be familiar. I intend to employ
a style which is readable, accessible, dynamic, precise and representative of a
range of subject positions from which an audience may make meaning of the
topic being explored.

1.4

Purposes and Delimitations of the Project


As stated, my intention is to explore women's perspectives on their relationships
with contemporary music technology using a qualitative feminist methodology
which facilitates elicitation of depth data and enables women to speak in their
own words. I seek to gain insights into how these musical women construct their
inner worlds and make meanings from external circumstances, to stimulate
attention and curiosity, rather than to reach for definitive solutions to questions
that may not yet have been adequately conceived. Such insights will be related to
broader cultural and political contexts which define and maintain configurations
of gender, power and technology in our society. I wish to foreground at an
everyday level the mechanisms by which power and knowledge are produced
and reproduced to service particular interests. Such insights may illuminate the
possibilities of resistance, challenge and change for women.
The primary focus of this project is women rather than gender per se. It is a
feminist critique which places the study of power and its intersection with
cultural constructions of gender to the fore and analyses the implications of this in
the lives of individual women in a specific context. Whereas 'gender studies' may
avoid examining power relations and simply work with descriptive comparison,
22

'feminist critique' is unashamedly political and aims to challenge existing power


relations and gendered configurations that disadvantage women in social life.
This study, therefore, does not include material featuring men's perspectives on
their relationships with technology but places women and their self-defined
agendas around music technology in centre stage. I am interested in how women
think about their relationships with technology, what they are achieving, what
they desire to achieve, and where their difficulties and strengths lie, rather than
how their participation deviates from that of men's. My ultimate purpose is to
make a contribution to the radical reworking of constructions of gender, power
and technology in contemporary music culture generally, so that women may not
only participate fully in all aspects of the industry, but also be proactive in
shaping its training and work practices and the technologies integral to them.

1.5 Overview of the Thesis


In this opening chapter, I declare my own interests in the chosen area of
research and introduce the focus of the study. In developing a rationale, I set
the inquiry in the contexts of its time, location and culture. The research
paradigm which informs my approach is introduced and linked to suitable
stylistic features in the thesis. I defined the main purpose of the inquiry, set
some boundaries around what I wish to achieve and now clarify the structure
of its presentation.
Chapter 2 provides a literature review drawn mostly from academic writing
but also, to some extent, from the popular music press. There is, as yet, very
little written in the specific area of women and technology in contemporary
music and this review will include broader social science critique on culture
and technology with particular attention to feminist analysis of gender and
technology. The embryonic literature which refers directly to the focus of the
inquiry is then covered in some detail.
Chapter 3 provides a review of the methodology of the study including its
epistemological premises and the selection of a praxis appropriate to its
purposes as a feminist research project; my self-reflexive role as inquirer; the
collection, analysis, interpretation and theorizing of data; strengths and
limitations of the method chosen; and the significance of the study.

23

Chapter 4 presents data categorised into two major sub-themes or 'riffs' which
address the inquiry's focus: gendered patterns in music-making activity
whereby women are cast as vocalists rather than instrumentalists and
women's range of modes of relating with 'technology' in general. Each of these
riffs is characterised by 'raps,' articulated variations around the main motif.
This chapter foregrounds direct quotes, enabling participants to represent
themselves in their own words as well as some observations from my own
experience as a production student.
In Chapter 5, I analyse the findings with reference to a particular theoretical
framework - feminist critique of Foucault's theories on power and the agency
of the self in resisting coercive social control, creating an autonomous sense of
self and affecting social transformation. Through a Foucaultian lens, the data
is revisited to gain insights into the processes by which women actively both
collude in, and continue to refuse, cultural messages that attempt to prescribe
the gendered roles in relation to technology. Conclusions and
recommendations of the project as a whole are then discussed.

24

Chapter 2. LITERATURE REVIEW


2.0 Introduction
The specific area chosen for this inquiry - gender and technology relations in
contemporary music culture - appears, as yet, to have received very little
attention in the academic arena. The body of immediate literature in which to
situate the project is thus small. Feminist musicology is still in its early years as a
discipline and, though it certainly appears to be a feisty child, it has yet to
explore the terrain being spotlighted here. There is, however, another
substantial and rapidly growing literary context in which to locate this study.
For several decades now, feminist social scientists have been investigating
technology and gender relations both from broad perspectives and in many
local contexts. The body of writing thus generated provides a useful and
relevant background for the issues emerging from this inquiry. This forum of
feminist critique creates its own trajectories within the general frame of social
science commentary on culture and technology.
In this review, I intend to begin with a panorama, zoom in for a mid-pan of
more defined features and boundaries of the terrain through a gender-sensitive
lens, and then go for detailed close-ups at a particular site of interest. I thus
begin with a brief overview of recent trends in social science approaches to the
study of culture and technology. While this field has certainly seen some major
shifts of perspective which bring it into greater alignment with feminist interest
in relations of power, mainstream (malestream) critique has remained very
largely gender-blind. The cultures and values of technology and science have
often been equated and conflated in sociological analysis and examples of
opposing views in the debate around this analytical strategy are provided. I
then move on to a far more detailed exploration of feminist critiques of culture,
technology, gender and power, tackling this literature from both a thematic and
an epistemological standpoint approach. Lastly, and certainly not least, I
complete the chapter with a review of the much smaller body of material
dealing with the gendered nature of human-technology relationships in
contemporary music.
A feature of this review will be the liberal use of quotes, representing the
multiplicity and diversity of perspectives which characterise feminist writing in
this important and contentious area of debate. Just as those musical women who

25

contributed the raw data for the research speak their interests and experiences
through direct quotes in the pages to come, so too do the many academic
women whose thoughts have informed and expanded my own at every stage of
the project. Responsibility for the selection and contextual siting of these quotes
is, of course, my own.
2.1 Changing Perspectives on Culture and Technology
Social science discussions on the relationship of culture and technology have
traditionally been based on the presupposition that technology is neutral.
According to this view, technology consists of material objects which, in
themselves, bear no relation to a particular socio-political context. Any given
technological device can be used impartially to support a wide variety of
lifestyles. Buchanan (1965: 163) exemplifies this notion when he asserts that
technology is "essentially amoral, a thing apart from values, an instrument
which can be used for good or ill." For sociologists, this view has resulted in a
preoccupation with the impact of technological change on society with an
implied technological determinism. Technology has been perceived as a tool of
scientific rationalism and concerns focused on its role in dehumanising
interactions and individuals or in creating social change. For historians, the view
of technology as neutral has led to a focus on the lives and works of individual
inventors rather than on the historical, geographical and cultural contexts in
which these ideas were shaped and took material form. Attitudes aligned with
technological determinism abound in the context of the music industry, as they
do in our culture generally. The following are some examples:
Technology should be enabling a lot more people to get involved in music, but I don't
think we've been seeing that. (John Egan, managing director of Roland Australia, in Sly
1993: 280)
Mr Higgs felt that a revolution (for musicians) was coming, and it would hit when
interactive TV arrived... No-one really knew where the current innovations would lead to.
Entertainment, enjoyment, education and information would be revolutionised by CDROMs, interactive TV, and other technology. There was no doubt that this technology
was going to be big,.. (Myers 1994: 1 reporting on a Multimedia and Music Seminar in
Sydney)
...the Walkman has brought about a change in perception not only by allowing the
listener to move through physical space while listening to a cassette, but by establishing
the primacy of the headphone, and with it the head as the origin of sound. With the
Walkman, sound has become embodied in the body... One only need put on the Walkman
headphones, play the tape, and walk around to discover what it is like to feel as if one
were in a video. (Jones 1990: 21)

26

However, over the past few decades, new perspectives on culture and
technology have flourished in the social sciences in the wake of a vigorous
movement directed towards critiquing 'pure' science. Earlier challenges to the
presuppositions of traditional science began to proliferate in earnest during the
seventies, not only from sociologists, but also from radical historians and
philosophers of science. This profound questioning of the traditional view of
science as neutral, objectively authoritative and somehow apart from society led
critical social scientists to a re-evaluation of the prevailing views about the
nature of the relationship between culture and technology (see Judy Wajcman
1991: 3-5).
New perspectives in the sociology of technology emerged which explore the
interaction between culture and technology and, in particular, how cultural
conditions sculpt the very nature of technological invention as well as determine
who has access to its ownership and use. Thus technological determinism has
been deeply challenged by an approach which emphasises the social shaping of
technology and places agency and scope for political intervention in human
hands (Pacey, 1983; MacKenzie and Wajcman, 1985; Wajcman 1991). In this
view, the artefacts of technology are no longer regarded merely as neutral
objects which impact on society but as part of a "web of human activities
surrounding the machine" (Pacey 1983: 3) or as "a form of social knowledge,
practices and products" (Wajcman 1991: 162). Technology is thus seen as a sociopolitical construction embedded in social change processes rather than, in itself,
the actual agent of change. The intentions and practices of designers, producers,
promoters, distributors, and consumers of a particular technological artefact are
all seen to play a vital part in shaping its cultural meanings and functions.
The view of technologies as phenomena which are created from and given
meaning in specific cultural conditions became prevalent during the eighties
and has been explored in a various ways by sociologists, often in the context of
organisations and workplaces. A central theme of this literature is the ways in
which technology is used within organisations to recreate and reinforce the
dominant ideology of the wider culture in which they function. In discussing
the structure of social relations in organisations, Perrow (cited in Watkins, 1985)
observes that "rather than technology determining organisational structure, it
would appear that machines and equipment are designed so that they reinforce
existing structures and reproduce these structures in new settings." Technology

27

has therefore become an essential means of maintaining human systems which


distribute power and material rewards inequitably.
(I)t is unlikely that technology has been introduced in a neutral or random fashion. It
embodies neither of these qualities, because, by reproducing the unequal structures of
society and institutions, it also reproduces the dominant ideological position which
justifies and gives support to the unequal distribution of power and rewards.
Consequently, technology can always be seen as beneficial to some and detrimental to
others (Watkins 1985: 7).

Watkins suggests that technological choices are justified ideologically by the


notion of efficiency, an emotive word which, along with the concept of
rationality, reflects the ideology of technological development. He notes that
efficiency is often seen as a goal in itself, rather than as a means to achieving a
particular set of circumstances, and suggests that we need to ask questions
about the kind of efficiency (eg. commercial, social) and for whom its benefits
are intended. It is precisely these kinds of questions and the gender implications
of such terms as 'efficiency' and 'rationality' that feminists have sought to
address. A rapidly growing body of feminist work is devoted to analysing the
ways in which technology, and the language chosen to convey its socio-political
meanings, continues to be culturally constructed to differentially benefit men
and women.

2.2 Gender Awareness in the Literature on Culture and Technology


A small handful of male writers in the field have paid attention to gender issues.
Mumford (1963), Cooley (1987), Easlea (1981) and Pacey (1983) all problematised
the masculinist bias in science and technology and advocated a technology
based on 'women's values' in an approach that resembled the eco-feminist
movement which gained popularity among women in the eighties (see section
2.5.2 of this review). This ideology aligned women with nature and men in
opposition with both; it identified certain qualities, such as nurturance,
cooperativeness, pacifism, as being essentially female and valorized these in
opposition to men's perceived destructiveness and dominance. The dangers of
associating these values only with women, and essentially with women, are
obvious. Overwhelmingly, however, male sociologists have turned a genderblind eye to the issues that feminists have found so compelling in the face of
major differences in the ways men and women engage with technology.
Regardless of their theoretical or political perspectives, women rarely enter their field of
vision. Feminists have worked to put women and gender relations back into this frame,

28

highlighting the differential effects of technological change on women and men (Wacjman
1991: viii).

Much of the recent research and commentary on women and technology


appears to cluster within three major areas: new reproductive technologies;
women and technology in the domestic sphere (housework and home
entertainment); and women in the paid workforce. There is now some overlap
between the last two areas with attention being directed to 'homework' and
women's role in the recently emerging industries of the 'electronic cottage'.
There is a substantial and rapidly growing literature on women and girls'
location in computer culture and, in particular, gendered modes of relating with
the new electronic communications tools such as e-mail and the internet. I pay
some attention to this body of work since an important facet of music
technology - the synthesis and sequencing of sound - is now integrated into
computer controlled systems. Basically, I choose to review literature that
addresses the question of women's relationship with technology either in
general terms or in the context of work environments, though some of the
themes that emerge here arc insistently across contextual boundaries and relate
to a multiplicity of cultural settings wherein human-technology relations are
enacted.

2.3 The Science-Technology Connection


Feminist perspectives on the sexual politics of science have been appearing since
the early 70s, though this body of work is still fairly small and lacking coherence
and the related field of gender and technology is even less developed (Wajcman
1991). However, the latter appears to be rapidly gaining momentum and the
literature that has burgeoned through the 80s and 90s refers to diverse contexts.
Wajcman observes that when feminists turned their attention to gender issues in
technology, they used similar lines of argument from those already developed
in relation to science. She argues that, while some useful parallels can be drawn,
a conflation of the two may not be appropriate.
Feminist writing on science has often construed science purely as a form of knowledge,
and this assumption has been carried over into much of the feminist writing on
technology. However just as science includes practices and institutions, as well as
knowledge, so too does technology. Indeed, it is even more clearly the case with
technology because technology is primarily about the creation of artefacts. This points to
the need for a different theoretical approach to the analysis of gender relations of
technology, from that being developed around science (Wajcman 1991: 13).

29

In failing to distinguish the distinct cultural parameters of science and


technology, Wajcman suggests, feminists are reflecting a more generalised
confusion which has occurred in sociological debate wherein technology has
been treated as applied science and of lower status. She cites Barnes and Edge
(1982) in suggesting that technologists have distinct cultural resources of their
own and it is these which provide the main basis for innovative activity.
Technologists modify and develop existing technologies through a creative and
imaginative process of their own. She asserts that "the current model of the
science-technology relationship characterizes science and technology as
distinguishable sub-cultures in an interactive symmetrical relationship"
(Wajcman 1991: 14).
In delineating 'new directions' in the relationship between science, technology
and society, Andrew Webster (1991) presents a contrasting view. He suggests
that the distinction between science and technology is losing its relevance in
practice even if in principle it is still possible to distinguish between them in
terms of the social contexts within which they work. He suggests that both areas
are now very much a part of the contemporary industrial machine and that
dichotomy between 'pure' and 'applied' science is becoming blurred. Scientific
research is now conducted by teams, rather than isolated individuals, who rely
on costly and complex equipment and who collaborate across disciplines.
Laboratories no longer predominate in academia alone, but there has been a
huge growth in corporate labs conducting research aimed at commercial
exploitation of scientific discoveries. Science and technology are now firmly
located within the political arena with government involvement in large-scale
funding, management and regulation of resources and activities.
These trends, Webster believes, have made important contributions to the
demise of the traditional view that science and technology are 'neutral' and
uninfluenced by wider social processes. He says that new critiques of science
challenge not only traditional scientific method as an authoritative source of
knowledge, but the very ideas themselves as expressions of an unstable
negotiated consensus about 'truth' produced by communities with shared
professional interests. Similarly, a rejection of technological determinism and
critical analysis of the specific contexts of technological culture expose the sociopolitical interests at play behind the development and adoption of new
technologies. As Margaret Low Benston (1988) points out:

30

Besides gender differences in access because of experience and training, there are
differences because of the very logic of the tools and techniques of our society. As a social
force, technology has moved far beyond a relationship between an individual and their
tools. It is now deeply intertwined with major institutions of the society most notably
industry, government and the military (17).

These institutions, Benston suggests, are in the hands of a dominant class which
is almost exclusively white and male, and which operates on a logic of profit
and of maintaining control over society. Technology is developed in alignment
with the interests of this class (often at the expense of others) and reflects its
logic and interests. It is this which constitutes the real connection between
science and technology, regardless of the particular contexts in which they may
be sited together or apart, sharing material resources or not. It is therefore
appropriate, at times, to consider the common underlying political interests
which drive science and technology cultures, just as it is important to make the
distinctions which give each area its own unique social configurations and
philosophical underpinnings.

2.4 Defining Technology


Again and again we find that the very definition of what is technology is problematic,
reflecting the gendered values of the definers (Karpf 1987: 160)

Early feminist critique assumed a deterministic approach to the analysis of


gender, culture and technology, studying the impact of various specific
technologies on women's lives. The implied definition of technology behind this
approach is that of an socially unencumbered material item or set of items. As
emphasis shifted to a social shaping approach, new definitions of technology
were needed which incorporated material, social and political dimensions. The
definitions presented here are informed by my own biases as feminist
researcher, concerned with the intersection of gender with these new and
expanded ways of seeing technology.
Cheris Kramarae (1988: 4) defines technology not as machines, but as social
relations and suggests that all technological systems can by seen as
communications systems. Social relationships may be considered as organised
and structured by technological systems which allow or encourage some kinds
of interactions and prevent or discourage other kinds. Kramarae contrasts this
definition with how, she says, technology has traditionally been defined as
those devices, machinery and processes which men are interested in. She
suggests this is why there are no discussions of child-care devices in malestream
31

books on technology. In defining technology we need to include consideration


of political, social and economic issues in womens lives.
Judy Wajcman (1991) provides a "working definition" of technology, associating
it with three different layers of meaning. Firstly, she suggests, it is a form of
knowledge - the 'know-how' that enables people to design, produce, operate and
maintain equipment. Secondly, it refers to activities through which the
equipment is made functional. Thirdly, it describes sets of physical objects. She
says that feminist critiques have extended this conception of technology by
probing political and moral questions that underlie the outward expressions of
the human-technology interface.
A genealogical definition provided by Zoe Sofia (1995), after Benston (1988),
after Dickson (1974 cited in Benston) incorporates the notion of technology as a
'language' for action and self-expression, situated inevitably within a matrix of
power relations which both enable and constrain its use .
Technologies mediate human actions and perceptions; they are social processes of making
and doing that could be described as 'languages of action' (Benston 1988: 18) in which
power may be expressed through its potential to harness materials, exercise skill and
force, and alter patterns of perception and social organisation. Power relations are also
involved in the regulation and distribution of 'speech' and 'silence' within the actional
'grammars' of particular technological systems (147).

Dickson pointed out that the technology available at any specific location in
space and time provides a range of options for acting on the world and can
serve as a language of social action analogous to words in a language. The
language for action provided by the range of technological options available to
a person at a given time imposes limits on what can be said. Benston suggests
that because men and women have different access to training, knowledge and
confidence around technology, men have access to much more of the
technological realm than women do and their potential for speech (action) is
greater. Women are articulate in the male domains of technological agency only
as exceptions and do not typically engage in behaviour that changes the
physical world or involves much control over it. A further consideration here is
that existing male-designed technology may not be suitable for expressing the
things that women would like to say.

2.5 Feminist Critique of Culture, Technology and Gender

32

Feminist critique of culture, technology and gender displays a rich diversity of


perspectives as does feminist research and theory in general. I have chosen to
approach this literature in two ways. Firstly, it seems possible to identify a
number of key themes which run through the literature, reappearing in the
work of writers across divergent theoretical frameworks. I will provide a brief
overview of these themes to demonstrate the groundswell of feminist comment
about gender and technology relations. Secondly, it is possible to explore the
area by examining how writers working from within the major epistemological
positions of late twentieth century feminisms have tackled the issues. These
writers operate from clearly articulated theoretical frameworks, though some
deliberately combine approaches and cross boundaries in search of new insights
and creative strategies.
2.5.1 Key Themes in the Literature
Women's contributions to technology have been hidden from history.
Joan Rothschild's (1983) research grounds the work of later writers who
comment on the omission of women from mainstream histories of technology.
Her survey of Technology and Culture, a leading journal of the history of
technology, indicates that women are extremely marginalised in technology
literature. She found that in the 23 volumes (93 issues) between 1959 and 1982
there were only 4 articles on the subject of women and only 23 book reviews
dealing with this area (less than generally appear in a single issue). Rothschild
elaborates on the implications of this omission. Firstly, women's contributions
have largely been left out of technological history. Secondly, what women do as
producers/reproducers and the relationship of "women's work" to technological
developments and change have been given short shrift in the standard
technological literature. And, thirdly, the omission of female perspectives
affects how we know and what we know, and our deepest beliefs and concerns
about technology. The construction of technological history has thus been
rampantly androcentric and unrepresentative of human experience as a whole.
"For most scholars and writers in the technology field, the prototype - the
inventor, the user, the thinker about and reactor to technology - is male."
(Rothschild 1983: xix)
Dot Griffiths (1985) explains how educational, legal and economic factors
differentiating out cultural expectations of men's and women's roles in society

33

have all functioned, not only to exclude women from active participation in
scientific and technological development in the history of Western societies, but
also to obscure what contributions they did make. For example, women
generally were denied access to education and those who were fortunate
enough to gain access were strongly steered away from the maths/science
grounding so essential to scientific exploration and technological innovation.
This gendering of subject areas and activities still influences girls' educational
choices today when external barriers have apparently been removed.
Griffiths maintains that a significant legal factor was the limited property rights
of women up to a century ago which resulted in patent records being made in
their husband's name rather than their own. Womens inventions were
frequently miscredited. It was not until 1882 that the Married Women's Property
Act gave English women legal possession and control of their personal property
independently of their husbands. An economic factor that also worked to
misrepresent women's contributions was that, prior to 1700, patents were
sought in the name of financial backers rather than the individual inventors and
this practice obscures women's names from the records almost entirely
(MacLeod, 1987, cited in Wajcman). As well as these factors, the industrial
revolution and the movement of many industries away from the home and into
factories resulted in the identification of women's realm with the private and
domestic and men's with the sphere of the public workplace where they
monopolised technically skilled work.
The above factors, as well as the ridicule with which women inventors were
treated during the industrial revolution (Pursell, 1981; Amram, 1984; Griffiths,
1985 cited in Wajcman), has made it very difficult to recover the real history and
significance of women's inventions. A further obstacle to reconstructing the
stories of women's inventions lies in the male bias evident in most history of
technology research. In summarising the "hidden from history" argument, Karpf
(1987: 160) comments "...it is not so much that women are excluded from the
creation and production of technology, but that women's technological
achievements are socially unrecognized and the technologies which women
have produced are defined - by dint of the gender of the producer - as nontechnological."
Over the past twenty years, feminist scholarship has begun to recover the
history of women's substantial achievements in both science and technology

34

(just as it has across many other disciplines where the predominantly male
scholarship had neglected to include them). Wajcman cites the biographies of
Rosalind Franklin by Anne Sayre (1975) and of Barbara McClintock by Evelyn
Fox Keller (1983) as well known examples in science. In technology, there is a
burgeoning of research into women's inventions in agriculture, early factory
machinery and in computing (eg. Trescott 1979 and Warner 1979 cited in
Kramarae 1988).
This recovery of womens history of invention and innovation has shown
abundant examples of women written out of the technological records. For
example, the cotton gin was invented by Catherine Green, but her employee Eli
Whitney got his name on the patent because Green would have been subjected
to ridicule as a female inventor. Autumn Stanley has suggested that herbal
medicines are classified as domestic inventions when invented by women, but
as medicine or drugs when invented by men (Rothschild 1983). Women played
leading roles in the development of computer programming (Kraft 1977, Lloyd
and Newell 1985, Wajcman 1991 cited in Fitzsimons) as employees of the US
Department of Defence, but once this work was defined as creative and
important, they were eased out of the industry - Ada Lady Lovelace and Grace
Hopper are believed to have made very substantial early contributions.
Wajcman (1991) reiterates that the traditional conception of technology is too
readily defined in terms of male activities. The significance of inventions aligned
with female activities (eg the baby bottle, agricultural tools, utensils for storing
and preparing food) appear to be overlooked. This observation underlies a key
concept in feminist theories of technology: that technology is itself gendered by
virtue of the alignment of specific tools and processes with culturally
constructed gender roles in the spheres of production and reproduction. If the
significance of women's inventions is to be fully recognized, then we must
acknowledge the male bias in most technology research and revalue the
development of 'women's sphere' technologies.
Technology is itself gendered and overwhelmingly aligned with masculinity
Benston (1988) points out how, while men and women share the use of some
machines or systems (eg telephone, cars), there are important differences in the
way we relate with technology. Much equipment tends to be gender-typed.
There are machines and tools suitable for men such as saws, trucks, guns,

35

forklifts, wrenches and those suitable for women such as vacuum cleaners,
typewriters, food processors, dish washers. These differences appear even on
assembly lines where men make cars and women assemble electronic
components or pack fish. Benston reminds us that it is important to note that all
generalisations have exceptions - some women function well in technical areas
and some men do not. However, women are largely excluded from control of
large or powerful pieces of equipment and from an understanding of technique
and of the physical principles by which machines and tools operate. Technique
includes knowledge, not only of how to construct the equipment but how to use
it, and may require basic scientific knowledge and understanding of principles.
Men and women have access to different vocabularies, experiences and concepts around
tools, machines and technique. Women are excluded from education and action in the
realm of technology. They do not have the same access to technique or the same
experience with concepts and equipment that men do. They are not expected to act from
a technical view of the world. Instead, women's world is one of people, nurturance and
emotion... (T)he scientific/technical world view is more and more accepted as the only
legitimate model for interpreting reality. Men's acceptance of such a world view, together
with their greater familiarity with the technological realm, means that they have
generated a perception of the world which women do not share but are required to use,
at least in order to communicate with men. (Benston: 23/4).

Wajcman (1991) puts forward a similar view, suggesting that the traditional
conception of technology is heavily weighted against women in that we tend to
think of it in terms of industrial machinery rather than other everyday
technologies. She argues that the very definition of technology has a male bias
and the significance of technologies associated with women are thereby
diminished. This reproduces the stereotype of women as technologically
ignorant and incapable. The identification between technology and masculinity
is therefore not inherent in biological sex differences, but a result of the
historical and cultural construction of gender. Wajcman shares Cockburn's
(1985) view that womens reluctance to enter technical fields is related to the
sex-stereotyped definition of technology as an activity appropriate for men. She
believes that contemporary technical culture expresses and consolidates
relations among men and is an important factor in explaining the continuing
exclusion of women from this arena.
As with science, the very language of technology, its symbolism, is masculine. It is not
simply a question of acquiring skills, because these skills are embedded in a culture of
masculinity that is largely coterminous with the culture of technology. Both at school and
in the workplace this culture is incompatible with femininity. Therefore, to enter this
world, to learn its language, women have first to forsake their femininity (Wajcman 1991:
19).

36

Kramarae (1988: x) gives the example of male domination of bicycle riding in


India to demonstrate her point that gender-differentiated technology deepens
womens economic and social dependence. She also makes the point that
technological processes developed by men for men are nearly always
interpreted by women in ways other than intended by men. If technology
practices are human structures and organisations, she observes, how strange that
most historians, scientists and social critics havent included womens social
relations as essential to understanding technology.
Technological processes have been studied from the (usually implicit) vantage point of
mens experiences. When one puts women at the center of analysis, male biases and
masculinist ideologies become clearer, and one discovers new questions as well as fresh
approaches to old questions... The challenge is to develop a more inclusive understanding
of the social relations and ideologies of technological processes (Kramarae 1988: 7).

Other feminist writers comment on the evocative/erotic nature of men's


relationships with machines. For example, Lee Hart (cited in Rothschild 1983:
xix) personifies the computer to an erotic extreme: "machines may well have
erotic fantasies when the machine 'perceives' the rising of a well-turned dial." In
The Existential Pleasures of Engineering (1976) Samuel Florman draws on diverse
sources to describe men's perceptions of their relationships with particular
technologies and the language which emerges is both sensual and erotic.
Hacker (1990) comments on this work:
Florman explicitly acknowledges the safety and comfort of technology, the world of
things and machines, compared with the confusion and conflict of the social world of
human interaction... the passion culturally ascribed to the erotic sphere often drives that
of the technical. The technical is coyly eroticized, and, with it, the relations of dominance
and submission, sometimes driven by violence and fear (208).

Zoe Sofia (1993) claims that the erotic and mythic associations of computers are
central to understanding computer culture and the pronounced gender
asymmetry's which characterise it. She says these are 'hegemonic ir-rationalities'
which women need to understand and reconstruct in their own interests if they
are to claim a place in this male-defined terrain.
My basic message... is that we are (or ought to be) past the time of innocence of the
unconscious, mythical, historical, affective, informal and erotic associations and
connotations of machines, the terms used to describe and operate them, the textbook
examples and the contexts, and the experiences we have in relations with them.
Pedagogical strategies that continue to ignore these dimensions cannot avoid complicity in
reproducing the latent biases and myths that ensure technological culture remains
masculine, rational and eurocentric (120).

Women's absence from technological activity is particularly problematic in


relation to the design of new technologies.
37

Anne Karpf (1987) points out that women are largely absent from the
institutions which define and create technology. They are rarely designers or
high-tech, high-skilled constructors, but typically participate in technical
culture as unskilled, low-paid assemblers of electronic components or as
consumers of finished products. She argues that the effect of male control of
technology, and women's exclusion and alienation from it, is that technologies
produced for use by women may be highly inappropriate or even detrimental
to their needs and may embody male ideologies of how women should live.
Jan Zimmerman (1986) asks why our contemporary artefacts look and function
the way they do and who designs them this way. She says engineers would
answer that the appearance of tools is determined by their intended application,
cost of production, appropriateness of structure to purpose, ease of
manufacture, and suitability of materials to form and function. However, she
insists, both the idea and the qualities associated with design carry an invisible
load of moral, ethical, religious, spiritual, emotional, rational, psychological,
social and technological assumptions and these shadow the idea all the way
through its design, execution, marketing, purchase and use (despite extensive
market research into consumer demand). Value is set by a complex and
continuously changing interplay among such factors as the relative scarcity of
resources, the demand for them, and hidden assumptions about what matters.
Based on findings from Sally Hacker's research in the early 1980s, Zimmerman
comments:
Only certain members of our society are either chosen or self-select to become members of
the elite community of engineers, architects, planners, and inventors who shape the "manmade" world; they don't necessarily share the values or assumptions of the people who
have to live in the world they create. Those who choose to work with "things" frequently
identify themselves as unhappy working with people; they are loners, uncomfortable with
"messy" emotions, who can relax with a predictable machine but fear an unpredictable
human soul. They are also overwhelmingly male. While there is a gender gulf of biology,
experience, expectation and socialization between the sexes in our society, no men are on
a farther shore than engineers. (Zimmerman 1986: 53)

Technology is not only linked with masculinity, but with power.


Many feminist writers have extended the technology/masculinity nexus to
include concepts of power. For example, Griffiths (1985) argues that women are
subordinated because they have to depend on men as the generators and
constructors of technology and, consequently, defer to male technical experts.
She says they are subordinated by their lack of understanding of this important

38

and powerful type of knowledge (my italics), mystified by its complexity and
alienated by its masculine values and goals. Benston (1988) says that men not
only have access to a much wider range of action around technology than
women do, but that action implies a great deal more control over the physical
world and social world. She believes the question of control is a central one in
understanding why the logic of present technology makes it inaccessible to
women.
Domination over nature, ie. control over the physical world, is a central feature of much
present day technology. Part of the technical world view (which is the male norm...) is the
belief in one's right to control the material world. Part of successful socialization as a man
in our society involves gathering confidence in one's actual ability to exercise that control.
Women generally do not think they have a right to control the material world and have
little confidence in their ability to; as long as they doubt either, it is very difficult for them
to use a technology created by those who accept domination/control as a given (20).

Other feminists have challenged this technical world view, linked it to


militaristic patriarchal cultural configurations and questioned its legitimacy
(see Susan Griffin 1978 and Carolyn Merchant 1980). They have proposed
developing new technologies based on different assumptions about the world
and different 'women-centred' value systems with a changed relationship to
nature. In the existing world, they say, power and abuses of women and nature
is the most important message that male use of technology communicates.
What is needed is a radical shift of perspective which asks far more
fundamental questions about every aspect of technological innovation,
including ethical ones. For example, Jan Zimmerman (1986) points out that as a
society we have yet to learn how not to use a technology if it exists. She says our
cultural acquiescence to new technologies extends even to those that far outrun
our abilities to comprehend their consequences, allocate them fairly, or make
the ethical and moral choices they require.
More recent writers such as Fitzsimons (1994) criticise the substantial body of
earlier feminist work based on the notion that technology is used by men to
control and subordinate women. Fitzsimons believes this approach is
problematic in that it positions women as passive, powerless victims of male
dominance and control. She demonstrates how traditional discourses on power
and domination limit thinking about women's everyday relationships with
technology and suggests that new perspectives on women and technology may
be generated by exploring alternative ways of viewing power put forward by
postmodernist writers such as Foucault.

39

New technologies impact on women's lives in ways that may be oppressive or


liberating.
A major concern for feminists has been the impact of new technology on
women's lives, particularly on women's work - in both the public sphere outside
the home and in the private domestic realm. Technological determinism
informs the thinking of many involved in such discussion.
Throughout these debates there has been a tension between the view that technology
would liberate women - from unwanted pregnancy, from housework and from routine
paid work - and the obverse view that most new technologies are destructive and
oppressive to women... A key issue here is whether the problem lies in men's domination
of technology, or whether the technology is in some sense inherently patriarchal. If
women were in control, would they apply technology to more benign ends? (Wajcman
1991: 13)

A contemporary example of the debate is the question of how new information


technologies will 'impact on' women's lives. Zimmerman (1986) summarises the
liberation/oppression arguments. New forms of home-based computer
technology for shopping, communicating and working will drastically reduce
women's reasons for leaving the house and so women may become extremely
isolated. Computer based 'homework' may result in a return to poorly paid
piecework where women's labour is exploited without recourse to union
regulation. Many women, unable to afford computer facilities, will find
themselves in a class of information have-nots. On the other hand, computer
chatting offers women, for the first time, gender anonymity and therefore the
possibility of forging community free of the constraints of sexual stereotypes
and the fear of male harassment.
Gender, race, sexual preference, environment, handicap and physical appearance are all
irrelevant. For perhaps the first and only time in their lives, women's comments are
judged without reference to their legs. No whistles, no catcalls, no fears of rape, mugging
or assault - computer "chatting" offers women the freedom to walk, talk, socialise and
fantasise without becoming a victim of misogynistic culture. (Zimmerman 1986: 47)

'The net' also offers women the possibility of forming productive networks with
one another. In an ABC Out Loud program on women and the internet in 1994,
Dale Spender and others discuss these positive benefits to women and the
overall message was "Engage!" However, they also spoke of new forms of
sexual harassment and abuse aimed at women and the intrusion of men with
assumed names into women's net groups.
Anne Karpf (1987) extricates herself from positions which see technology as a
wholly liberating or oppressive force in women's lives and instead regards it as
40

a network of forces and relations which affects us differently according to


where we are positioned in the production and reproduction of labour. She
suggests there has been unwarranted technophoria among many feminist
writers, who have focused on the libratory potential of technology without
examining the underlying relations of power that shape its design.
Thalidomide, pollution and other major techno-scares not withstanding, there is an
enduring and resilient strain of technophoria which holds that technology has liberated or has the capacity to liberate - women. Some would argue that the Pill has freed women
from child-bearing, the appliance revolution has liberated women from housework,
convenience foods have removed the tyranny of cooking, and the typewriter brought
women into the labour market (Karpf 1987: 160).

Karpf suggests that technophoria does not survive careful scrutiny for, while
utilities have eliminated many taxing and time-consuming tasks and eased
domestic labour, they have not challenged the sexual division of labour or social
relations within the family. Historical evidence suggests that while the
transformation and growth of tools and techniques have had a great impact on
womens lives, those products and processes do not of themselves have the
power to change womens social roles upon which their oppression rests.
Related to this theme is the notion of technology as revolution.

The notion that new technologies may be regarded as 'revolutionary' in their


social effects is highly questionable.
Feminists have challenged the notion of technology as 'revolution' which
continues to be put forward so persistently by its promoters. Carol Biddiss
(1994) points out that there have been so many revolutions in the twentieth
century, and as Karpf says (above), technological innovations, even dramatic
ones, may not impact on fundamental configurations of power in society. Nor
do they necessarily usher in the universal new ages so often implied in such
terms as the space age, the nuclear age, the age of the automobile, the
information society. Zoe Sofia (1993: 1) reminds us that these global formations
have little to do with many people alive on the planet in the late twentieth
century and that the global trends may bear little relationship to the kinds of
high-tech equipment that captures popular imagination and/or defence funds
in North America. "Do serious inquirers into the character of twentieth-century
technology have to follow the advertisements and proclaim each new item from
the corporate catalogue as 'revolutionary' enough to warrant renaming the
whole socio-technological formation?" Sofia asks.
41

She suggests that it is vital to remember that technologies have causes as well as
effects or "impacts" and that these include causes which are not in themselves
technological (objects). From this perspective, we can appreciate the specific
differences and disjunctures between newer and earlier technologies, as well as
their commonalities and continuities and explore how the earlier is transformed
in the latter. She advocates that we avoid following ideology into a one-sided
preoccupation with technology's 'progress' and also track its 'regress', paying
attention to the underlying principles and patterns whose attractions keep
pulling the field in certain ways and creating not 'revolution', but a reworking
of old patterns in new guises. In the context of her research into computer
culture, Sofia suggests that one of the pre-existing formations that is not only
continued, but exacerbated, by new technology is masculine supremacism or
sexism.
In a similar vein, Kramarae (1988) argues that most Western technological
change is linked to traditional, patriarchal work practices and that, ironically,
what seems new for men often turns out to be very much the same old thing for
women. She suggests that, since the industrial revolution - with the separation
of men from daily domestic life and the separation of unpaid house and child
care work from other work - social hierarchies have remained amazingly
consistent. In this sense, and from womens perspective, much of the seemingly
revolutionary technology is actually very conservative. Kramarae also points
out that the concept of technological innovation today has the central
significance that theological discussions had in medieval times and that many
of our current debates about politics, history, change, values, lifestyles and
liberation centre on concerns about technology. However, the belief that
technology can solve all kinds of problems, even social ones has not worked to
make a better world for women because their interests are not at the centre of
technologists interests. Women benefit from technological development only
incidentally. She points out that equity in assessment and management of
technology would itself be the most major of technological changes.
2.5.2 Technology from Major Feminist Theoretical Positions
Feminist analysis of technology and gender has been undertaken from within
the multiple epistemological frameworks characteristic of feminist theory in
general. Thus we may encounter commentary on the theme of women and
technology from a liberal, socialist, Marxist, psycho-analytical, radical, or
42

postmodernist point of view or a combination of these and other frameworks.


Much of the published work on women and technology appears as collections of
edited essays which do not offer a "single, coherent, sustained theoretical
position" but address "quite different issues and rest on diverse conceptions of
what technology actually is" (Karpf 1987: 159). The plurality of these often
conflicting voices reflects the diversity of thinking within the women's
movement and sometimes its internal struggles for epistemological dominion
(or the most politically correct line). The following review explores approaches
to critiquing technology from the vantage of some of the major feminist
epistemological terrains.
Liberal Feminist Critique
Liberal feminism, founded on an empiricist epistemology and accepting the
notion of technology as neutral, addresses questions of women's access to and
equity within the cultures of science and technology. It tends to conflate science
and technology and locates the problem of women's exclusion from these
cultures in the discriminatory structural barriers resulting from sexism and the
cultural constructions of gender that steer girls away from engagement with
science and maths very early in their education. While this approach very
usefully criticises the construction and character of feminine identity and
behaviour encouraged by our culture, it does not challenge the existing
theoretical and practical premises of science and technology cultures. It defines
the problem as poor practice (sexist discrimination) rather than viewing
women's exclusion as a central aspect of the structure of these cultures. As
Sandra Harding (1986) and others have pointed out, it problematizes women's
socialisation, aspirations, and values rather than asking more fundamental
questions about how science might be reshaped to accommodate women.
Wajcman (1991) points out that the equal opportunity strategies proposed as a
response to this approach "fails to challenge the divisions of labour by gender in
the wider society" and has therefore had limited success in forging real changes
for women. She suggests that the equal opportunity agenda asks women to
exchange major aspects of their gender identity for a masculine version without
prescribing a similar degendering process for men. For women to succeed, they
would have to model themselves on men and this ignores other aspects of the
construction of female gender identity. For example, social expectations about
women as the primary carers for children and aged family members and as the

43

main activists on the domestic labour front may well render it difficult for a
woman to devote long unbroken periods of time to the intensive study, research
and creative activity required of a successful careerist in scientific or
technological innovation. A woman may not wish to align herself with a male
mode which avoids these commitments and is therefore seriously
disadvantaged in her career advancement.
An excellent example of the shortcomings of liberal feminist strategy is
provided by Sally Hacker (1989) in describing changes in womens employment
in the American Telephone and Telegraph corporation from 1969 to 1976. An
affirmative action plan produced by the company to increase employment
opportunities for women and minorities actually worked against womens
interests because it moved men out of and women into low-skilled jobs that
were soon made redundant by technological innovation. In studies of this and
other industries, Hacker found that generally jobs undergoing technological
change were held first by white males, then by minority males, by white
women, by minority women, and then by machines. Womens labour was
cheaper, and women did not fight back as much as men when the work was
eliminated" (Hacker 1989: 22). She concluded that such strategies were
ineffectual if the essentially sexist and racist structure of corporations was not
also addressed.
The limitations of the access and equity approach have become increasingly
apparent in recent years as it becomes obvious that affirmative strategies for
women in science/technology education and employment have failed to yield
results in terms of increased women's participation, particularly in more senior
positions. It is also conceivable, as Wajcman points out, that fuller
representation of women in scientific and technological institutions will not
necessarily transform the direction of technological development. Such
problematic observations have led to a fundamental shift in feminist critique
from considering how women can better fit in to existing structure to exploring
how those structures need to change in order to accommodate women.
Sandra Harding (1986) describes this shift as one which moves from asking "the
women question in science" to asking "the science question in feminism." The
first asks what is to be done about the situation of women in science. The second
poses far more critical questions about the fundamental assumptions of science
and its political interests, and whether it is possible to use for emancipatory

44

ends sciences that are so deeply implicated in Western, middle-class, masculine


projects. This critique may also be applied to technology.
The radical feminist position holds that the epistemologies, metaphysics, ethics, and
politics of the dominant forms of science are androcentric and mutually supportive; that
despite the deeply ingrained Western cultural belief in science's intrinsic progressiveness,
science today serves primarily regressive tendencies; and that the social structure of
science, many of its applications and technologies, its modes of defining research
problems and designing experiments, its ways of constructing and conferring meanings
are not only sexist, but also racist, classist, and culturally coercive (Harding 1986: 9).

Marxist and Socialist Feminist Critique


As the supposed neutrality of science and technology was superseded by a view
which saw them as embedded in political matrices, feminist Marxist and
socialist analyses of the links between science, technology, gender and capitalist
modes of production began to appear.
A revived political economy of science began to argue that the growth and nature of
modern science was related to the needs of capitalist society. Increasingly tied to the state
and industry, science had become directed towards domination. (Wajcman 1991: 2)

But while mainstream Marxist analyses of the labour process challenged the
notion of a neutral science and technology, they remained gender-blind. Critics
such as Braverman (1974 cited in Karpf 1987) suggested that capitalist-worker
relations are a major factor affecting the technology of production within
capitalism. He examined the deskilling and loss of autonomy resulting from
automation and new technologies, but analysed this process purely in class
terms and failed to explore their differential effects on men and women. Karpf
points out that womens work has proved particularly vulnerable to deskilling,
reflecting hierarchical divisions within the workplace.
Socialist feminist writers such as Cynthia Cockburn (1983, 1985), Wendy
Faulkner and Erik Arnold (1985), Dot Griffiths (1985), Maureen McNeil (1987)
and Sally Hacker (1989) have provided one of the most active areas of critique of
gender and technology. They believe women's exclusion from technology to be
a consequence of the gender division of labour and the male domination of
skilled trades that developed under capitalism.
Griffiths traces the changes that evolved from a pre-industrial world where, she
says, women were the inventors of a whole range of technologies which made a
major contribution to humankind's social evolution (eg pots, utensils, textiles).
She argues that women were pushed out of technical areas by changes in modes
45

of production which began with the Industrial Revolution. The movement of


production into factories resulted in a gendered division of labour and the
separation of activity into public and private spheres with women largely
associated with the latter. In the public sphere, male workers excluded women
from skilled trades and they were relegated to unskilled work on low pay.
Cockburn (1985: 39) comments: "It is the most damning indictment of skilled
working- class men and their unions that they excluded women from
membership and prevented them from gaining competencies that could have
secured them a decent living." Wajcman sums up the socialist feminist
perspective with its linking of partriarchy and capitalism:
This gender division of labour within the factory meant that the machinery was designed
by men with men in mind, either by capitalist inventor or by skilled craftsmen. Industrial
technology from its origins thus reflects male power as well as capitalist domination... The
masculine culture of technology is fundamental to the way in which the gender division
of labour is still being reproduced today. By securing control of key technologies, men are
denying women the practical experience upon which inventiveness depends (Wajcman
1991: 21).

A great deal of socialist feminist research has been directed to investigating the
specific ways that technology functions to reinforce social hierarchy. Examples
are Cockburn's (1983/5) studies on gender relations in the printing trade and
women in clothing manufacture, mail order warehouses, the medical and
engineering spheres; numerous studies which appear in Faulkner and Arnold's
(1985) edited collection; Jane Arthur's (1989) study of women in television
production; Hacker's (1990) study of women involved in agribusiness; and
Cockburn and Ormrod's (1993) study of gender relations in the evolution of the
microwave oven.
Wajcman (1991) notes that socialist feminist writers such as Keller (1985), Rose
(1983), and Hartsock (1983) combine the call for a science which incorporates
women's values with a critique of the relations of production, though expressly
dissociating themselves from radical feminist essentialism. They may be placed
in a theoretical category which Harding (1986) refers to as 'feminist standpoint
epistemology.' This position privileges the perspectives of socially marginalised
and oppressed sectors as being more complete than, and therefore superior to,
those of dominant groups on account of their awareness of both dominant and
oppressed cultures. This assumption of a larger world view on the part of the
socially oppressed has been questioned and equated with idealistic Marxist
valorization of the working class. But while these writers endorse a materialist
analysis based on the gender division of labour they fail to take account of

46

variations in the division of labour changes through time and across cultures
and, like ecofeminists, that notions of 'nature' are diverse. This approach is also
problematical in assuming universality in women's experience and disregarding
the enormous variations across race, class and culture.

47

Radical Feminist Critique


Many feminists have adopted radical analytical approaches to the question of
women's marginalised relations with technology. They critique the accepted
values and norms of science and technology cultures as central to a masculinist
world view which excludes and is alienating for women and argue that this
culture itself will need to change to accommodate women's entry on any scale.
Science, they say, has been misused against women in promoting notions of
biologically determined sex roles and the view of women's nature as different
and inferior, in fact as incapable of carrying out scientific work. They have used
diverse examples to demonstrate how biological inquiry and Western science as
a whole has been consistently shaped by male bias.
Radical feminists, particularly ecofeminists such as Susan Griffin (1978), Carolyn
Merchant (1980), Sally Gearhart (1983), and Ynestra King (1983), have turned
this kind of biological determinism around and argued the superiority of
'women's values' and 'women's ways of knowing' and suggested that there is a
moral and ecological urgency for science and technology cultures to incorporate
these into their ideology and praxis (Wajcman 1991). Ecofeminists have
embraced gender differences as endemic and celebrated what they regard as
specifically female attributes such as nurturance, pacifism, cooperation,
receptivity. They have argued that an overemphasis on reason and objectivity
are inherently patriarchal and suggested that the conceptual dualities central to
scientific thought (and to Western philosophy in general) are distinctly
masculine and constructed in male political interests.
Culture vs. nature, mind vs. body, reason vs. emotion, objectivity vs. subjectivity, the
public realm vs. the private realm - in each dichotomy the former must dominate the
latter and the latter in each case seems to be systematically associated with the feminine
(Wajcman 1991: 5).

Ecofeminism, a marriage of ecology and feminism, promotes the notion that


women are closer to nature than men and that the technologies men have
created are based on the domination of nature in the same way that they seek to
dominate women. In this view both women and nature have become objectified
as Other to be exploited, coerced and ravaged (Karpf 1987: 163). Ecofeminists
have concentrated on military technology and ecological effects of other modern
technologies and proposed, in contradiction. that male violence against women
and nature should be non-violently resisted and replaced with loving and

48

intuitive modes of being and relating with other life forms and the environment.
Such an approach has led to fairly extreme expressions of technophobia:
Conditioned as we have become to the epistemology and the values of Western science
and technology, we grow more and more dependent upon those enterprises. With its
tendency to speed and size, technology increases the dangers of that dependency by
leaving greater and greater quantities of people helpless when that technology fails... Not
only do we cultivate a dangerous dependence on technology; as well, Western science
would have us stand in an adversarial relationship to our environment. If we are to study
and control nature, then we must distinguish it from ourselves, alienate ourselves from it.
The limited epistemology and the questionable values of science allow us to make that
separation (Gearhart 1983: 179).

Ecofeminists rejection of the notion of gender as socially constructed and the


adoption of essentialist views about women's inherent goodness has earned
them a great deal of criticism from writers who view gender as a culturally
constructed phenomenon and see this as the key to radical transformation of
gender and technology relations. Ecofeminists have deeply entrenched their
arguments in the nature/culture dualism and reinforced stereotypes of women
as inherently pacifist and nurturing. In the face of this predicament, Karpf (1987:
164) suggests that it is possible to recognize the ways in which women and the
environment are damaged and controlled in our society without resorting to the
idea that women are natural geysers of nurturance, bubbling away with
peaceful love.
Wajcman (1991) raises two objections to radical essentialist views. Firstly, she
suggests that the values being ascribed to women originate in the historical
subordination of women and reminds us that a belief in the unchanging nature
of women, and their association with procreation, nurturance, warmth and
creativity, lies at the very heart of traditional and oppressive conceptions of
womanhood. Secondly, Wajcman argues that the idea of 'nature' is itself
culturally constructed and that conceptions of the 'natural' have changed
through history and vary across cultures. She cites feminist anthropologists such
as Strathern (1980) who question the claim that in all societies masculinity is
associated with culture and femininity with nature. They argue that there is no
behaviour or meaning which is universally and cross-culturally associated with
either gender and therefore challenge the universality of gendered values and
behaviours found in Western cultures. Not only this, but the world view of a
harmonious relationship between humankind and nature is not exclusive to
radical feminist movements such as eco-feminism, but is to be found in many
other cultures and philosophies and Wajcman points out that it is therefore
difficult to claim that a holistic approach in harmony with nature is specific to
49

gender. Given the above arguments, she says, it is difficult to conceive of a


technology based on 'female' values.
What is useful in the ecofeminist argument is that it goes well beyond
perceiving the problem as womens exclusion from the processes of innovation
and the acquisition of technical skills. In asking fundamentally different
questions about the function of technology in everyday life and in attempting to
forge new self-defined ways of being for women outside of patriarchal agendas,
it has opened other ways for radically reconceptualising the interplay of issues
in the relationships between gender, power and technology.
Postmodernist Feminist Critique
Work treated in this section appears here, not only because it takes up themes
typical of postmodernist critique generally but also, in some instances (eg. Zoe
Sofia and Donna Haraway), because it weaves together other theoretical
approaches with post-modernist preoccupations. Feminist postmodernist
writers on technology advocate that the attempt to develop overarching theories
about technology and gender be abandoned, favouring the development of
theory centred on recognition of "the embodiment and situational and linguistic
embeddedness of knowledge" and "the irreducible differences and radical
multiplicity of local cultures" (Susan Curry Jansen 1989: 206-8). To go further
than merely cataloguing symptoms of gender inequity, Jansen suggests, feminist
studies of contemporary technological culture might draw on interpretative
methods from semiotics, feminist and psychoanalytic philosophy,
deconstruction, cultural theory, etc, to develop a more nuanced understanding
of the many variables that shape the terrains of late twentieth century cultures
and position people differentially within them (Zoe Sofia 1995).
Sofia comments that increased attention to particularity and rejection of
homogenised general concepts from earlier rounds of feminist inquiry are
recurrent themes in contemporary feminist theorising. She says problematic
homogenisations and over-generalisations in discussions of technology include:
the representation of a particular technology as a synecdoche of technology
in general

50

the homogenisation of all technology as phallic, masculine, and/or deathly,


whereby interpretations of an industrial, environmentally exploitative, warbased and male-dominated Western technological configuration are
extended to technology in general
the typically Western homogenisation of technology with 'high technology',
so that statements about technology are made which only make sense within
Westernised contexts featuring large-scale systematic production of
technologies in close relation to exact sciences and specialised expert
knowledges
over-simplifications of the relationships people have to technologies,
examples of which include the reduction of relational possibilties to the
technophobia/technophillia binary; the assumption that enthusiasm about
equipment is equivalent to competence in its use; or accounts of cyborg
phenomena and politics that don't pay attention to the specific features of
particular relations between humans and various kinds of high technologies
In the task of 'dehomogenising' concepts of technology, Sofia draws on the
philosophy of technology, psychoanalytic thought, and feminist theory and, in
an interesting and often witty critique, unpacks each of the above
generalisations in turn. She insists, in alignment with other feminist thinkers,
that technologies are not only tools or means to an end, but them-selves embody
meanings - erotic/organic associations as well as mythological symbolism - and
that in order to enrich our understandings we need to attend to questions of
context and to specific and varied kinds of human-technology-world relations.
By 'de-homogenising' over-generalised notions of technology, feminists may be better
able to identify both the possibilities and limits of empowerment through current
technological configurations. We may come up with better strategies for changing the
gendered relations of technologies, based on the recognition that efforts to secure equal
access to technologies are coextensive with the whole cultural field, a field that extends
beyond the microcontexts of the workplace or classroom and includes the domains of
myth, art and fantasy (Sofia 1995: 163).

Sofia's (1993) Whose Second Self: Gender and (Ir)rationality in Computer Culture is
an excellent example of her approach in practice. In this work, she critiques the
highly questionable notion of rationality which functions to the detriment of
female engagement with computer culture, and explores the 'sexio-semiotics of
technology', thus demonstrating the usefulness of psychoanalytic tools to the
area, and examines the question of gender asymmetry's in computing with

51

reference to a taxonomic schema borrowed from the philosophy of technology


(Ihd).
An earlier approach which challenges homogenised approaches from quite a
different perspective is Donna Haraway's A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science,
Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s. Originally published in 1985, this
article has been widely cited in recent writing and has reappeared in several
publications including Haraway's Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of
Nature (1991). The chapter in Nicholson's 1990 Feminism/Postmodernism is the
source used here. In this idiosyncratic work, Haraway integrates socialist and
postmodernist perspectives into a theory which examines the role of technology
in redefining cultural constructions of gender and relates this to the ways in
which class, race and gendered differences are caught up in "complex and
dispersed systems of domination reliant on metaphors and technologies of
communication and information" - a phenomenon she refers to as 'the
informatics of domination' (Sofia 1993: 9).
Haraway critiques the dominance of the military Command-ControlCommunication-Information (Intelligence) (C I) metaphors in biological studies
conducted since the Second World War. She points out that in adopting these
metaphors to describe organisms, twentieth century biology contradicts earlier
ideas of the organism as a natural or essential unity and so, Haraway believes,
grounds perception of the convergences between the organic, the technical, the
textual and the mythic. She argues that "the 'master control principles'
governing most military, business and scientific applications of information
metaphors and technologies are not necessarily intrinsic to the field" and that
"situated, context-oriented and consensual principles could be harnessed to
these powerful tools and mobilised as critiques and resistances to the
informatics of domination" (Sofia 1993: 10). Central to the radical potential of
this way of perceiving human-technology relations is the notion of the cyborg a hybrid of machine and organism.
A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social
reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most
important political construction, a world-changing fiction... Liberation rests on the
construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of
possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience in the late twentieth
century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction
and soical reality is an optical illusion (Haraway 1990: 191).

52

Haraway points out how contemporary science is full of cyborgs, creatures who
populate worlds ambiguously natural and crafted. Modern medicine also
provides abundant examples of the cyborg phenomenon - people with
implanted devices of a diverse and intimate nature (pace-makers, hearing aids,
artificial limbs, replaced hips, etc). Music culture has always been characterised
by cyborg states, but never more so than in the late twentieth century - the
musician who constitutes an expressive unit of body extended into instrument,
the teenager attached to her 'Walkperson', the audio-engineer cocooned in an
ambience of electronic tools with which to record and manipulate sound.
Haraway argues that the cyborg is also a fiction, a metaphor, for mapping our
social and bodily reality and "an imaginative resource suggesting some very
fruitful couplings" (1990: 191). As a condensed image of both imagination and
material reality, the cyborg offers unique possibilities for historical
transformation in confusing and reconstructing the boundaries not only
between human and machine, but also between human and animal and between
the physical and non-physical.
...my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous
possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political
work... From one perspective, a cyborg world is about the final imposition of a grid of
control on the planet, about the final abstraction embodied in a Star Wars apocalypse
waged in the name of defence, about the final appropriation of women's bodies in a
masculinist orgy of war. From another perspective, a cyborg world might be about lived
social and bodily realities in which people are not afraid of permanently partial identities
and contradictory standpoints (Haraway 1990: 196).

There is transformative potential, Haraway believes, in seeing from both


perspectives at once, each one revealing dominations and possibilities
unimaginable from the other. In this context, she criticises taxonomies of
feminism which, she says, produce epistemologies to police deviation from
official women's experience and advocates the crafting of a politics based on
affinity rather than identity. Reflecting socialist feminist standpoint theories
which privilege the perspectives of the oppressed, Haraway argues the need for
an "oppositional consciousness" born of the skills for reading webs of power by
"those refused stable membership in the social categories of race, sex, or class"
(such as women of colour) (1990: 197). Reflecting postmodernist perspectives,
she believes that the theoretical and practical struggle against unity-throughdomination or unity-through-incorporation "not only undermines justifications
for patriarchy, colonialism, humanism, positivism, essentialism, scientism, and
other unlamented -isms, but all claims for an organic or natural standpoint"
(1990: 198).

53

The symbolism of the cyborg epitomises the quest for an identity which
embodies partial, contradictory, permanently unclosed constructions of
personal and collective selves and an abandonment of any search for a natural
matrix of unity with its inherently disabling consequences for radical
reconstruction of existing relations between gender and technology. Haraway's
vision encourages us to take advantage of the instabilities in boundaries that
new technologies expose and provides a conceptual framework for shedding the
essentialist linking of biological body and gendered expectations. Her analysis
pushes through the limits of some feminist writers' preoccupation with male
dominance to explore vibrant and thoroughly contemporary dimensions of the
gender and technology debate.
Others have also perceived the need to go beyond simply critiquing existing
theory or practice. Elizabeth Gross (1990) argues that such critiques may remain
simply reactive, staying on the ground they aim to contest and ultimately
affirming the very theories they confront. An important task of feminist theorists
has always been to pose alternatives which create new perspectives on social
and political issues, breaking new ground and challenging the existing
boundaries of social science paradigms. Building on this argument, Annette
Fitzsimons (1994) suggests that the feminist critique of science and technology
which stresses male dominance of these areas would appear to reproduce and
thus affirm the theories which it criticizes. She argues that this occurs because of
the concept of power and dominance which characterises these critiques.
Fitzsimons argues that in the literature on women and technology there
appears to be a borrowing of, and concentration on, the idea that technology is
used by men to subordinate women, and the conflation of science with
technology. She reminds us of Wajcman's observation that "technology, like
science, is seen as deeply implicated in the masculine project of the domination
of women and nature" (1991: 17). Fitzsimons believes the problem with this
notion is that women are positioned as passive victims of male dominance and
male control and cast as dominated and powerless. She points out that there is
a very substantial body of work which discusses women's relationship to
power in science and technology in these terms (see Arditti et al 1984,
Cockburn 1985, Corea 1985, Benston 1988 cited in Fitzsimons). For example,
Benston insists that "The whole realm of technology and the communication
around it reinforces women's powerlessness" (1988: 26).

54

As Hartsock (1990) points out, in this approach power itself becomes associated
with virility and masculinity. The discourse around technology is thus shaped
by masculinist discourses on power and there is an affirmation of this
conceptualisation of power rather than the posing of an alternative. Fitzsimons
suggests that this provides little opportunity for conceptualising the relationship
between women and technology in any ways other than those of domination
and hinders the creation of a strategy for change. She turns to the work of
French philosopher and historian, Michel Foucault, in seeking alternative
notions of power that may be of more use to feminist projects of emancipation.
Foucault (1979) argued that traditional conceptions of power are limited in that
they allow power to be thought of only in negative terms of refusal, domination,
obstruction and censure. While he does not dispute the coercive and repressive
aspects of power, he also explores the notion of power as productive and
enabling.
If power was never anything but repressive, if it never did anything but say no, do you
really believe that we should manage to obey it? What gives power its hold, what makes it
accepted, is quite simply the fact that it does not simply weigh like a force which says no,
but that it runs through, and it produces things, it induces pleasure, it forms knowledge, it
produces discourse; it must be considered as a productive network which runs through
the entire social body much more than as a negative instance whose function is repression
(Foucault cited in Fitzsimons: 129).

Foucault sees power as fluid and ubiquitous, its dynamics amenable to analysis
at the micro-level of everyday practices. Foucault's approach to power is
explored much more fully in Chapter 5 and will be used as a theoretical
framework for discussing the findings of this inquiry. Suffice it to say at this
point that his work has resonated with many feminist writers who have a
history of viewing power in more diverse ways than those conceived within
mainstream academia. By talking about gender relations in terms of power,
feminists have long foregrounded the idea that the whole of social relationships
involves notions of power.
Fitzsimons argues that, while Foucault's analysis does not provide a complete or
properly theorized model of power which feminists can readily use, he does
provide a framework from which an analysis of gender and power can be
constructed and the debate on gender and technology recast. Such a framework
provides an opportunity to construct alternative feminist strategies rather than
continuing to rely on disabling theories of male dominance which are based on a
notion of power which "restricts our political imaginations and keeps us from

55

looking for the ambiguities, contradictions and libratory possibilities" (Sawicki


1991: 86).
Highlighting the pleasure and power which can be exercised through the use of
technology prepares the ground for a distinct way of theorizing around gender and
technology which is specific to technology and marks out the distinction between science
and technology... a fundamental starting-point needs to be the specific social interests that
structure the knowledge and practice of particular kinds of technology (Fitzsimons 1994:
128-9).

This thesis is such a particular exploration, beginning - in the following section


of this chapter - with a review of the small body of writing devoted to women
and technology in the contemporary music industry. The inquiry is situated in
the context of an institution which trains prospective participants for a
professional life in the industry and attempts to locate women's perspectives
and activities within the discourses which reflect the social configurations
characteristic, not only of this institution, but of the broader musical culture
within which it is embedded.

2.6 Women and Technology in Contemporary Music


Efforts to locate literature in this specific field through searches of CD-ROM
databases, the internet and browsing recent academic and popular journals have
yielded exceptionally poor results. As already mentioned at the beginning of
this chapter, feminist musicology is an active and very new field of critique and
is tackling a range of challenging projects. For examples of this work, see Susan
McClary (1991) on music, gender and sexuality, Rhian Samuel (1992) on feminist
musicology, Mavis Bayton (1990) on how women become musicians, Barbara
Bradby (1993) on gender, technology and the body in dance music, Marcia
Citron (1993) on gender and the musical canon, Elizabeth Wood (1993) on voice,
subjectivity and authority in contemporary musicology, Sally Macarthur (1995)
on the body as important agent and participant in musical experiences. As yet,
however, feminist commentary on the gender implications of the profound and
widespread technological changes that have occurred in the music industry in
this century (particularly in the past fifteen years since the development of
MIDI) has not been forthcoming. Papers delivered by Carol Biddiss and Judy
Pile at the 1994 Australian Composing Women's Forum (Melbourne) are pioneer
offerings in the field.

56

While some popular music technology magazines devote space to women


working in the production side of the industry, such features are token, rare and
can only be found by browsing. The Music Index is unique among CD-ROM
data banks in that it is four years out of date - the latest available disc covers
from 1981 to 1991 and the most recent hard copy version covers 1993. This has
made it difficult to locate current material. Searches of this data base on
technology, production, audio-engineering, computer music, and electronic
music demonstrated that all these areas are being written about prolifically, but
not in relation to gender or women. Lesley Sly's (1993) report on the Australian
music industry in The Power and the Passion contains 63 references to technology,
Technology, or techno fear but very few of these examine women's perspectives
or gender issues in general (though the author herself is a highly competent and
well-informed techno-musician-journalist). It would thus appear that the
investigation of women's relationships with music technology is an
undeveloped area of feminist critique, ripe for examination in the mid-nineties.
2.6.1 Women in Audio-Engineering and Production
Australian Womens Contemporary Music (AWCM), a non-profit organisation
based in Sydney, was initiated in 1988 to redress the gender imbalance and
improve the professional skills, employment opportunities and status of women
in all areas of the contemporary music industry. Founder and director, Vicki
Gordon, says that women have always had access to music but few have
achieved the status and recognition of their male counterparts. She suggests that
womens roles as performers must be viewed in the context of their roles in
other aspects of the industry and has gathered statistics which corroborate her
assertion that the technical and business aspects of the industry are still
dominated by men, particularly so in relation to production and engineering,
and this accentuates the difficulties women face in getting their music heard on
the airwaves.
(The) stunting process which women have to deal with in the Australian Music Industry
denies women any chance to reveal their hopes, ideas, dreams and aspirations being
heard through music. Women are basically being gagged by the music industry bias
(Gordon 1991: 19).

The AWCM statistics chronicled in Sly's book indicate that women's


participation in production and audio-engineering in Australia is almost nonexistent. At that time, there were no recognised female record producers and
less than 10 female sound engineers employed on a regular basis. These figures
appear inconsistent with those of the 1991 ABS Census in which 247 women
57

gave their primary source of income as 'sound technician' (12% of this category).
I suspect this discrepancy may be due to greater employment opportunities for
women as sound technicians in areas such as radio (the ABC actively practices
EEO principles) and television, rather than in live mixing or studio recording in
the music industry generally. Gordon asserts that training is difficult for women
wanting to learn production and engineering skills. Women participate as a
small minority entering male-dominated classes and are likely to experience
sexual harassment and ostracism from male students, hindering successful
completion of their courses. One role AWCM has taken up is organising
workshops and longer courses for women in technical areas such as stage
lighting and sound reinforcement.
Sly spotlights the (self) employment of a few women pioneers in strongly maledominated areas of the industry. In her chapter on touring and performance, she
quotes Faye Reid who has been a professional bass player for 25 years and now
owner and operator of Pink Productions, a PA hire company. There are very few
women running their own PA companies in Australia. Reid comments on being
a women in this arm of the industry:
Well, when I first went out on gigs in a four-ton truck, I got a few laughs from the crews.
But I could do the job and so I got accepted quickly. Whether you're a man or a woman
you have to be good at your job when you're in a hire situation (Sly 1993: 203).

Lindy Morrison is unique in being a successful female drummer. She is also one
of the very few women in the Australian industry willing to identify as a
feminist. In giving advice to other women considering breaking into the
industry, she comments:
Own your own car and equipment, carry your own gear, and get strong because you
have to be strong to deal with the shit. When things go wrong the first thing men will do
is blame the person who doesn't fit into their peer group and you are the one who will be
attacked... As a musician you've got to know as much or more about technology and
recording processes. It's important that you can speak the language of men... in recording
studios because that's where all your saleable music will be made (30).

These women's comments reflect in a popular music context the dilemmas faced
by women everywhere who enter non-traditional fields. In Becoming 'One of the
Boys': Female Engineers in the Electronics Industry (1992), Carol Jones points out
that, while some of the structural barriers to women's participation in
engineering are being overcome, attitudinal barriers continue to ensure that
women must negotiate their presence in what is seen by both female and male
engineers as a male province. Studies in male-oriented work-places have
58

demonstrated the extent to which they are shaped by male sexuality and
masculinity (Cockburn 1983, Collinson 1988, Collinson and Collinson 1989 cited
in Jones). Jones comments that men do not necessarily welcome women into
these male preserves and women may encounter attempts to maintain the status
quo, such as pin-ups and posters, sexual jokes and harassment, male oriented
banter, a questioning of women's ability and status and overtly derogatory
remarks. Women are tested for their tolerance of male behaviour and part of
'becoming one of the boys' is learning how to negotiate a way through this
barrage of male culture to gain even superficial acceptance. Women cannot but
be highly visible in engineering and, unlike men, cannot yet simply be
professional engineers.
There are constant reminders throughout their working days that they are different
because first and foremost they are women. They are watched, monitored and judged as
both stereotypes and exceptions (Jones 1992: 77).

Among contemporary music technology literature in the global community,


features on womens success stories in production are extremely rare. So far I
havent discovered any in Australian magazines and only a small handful in
American publications which have published such material. Examples are an
article in New Statesman and Society (8 October, 1993) titled Taking Toys from
Boys on women and music technology with particular reference to Kate Bushs
work as self-producer, EQs main feature on Women in Audio (May 1994), and
Electronic Musicians (December 1994) article on The Gender Gap - Why Women
Producers are such a Rare Breed.
Kate Bush has been producing her own recordings since the early eighties
despite directives from her record company, EMI, to the contrary. She set up her
own studio and Claiming technology for her own, she defied corporate
confines and poked the patriarchs well and truly in the eye (Evans 1993: 29),
thus giving herself total creative control over her own products. Bush is one of a
number of highly successful female musicians who play central roles in the
production of their music - other examples are Madonna, Belinda Carlisle and
Laurie Anderson.
Evans believes that an increasing number of women are now taking up electric
instruments and playing with their own bands, however techno dance music,
created by musicians working in isolation in electronic studios (home as well as
professional) is still very strongly a male domain.

59

As well as educational conditioning, more general adolescent interests may deter women
from this kind of activity. Boys tend to talk about music, swap information, show off their
knowledge and remove themselves from the feelings music arouses. Girls are much more
likely to be interested in pop's personalities than the technical aspects. As a result, it's
mainly men who end up gaining access to studio jobs, and who operate in the techno
arena (Evans 1993: 30).

This pattern of women inheriting older technologies which have basically been
discarded in mens move on to cutting edge technologies has been noted in
many fields other than music, for example Dale Spenders recent comments in
the media on womens strong move into producing literature and owning
publishing companies just as men move on to electronic means of
communication and self-expression such as multi-media and the internet.
An aspect of production work that may well alienate women from getting
involved in production work is the long hours that regularly seem to go with
this kind of activity. All night sessions in the studio are fairly common and
require an obsessive commitment to achieving a desired end result.
Techno boffins... work long shifts, shutting themselves up in studios where they endlessly
seek excitement from inorganic noise. Women do not appear to desire such alienation
from life, but if they ever do become significantly involved with hardcore techno, they will
doubtless transform the tradition to create something as vital as the rock and pop female
bands are currently producing (Evans 1993: 30).

Both the EQ and the Electronic Musician articles follow a similar format,
focusing on a series of women producers and engineers through interviews.
Though highly successful themselves, these women most often express concern
at the considerable difficulties for women wishing to enter these fields. The
following quotes represent a selection of these women's voices:
The sad truth is that young women and men often never see women in engineering or
producing roles, and they grow up thinking women can't achieve these positions... I really
notice the lack of women in the industry at awards shows when my date is asked what he
was nominated for, or when I go to a music store and never get hassled by a salesperson.
It also hurts when I read interviews with women artists who want to work with women
producers and engineers but can't find them (Cookie Marenco in Molenda 1994: 80).
In general, I believe the industry does not encourage women to be engineers and
producers. I can say this with some authority because so many women have assistant
engineer positions and never move up. This lack of advancement is not because these
women are getting married or pregnant and leaving the industry. It is because they are
not being offered the jobs (Susan Rogers in Molenda 1994: 85).
The industry still sees female producers as being a novelty. There certainly aren't very
many of us around! And unfortunately, the perception is because you're female, you're
less effective... Of course, there is still a double standard. But my stance is that if women
have to be better than men to break in, fine, let's do it... Just get over it and be better. I'm
not afraid of being the best I can be. If that's the challenge, so be it (Patrice Rushen in
Molenda 1994: 88).

60

When I became a mom, I ran into a fair amount of flak, as if motherhood were somehow
unprofessional. At Electric Lady Studios, however, they babyproofed to accommodate
my daughter... It was great. When I had to breast feed her, my engineer and assistants (all
men) weren't quite comfortable, so I sat on the other side of the console where they could
hear but not see me, and I'd keep right on directing the session. I think some guys had
difficulty seeing me play the roles of both mother and producer. There are obstacles, so
women have to excel to gain equal standing with men. There's also a certain amount of
racism in the industry, though in my experience it's usually less of an issue than sexism
(Gail "Sky" King in Else 1994: 50-1).
Perhaps because of ego and competition, it's difficult for an all-male staff to suddenly
work with a woman who's not in a traditionally female role. Men are used to women
acting as caretakers, notetakers, studio managers, assistants, etc. - not as the ones making
the technical decisions. That perception may be why women have such trouble making
the leap from second to first engineer (Leslie Ann Jones in Else 1994: 53).

In spring 1993, Technet (an internet list for women in audio) and EQ magazine
distributed two surveys to research the evolving roles of women in the audio
industry in the USA (see Potts 1994). The first targeted companies for statistics
on the levels of participation and success achieved by women in the audio
industry and the second targeted women working in the audio industry for
information on individual perceptions. Employers reported that women work
predominantly in administrative and support positions and stated that over 80%
of these low-paying jobs are "manned" by women. For most firms, less than 20%
of all technical positions are held by women with less than 2% being "lead" or
"first" positions. The employers were asked to evaluate a list of suggested
changes that might lead to increasing the participation and success of women in
audio. Positive changes in college recruiting practices, hiring practices, musicmarketing techniques, and secondary education biases were overwhelmingly
rated by all respondents as being "very important." 54% stated that their firm
had no written policies for dealing with gender-related issues such as job
discrimination, salary discrimination and sexual harassment.
The second survey was distributed primarily through Technet. Almost half the
women who responded were currently working in studio production while
others were employed in marketing/publicity/journalism and as sales
professionals. Approximately 50% were self-employed. Women in their 20s
reported little exposure to discrimination and sexual harassment, but almost
33% in their 30s had experienced sexual harassment and most know of others
within their company who also had. Approximately 66% of those over the age of
45 reported that their salaries were at least 10% lower than those of their male
counterparts. Overall, 75% of the women claimed that gender discrimination has
had a negative impact on their individual ability to enter the audio industry and
succeed in it. Only 2% reported a positive impact. In evaluating factors that

61

contribute to the scarcity of women in audio, responses from women in the


under-30 group emphasized the lack of prominent role models and the lack of
encouragement by primary and secondary educators. Responses from the over30 group emphasized the existence of a male-dominated industry. All
individuals regarded widespread gender discrimination as being a lesser, or
secondary, force determining the overall number of successful women in audio.
50% of all respondents, regardless of age, believed that their careers would be
jeopardized if they reported sexual harassment to their superiors.
2.6.2 Australian Women Composing Electronically
(The) concern to learn and utilise new systems is essential for any innovative artist. It only
becomes dangerous when artists become preoccupied with the method as an end in itself
rather than a means to their aesthetic concerns. The balance between content and method
must be seen in the light of the artistic intention of a singular work. Technology can be
enabling, but it can also be limiting. It is the artist who must reassert a fundamental
commitment to the aesthetic aim and maintain a sensitive and discriminating use of
technology where and only where it is appropriate to the work itself (Bandt 1988: 274).

Ros Bandt is an innovative composer and academic who has experimented with
acoustic and electronic sound media. She is well known for her sound
sculptures and playgrounds made of recycled junk and everyday materials.
While Bandt does not specifically address gender issues in her Meanjin article,
she does contribute a unique perspective which calls for both wisdom and
caution in employing new technologies in composition. While there is an
abundance of writing (overwhelmingly from male authors) evaluating the
efficacy of various pieces of hardware or software, or extolling the virtues of
someone's latest high-tech product or performance, there appears to be an
extreme paucity of material asking really fundamental questions about the
aesthetic and social implications of new music technologies. Interestingly, what
there is appears to come from female writers (also see Biddiss and Pile below).
Bandt argues that technology should serve the creative vision of the artist rather
than dominate that vision and she sees the latter as a real danger in a market
now glutted with affordable musical tools of all kinds.
As the range of affordable systems has grown, so has artists' responsibility to make
discriminating choices to match their systems to their aesthetic needs. Artists are now in a
position to maintain their own stance rather than being constrained by the resources
available at universities and schools of music. The artist can assert a new freedom from
the various schools of thought and acquired systems which have tended to shape musical
style (Bandt 1988: 276).

Bandt believes technology offers the artist a great deal, providing an enormous
field of possibilities at every stage in the creation of their work. She enumerates
62

the advantages of computer facilities, such as the abundance of graphic and


mathematical systems which may be used as a conceptual basis for composition,
the enormous field of sound sources and modifiers which can be integrated
through MIDI systems, editing ease and flexibility, and the development of time
code which locks audio and visual images together for multi-media production.
However, she also warns of the pitfalls of working with new technologies such
as the health hazards and social isolation of long hours spent at a computer, the
interruption of intuitive creative processes with a rigid computer language
which inhibits the holistic flow of personal expression, and problematic issues of
how to perform/present computer based music to an audience. Bandt reminds
us that music is verified by human beings and should be composed in terms of
human experience - 'computer-freaks' and 'technocrats' may lose sight of this
and become immersed in technology for its own sake.
The market-place and the limitations of artificially created systems must not dictate the
organic nature of works of art. Machines will come and go but great art can only be made
in the terms of reference created by inspired human beings. It is they who need to
determine the future directions in musical technology (Bandt 1988: 280).

Another musician who has written in a very positive vein about the creative
advantages of new technology is theatre composer Sarah de Jong. In an article
for Sounds Australian in 1990 de Jong describes how the acquisition of an
electronic studio enabled her to transcend the financial constraints of theatre
budgets which tend to allow for only two or three musicians at most for a show.
I now have the means to record music that has its own theatrical and musical
development of ideas... This has been an extraordinary change in my musical life and one
that I never anticipated occurring from the simple acquisition of a studio. After years of
working with actors alone, stagehands, one musician, or if I was lucky three musicians,
and confining and refining the musical thought and development to short periods of time
so that the audience didn't get too bored, the actors didn't get too impossible a job, and the
music didn't suddenly take over from the script of a play, this new freedom I have found
is very exciting (de Jong 1990: 28).

Film composer, Sharon Calcraft, is classically trained and writes her music in a
traditional way on score paper rather than using a MIDI sequencer, but uses
studio technology to further rework the piece at the recording stage of creation.
In an interview with Michael Atherton she describes the excitement of working
with the high-tech tools available in the production studio.
... the studio is a fantastic tool in itself. You can do anything in a studio - you can stop and
do ten overdubs if you need to. When I get into the studio the score starts changing
immediately, it starts expanding rapidly because I start getting excited about the
possibilities... Of course you could go in and not change a thing - but I like using the
studio as a tool (Atherton 1990: 11).

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These three composers working in contemporary 'art' music, theatre and film all
demonstrate empowered approaches to the use of technology in their work. I
have not so far discovered any corresponding perspectives from women
involved in the mainstream Australian popular music arena.
In papers delivered at the Composing Women's Festival in Melbourne in mid1994, Carol Biddiss and Judy Pile raise a number of issues which bear directly
on women's choices around the use of computers (and other digital
technologies) in composing music. Between them, they discuss the dangers of
technological determinism, the late twentieth century myth of new technology
as a 'revolution' ushering in a euphoric New Age for its users, the notion of
music technology being itself gendered male and the resulting alienation of
women - including the irrational linking of a whole range of civilian
technologies with militaristic language and thinking, the disadvantages faced by
women training in new music technologies, and the invisible but substantial
role of women working in the audio industry in the factories of third-world
countries where electronic components are manufactured.
Biddiss' refers to claims by feminist writers on culture and technology that
men's dominance in the realm of 'high' technology continues to be an important
source of their power over women and, further, that technology itself is
gendered, constituting a masculine culture. Her paper takes this notion and
explores the proposition that music technology, and in particular the personal
computer as a centrepiece of electronic music systems, is a gendered cultural
practice. If the computer is a defining technology of the late twentieth century,
then how, Biddiss asks, does it define women and do women want to be defined
by it? Following Wajcman and others who challenge the myth of technological
determinism, Biddiss argues that it is only in the examination of technology as
cultural practice that we can begin to ask gender difference questions about the
patterns of use of techno-musical artefacts. She points out that promoters of
technology, at least since the 1960s, have been prone to using the word
'revolution' in an attempt to perpetually create the myth that some new product
or service is about to usher in a utopian age for those who engage with it.
This so-called 'revolution' is actually the evolutionary work of communities of
technological practitioners. In the case of the invention and refinement of the personal
computer... the community consisted mostly, if not exclusively of men. Who were these
machines meant for? (Biddiss 1994: 110)

64

Biddiss answers that while technology has certainly been monopolised by male
culture, this is a cultural phenomenon that needs to be challenged. She draws
attention to those feminist critiques of gender and technology which dispute the
suggestion that technology is aligned with masculinity and power in any
essential sense. Following Wajcman's (1991) work, Biddiss concurs that:
Technology is not an irresistible force but a male-dominated, historically traceable set of
practices imbued with political choices... The stereotyped correspondence between men
and machines is not immutable since the complex relationship between masculinity and
technology is of this time, and is the result of this current historical and social
construction of gender (Biddiss 1994: 111).

Biddiss draws our attention to Zoe Sofia's (1992) work which calls for a
remaking of mythology and practices around computers which have been
construed as a site for war games and a place for men to compete with each
other in business, so alienating women.
She also points out that, in the field of music technology, most of the published
writing is of male authorship despite emerging evidence of "a rich engagement
by the women with the technologies and the ideas surrounding them" (at events
such as the Composing Women's Festival) (1994: 112). She concludes that
'leading edge' music sound production and reproduction technologies have
been gendered but technological cultural practices are changing rapidly and that
many women and men want "to push the boundaries, to cross the borders,
indeed to rub them out" (1994: 112). Biddiss asserts that the omission of women
from these facets of the music industry is undemocratic and fails to honestly
represent the symbolic life of contemporary Australia.
Judy Pile speaks of her "alienated dismay at the extent to which the language of
control, dominance and submission is overtly used to define and to sell digital
culture" (1994: 114). She suggests that the very terminology used to describe
music technology seems to deny the multiple realities, viewpoints and
possibilities which its promotion so often promises by replicating the militaristic
mentality of an oppressive social system which sells computer war 'games' and
where an arms 'fair' could look 'like the inside of a toyshop.'
This continuum of symbolism from war zone, to computer game, to music 'consumable' is
the explicit face of the intimate economic relationship between the arms industry and
almost every 'civilian' technological advance this century. Its fantasies also illustrate men's
monopoly of the areas of design, marketing, installation and maintenance... I was forced
to confront the realisation that for women composers, getting our hands on the machines
is only the start, because the technology itself embodies the imprint of its male designers
and the projects of masculinist culture (Pile 1994: 115).

65

For one thing, as Pile points out, developing a satisfactory relationship with any
music software program requires the development of "a certain kind of noninteractive relationship to the rest of the world." Acquiring competency and
fluency working on computer composition takes long and concentrated hours
and a high level of commitment to a process which can be extremely tedious
and frustrating in the initial stages of learning new equipment or new software.
And, as Pile asks, "Who's going to look after the kids?" Women often do not
have the luxury of time, let alone the substantial material resources, required for
the serious pursuit of computer based music-making.
Pile emphasises how off-the-shelf music technology devices designed for
composition offer a narrow, standardised range of sounds designed to facilitate
most easily the imitative form of synthesis which emulates real world
instruments and the re-creation of standard musical formulae. Anyone who, like
herself, wants to work with non-'realist' sound worlds requires access to
informal technical networks and years of hands-on computer experience (let
alone formal courses of study). As she points out, most women have had very
limited access to such informal cultures of information sharing and play and yet,
she says, "possession of its advantages and willingness to accept its terms are
assumed in training courses." (115) Lecturers in these courses (usually male)
seem unaware or unwilling to concede that women students start from a
different place and may aim to travel very different paths from their male
colleagues. Women students may face both subtle and explicit disadvantages or
even censorship in this situation.
While women are virtually invisible in the culture that uses computers and
other electronic devices for music making, Pile points out that it is a myth they
don't participate in audio technologies. Women are present in large numbers,
though still invisible, in the sweatshops of third world countries where
components are manufactured.
Working under appalling, often hazardous conditions, the women produce essential
components for machines most could never hope to purchase, but which we assume the
'right' to have and to use 'because they're there'... machines that would not be available to
me without the input of the cheaply bought labour of women's bodies (Pile 1994, 116).

Pile comments that women's contribution is rendered invisible because the only
level they are present in large numbers - manufacturing - is subject to the same
values which accord low status to other areas of 'women's' or 'unskilled' work. It

66

is, she says, "almost as if their working bodies were merely incubators for the
conceptions of male creators" (1994: 116). In the very act of using these
technologies, we place ourselves in colonising roles in relation to such women.
For Pile, this implies a responsibility to find sensitive ways of speaking and
using technology which do not simply reproduce and validate a perverse world.
There is more to the question of women's participation in audio technologies than simply
allowing it to increase. The world of those technologies, their culture and its institutions is
currently modelled upon a certain masculine self image, entrenching values and
behaviour damaging to women. Given that information technology now enters almost
every aspect of our lives, it is important that we do not just 'leave it to the boys', but
engage with it and use it for our own ends - acknowledging the pleasures and facing the
responsibilities with which it challenges us (Pile 1994: 117).

2.7 Conclusion
Judy Pile's challenge informs the very basis of this project, alerting women to
proceed with caution into the masculinist terrain of audio technologies, yet
urging us to embrace its pleasures, possibilities and ethical responsibilities. In
this literature review I have proceeded from the general to the particular,
beginning with a panoramic sweep of broad (mostly male) social science
commentary on culture and technology, then moving on to a more detailed
examination of feminist contributions to the debate, and finally detailing the
much smaller body of writing currently available on the subject of women's
relationships with technology in contemporary music. In this process, it has
become obvious that the wider cultural configurations surrounding these
relationships are by no means transparent, and are subject to multiple ways of
experiencing and interpreting, all of which have their usefulness and
limitations, and all of which contribute to enriching our understanding of the
complex matrix of forces at play in the ever-changing and fluid interactions
between gendered humans and gendered technologies.

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Chapter 3. METHODOLOGY
3.0 Introduction
Feminist concerns lie at the very heart of this project and my understanding of
feminist epistemological debates have profoundly shaped its evolution. The
insights generated in these debates have informed a multitude of approaches to
the political task of addressing women's experiences and perspectives in diverse
contexts and deciding what is to be done in the face of ongoing injustices which
persist in the playing out of gender/power relations in our 'postmodern'
society. In sifting through these approaches and unravelling the strands with
which to weave one's own web of meaning, value and action, certain
underlying themes become apparent. I lay these out here as ground on which to
situate a more specific theoretical approach, elaborated in Chapter 5, which I
will use as a lens through which to analyse the findings of this inquiry.

3.1 Feminism as a Political and Epistemological Enterprise


Feminism is a politics. It is a politics directed at changing existing power relations
between women and men in society. These power relations structure all areas of life, the
family, education and welfare, the worlds of work and politics, culture and leisure. They
determine who does what for whom and who we might become. (Weedon 1987: 1)
An 'epistemology' is a framework or theory for specifying the constitution and generation
of knowledge about the social world; that is, it concerns how to understand the nature of
'reality'. A given epistemological framework specifies not only what 'knowledge' is and
how to recognise it, but who are 'knowers' and by what means someone becomes one, and
also the means by which competing knowledge-claims are adjudicated and some rejected
in favour of another/others. The question of epistemology, then, is crucial, precisely
fundamental for feminism, for it is around the constitution of a feminist epistemology that
feminism can most directly and far-reachingly challenge non-feminist frameworks and
ways of working. (Stanley and Wise 1993: 188-9)

Feminist epistemology is thus concerned primarily with both power relations


(politics) and with the nature of knowledge and its production (epistemology)
and fundamentally challenges the assumption, aligned with traditional
positivism, that knowledge is produced in an objective, rational and universal
manner. Feminists insist that knowledge is actually premised on a whole set of
underlying assumptions and values that need to be acknowledged by both
authors and audiences. Knowledge construction has historically been very
largely a male prerogative and thus tends to reflect the partial interests, biases
and blindspots of men individually and collectively. Furthermore, since the
predominant political paradigms throughout recorded history have been male68

centred (androcentric) constructs, men have retained the power to design and
maintain ownership of knowledge to serve their own political ends.
The discovery of a pervasive androcentrism in the definitions of intellectual problems as
well as in specific theories, concepts, methods, and interpretations of research fuels efforts
to distinguish between knowledge and prejudice. The recognition that epistemological
assumptions have political implications stimulates efforts to attain theoretical selfconsciousness concerning the intellectual presuppositions of feminist analysis.
(Hawkesworth 1989: 534)

Throughout the history of patriarchal political structures, women's experiences,


perspectives and contributions have been devalued and marginalised.
However, in the last three decades of the twentieth century a feminist critical
revolution has gathered momentum in academic and cultural institutions and
has flourished in combination with every major epistemological position from
empiricism to postmodernism, addressing gender questions across disciplines,
cultures and histories. Its central theme has been to expose and challenge the
male-centred biases and assumptions that continue to permeate every sphere of
our cultural and intellectual heritage and to evolve new (gynocentric) forms of
creating and knowing that include and represent women. Feminist scholars
labour to reclaim lost histories of women's thinking and productive activities,
question the very foundations of androcentric cultural forms and seek new
ways to research, affirm and express women's perspectives.
The resulting evolution of gynocentric forms of social critique are diverse,
though some forms of feminism have indeed attempted to construct overarching theories, or 'meta-narratives', to explain women's oppression, prescribe
remedies and even to bring all feminist theory under one umbrella.
Contemporary feminisms are more inclined (than earlier feminisms) to take
account of the multiple cultural realities which characterise both the lives of
individual women and the diverse perspectives, historical and cultural
backgrounds from which women speak. The great debates of feminist
discourse, such as vigorous discussions over the essential or culturally
constructed nature of gender, whether to adopt a reformative or revolutionary
socio-political agenda and the challenge of centralising women's differences in
developing strategies for change, continue to ensure its vitality and efficacy as a
pluralist movement foregrounding a multitude of issues around women's
interests and rights.
The common ground of the different faces of feminism is a concern with
womens 'empowerment' and this notion is variously defined in ways
69

appropriate to the specific epistemological premises on which a feminist thinker


operates. I have pointed out in Chapter 1 that empowerment can be a
problematical term with connotations of white middle-class hegemony in
deciding what is best for all women. My own use of it is defined in relation to
the notion of 'power.'
For liberal feminists, empowerment strategies gravitate around creating better
access and equity for women within existing social contexts. For radical
feminists, they may focus on restoring women's control over their own bodies
or on building separatist communities. Whereas socialist feminists see
revolutionising socio-economic systems of material production as central to
women's empowerment, psychoanalytic feminists concentrate on the inner
territories of the self where gender identities are constructed and maintained.
Postmodernist feminism is premised on the deconstruction of unified
subjectivity and the recognition of the diversity of positions from which women
speak - empowerment within this framework must take account of the specific
cultural contexts which inform women's everyday lives and 'micropractices.'
While some feminists are content to work for reform within existing social
structures, others seek radical transformations that will create a different kind
of society with fundamentally altered values and practices so that the interests
of one sector are not privileged over those of all others.
In her critique of feminist thought, Rosemary Tong (1992) suggests that each
approach furnishes a partial and provisional answer to the "woman question/s"
and gives a unique perspective with its own methodological strengths and
weaknesses. The membranes between these feminisms often seem leaky in spite
of their overt political divergences and contradictions. Tong argues that they
offer different emphases on a common set of preoccupations. Postmodernist
perspectives remind us of that universal, totalizing theories leave out most of
the true diversity and richness of localized experience and tend toward regimes
of political, cultural and intellectual hegemony. A multiplicity of feminisms is
thus a sign of health.

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3.2 Feminist Research Methods


Maynard and Purvis (1994) suggest that there is no clear consensus as to a
definition of feminist research, but that there does emerge from feminist writing
a sense of the parameters within which feminists feel they, minimally, must
operate in order to be rigorous about, and maintain integrity towards their
work. They believe it is this, along with continual reflection on the research
process itself, that characterise the rich and dynamic discussions which
continue to emerge from the multi-faceted field of feminist studies.
A primary concern of critical feminist research is to employ methods that most
effectively challenge the relations of dominance in whatever specific contexts
the inquirer and the research participants bring jointly into focus. This implies
the adoption of emancipatory approaches to research which follow an ultimate
agenda of creating a more just society and, specifically, of improving women's
lives. However, writers such as Maynard (1994) and Kelly, Burton and Regan
(1994) emphasise the need to distinguish between bringing about social change
for a group and individual empowerment as two quite distinct activities; they warn
against overly simplistic notions of what the two might mean and how they
might be brought about. Glucksmann (1994) cautions against confusing politics
and research and the tendency to suggest that feminist research is feminist
politics. This may, she thinks, create the false substitution of establishing
egalitarianism in the research situation for bringing it about in the real world.
These writers also express concern at the spectre of a politically impotent
postmodernism that is colonising feminist academia, removing theory from
practical concerns and rendering social research pointless. However, while the
cross-fertilisation of feminist and postmodernist thought has led some to
political impasse, for others it has been a vigorous and fruitful conjunction
which has led to fresh insights into how gender and power are constituted in
specific cultural contexts and how the most effective strategies for change might
take account of these factors. This project incorporates elements of
postmodernist thought as an analytical tool useful both in terms of political
theorising and in considering strategies for change for women in a specific
cultural context.
Maynard and Purvis (1994) stress that a major concern for feminists has always
been with the actual process of conducting research. Concern about the

71

inevitability of a power dimension in the relationship between the researcher


and the researched, about the ethics of research practices, and matters of
exploitation and control have featured prominently in the debate. In this
inquiry, participants and researcher are peers who have been enrolled in the
same degree course for several years and are therefore familiar - at least to some
extent - with each other and with the culture which forms the background to the
study. But whereas participants are now nearing completion of this course, the
researcher has withdrawn from studying composition and taken up social
research. The power dimension to the researcher/participant relationship is
therefore unusual. The participants are, in a sense, the empowered ones who
have succeeded in a learning situation from which the researcher withdrew as
being too problematic.
Maynard and Purvis suggest that a second major theme is the direct impact and
meaning that participation in a research project can have on both the person
under-taking the work and those being studied. This is a particularly pertinent
observation in relation to this inquiry whose impetus came from my own
unsatisfactory learning experiences and has ultimately led back into a process of
personal empowerment and my re-entry to the training I had abandoned. I was
able to do this with fresh insights into the reasons for my previous difficulties
and to create mutually supportive learning experiences with other women in
the course. In return, many of the women who contributed as participants have
expressed interest in the outcome of the research, as have others involved in the
music course, and for the first time are articulating that there are particular
problems for women which need to be addressed. A group of video students, of
whom I am one, are currently working on a short feature on women
instrumentalists and technicians in the school - a project which has created a lot
of interest. (It is envisaged that the video will be submitted as an appendix to
this thesis.)
Whereas earlier debates focused on whether some research techniques should
be privileged over others as being more suitable for feminist ends (eg
interviewing), contemporary concerns are more complex and explore a range of
issues including practical, political and ethical questions in conducting research.
Writers such as Shulamit Reinharz (1992) point out that feminist researchers
have used all the existing research methods and have invented new ones as
well. There are not only multiple womens voices, but there are multiple ways
of knowing and no orthodoxies in feminist research methods. There are, in fact,

72

a range of methods, both qualitative and quantitative, that are informed by a


feminist perspective. More than one of these may be appropriately employed in
exploring a specific set of research questions. In pursuing the research focus of
this inquiry, interviewing was the only method of gathering data employed. I
was not interested in observing the women at work so much as understanding
how they themselves perceived their activity. Interviewing is the only method
which affords access to this inner realm of people's thoughts.
Reinharz identifies a number of themes in her study of feminist research. She
suggests it typically involves critique of non-feminist scholarship, is guided by
feminist theory, may be transdisciplinary, aims to create social change, strives to
represent human diversity, frequently includes the researcher as a person, may
involve interactive research, and often defines a special relationship with the
reader. By this, Reinharz implies that a researcher may wish to forge direct
connections between those studied and the research audience both by including
herself in the interactive process and by allowing participants to speak on their
own behalf with the use of direct quotes wherever appropriate. All of the above
major themes are woven into this project.
An important insight contributed by feminist researchers such as Helen Roberts
(1981) is that research is rarely the tidy, linear process it may appear to be in its
final polished, published account. In fact, the evolution of an inquiry may entail
feelings of confusion and chaos for its author as she works to construct coherent
meanings out of the complexity and contradictions of the empirical realm. In
their edited collection, Researching Women's Lives from a Feminist Perspective
(1994), Maynard and Purvis demonstrate the valuable perspectives to be gained
by reading the reflexive accounts of other women's research processes.

3.3 Validity in Feminist Research


The question of reliability and validity in feminist research, Maynard and
Purvis (1994) suggest, is of increasing concern to feminists. They assert that
much of the debate so far has been carried out at an abstract epistemological
level with a major focus on critiquing masculinist notions of science and/or
providing postmodern criticisms of Enlightenment forms of knowledge. Such
work falls short of applying generalised validity arguments to the day-to-day
practicalities of conducting empirical research. Two contentious issues are the
role of experience in feminist research and the process of interpretation.
73

The grounding of feminist social research in women's experiences has been one
of its axioms and it has been widely accepted as essential to the process of
challenging the mistaken and distorted views offered by male history and social
science. However some writers have questioned whether considering
experience alone is sufficient for the conduct of feminist research. Kelly, Burton
and Regan (1994: 30) argue that whereas experience was initially viewed as a
starting point for feminist analysis, it has now become an end in itself and
experience/identity substituted for or regarded as equivalent to politics "as if
critical awareness and understanding are inscribed on a person through forms
of oppression, with an implicit or explicit assumption that such awareness is
inaccessible to those who have not 'lived' such experiences."
A similar concern is expressed by Glucksmann (1994) when she argues that
researcher and researched are positioned differently in relation to knowledge
production and to the kinds and range of knowledge they possess. A recurring
feature of oppressed people's experience is that they are kept only partially
informed about factors that bear directly on their lives and they may not have
the means to fully explain these. These concerns arise from feminist standpoint
epistemologies which privilege those who occupy an oppressed or marginalised
position in society. While I do not support a view which privileges the
perspectives of 'the oppressed,' I do seek insights into the dynamics of
oppression and liberation in specific contexts and regard the examination of
womens experience as vital to this agenda.
Another central issue in considering validity in feminist research is how we
carry out the process of interpretation - whether or not we interpret the views of
participants in our study as they would wish. Maynard and Purvis (1994: 7)
suggest that interpretation is a social process and a "political, contested and
unstable activity."
...there is no technique of analysis or methodological logic that can neutralise the social
nature of interpretation. ... feminist researchers can only try to explain the grounds on
which selective interpretations have been made by making explicit the process of
decision-making which produces the interpretation, and the logic of the method on
which these decisions are based. This entails acknowledging complexity and
contradiction which may be beyond the interpreter's experience, and recognizing the
possibility of silences and absences in their data. (Maynard and Purvis 1994: 7)

Fully cognisant of these concerns, I take responsibility for the meanings I


construct from the raw data of this research. Wherever possible, participants
speak for themselves through direct quotes and I make a genuine attempt to
74

avoid presenting quotes away from the contexts which give them the meaning
intended by their originators. My interpretations have already undergone
several major rethinkings and, even when this document finally goes to press
and they are 'set' on paper, the process of contestation and the re-making of
meaning will continue through the activity of its readers.

3.4 My Role as Inquirer


As already emphasized in the first chapter, I make no pretence of adopting the
role of disinterested observer in this project. I was and continue to be part of the
culture chosen for research and am engaged 'on the shop floor' with its issues.
The research process itself contributed significantly to my own growth and
empowerment, leading me to re-enrol in technical courses from which I had
withdrawn and spurring me on to succeed in areas where I had previously
experienced a sense of failure, to re-engage where I had indulged a personal
collapse into alienation.
The role I have defined for myself as the author of this project is to act as
facilitator for women to articulate their interests and concerns with respect to
the music industry in general and to music technology in particular. My agenda
was to create a safe and supportive space for women to speak, to accurately
record and represent their voices, and to organise their perspectives in a
coherent and politically cogent manner with reference to contemporary feminist
critique. I wish to present the findings in a way which is respectful to these
womens differing contributions and locates their discourses in relation to
others which characterize the broader cultural terrain where gender and power
relationships are played out.

3.5

Overview of the Design and Implementation of the Inquiry

M
3.5.1 Germination
From a rather broadly-defined feminist philosophical ambience and with an
interest in how women participate in contemporary music-making, I set out on
a research trajectory fuelled by exploratory zeal rather than by pursuit of a tidy
answer to a clearly-defined research question. My intention was to gain some
understanding as to how mature-age women in the final semester of a three-

75

year BA in Contemporary Music had experienced their training and were


conceiving their careers in the music industry. I was interested, in an overall
way, in how women evolved the idea and practice of a career in an industry
which, from my perspective, appeared unsympathetic - if not downright hostile
- to women's interests and contributions.
3.5.2 Interviewing Women Students
Accordingly, I designed a semi-structured interview which explored
participants' musical background and purpose in undertaking a university
course, their perspectives on the culture of the music school and the industry at
large, professional values and ambitions, their perceived competencies and
limitations, and the clarity with which they were able to articulate proposed
career directions. I chose focussed interviewing as a method because I was
interested in accessing women's perspectives and experiences in some depth,
yet wished to direct their attention to certain themes. As a feminist researcher, I
wished to create the conditions whereby women could represent themselves in
addressing the issues they defined as being of concern to them and direct
quoting from interview transcriptions provides a means of achieving this.
Interviewing and direct quoting has become a popular method in feminist
inquiry as a means of counter-acting the silencing of women's voices which has
characterised so much of social science and historical research.
Sampling Strategies
A purposive sampling strategy (Lincoln and Gruba 1985) was chosen as
appropriate to the overall methodological design of this project. In contrast with
random sampling in which the inquirer wishes to gain a representative sample
of a whole population and generalise its characteristics or views, purposive
sampling is used to study certain select groups in-depth without needing to
generalise this to all such cases. Its advantage lies in its potential to provide an
inquirer with information-rich data about issues of central importance to the
purpose of the research.
Patten (1990) calls this strategy purposeful sampling and identifies sixteen
different types, noting that it is usual for researcher to know or obtain some
information about the variations among cases before they are actually selected.

76

Several of these types seemed appropriate in choosing participants for the


inquiry at hand.
Firstly, I used criterion sampling to decide on the common characteristics of the
group to be studied. Observing that the contemporary music industry is one
that definitely advantages younger people entering its ranks and that the
majority of women enrolled in my year of the music course were mature-age
students, I became curious about the motivations and career visions of these
women and decided to focus on them in my study. I chose to look at those who
had almost completed their three-year course because I felt this indicated
competence and commitment to music as a career and, having previously been
part of this group, I was familiar with its members. Those selected for the study
would therefore be mature-age (twenty-five years plus) female music students
completing the final semester of their BA.
Secondly, I considered the range of differences that I knew existed among these
women and employed maximum variation sampling so that various dimensions of
difference would be represented in the sample. The differences I was aware of
from knowledge of my fellow students included age, race and ethnicity,
sexuality, family and life-style situation, and the major strands they had chosen
to study in the music course. I was not so familiar with their particular
differences in class or religious background so these were not prominent in
determining my selection. Basically, I was interested not so much in the
particular characteristics of diversity as in making the point that this group of
women represent an interplay of multiple realities from a rich array of cultural
textures and nuances. Our experiences as women cannot be characterised by
monolithic notions of truth, but are contracted from the diverse and complex
factors which interact with our shared cultural experience of being female.
An example of opportunistic sampling also occurred through information
received in the data collection process. One of the participants mentioned in her
interview that another particular student would be "a good one to interview"
because she had been offered and was negotiating a recording contract with a
major company in Sydney. I was not aware of this situation and had not
intended to interview the woman in question, but decided to include her
because of the cluster of characteristics she represented and because she had
already maximised her chances of a successful career in the industry by
agreeing to sign with a major company.

77

78

Participants and Participating


Through these sampling processes, I selected a group of seven women. Their
ages ranged from twenty-five to forty-one. Two were mothers with young
children. Some were single and some living with partners. Some were lesbian
and some heterosexual. Some came from rural and some from urban
backgrounds. They were of mixed race, ethnic and class backgrounds. The
women had widely differing experience and education in music when they
entered the course. Five were majoring in composition and two in singing none were majoring in an instrument study, an issue which will be taken up in
some depth in the course of this discussion. Some had pursued their studies
full-time, some part-time, some a mixture of the two.
In a small provincial university offering a unique music program people may be
very easily identified. To protect the confidentially of those who took part in the
project I have used made-up names and avoided directly connecting
participants' characteristics (age, race, etc) with either these names or with any
specific interview text. A certain amount of coherence in representing
participants as individuals will therefore inevitably be lost, but necessarily so in
the interests of maintaining anonymity.
I contacted the women in an informal way (usually at the university coffee
shop) and asked if they were interested in being interviewed for the project
which I described as a study of women entering the music industry. All
responses were positive. I trialed an draft interview with one of the women and
from this devised a modified question guide for the rest of the interviews. (See
Appendix A.) The material contributed by this woman was substantial and was
included in the data analysis even though it was not elicited from the same
format with which I approached other interviews.
The interview guide was not designed to structure the interviews in a
prescriptive way, but merely to ensure that the ground had been covered. I did
not necessarily need to ask all questions appearing on the sheet - often the
information had already been volunteered - and they were not covered in the
same order for every interview. I conducted and recorded interviews in an
office used by post-graduate students on campus. Each participant took part in
one interview which lasted approximately one-and-a-half hours and these were
later transcribed in full.

79

Feminist Concerns in the Interview Process


Mindful of feminist concerns about uneven power relations between
interviewer and interviewee, I aimed to create good rapport with participants
and establish an equitable conversational style of interview. This was not
difficult to do since I was already friendly, or at least acquainted, with most of
the women and we had a shared history as students. If asked for an opinion I
gave it and made no attempt to maintain the stance of a distant and objective
researcher. At the same time, I did not wish to foreground my own views and
as much as possible played the role of the active listener. This familiarity had its
problematical sides too. Several of the women made incorrect assumptions
about my opinions and approach on the basis of their perception of me as a
feminist and I needed to contradict these without derailing the interview.
While I retained the power to direct attention to material I wanted to cover in
the interview, I did this in as flexible a way as possible and attempted to create
the opportunity for women to speak freely, following the logic of their own
thought processes. I was not always successful in these aims as a novice
interviewer and, in replaying the interviews, I felt there were a number of
occasions when I cut off a woman's flow with a question which led off in
different direction, thereby losing what could have been valuable insights into
the topic at hand. The recordings thus provided important feedback for me as
an interviewer.
3.5.3 Analysis of Interview Data
Data analysis was achieved by categorising material into major themes which
emerged as an interaction between the way the interview questions were
structured and the depth/breadth with which participants responded to them.
A number of major themes emerged from the interview data: musical
background, training experiences, attitudes to the training and work cultures,
professional values and priorities, perceived professional strengths and
weaknesses, relationship with technology, future aspirations, and definitions of
success. Data which fell within each of these themes could be further divided
into sub-themes which addressed specific issues within the broader thematic
framework.

80

The categorization process was time consuming and was achieved by


immersing myself in the interview recordings and by transcribing them in full
so that I became very familiar with their content. This also put me in a position
to draw on a rich store of direct quotes in illustrating my observations. Deciding
on the construction of categories and their nuances and implications is, of
course, highly subjective and I take full responsibility for the choices made.
However, within these contexts, women speak directly for themselves and I
hope not to have misrepresented any participant by locating her words where
they may convey a different meaning from that intended.
3.5.4 Selecting a Focal Theme from the Findings
In qualitative research, in open-ended exploration, an inquirer does not
necessarily know the most useful questions to ask when beginning to
investigate an area, nor is it always possible to predict what the eventual focus
and outcome will be. In the early stages of this project I cast my net wide and
hauled in a wealth of data which was unwieldy and difficult to place in a clearly
defined literary context. It became obvious that I would need to select and
develop one or a limited number of the themes which emerged from larger data
analysis. Fortunately, this choice was not a difficult one. An issue which arose
persistently and was of central concern to all the women was their relationship
with music technology and the implications this had for success in their
professional lives. This theme became the core focus of the project.
3.5.5 Locating the Theme in a Body of Literature
While there has been a burgeoning of feminist scholarship on generalized
themes around gender and technology over the past fifteen years, very little has
been written on women's relationship to music technologies either in academic
books and journals or in popular music magazines. A vibrant body of writing is
developing in the conjunction of musicology and feminist critique, but issues of
gender and technology appear to remain, as yet, largely unaddressed with a
few pioneering exceptions. This project is therefore timely as the applications of
technology in the music industry gain momentum in the late twentieth century.
This inquiry is thus situated within the broader critique of culture and
technology, with particular reference to feminist commentary. The literature on
gender and technology appears to fall into three main areas: reproductive

81

technology, domestic sphere technology, and technology in the paid workplace.


The last of these is of most relevance here. Reference is also made, of course, to
the embryonic literature focused on the music industry and within which this
inquiry is directly located.
3.5.6 Theorising the Findings
A given set of qualitative findings could be interpreted in any number of ways.
I choose to examine these findings through a feminist poststructuralist lens with
particular reference to feminist readings of Foucaults theory of power and his
concept of the technologies of the self. In his early work Foucault explored the
negative faces of power and of how the technologies of domination, of
repression and coercion, impact on the bodies of individuals. In later work, he
drew attention to how power may be understood not only as that which
constrains, but as a positive and productive force which individuals may use to
shape and control their everyday lives in autonomous ways.
Foucault developed the concept of technologies of the self - practices or
techniques through which individuals actively fashion their own identities and
may escape the homogenising tendencies of power in modern society through
the assertion of autonomy. Foucault suggested that while such practices are
always determined by social context, individuals may be perceived as selfdetermining agents, capable of challenging and resisting the structures of
domination in modern society. This approach may be employed in theorising
power and the interests which shape technology and it is of particular use to
feminists thinkers who have long explored alternatives to traditional models of
power in which it is represented as a repressive force pushing downwards
through hierarchical structures.
I find Foucaults theory useful as an analytical tool because it allows for more
complex ways of examining the relations of dominance in our society. It
encourages an analysis of particular instances of power relations - of their
interplay in the micropractices of everyday life, such as those evidenced in the
music industry and its training providers. It emphasizes that there are other
ways of conceptualizing womens relationships to power than casting us as the
passive victims of patriarchy. Women also exercise power and may actively
challenge the discourses that work against our interests and concerns. I aim to
identify prevailing discourses around gender, power and music technology and

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to explore the gender politics which inform the micropractices of contemporary


music culture. I am curious as to how the interplay among different regimes of
truth is constructed in the minds of individual women, how they embrace or
refuse power, and how the processes of change which they have already
activated may be supported.

3.6 Strengths and Limitations of the Methodology


Great strengths of qualitative methodology are that it allows both for in-depth
investigation of a topic and for fluidity in the construction of meaning from
data. It does not aim to present Truth, but to reveal flexible ways of
understanding and thinking about an issue. It may raise more questions than it
answers. For this reason, qualitative projects can never really achieve closure
and one can only decide at what point to leave a particular piece of work, to set
it loose in the world, and to allow its progress to continue in the interactive
minds of a readership.
Simultaneously both a strength and a weakness of this study was its very broad
initial ambitions. The interviews covered a lot of ground and the technology
issue emerged from participants own discourse as one of genuine concern, as
opposed to being an area which I pre-empted as problematic and therefore
foregrounded in the interviews. However, it also meant that it was just one of a
number of themes discussed and was therefore not the subject of intense and indepth examination. Ideally a second round of interviews would have focussed
on the areas of musicianship and technology. This was not carried out because,
as final year students, participants became very busy with their studies by midsemester and then, when exams were over, most were not contactable.

3.7 Significance of this Study


As discussed in the introductory chapter, the music industry has embraced a
huge range of new technologies in the latter half of the twentieth century and
these have become an integral and vital aspect of its functioning. If women are
to emerge as full participants in the industry, it is absolutely vital that their
relationships with technology are developed from a full range of real choices,
not made by default through inappropriate cultural messages that reinforce
technophobia and suggest that technology should be the domain of men. It is an

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issue which appears to have been largely ignored in academic writing and in
the popular music press. This study thus joins a very few other pioneering
efforts to place women and music technology in the forefront of agendas for
revolutionising womens currently marginalised and non-technologised
position in the industry. In a broader context, it is contribution to that sector of
feminist research and critique which emerges from Australian culture and
politics.

3.8 Summary
In the opening chapter, I set the scene for this inquiry from a number of
perspectives - personal, historical, industrial, geographical, sociological and
statistical and stated its main purpose and delimitations. In the second chapter,
I continued this process by situating the study in a body of academic literature social science analysis of culture and technology, feminist critique of gender
and technology, and an exceedingly modest literature on women's relationships
with music technology. In this chapter, I have dealt in some detail with the
methodology and specific techniques by which the data was collected, analysed
and interpreted and the philosophical basis which informed this process. I also
briefly discussed the strengths and limitations of this methodology and the
significance of the project. These three chapters create an ambience from which
to approach the findings constructed from interview data. This data is analysed
into two major themes which I have chosen to call 'riffs' and a number of
variations on these which I call 'raps' to maintain a sense of connection between
the texts and the musical experiences which they describe.

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Chapter 4. FEMININE GENDER AND MUSIC TECHNOLOGY


EMERGING THEMES

4.0 Introduction
I have described in Chapter 3 how, in the process of conducting this inquiry, my
initial conception transpired to be overly ambitious in scope and how,
consequently, a particular focal theme was selected from the abundant body of
interview material. Other important themes await exploration after the
completion of this thesis: core values that inform participants' choice of a
musical career and priorities in making career moves, perceptions of work and
training culture's attitudes toward women, perceptions of professional strengths
and limitations, approaches to designing careers in the music industry and
conceptions of 'wild success.'
In this chapter, I present comments offered by participants on the topic of
human-technology relationships in contemporary music. The material is
organised into two major contrapuntal riffs (musical motifs), each of which is
characterized by a set of raps, variations sung around it. The first riff centres on
women's roles in music-making, as singers and instrumentalists, and explores
gendered patterns of participation in this sector of the technological terrain of
popular music. The nine raps sung around this theme address the issue of
women's very obvious under-representation as instrumentalists in the popular
music industry and in the music school itself. The second riff addresses
participants' own modes of interacting with 'technology' - a term often used in
an undifferentiated way, but which actually refers to distinct sets of equipment
used in sound reinforcement, recording and computer-assisted composition.
Four raps here comment on locations from which women speak their relations
with these technologies. The relationship between these two major riffs is
introduced in this chapter, but explored more fully in Chapter 5.
Before presenting this material, I provide a brief overview of participants'
declared motivations for entering the course. This sets the scene for what
follows and gives an impression of the extent to which technology figures in the
learning agendas of women as they embark on their study programs. It is worth
remembering here that five participants are majoring in Composition and two
in Voice. Technology issues must be viewed in the context of women's larger
visions for themselves as musicians and composers.
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4.1 Motivations for Undertaking a Contemporary Music University Course


Women in this study entered the course for a variety of reasons. Some came
with clear and specific outcomes in mind and had already placed technology
firmly on their learning agendas. Others came in pursuit of a larger vision for
themselves as performers or, simply, with a sense of wanting to improve their
skills. Through the course, all of them came to realise the importance of
technology in a professional music career.
Definitely to be a performer and a recording artist in the music industry - that was
always my ambition from high school really. It took a long while to reach a head space
where I thought that might actually be possible. Coming here was part of making a
commitment to doing that (Chris: 026).
My goals were to grab the actual skills that I need to get a band 'cos I knew exactly what
I wanted to do - I wanted to get an original band together and just kick arse! And that's
all I still want to do (Kate: 136).
I wanted to play better. I wanted to write for an orchestra. And I wanted to be able to use
a computer. That was about it (Simone: 018)
I remember filling out the form when I auditioned which said "What is your ultimate
dream or goal?" and I remember writing something like "I would like to record my own
songs and make albums and tour." So I have had that aspiration, even though it's
always been a bit of a dream, but I've had that in the back of my mind as my ultimate
goal - to write, record and tour. And it looks like it's starting to happen (Michelle: 026).
I wanted to improve my skills with harmony in particular and to try and come to grips
with technology a bit. So they were my two aims (Tess: 001).
When I started off, I was so freaked out by it all and I was very negative about my
abilities, I think I spent most of the first year in a state of turmoil and being freaked out
and just feeling like I wasn't good enough. I just wanted to improve, just to get over my
nervousness in performing. It was only in second year that I really started... (Anna:
040).
My motivation mainly was more to develop and understanding of the technical side of
music and get a bit ahead with theory too. I'd been doing music tutoring in community
arts workshops for about four years and often I'd get asked questions about theory that I
couldn't answer and I felt like a bit of a fool and I thought it would be a good
opportunity to find out what it was I should be teaching (Jackie: 011).

4.2 Gendered Patterns of Instrumental Activity in Contemporary Music

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Before embarking on this section, I wish to comment on a dichotomy that could


easily be inferred here between voice and instrument. It is important to
acknowledge that the human voice is indeed an instrument with its own
technical demands and its own wonderfully varied qualities of sonority.
However the voice differs from other instruments in one very profound way - it
is an integral part of the organic body rather than a cleverly contrived
mechanical extension of it. In a debate about technology this is an important
distinction and raises some very interesting questions in the context of critique
which argues the alignment of feminine gender with nature and masculine
gender with technology. Do such constructs, identified in a whole range of
other cultural contexts, emerge in contemporary music culture? There is
convincing evidence that they do.
Over many years of exposure to popular music activity I had observed that,
overwhelmingly, women performed as singers while all music-making roles singing and/or playing a range of instruments - were commonly available to
men. As reported in Chapter 1, statistics gathered from the ABC program Rage
showed only a 4-5% participation rate of women as instrumentalists in the top
music video clips from July to August, 1994. Also presented in Chapter 1 are the
enrolment figures in major study options offered by the music school in which
this study was carried out. These figures clearly indicate that women constitute
a minority in instrumental courses - some more so than others - and that the
only area of the school dominated by female enrolments is voice. To
recapitulate, in 1994 (the year in which interviews were conducted) there were
no women (out of 19) in the drums studio, 1 (out of 7) in bass, 1 (out of 22) in
guitar, 2 (out of 8) in keyboards, 6 (out of 29) in sax and 27 (out of 36) in the
vocal studio. Women thus represent only 13% of (non-vocal) instrumental
students in the school, though they are 75% of those enrolled as singers. A
female staff member also pointed out that of only three full-time female staff
appointments made since 1987, all have been employed to teach voice. This
music school therefore appears to reflect the gendered patterns of musical
activity which characterize the industry as a whole.
It is curious that these patterns persist so strongly in popular music when it
seems that women are gaining ascendancy as instrumentalists in the classical
arena (see Chapter 1). There would be a whole matrix of reasons for this, but it is
worth noting that classical instruments, unlike those used in popular music, are
played acoustically and are much less linked to the plugged-in paraphernalia

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which accompanies the latter's obsession with amplification. Perhaps, in the


electronic age, acoustic instruments have come to appear low-tech, more
accessible to the masses, less fashionable and less desirable than new high-tech
musical toys, where once they were the cutting-edge, state of the art tools used
in the popular music of their time and therefore, at least in public arenas,
monopolised by men.
In this section of the findings, participants comment on the overwhelming
confinement of women, as singers, to non-technologized roles in music-making
as a commercial activity and offer their perceptions as to why this occurs. Though
none of the women interviewed here are enrolled in instrumental studios, all
perform publicly as singers and/or instrumentalists in bands. (There were no
prospective participants for this study from the instrumental studios, that is, no
women in the final semester of the course majoring on any instrument other
than voice.) Women undoubtedly can, and do, play a whole range of popular
music instruments - however, in the industry and in this music school which
acts as training ground, they are very largely visible as singers only (a very
small handful of instrumentalists stand out). Women may develop exceptionally
powerful roles as singers, but the point to be made here is that they are largely
represented only in this role, rather than in the diversity of possibilities available
to men.
Material appearing in this section was elicited in response to the general
interview questions: eg. Are there any ways in which you think this music school
creates advantages or disadvantages for women students? Is it a 'user-friendly' kind of
place for the women here? More specific probes were often employed when
participants began to talk about the area, eg. Why do you think this is happening?
Why don't more women play instruments? The women's comments here reflect
their observations on what is happening, genderwise, both in the industry at
large and in the music school and also their attempts to account for the very
obvious imbalances. I reserve my discussion of this material to the accumulated
end of it, rather than comment on each of the nine raps separately. Each one
furnishes its own particular insights and contributes variations on the main riff.
In overview, they form coherent speculation about the intersections of gender
constructs and music-making activity.

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4.2.1 Lack of Encouragement for Girls to Learn to Play


By the stage where women are ready to come to tertiary education, it's far too late (for
women to learn to play). Obviously it's not too late to take up an instrument, but you're
looking at some of these boys who were encouraged to take up guitar when they were
children and then were encouraged, not just to play that guitar, but to go on and learn
lead guitar and there's very few women lead guitarists. I was a bass player at high
school and the number of cracks I used to have to put up with...You're weird and you're
a freak. I think it's changing now with younger women - I hope it is - there seems to be a
lot more support at school level (Chris: 230).
A lot of the women who come here, for instance, the keyboard players have never played
a synthesiser - they've been playing piano. And the boys here are on their fourth or fifth
synthesiser at the same age and that's what they've been playing in rock bands all this
time and... like why? All I can see is that the environment out there is still kind of alien
for women (Jackie: 1106).
I met Gina who was taking a music workshop at the place I was working and she thrust
a bass guitar in my hands and said "Play it!" And I said "I can't play it" and she said
"Yes you can, of course you can!" So I started playing it and a year later I was in a band
with her! Yeah, so that's when I started my writing and I just basically learnt it because
I had a good ear and I felt like I was a good natural player doing all the other stuff, like
doing all the theory, so I was sort of lucky that I found it quite a natural thing to do just play! And Gina gave me a lot of confidence too saying "Of course you can do it. Just
do it" (Jackie: 032).
Basically, at this stage, the thing about women in contemporary music has a lot to do
with luck, because the gears aren't out there to send women in that direction. There's
not really a lot of encouragement out there. So if you are somebody like me who has
found that encouragement at some stage it's really rare (Jackie: 1079).
4.2.2 Lack of Role Models for Girls
They (young girls) don't see women playing those things (rock instruments) and I'm
sure it has something to do with that. Unless you actually see somebody doing
something that you think you could do and relate to it in that way, then you're not
going to... I'm sure the average woman walking past a work site would not feel
particularly inspired to become a concrete finisher or something by seeing those fellas
standing up there, I mean really! But walk past and see one woman doing it and maybe
you would think "God, maybe that would be alright" (Jackie: 1119).

(At) the university level they have a policy of accepting whoever's best on the
instruments and whoever they think is going to do well in the course and look good for
the course. So basically you get in on what level your musicianship is and then if you
look beyond that - I've asked myself this question forever - where are the women
guitarists? Where are the women drummers, you know? I've found it very hard to
answer, I mean it's a cyclical thing if you imagine there aren't role models there,.. I
think basically boys depend very much on their role models, so it takes a three year old
boy to see a man being a guitarist and male show-off and then they've got it that they'll
have a guitar in their hands in no time, even at that age. They'll play any thing - a
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tennis racquet or whatever. And little girls don't see that sort of thing and they're not
encouraged by their parents. I really think it's got a lot to do with what's gone before
(Jackie: 267).
The reason I got involved seriously in music was that when I was twenty-four I went to
a rock festival called Nararra and I was there for five days or something and in that five
days I only saw one woman on stage and that was the woman who played flute in
Redgum. I think there was one back-up singer as well. But apart from that every single
band was all male. There were a whole lot of bands spanning four or five days and there
were no women on stage and that was why I got involved. I was really quite surprised
because I was just an amateur then, mucking round on flutes and I suddenly had this
thought: If there really are that few women on the stage, I really need to get my act
together, so I did. I went back to Cairns, sold my stuff, went to Sydney and started a
band. So that's how I got involved in music! (Simone: 482).
4.2.3 Restrictive Images of Women in the Music Industry
I used to play in a rock band in Brisbane and I was eventually asked to leave that band
because I didn't look 'girlie' enough. I had short hair and I used to wear jeans to play
and it was like "Can't you dress a bit more feminine?" and I said "No!" So they said
"We'll get a new bass player then." And I sometimes think to myself of this place as
rock'n'roll high school 'cos it's got that kind of rock'n'roll boys attitude underlying it
everywhere - there's lead guitar heroes... I think it will change and I think it is changing
because there seem to be some really cool teenage girls who are getting up on stage and
going "I don't care if you laugh at me. I'm up here 'cos I want to do it and I do it just as
well as the boys from my school." And as that happens more and more, things will go as
they have in the wider society and women will start to shape the environment they're in
to suit them better. Basically slap the boys around! (laughter) There needs to be a lot
more of that (Chris: 264).
4.2.4 Sexist Discrimination in Auditioning Instrumentalists for the School
Possibly there are disadvantages (for women) in the instrumental area. I know they're
very tough on letting women in who often aren't as good instrumentally. Possibly they
should make exceptions and let some women in who have the determination but possibly
not the skills. Although again that is sexist because the other side of it is that they should
just let in the people who are good. But I do know of a woman who was really keen to
learn guitar and wasn't so fantastic and she wasn't allowed in. She was a pretty good
guitarist so possibly they should have made an exception in those kind of cases (Simone:
143).
I don't know if the guys - and they are the guys who do the auditions - I don't know if
they are using their musical judgement or their sexist judgement to make those
decisions. There would obviously be cases where you've got two guitarists - one's male,
one's female - and he's better than she is (Tess 111).
(Theres very few women instrumentalists in the school) because they don't get in, do
they? I suppose they don't audition for it and I think that has to come from the primary
and high school levels, so that's more encouraged there. There's starting to be... There's
a girl guitarist and probably a bass player next year. There's quite a few piano players,
but it's still quite new (Anna: 169).

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4.2.5 Singers and Musicians- A Musical Caste System?


Women are singers. Don't have them in your bands 'cos you'll have trouble. Gotta
watch out for those women. Soon as you got sex involved, you got trouble - doesn't
matter if the women aren't interested in sex, as soon as you got women in the band, you
got trouble (Tess: 881).
The guys here talk about 'chick singers' - that gives me the shits. They don't have much
respect for singers and I think there needs to be a lot more education that noise levels
damage not only the instrumentalists, but also damage the singers because they've got
to sing over all this noise. There's not enough of that (Anna: 160).
I'd probably say I saw myself as a musician before I got here but now, having been here
for three years, and particularly hearing my boyfriend talking about 'chick singers' and
how he's a musician, I'd probably see myself more as a singer. I suppose I just see it as
something that I have to do, like I'd feel unhappy if I didn't do it. It's just a way of
expressing myself and it's a way that I can do fairly well (Anna: 185).
I don't feel like my instrumental skills are that good. If I was a singer and played the
piano really well, then I might think of myself as a musician. But otherwise no. In the
music block, I think there is a kind of intent or something to say "You're singers and
we're musicians." There is that (Anna: 198).
(In response to "Is there any kind of difference in status?")
Oh yes! Oh yes! Singers are like peh (dismissive sound). Everybody's a singer. I mean
(deep voice) "I can play the guitar but I can sing as well. Can you play the guitar and
sing?" It's a male superiority thing. I don't know whether it's because men have been
taught to be generally more manually skilled in the past or what (Anna: 206).
4.2.6 Virtuosity as an Expression of Masculinity
There's a lot of boys that arrive here - these guitarists and stuff - and they can play
incredibly fast and they've just got amazing chops and so they just arrive and bllllllllll
(demonstrating high speed guitar playing) and you think "How can this boy do this?"
Then you have a conversation with this boy and he can't put two words together and
you know he's probably never been out of his room anyway. He doesn't know shit about
anything else in his life and probably always lived at home with mum and dad and never
really thought anything. So what I see - and I don't know if it's a hormonal thing or
what - but this incredible ability to focus on something, to disregard everything else, and
just focus on one thing. Meanwhile you see a girl that's the same age that's thinking
about her relationships with her friends, is thinking like on a totally different level. Like I
know, when I was that age, I was thinking about things and people and everything. And
there was no way I could have sat in a room and just focused on an inanimate object to
get that good about something, you know what I mean? (Jackie: 290).
And it's a technical thing. It's not that these boys are coming out and being beautiful
musicians or anything like that. They're not making beautiful music and sensitive
compositions or anything like that - they can play really fast! So they come to this course
after doing that and they can play really fast and they (the lecturers) go "Great! You're
a good guitarist" so they pop them in and do it. And you don't have girls that are doing
that same thing. You might have keyboard players or singers or whatever. Like the
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singers have not spent six years at home in their bedroom singing and singing and
singing. Someone's told them they've got a good voice and they've probably dabbled
around a little bit... Singers would hate me saying that - some of them do put a lot of
work into it - but I know that some of them don't (Jackie: 311).

4.2.7 Women's Ways of Being Musicians


I started writing songs without knowing a thing about music. I didn't learn an
instrument as a kid. I've never had music lessons. The music that was compulsory at my
school was quite bland and uninteresting. so I never really developed the need to learn
an instrument. So I came to this uni not being an instrumentalist, but wanting to do
composition. I had no formal training whatsoever which made it hard for me in music
because all of a sudden we're talking on a theoretical basis and we've got to analyse stuff
and work things out and music becomes to an extent a matter of maths and figures,
which is very new and strange for me. But that's something, of course, that I needed to
do (Kate: 026).
My approach to song-writing is just walking along and singing, basically. I walk great
distances every day and that's where most of my composition happens. And then I'll get
on to a machine of some sort, like my little sequencing outfit, then I get chords
happening... It's always been different for me too because, from the moment I decided to
start writing songs, I didn't have an instrument. Then for about a year I tried to tell
myself I could be a song-writer without having one and so I denied that you actually are
better off having an instrument. Then I got some advice from other women in music that
you're much better off. So I didn't go out and seek myself a teacher; I went and found
myself a big old piano and bought it and sat on it. I can't really say I taught myself to
play it, because coming to uni only taught me that I hadn't taught myself to play at all. I
got this piano and I started making up songs on it and so I started writing songs on the
piano, so all I could play was my own stuff which was quite intricate at times as well
(Kate: 057).
I have a holistic approach to life. I might be sequencing for an hour and a half, but then I
have to go and plant a few trees or stir the compost up a little bit... go out into the
garden and do something like that... I usually have about three different things on the
happening at once (Kate: 514).
I don't see myself as primarily anything. I'm a teacher, performer, composer, possibly in
that order. The last three years have been devoted to composing. I found that when I was
teaching, because I was a multi-instrumentalist, you couldn't be practising all of them
all the time and a lot of the time I didn't have time to practice any of them (Tess: 924).
4.2.8 Intersections of Gender and Age in Music Activity
It is curious because there are actually quite a few women bass players and guitarists
around, but the thing I've always noticed with women is that they get involved with it
later. They spend their teens being involved with themselves and the opposite sex and
then by the time they start realising they want to get involved in something they're
perhaps twenty, whereas the boys have been involved since they're fourteen in intense
music. Because boys are not as interested... they have a stronger sense of self perhaps and
they're interested in themselves when they're fourteen whereas girls tend to be
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interested in boys when they're fourteen. Yeah, they start later and then obviously some
women get involved in having children and that puts them another three, four, five years
behind (Simone: 163).
Because I'm a lot older I'm not jamming with people from uni, I'm not networking out
with people in the music community. And that's something I've done myself, I suppose.
But a lot of the time I'm content to just go home and watch TV and not do anything else
and not think about anything else for a while. I'm getting old and lazy. I don't have the
energy that I had ten years ago when I was teaching to go to school, work from from
nine to five, say, or come home at 3.30, race home and teach four piano lessons, go to a
rehearsal and go out and perform! Three or four nights a week - I could that then, but
now I haven't got the energy left over at the end of the day (Tess: 633). (Tess, in her
forties, has a young child as well as teaching privately and studying at
university.)
4.2.9 The Gendering of Instruments
I think the bass and the guitar and the drums have been a generally male way of
expressing oneself and women tend to express themselves more through their voices and
communication and men tend to do it more through some other form (Anna: 178).
I think one of the biggest problems is that women are perceived as being devoted to
certain instruments and it goes all the way back to Aristotle. There's a quote of Aristotle
saying "Women shouldn't play the flute because it makes their face ugly." Good one,
isn't it? The roots of the problem go that far back in the paternalistic, western culture so
that women are aligned with certain instruments and sounds and whereas men can do
anything, women can't - the perception is that women can't (Tess: 891).
In terms of the people you see performing at concert practice, the women are the singers,
occasionally they're the keyboard players - I think Jackie's the only bass player. There's
no drummers. There's no guitarists... You're not telling me that there aren't women out
there in the community who are drummers and guitarists and who aren't applying for
those positions (Tess: 107).
Collectively, these raps raise some very interesting observations about how
gender constructions characteristic of society at large are played out in the
particular context of contemporary music culture. The women explore a number
of factors which, from their own experience, they consider relevant to womens
marginalisation as musicians in the industry and in the music school. Often,
these raps intersect, layering one over the other to create a complex but coherent
texture to the overall theme.
They suggest that girls are less likely than their brothers to be encouraged by
parents to learn electric/electronic instruments and to be provided with
expensive musical equipment. I have already suggested that such instruments
are perceived as 'high-tech' and therefore unsuitable for girls. This is an example
of how instruments may come to be gendered. But what of instruments such as

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drums and sax, both acoustic instruments (though very often performed with
substantial amplification)? It is possible that girls may steer clear of drums as an
extremely bulky and awkward instrument to transport, but this is not a
constraint with sax. A factor that may come into play here is that these
instruments are naturally loud - they occupy substantial acoustic space and
cannot be ignored. They draw attention to themselves and to the musician who
plays them. They therefore compel commitment to an expanded sense of self
which feels at ease with these conditions. I would speculate that this is more
challenging for those of us who have been gendered feminine than for those of
us who have not - women do not tend to occupy as much space as men in all
kinds of ways.
Tess' comment on the history of gendering instruments on the basis of whether
they demand facial contortions may also be pertinent to an industry which so
heavily exploits sexual attractiveness in selling its products 'Attractiveness' in
women seems to be defined in infinitely more constrained terms than it is in
men. As Chris' story illustrates, the industry promotes very restricted and
stereotypical images for women performers. A half-hour's perusal of any music
video program on television amply demonstrates this point. With few
exceptions, women are young, slim, have no pronounced irregularities such as
bandy legs, large noses or crooked teeth, etc. On the other hand, it is not
uncommon to encounter ageing, stout, bald male performers with all kinds of
facial and bodily irregularities. What this suggests is that women in popular
music are judged primarily on their appearance, while men are judged on their
musical contributions.
If this is so, it is hardly surprising to find a dearth of female role models for girls
who desire to be other than Barbie-doll singers. Talented female musicians who
do not conform to stereotypical industry images may have difficulty finding or
keeping work. Simone suggested that women may reach a peak of interest and
activity in instrumental playing later in life than men - by which time they may
have reached the 'use-by' industry date for those considered young and
attractive enough to have potential. One of the singers in this study expressed
relief that, in spite of her age (31), she still looked young enough to be signed by a
record company. Ageing is not such as issue for composers who may, invisibly,
write material for others to perform or for film and television. Perhaps this
explains the enrolment of a number of mature-age women in Composition
rather than performance studios, despite all of them being active performers.

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Perhaps, contrary to suspicions raised in one of the raps, the faculty men who
audition candidates for entry to the music school barely get a chance to practice
sexism in their selections - perhaps a majority of women pre-empt the
inevitable, save face all round, and choose to exclude themselves.
In popular music, women are generally cast as singers and, Anna points out, the
category of 'singer' tends to be excluded from the category of musician.
Singing is considered a non-technical activity and therefore to require less skill
and expertise and, as such, is accorded lower status. A fine singer is not
regarded as a virtuoso in the same way as is a 'guitar hero'. As Jackie suggests,
singing is perceived as being a very accessible activity that anyone can do
without a lot of training or practice, whereas to be a good instrumentalist
requires not only talent but many hours of concentrated application. Jackie is
quick to point out, however, that technical skill (which for guitarists is often
associated with impressive speed) does not necessarily correlate with musical
depth or expressiveness and she is inclined to cast aspersions on boys who
closet themselves in their bedrooms for years on end, pursuing narrow
virtuosity at the expense of developing a well-rounded sense of self and social
awareness. They are, she points out, spending all this time in symbiosis with a
mere object at a time in their young lives when girls tend to place human
relationships to the fore, echoing Simone's comments about gender/age
differences in musicianship.
Kate and Tess both speak of alternative ways of being musicians that
demonstrate quite different approaches to the intense single-minded focus that
characterized the virtuoso. They multi-track various musical pursuits together
in their lives and also integrate them into other daily activities, eg. composing
while walking from one place to another (this from Kate who does not own a
car). I have borrowed the term 'women's ways' (of being musicians) from
Belenky et al (1986) with the qualifier that this is in not an essentialist notion,
but a shorthand way of writing 'ways of approaching life that have come to be
associated with constructs of feminine gender.' In my own experience, I coined
the term 'patchworking' at a time when I was juggling the demands of a small
child, a teaching job, building a house and arranging songs for a recording. In
women's lives, such metaphors as multi-tracking or patchworking may resonate
more vividly than images of guitar heroes or MIDI-nerds playing out their
single-minded obsessions at the expense of their cohabitants. Who does cook,
wash and clean for them? Their fathers? brothers? boyfriends? Being gendered

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feminine in our culture does not lead women to expect that someone else will
do these things for them while they pursue Art. Does this make it difficult for
women to put in the hours required to achieve par excellence as
instrumentalists? Maybe.

4.3

Women Describe their Relationships with 'Technology'


A compulsory introductory component of the course for all students was a unit
called Introduction to Music Technology which was offered in the first semester
and regarded as essential to everyone intending to work in the industry. This
program covered the basics of sound amplification, recording and MIDI
systems. Two of the women interviewed here had also continued into more
advanced units in Audio-Engineering, seeing them as highly pertinent to their
study and work in composing and performing. These two and a further three
participants had worked with varying degrees of success in composing with
electronic instruments either on home computers or in the MIDI studio of the
music school. The two enrolled in the Vocal Studio were the least inclined to
engage directly with technology.
From an analysis of interview data there emerged four raps which sang
variations around a major riff dealing with these women's perspectives on
'technology'. These raps intersect with each other along a continuum, one end of
which represents a dependent mode of relating to technology and the other an
autonomous one. Each rap illustrates a location along this continuum,
characterized by how directly women engage with technology. These raps
represent clusters of experience with leaky margins and overlaps, each picking
up the riff and beginning to sing its own variation before the one next to it is
finished. Each woman does not necessarily speak from only one of these raps,
but may shift according to a particular technological context. Some areas of
technical expertise may appear more accessible than others to different women
and competencies gained in one of these do not guarantee confidence in
tackling another.
Women's Relationships With Technology - a Continuum

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dependent
engagement
with technology
MODE

autonomous
engagement
with technology
vicarious

apprentice

dissonant

competent

MODE

4.3.1 The Vicarious Rap


In this domain a women employs someone else (usually male) to operate
technology on her behalf. This position is not necessarily a disempowered one if
the decision to leave technical tasks to others arises from a genuine perception
of choice from a full range of possibilities or from the need for complementary
roles (eg singers and musicians work with engineers to amplify and record their
music). But while men are commonly involved in music both as players and as
technicians, women generally focus exclusively on singing or, less often,
playing an instrument and the decision to use men as technological operators
on their behalf is taken either by default or based on the notion that this is a
difficult realm beyond their own powers of appropriation. They may base such
perceptions on essentialist ideas of technology as a naturally male territory
and, by implication, rendering themselves biologically inept, and do not
consider the possibility of accessing it via their own agency.
I'm a technological mute! (laughter) (Michelle: 416).
(In response to "How important will technology be for you?")
It's not - on a personal level - not directly it's not, in my writing and in my singing, no,
I don't have anything to do with it. I have a keyboard and that's it and I don't want to
know about technology. But naturally in recording, indirectly, when I go to record my
songs then, sure, technology plays the hugest part! But not in my songwriting and
performance... no, I leave it alone (Michelle: 420).
I compose on a keyboard because I prefer to take my songs to the band members and they
put their personalities into it, rather than a machine. They can use their little boxes and
things they want to use for the sounds, but even so I prefer a piano sound on my songs
than a synthesiser... But no, I steer right away from technology. I prefer the band to
make up their own parts to my songs and that's what's given them the personality that
they have. I haven't sat down and just worked it all out myself on some machine, you
know. It's sterile to me (laughter) (Michelle: 428).
The boys do tend to dominate the music scene. They're good at technology, all that kind
of thing (Kate: 1069).

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In terms of audio-engineering, I used to be really interested in the concept of it and


think "That's what I'd like to do. I'd like to be able to do that all myself and now I don't
want to for the very simple fact that actually creating the music takes up enough of my
energy and I don't want to have to divide my energy between writing a song and
getting the perfect sound for it. I'd rather have somebody who knows all about that stuff
come in and I'll say "Right, I want a really clean acoustic sound and a warmer vocal
sound" and they know exactly which buttons to push. I'm a firm believer in
specialisation in things like that. You've got these skills, I've got these skills, let's work
together. I'm not interested in spending all that time learning how to do it myself.
Because I'm the sort of person too where if I got into that and enjoyed it, would say
"Right, I'm going to be an audio-engineer!" (laughter) One or the other, you know,
either all in on that or all in on the other. And I'd rather stick to the creative side of
things (Chris: 913).
4.3.2 The Dissonant Rap
In this position, a women engages others to carry out technological tasks for
her, but she is not at ease with the arrangement. She may notice that the vast
majority of audio-engineers are male and feel dissatisfied with this situation.
She may simply experience a sense of curiosity about how technology works
and become fascinated by its capabilities. She may wish for greater control over
her musical products or become interested in the creative possibilities of
electronic instruments. She may associate technical competence with 'getting
ahead' in the industry. Dissonance is the commonest location from which
women speak. But it is not a comfort zone and a resolution will entail either a
retreat to the vicarious domain or an advance into the realm of the technological
apprentice.
There are more men in the course than women and more men do the technological stuff,
although there are some women getting into it - which is good. I suppose what I would
like to see is that it's not so scary, all that technology, that it's actually taught even at a
more basic level than what we go at, at the beginning. That maybe we have groups of
women that get together and say "Well, how do you do this or that?" instead of always
having to go to the guy and say "Oh can you help us?" (Anna: 131).
I'm scared shitless of it (technology)! It terrifies me. I suppose there's a technology side
of life in everything now. Basically, I've gone thirty-one years without having to figure
out how to use a computer. Personally, I'm not particularly interested in them. Maybe
when I get one and learn what's involved it'll be interesting to me, but it really hasn't
held any fascination, and yet I see that as one of the main tools of getting ahead (Anna:
587).
I'll need it definitely to make it happen. I don't think I'm going to be one of these supertechno people that uses it... becomes an expert in it. I'll probably have to get people in if
I want to do something with it. But I'd like it to get effects and I like using bits of video
clips for things (Anna: 607).

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My inability to battle technology would probably be my biggest drawback, the thing that
will take me the longest to overcome. It's the only thing that's going to put me at a
disadvantage (in the industry) (Simone: 347).
I think by the time a lot of women have reached this course - a lot of us have come in
here, perhaps already thinking that this area (technology) is closed off to us and it's a
huge hurdle to get over, to say "Well, alright, I'm here. I'm paying my HECS. I'm
going to get into the studio and I'm going to use the toys too. I think that up to that
point a lot of women choose to express themselves in ways that aren't high-tech. Mind
you, now that I've been exposed to more high-tech, it just reaffirms the fact that I love
acoustic music! And I like working with live performers (Chris: 067).
I can see the benefits of things like sequencers and computer sequencing as tools for song
writing, but my experience of that has been that I've wound up with the computer
telling me what to write rather than the other way... I don't like that because I find that
really exploits a vein of laziness in myself. If it's really easier to do that, I'll do it, and I
wind up with something a bit later on and I think "I don't really like that." I find it
very full of traps and pitfalls... (Chris: 860).
I'd have to say the biggest problem for myself and probably for most women is the
technology barrier - probably the hardest one to come up against. What usually happens
in, I'd say, 90% of cases is that the women end up reliant on the men, the further you
get into your studies, to do their recording, to do their programming - yeah, all the
technical stuff still ends up being male-based which is not anyone's fault (Simone: 066).
Personally I think that's a biological thing. Men are better at it. They understand it and
like it better and all of a sudden women have to use it and, although they don't
particularly like it, they have to conquer it and they often can't (Simone: 075).
I don't think it's (the music school) solved the problem of technology, women and
technology. I don't think it creates the disadvantage - it doesn't solve it though. I think
you actually need to make a special effort and be sexist and have a class specifically for
women to rebalance the imbalance, that kind of thing (Simone: 143).
I find that I'm still quite scared of the studio, but I can't blame other people for that. I
can't push buttons basically. I find that technology leaves you behind if you're not
willing to embrace it and I'm trying to get myself willing to embrace it now, because I
can't rely on people anymore. I've got to rely on myself and if I can get machines
happening... You've got to have the willingness to embrace all the things that may have
formerly frightened you like, in my case, technology... the willingness to embrace things
and confront your fears on aspects of the music industry that may frighten you, like the
fact that the competition is so heavily linked up with computer technology and all that
kind of stuff and you can't just be an old person who's left behind (Kate: 1069).

4.3.3 The Apprentice Rap


Women move from the fairly powerless domain of dissonance into the
commitment of the apprentice for various reasons already suggested. Whatever
the motivation, it is not necessarily an escape from inner conflict and many

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women find it a tough move fraught with self-doubts which are aggravated if
they experience learning difficulties around technological tasks. Language
depicting struggle, battle and obstacles in the 'conquering' of technology may be
used to describe the learning process both in the dissonant and the apprentice
domains. There is very little sense of play or enjoyment in the way the women
describe their experiences here. However in this locations they begin to befriend
technology by genuinely engaging with it. They become familiar with specific
kinds of equipment and begin to consider the possibilities of ownership and
accessibility to further their creative purposes.
To be able to write music for film, I have to become more technology literate... I must
because people don't want the music otherwise. So I'd like to have a hard disc recorder
and a CD Rom. Those are my two financial ambitions... and a Sound Canvas and I'd be
right then and a sampler. But I still haven't got the technology together and I'm going
to have to continue working at that very hard to even start to understand what someone
like Simon, who's 22, does. To be able to manufacture the sound I want by thinking "Oh
yes, I've just got to do this" (Tess: 260).
I'd like to have had a technology option in every semester. I 'd really like to have had
that all the way through (Tess: 270).
I haven't gone into detail as to what I'm thinking of getting, but probably I want the
standard Atari and a Cubase program or maybe Notator... You can workshop your ideas
without wasting other people's time until you're happy with them... They can hear what
you want basically (Kate: 257).
It needs to be recognised that women are at a disadvantage and it needs to be
incorporated into the curriculum and call it 'Technical Studies'. My technical skills
have increased hugely. I should say my understanding of technology, but still my ability
to utilise it is somewhat limited. So I understand how a computer works. I understand
how a 24 track works. I get the gist of why the MIDI studio works and the video and
stuff like that I can understand, but I still have a fear and I need to be coaxed through
that fear in classes (Simone: 077).
As a keyboard player, obviously my understanding of MIDI and computers and
keyboards (will be important technologies). Twenty-four track recording studios? If I
could get my way round a four-track I'd be right because that's all I would ever need to
do. I'm partners in an eight track and maybe at the end of this three years I might have a
go at trying to learn it - which I've been trying to do for about five years. I might try
again (Simone: 090).
Having your own stuff at home is probably the only way to go about it. If you had a neat
little eight-track set up, you'd probably very slowly but surely work your way around
it. Or even start off with a four-track - that's what I've always thought for myself...
Your own gear in your own safe little space is the only way to go, only way to learn it
really (Simone: 703).
4.3.4 The Competent Rap

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Very few women seem to place themselves confidently within this domain and
speak from it as a place of power. Of the seven women in this study only one
seemed at home here and another shifted over all four positions depending on
the specific technological context. To be positioned here means not only to have
acquired an array of technical and creative skills with electronic equipment, but
to have successfully negotiated one's way through the masculinist culture that
has appropriated it. This may require strategies and compromises that
profoundly challenge an established sense of female gender identity. It is worth
noting that Jackie came into the course after a number of years working in
another strongly male-dominated area of employment and had therefore
already developed strategies for survival. Women who make it into this location
need a strong sense of commitment to their outcomes and to be adept at
eliciting support in their learning process.
As a performer, university has actually taught me really well how to use stage gear.
That's one thing it's been really useful for. I've sorted out about amplifiers,
microphones, PA stacks, front-of-house, mixing desks, all that stuff. It's been wonderful
like that - it's completely sorted it out for me and I'm quite a good person to have on
stage now. I know when things go wrong how to problem-solve (Simone: 393).
(In response to "What's been really useful, do you think, over the last few years?")
Probably the time I've spent with other students and learning stuff to use my Midi
studio at home. Having other people to talk to about that, so that I know what I'm
doing. 'Cos that's where I do most of my work - in my room. I've got this Midi studio
and computer and stuff like that and that's been a really useful... and knowing that I
have a network of people that live around here who I can ring up if something goes
wrong. I don't seem to need that so much anymore, but when I was getting started I
found that really useful - the contact with the other people that lived around (Jackie:
133).
I have an aversion to becoming dependent on other people helping me do things. I like to
think that - even if I get other people to do things for me - I like to think that I could do
what they're doing as well. If I get an engineer to help me do something, I know what
that engineer is doing and I just can't do it myself at that time - so that's the way I
would do it. So if I did want to do this and I did have a block I would have had to get
other people to help me much more, or found a way where I didn't need to use it, like
just use limited technology and just learn how to use a four-track and develop more in
that way (Jackie: 355).
The sort of music I'm writing now is as a result of the technology that I've learnt to use.
It is as a result of that technology. But even though I'm using Midi and computer stuff,
I always write it so that it can be played exactly the same with live musicians, so I
mimic a live sound. I don't write electronic music as such - I use it as a tool to have
control over what I'm writing before I give it to musicians, but always with the idea of
actually having it played. So that's really important (Jackie: 370).

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I've sort of developed a matesy way with the boys and I think a lot of women just aren't
prepared to do that - I know a lot of women aren't prepared to do that. And I know a lot
of the boys do see me differently to a lot of women too. I don't know if it's just my
sexuality or what but there's a certain ease, I think. I've never felt threatened in any
way by any of the boys but I could see how you could easily be (Jackie: 398).
Technically I find everything I've learned in Audio and Video really handy, really
useful, in that I feel like I've got a really well-rounded way of expressing myself. I've
covered most of my bases now and I feel like if I wanted to say something that I'm not
really held back in any way anymore in saying it. I know I could make a video or a
documentary or any type of music I felt like doing. I could do it and I could get it
produced and the technology's not stopping me actually getting it out and that's what I
love - that I have learnt that. I didn't know all that before I came here. Now I feel
whatever I wanted to do in any of that sort of media, I could. I could do it and I feel
confident in that (Jackie: 146).
4.4 Chapter Summary
In this chapter I have presented the findings as two major riffs that run in
counterpoint with each other and form the basis for a series of raps which give
voice to their variations and sing their subtleties. The women here clearly
articulate their awareness of the difficulties all women face in claiming
technological terrain that has traditionally been defined as male. In the first riff,
participants comment on the possible reasons for women's overwhelming
exclusion from instrumental roles in popular music. In the second riff, they
describe their own relationships with 'technology.'
In the discourse on women as musicians - as singers and instrumentalists participants explored nine factors which they see as bearing on the very low
visibility of female instrumentalists in popular music. These 'raps' included lack
of encouragement for girls to play, lack of role models for girls, restrictive
images of women in the music industry, sexist discrimination in auditioning
women for entry to the music school, the dichotomy between 'musicians' and
'singers', virtuosity as an expression of masculinity, 'women's way' of being
musicians, intersections of age and gender in music activity, and the gendering
of instruments themselves. I interwove these raps with observations of my own
in the discussion which followed present-ation of direct quotes from the
interview material.
From the discourse on participants' own relationships with technology, I
identified four major positions along a continuum from dependent to
autonomous from which the women spoke. I termed these the vicarious rap, the

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dissonant rap, the apprentice rap, and the competent rap and discussed each
one in turn with reference to direct quotes from interview text. By far the largest
volume of material fell within the dissonant rap and the smallest in the
competent rap, an indication that while women are moving away from
dependence on men for their technological needs they are not yet on a sure
footing to autonomy, many them experiencing this as a difficult and confusing
journey. Some women spoke from different raps, shifting according to which
specific technology they were referring to.
In the next and final chapter of this thesis, I revisit these findings with reference
to a post-structuralist theoretical framework which draws on feminist critiques
of the work of Foucault. Developing a motif introduced in an article by
Fitzsimons (1994), I explore the implications of Foucault's theories on power (as
fluid and diffuse throughout the social body) and the technologies of the self (as
active agents of social transformation) for understanding the specific interests at
play around the technologies of contemporary music culture.

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Chapter 5. DE-GENDERING THE ELECTRONIC SOUNDSCAPE

5.0 Introduction
In this final chapter, I select broad ribbons of feminist postmodernist critique of
technology and inter-weave these with fine threads from women's lived
experience as they complete their university course and contemplate entry to
the music industry. In this undertaking, I aim to de-homogenise and degeneralise notions of 'technology' (Sofia 1995) and to explore the social interests
at play in the music/education culture in which these particular sets of
technologies are embedded. I wish to develop an idea put forward by
Fitzsimons (1994) that highlighting the pleasure and power which can be
exercised through the use of technology prepares the ground for a distinct way
of theorizing around gender and technology (and also marks a distinction
between science and technology). In choosing this emphasis, I identify current
limitations and possibilities of empowerment for women in the sociotechnological configurations of contemporary music culture as a foundation for
supporting the strategies for change which they have already set in place.
In this task, I see value (following Fitzsimons) in drawing on feminist readings
of the work of French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault. I am not
primarily interested in Foucault's work per se, but in utilizing a well-articulated
alternative model of power to that employed in much earlier feminist critique of
technology (that is, power as hierarchical, patriarchal and oppressive). Foucault
himself was not particularly concerned with the intersections of gender and
power in society and rejected all metanarratives of justice, such as those on
which much feminist thinking and activity were, and still are, based. What I
wish to do here is to explore the possibilities of an integration of Foucault's
ideas on power and the self with the feminist project of addressing the
empowerment of women at the level of everyday practices - in this instance,
women music students' relationships with the technologies central to their
training and work.
I will proceed by first discussing in some depth, through the critique of feminist
writers, those aspects of Foucault's thinking which appear to be of most use to
this project. In particular, I intend to explore how Foucault's notions of 'regimes
of truth' and 'technologies of the self' may illuminate discourses and practices
around gender and technology in the context of this inquiry. I will argue the
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existence of a prevailing discourse, a dominant regime of truth, which


privileges men in the appropriation of technology and renders women marginal
at every visible level where human-technology relations are played out in music
culture. I will then illustrate how this dominant androcentric regime of truth is
maintained, challenged and disregarded by women in their own discourses and
practices around music technology and their relationships with it.

5.1 Feminism, Post-structuralism and Foucault


The cross-fertilisation between feminist theory and post-structuralism in recent
years has been a particularly vigorous and productive process from which new
perspectives on the nature of gender and power have emerged. Lois McNay
(1992: 2) suggests that the post-structuralist critique of the unified and rational
subject has resonated strongly with the feminist critique of rationality as an
essentially masculine construct. She asserts that feminists have been attracted to
the post-structuralist notion that, rather than having a fixed core or essence,
subjectivity is constructed through language and is, therefore, and open-ended,
contradictory and culturally specific amalgam of different subject positions.
This had led to a profound re-evaluation of many earlier feminist positions
which sought to speak universally for women as an undifferentiated sector of
global society and, in particular, of the approaches of some radical feminists
who attempted to link women together by valorising certain essentially
feminine characteristics and inscribing these on all women.
However, the implications of post-structuralist and postmodernist thought have
resulted in a profound dilemma for feminist scholars whose central agenda is
emancipatory politics. McNay identifies two main elements to this dilemma.
Firstly, where does deconstruction of unified subjectivity lead in terms of
understanding individuals as active agents capable of intervening in and
transforming their social environment? And, secondly, what are the
implications of the postmodern suspension of all forms of value judgement,
and of concepts such as truth, freedom and rationality, for emancipatory
political projects which must rest on certain assumptions about what constitutes
oppression and freedom? McNay believes the work of Foucault, a major
contributor to the post-structuralist canon, has a great deal to offer feminists in
addressing these questions.

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Diamond and Quinby (1988) agree with this assessment and suggest that four
convergences of feminism and Foucault are especially striking, working
empathically to challenge and dismantle modes of domination that have
previously gone unrecognised. They suggest these convergences comprise some
of the most powerful forms of resistance available to us in the final decade of
the twentieth century:
identifying the body as the site of power, as the locus of domination through
which docility is accomplished and subjectivity constituted
pointing to the local and intimate operations of power rather than focusing
exclusively on the supreme power of the state
bringing to the fore the crucial role of discourse in its capacity to produce
and sustain hegemonic power and emphasize the challenges contained
within marginalised and/or unrecognized discourses
criticizing the ways in which Western humanism has privileged the
experience of the Western masculine elite as it proclaims universals about
truth, freedom and human nature
Foucaults work covered three major domains of analysis: an archaeological
study of knowledge, a genealogical study of power, and an ethical study of the
self. These domains represented different chronological phases in the expansion
of his theory as his work shifted from the study of discursive formations to
include 'nondiscursive' practices and regularities and finally to an analysis of
the 'technologies of the self' fundamental to Foucault's notion of power.
Foucault uses the term discourse to refer, not to language or social interaction,
but to relatively well-bounded areas of social knowledge and to that which
constrains and enables writing, speaking and thinking within specific historical
limits (McHoul and Grace 1993). The concept of 'regime of truth' encompasses
all three of Foucault's major concerns, though it was first articulated in the
genealogical phase of his work and most fully developed through its
relationship to the technologies of the self (Gore 1993). I intend to employ
Foucault's idea of regimes of truth and their relationship to the technologies of
the self as an analytical tool in constructing political meaning from the findings
of this project.

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5.2 Regimes of Truth in Contemporary Music Culture


Foucault rejected the distinction between science and ideology and therefore the
idea that there are discernible, objective truths. He argued that all science has an
ideological function and that the production of knowledge is always bound up
with historically specific regimes of power and all societies produce their own
truths which have a normalizing and regulatory function (McNay 1992).
Foucault suggested that discourses act as regimes of truth which are linked in a
circular relationship with systems of power which produce and sustain them
and also to the effects of power which they induce and by which they are
extended (Gore 1993).
Each society has its regime of truth, its general politics of truth: that is, the types of
discourse which it accepts and makes function as true; the mechanisms and instances
which enable one to distinguish true and false statements, the means by which each is
sanctioned; the techniques and procedures accorded value in the acquisition of truth; the
status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true (Foucault cited in Gore
1993: 55).

Whilst discourses and the discursive practices which surround them are neither
true or false in absolute terms, they may produce effects of truth in relation to
dominant power structures in society. Discourses are neither inherently good or
bad, neither intrinsically attached to domination or to resistance, but simply
competitive. Foucault cautions that all discourses are potentially dangerous if
they become attached to monolithic and totalizing ideologies. The warning to
feminists here has been both heeded and criticized (see below on the limits of
Foucault's usefulness to feminism).
The underlying task of this inquiry has been to identify discourses characteristic
of contemporary music culture, with a particular focus on those which refer to
and are generated by women. Both qualitative and quantitative material
presented in the first chapter pointed to the existence of a predominant
androcentrism in both the music industry and the school in which this inquiry
was conducted. Commentary from a variety of authoritative sources both
within and adjunct to the industry suggested that the popular music is an arena
of activity driven primarily by masculinist values and interests and that women
participate marginally within narrowly circumscribed terms. This applies in
particular to technological activity and is enacted in the virtual exclusion of
women from roles as instrumentalists and audio-engineers. What seems to be in
evidence here is a pervasive and dominant discourse which aligns masculinity

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with an active creative matrix of techno-musical activities and configures


femininity as marginal to this matrix.
Such a discourse, according to Foucaultian analysis, circulates as a regime of
truth which reinforces and is reinforced by the macro-systems of power which
sustain the complex entity that is the music industry. These systems of power
and the authority to engineer social 'reality' appear to have been successfully
commandeered by white, middle-class men in Australian popular music culture
and to operate from the androcentric monopoly of their own limited interests.
From within such a regime, the discourses of 'others' such as women - their
visions, interests, contributions, concerns and perspectives - may simply be
invisible and ignored or regarded as illegitimate and be actively suppressed.
Foucault emphasizes, however, that it is important not to set up the notion of a
social world divided between a dominant discourse and a contrary one (eg.
'patriarchy' against 'feminism').
(There are) a multiplicity of discursive elements that come into play in various strategies...
Discourses are not once and for all subservient to power or raised up against it, any more
than silences are... Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also
undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it... There is
not, on the one side, a discourse of power, and opposite it, another discourse that runs
counter to it" (Foucault cited in Gore 1992: 56).

Power functions as a result of specific practices in highly localized contexts and


it is these micro-practices which reflect the multiple points of resistance to
dominant regimes and the complex interplay of power relations between them.
Micro- and macro-practices of power are contained and implicated within each
other, an effect which Foucault refers to as "double conditioning." Thus do the
discourses of participants in this study both reflect and resist the dominant
regime of truth which would render them outsiders in the sphere of techomusical pursuits. The mechanisms by which this occurs may be explored
through three related concepts developed in Foucaults thinking: 'powerknowledge,' 'governmentality' and 'technologies of the self.' These are powerful
tools for analysing the politics of contemporary music culture and each has
different insights to offer toward the ultimate aim of this project which is the
empowerment of women as musicians and engineers.
5.2.1 Power-Knowledge and the Voices of Authority
Foucault insisted emphatically that while power and knowledge are inseparable
and presupposed in each other, they are not the same thing. His definitions of
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power and knowledge differ from standard definitions in which the repressive,
coercive and obstructive potentials of power are at the fore and truth or
knowledge is constructed as that which opposes the negative effects of power.
Foucaults notion of power-knowledge challenges assumptions that ideology
can be demystified and, hence, that undistorted truth can be attained
(Diamond and Quinby 1988: xi). By knowledge or truth Foucault means
the ensemble of rules according to which the true and the false are separated
and specific effects of power attached to the true (Foucault 1980 cited in Gore
1993: 53). Thus, while traditional conceptions of knowledge refer to technical
knowledge or know-how, Foucaults definition is more a matter of the social,
historical and political conditions under which, for example, statements come to
count as true or false (McHoul and Grace 1993).
In advocating a different way of thinking about the relationship between power
and knowledge as interrelated social phenomena articulated in discourse and
discursive practices, Foucault suggests that modern power is not necessarily
repressive, but may also be perceived as enabling, productive and dispersed
throughout society.
Power is not necessarily repressive since it incites, induces, seduces, makes easier or more
difficult, enlarges or limits, makes more or less probable and so on (Foucault 1980). Power
is exercised or practiced, rather than possessed, and so it circulates, passing though every
related force... In order to understand the operation of power contextually, we need to
understand the particular points through which it passes (Foucault 1980 cited in Gore
1993: 52).

Nancy Fraser (1989) points out that in foregrounding the productive, rather
than the prohibitive, possibilities of modern power, Foucaults concept of power
is "capillary", operating at every level of society in everyday social practices. It is
not a monolithic force pressing vertically downward through social hierarchies,
but is dispersed in a multi-directional and unstable way through the whole
social body. Power, Foucault suggests, touches peoples lives more
fundamentally through their social practices than through their beliefs. That
power is everywhere in modern society does not imply universal domination,
but that power relations are the necessary precondition for the establishment of
all social relations (McNay 1992: 67).
Foucault enables us to understand power very broadly, and yet very finely, as anchored
in the multiplicity of what he calls micropractices, the social practices that constitute
everyday life in modern societies. This positive conception of power has the general but
unmistakable implication of a call for a politics of everyday life (Fraser 1989: 18).

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This way of conceiving power has obvious appeal for feminists who have long
explored power in much more diverse ways than those discussed within
mainstream academia. Fitzsimons (1994) reminds us that by talking about
gender-relations in terms of power, feminists put on the agenda the idea that
the whole of social relationships involves notions of power, even at the microlevel of two people interacting. Power cannot be located only in state apparatus
or institutions or with any particular social group, but is diffuse and fluid. What
has been particularly valuable to feminists in this approach is that it provides an
alternative to disabling theories which position women as passive victims of
male dominance and control. In Foucaults terms, power cannot simply be
located with men - women also exercise power. This opens the possibility of
productive discourse on the empowerment of women in socio-technological
contexts in ways that could be progressive and liberating. For example, this
inquiry situates women's discourses amongst others in contemporary music
culture and illustrates how women continue to interrogate and dissent from a
regime which works against their self-defined interests - we hear the voices of
autonomous agency in counterpoint with a regime which they refuse to
embody.
Foucault's notion of power-knowledge lays a foundation for exploring how the
women in this study conceive of and exercise power in pursuing their musical
agendas and how their discourses intersect with, resist and bypass the
dominant regime. Through studying these women's descriptions of their own
everyday practices and their critiques of gendered patterns in the music school
and in the industry at large, we can gain insights into how they are already
practicing the processes of empowerment each one perceives as available at her
particular point in time and place. Foucault's concepts of govermentality and
the technologies of the self build on his idea of power as fluid, diffuse and
accessible to the whole social body.
5.2.2 Governmentality and the Voices of Compliance
In his early work, Foucault especially concerned himself with forms of
government which he saw as the way in which the conduct of individuals or
groups might be directed or structured by others. He suggested that
'disciplinary institutions' (hospitals, schools, prisons) pioneered techniques for
controlling large numbers of people and that these came to define forms of
distinctly modern power. Disciplinary power moulds consciousness through

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"localized mechanisms of enticement, regulation, surveillance, and


classification" (Diamond and Quinby 1988: xii) so that an individual comes to
regulate his/her own behaviour and thoughts, thus assuming responsibility for
the constraints of external power and inscribing them in him/herself. An
example of such a mechanism is "the gaze," a technique made possible by
architectural structures and technologies which facilitated continuous,
unidirectional visual access to members of an institution (eg prison, hospital,
school) by those in control.
The role of performer is particularly susceptible to the effects of 'the gaze' and
its power to mould consciousness by inscribing the constraints of external
power on the individual. The music industry is based on the selling of 'image' an artificially contrived stage or video persona for individuals or bands which
creates an illusion of authenticity. This is not a problem if the artist herself
manipulates her own image with awareness of its role in her self-constellation
and its impact on audience. It is problematic if a woman is the object of an
imposed image, constituted from the male gaze of industry entrepreneurs or
male musicians and their received notions of audience preference whose tastes
are constantly being gauged and indulged. Michelle gives examples both of the
self-defined persona and of the disciplinary control of the industry gaze...
(On stage) I want to be myself as much as I can, but a little bit more - you've got to be a
little bit more than yourself to be something that these people aspire to. So in everyday
life I'm just me and nobody would look twice, but on stage you have to make people
think that you're a little bit special. It's a confidence thing more than anything... You
act in a way, because you are somebody else - you're putting on a show and you've just
got to be confident with what you're doing.
It's a nice thing to know that the managing director of (large record company) asked me
how old I was and I said "Does it matter?" and he said "No, it doesn't matter." I
always wondered, starting this course, would it matter that by the time I finish I'll be
thirty-one. "Will they want me?" sort of thing. He said "You don't look it and that's
the main thing." And in the end it's nice to know they've chosen me for my talent and
not my looks or my age or my large breasts... in the end it hasn't mattered; they've
chosen my talent and not the looks.
In the first example, Michelle speaks of how she deliberately sets out to create a
larger-than-life persona that is based on a sense of her authentic everyday self.
In the second, this confidence disappears and she is anxious as to whether she
will meet the requirements of the male gaze and grateful that, at least for the
time, she still looks young enough to pass. She consoles herself with the belief
that she has been offered a contract for her talent rather than for her (classically
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attractive) appearance - which may not be reliable in years to come. An example


of what can happen when a woman resists the power of the gaze is Chris' story,
where she was actually ejected from the band for refusing to adopt a
stereotypical female image...
I used to play in a rock band in Brisbane and I was eventually asked to leave that band
because I didn't look 'girlie' enough. I had short hair and I used to wear jeans to play
and it was like "Can't you dress a bit more feminine?" and I said "No!" So they said
"We'll get a new bass player then.
Foucault argues that such disciplinary tactics were eventually integrated into
global political strategies and orientations and became the basis for modern
forms of power which replace violence and force with the constraints of
uninterrupted visibility inscribed on the individual not only from the outside,
but from within. Foucault thus argued that modern forms of government reveal
a shift from sovereign power which is overt, visible and located in a monarchal
structure to 'disciplinary' power which is exercised through its invisibility via
normalizing technologies of the self (Gore 1993: 52) whereby individuals come
to police themselves.
Governmentality is used to explain how the modern state is not a unified apparatus of
domination, but is made up of a network of institutions and procedures which employ
complex techniques of power to order social relations. The aim of governmentality is not
the imposition of laws, but the regulation of the population through various techniques,
such as the stimulation of the birthrate or the improvement of the health and longevity of
the population... Like disciplinary power, governmentality also targets the individual as
means with which to maintain social control (McNay 1992: 68).

The notion of regime of truth thus conveys the connection between power and
knowledge which "is produced by, and produces, specific strategies of
government which are acted out or resisted through the body" (Gore 1993: 55).
Those regimes which operate broadly across whole societies have been termed
'dominant discourses.'
The dominant discourse at issue here is that masculinity aligns with being
technologically able and femininity, by implication, with being techno-logically
inept. This discourse, as demonstrated through a substantial body of feminist
critique in the literature reviewed in Chapter 2, is present in the wider culture
and surfaces as a particular instance in contemporary music culture, as
illustrated by the material presented in Chapter 1. This has the effect of
producing certain widely circulated 'truths' about women's and men's
capabilities and interests within popular music and these are circumscribed

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onto the consciousness and behaviour of real women both individually and
collectively. Thus in the interview data we find evidence of women policing
themselves and colluding in the maintenance of a distorted and restricted view
of their own and other women's potential to engage competently in technomusical activities.
I'd probably say I saw myself as a musician before I got here but now, having been here
for three years, and particularly hearing my boyfriend talking about 'chick singers' and
how he's a musician, I'd probably see myself more as a singer... It's just a way of
expressing myself and it's a way that I can do fairly well... I don't feel like my
instrumental skills are that good (Anna).
I'm a technological mute! (laughter) (Michelle)
The boys do tend to dominate the music scene. They're good at technology, all that kind
of thing (Kate).
I'd have to say the biggest problem for myself and probably for most women is the
technology barrier - probably the hardest one to come up against. What usually happens
in, I'd say, 90% of cases is that the women end up reliant on the men, the further you
get into your studies, to do their recording, to do their programming - yeah, all the
technical stuff still ends up being male-based which is not anyone's fault... Personally I
think that's a biological thing. Men are better at it. They understand it and like it better
and all of a sudden women have to use it and, although they don't particularly like it,
they have to conquer it and they often can't (Simone).
Prevailing discourses may thus come to be accepted as truth and even
associated with essentialialized notions of gender as in Simone's statement
above. The inscription of dominant discourses onto individual beliefs and
behaviour may be more subtle and insidious than the replication of gross
gender stereotypes in a woman's self identity. They may include the
undermining of a woman's confidence in her ability to operate certain
technologies or lead her to reject out of hand the desirability or possibility of
acquiring techno-musical skills. She may resort to rationalising feelings of
techno-phobia and inadequacy around such skills by deriding them as
expressions of masculine idiosyncrasy or inferiority or refusing to acknowledge
the creative potential of technology, or by treating it with suspicion as
something that might somehow take control of her mind. This is not to suggest
that rejection of techno-musical tools for creative expression is not a perfectly
legitimate choice which many women make, developing their music on acoustic
instruments and relying on the technical expertise of others in recording and
amplification. What is at issue here is whether this choice is made from a
position of constraint or by selection from a full range of possibilities which are
perceived as genuinely accessible.
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There's a lot of boys that arrive here... and they can play incredibly fast and they've just
got amazing chops... bllllllllll (demonstrating high speed guitar playing) and you think
"How can this boy do this?" Then you have a conversation with this boy and he can't
put two words together and you know he's probably never been out of his room anyway.
He doesn't know shit about anything else in his life and probably always lived at home
with mum and dad and never really thought anything... when I was that age,.. there was
no way I could have sat in a room and just focused on an inanimate object to get that
good about something, (Jackie).
I can see the benefits of things like sequencers and computer sequencing as tools for song
writing, but my experience of that has been that I've wound up with the computer
telling me what to write rather than the other way... I find it very full of traps and
pitfalls... (Chris).
I compose on a keyboard because I prefer to take my songs to the band members and they
put their personalities into it, rather than a machine. They can use their little boxes and
things they want to use for the sounds, but even so I prefer a piano sound on my songs
than a synthesiser... But no, I steer right away from technology. I prefer the band to
make up their own parts to my songs and that's what's given them the personality that
they have. I haven't sat down and just worked it all out myself on some machine, you
know. It's sterile to me (laughter) (Michelle).
In terms of audio-engineering, I used to be really interested in the concept of it and
think "That's what I'd like to do... now I don't want to for the very simple fact that
actually creating the music takes up enough of my energy and I don't want to have to
divide my energy between writing a song and getting the perfect sound for it... I'm a
firm believer in specialisation in things like that. You've got these skills, I've got these
skills, let's work together. I'm not interested in spending all that time learning how to
do it myself. Because I'm the sort of person too where if I got into that and enjoyed it,
would say "Right, I'm going to be an audio-engineer!" (laughter) ...I'd rather stick to
the creative side of things (Chris).
The above statements could be read as the voices of empowerment and
resistance, distancing themselves from the constraints and imperatives of
engagement in male defined modes of functioning in musical culture. However,
they may also be interpreted as sophisticated, face-saving rationalisations for
staying within the safe terrain of feminine constructs - rejecting the challenge of
instrumental excellence as an expression of men's emotional shut-down,
disregarding the creative possibilities of machines as sterile or even controlling
objects, characterising (acoustic) music-making as creative and inferring that
audio-engineering is a lesser and merely mechanical task devoid of its own
aesthetic demands. My purpose here is not to pose definitive interpretations of
the meanings of these women's comments - that would be misplaced and
arrogant - but simply to point out that there are multiple ways of understanding
the same set of material. Only the speakers themselves could elaborate the
range of personal meanings which might be implied in their accounts.
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These texts illustrate governmentality at work, reproducing the dominant


discourse in the consciousness and behaviour of individual women. But
governmentality is a double-edged sword. In Foucaults later work he argues
that it is through these same techniques of self-government that individuals
have the ability to resist power. Governmentality refers both to the ways
through which individuals police themselves and also to the ways in which
they critique and resist disciplinary power, thereby ensuring freedom.
Dominant regimes of truth are never monolithic and other marginalised and
resistant regimes operate at a multiplicity of local levels. They may be seen as
the micropractices through which power is circulated and enacted at an
everyday level - if the relations of power are dispersed and fragmented
throughout the social field, then so also must be resistance to power. To explain
how this occurs, Foucault refers to the 'technologies of the self.'
5.2.3 Technologies of the Self and the Voices of Resistance
In Foucault's early work, he developed the idea that sexuality is not an innate or
natural quality of the body, but rather the effect of historically specific power
relations. This provided feminist thinkers with useful tools for analysing the
impact on women of culturally determined images of female sexuality and for
critiquing essentialist notions of the body. However, these early Foucaultian
accounts of the effects of power on the body were limited in usefulness to
feminists because they reduced individuals to passive bodies and omitted to
address how individuals may act as autonomous social agents intent on
resisting and changing cultural influences (McNay 1992).
This lack of a rounded theory of subjectivity or agency runs contrary to a
fundamental aim of the feminist project which is to rediscover and re-evaluate
the experiences of women and has led to some very hostile feminist responses
to Foucaults work. Hartsock (1990) and Benhabib (1990) argue that the
postmodern deconstruction of categories such as subjectivity and agency denies
women the prospect of articulating and analysing our common experiences just
as we begin to realise the possibility of overcoming our marginalisation. In
Foucault's later writing and interviews, however, he expands his original
concept of the effects of power on the individual and explores how power may
be understood not only in the negative terms of repression and coercion, but
also as a positive and productive force which individuals may use to shape and
control their everyday lives in autonomous ways. Integral to this larger
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conception of power is a shift in focus from the body to the self and from the
technologies of domination to the technologies of the self.
Foucault defines the technologies of the self as practices or techniques through
which individuals actively fashion their own identities and uses this idea to
explain how individuals may escape the homogenising tendencies of power in
modern society by asserting their autonomy. He suggests that, while such
practices are always determined by social context, individuals are selfdetermining agents, capable of challenging and resisting the structures of
domination in modern society. He rejects the idea that there are straightforward
causal connections between individual action and social structure, though
neither is there complete discontinuity between the two levels of action.
Although the practices of the self are shaped by social context and overarching
systems of belief, the way in which an individual takes up such practices is by
no means reducible to this context.
..the human agent is neither the origin of social relations nor the passive product of an
externally imposed system of social constraint: there is a mutual dependence of structure
and agency. The activities of social agents are necessarily situated and constrained,
although the determinants of activity are multiple and contradictory and cannot be
subsumed under the logic of a single monolithic system. At the same time, however,
social structures are constituted by human agency, and also are the very medium of this
constitution. The relationship between structure and agency must be grasped as dynamic,
not static; existing structures are reproduced by human agents who modify and change
these structures to differing degrees as they are shaped by them (McNay 1992: 60).

Foucault suggests that individuals in technologically advanced societies in the


twentieth century have access to resources to develop their own sense of ethics the 'ethics of the self' rather than live by socially imposed moral codes. The task
of emancipation, he believes, is to explore 'the practices of liberty,' whereby
individuals are free to shape their relationships with themselves and others and
to stylise their existence in very particular ways so that experiences of pleasure,
beauty and power are optimalized in a search for an 'aesthetics of existence.'
This search, for Foucault, implies a conception of the self as a work of art which
is the subject of its own ongoing process of reinvention. There is no essential
inner self waiting to be discovered or liberated, but only an obligation on the
part of the individual to take responsibility in the ongoing task of reorganising
identity.
An essential feature of the constitution of oneself as a work of art is that it entails a limit
attitude. One rejects established patterns of individualization through the interrogation of
what are thought to be universal, necessary forms of identity in order to show the place
that the contingent and the historically specific occupy within them. For the individual,
freedom from normalizing forms of individuality consists of an exploration of the limits of
subjectivity. By interrogating what are held to be necessary boundaries to identify the

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limits of subjectivity, the possibility of transgressing these boundaries is established, and


therefore the potential of creating new types of subjective experience is opened up
(McNay 1992: 89 with reference to Foucault).

In rejecting the notion of an essential, natural self and linking agency and
autonomy to the idea of an ongoing reinvention of the self, Foucault is able to
formulate an ethics around a non-essentialist conception of identity, which
aligns him with postmodernist thinking, and yet maintains a link with
Enlightenment traditions which embrace individual autonomy as a condition of
liberty, a state in which an individual may freely exercise critical judgement
without coercion or punishment. However, Enlightenment thought tends to
link morality to a global perspective, generally that of universal reason, and
Foucault rejects this approach as leading to an excess of political power. He
suggests that freedom of individuals from the oppressive aspects of modern
society cannot be contingent on any metanarratives such as justice, rationality
or humanism which foster static conceptions of human nature. Foucault argues
that there are multiple, historically specific forms of rationality and that
freedom lies in a process of critical self-awareness and self-creation.
The proactive functioning of the technologies of the self is in evidence as
women in this inquiry interrogate the dominant discourse on gender and
technology and describe their struggles to gain techno-musical skills, redefining
the boundaries of their technology-deprived feminized identities and taking
note that other women are doing the same. Some see the training culture as
being supportive in this undertaking, some do not. Most consider the music
industry to be exceptionally conservative in its attitudes to women. Some look
to other (younger) women to forge the way, seeing the project as necessary and
important, but retaining other priorities for themselves.
I think it will change and I think it is changing because there seem to be some really cool
teenage girls who are doing that, who are getting up on stage and going "I don't care if
you laugh at me. I'm up here 'cos I want to do it and I do it just as well as the boys from
my school." And as that happens more and more, things will go as they have in the
wider society and women will start to shape the environment they're in to suit them
better... (Chris).
...when I was twenty-four I went to a rock festival... and in that five days I only saw one
woman on stage... every single band was all male. There were a whole lot of bands
spanning four or five days and there were no women on stage and that was why I got
involved... I suddenly had this thought: If there really are that few women on the stage, I
really need to get my act together, so I did. I went back to Cairns, sold my stuff, went to
Sydney and started a band. So that's how I got involved in music! (Simone).

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I met Gina who was taking a music workshop at the place I was working and she thrust
a bass guitar in my hands and said "Play it!" And I said "I can't play it" and she said
"Yes you can, of course you can!" So I started playing it and a year later I was in a band
with her! ...Gina gave me a lot of confidence too, saying "Of course you can do it. Just do
it" (Jackie).
I suppose what I would like to see is that it's not so scary, all that technology, that it's
actually taught even at a more basic level than what we go at, at the beginning. That
maybe we have groups of women that get together and say "Well, how do you do this or
that?" instead of always having to go to the guy and say "Oh can you help us?"
(Anna).
I don't think it's (the music school) solved the problem of technology, women and
technology. I don't think it creates the disadvantage - it doesn't solve it though. I think
you actually need to make a special effort and be sexist and have a class specifically for
women to rebalance the imbalance, that kind of thing... It needs to be recognised that
women are at a disadvantage and it needs to be incorporated into the curriculum...
(Simone).
I've got to rely on myself and if I can get machines happening... You've got to have the
willingness to embrace all the things that may have formerly frightened you like, in my
case, technology... the willingness to embrace things and confront your fears on aspects
of the music industry that may frighten you, like the fact that the competition is so
heavily linked up with computer technology and all that kind of stuff and you can't just
be an old person who's left behind (Kate).
All of the above women are aware of their own and other women's direct
challenges to the discourse that marginalizes women in human-technology
relations in music and are exercising power simply by placing technology
firmly on their own professional learning agendas. Yet very few seem to
experience the accessing of technology as a pleasurable, playful, or even
comfortable series of encounters and most describe their learning process as a
struggle, as scary or difficult. They may even perceive themselves as especially
slow learners of anything technical. This observation is based not only on
comments from the interview texts, but from several years of on-the-ground
experience as a Production student in which I have had numerous
conversations with other students, both female and male, and have noticed how
some stereotypical patterns of behaviour seem to recur.
My impressions are that, while some men also experience difficulties with
technical learning, these are not compounded by a lifetime of messages, the
microprocesses of the dominant discourse, which subtly suggest they are
inherently inept and out-of-place to be tackling the area at all. Most men seem
far more willing to bluff their way through situations where they really do not
know or are unskilled (even to the point of giving copious ill-informed advice),

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whereas women tend to hand the job over to someone else (usually male) if
they are even a little uncertain. Women on the mixing desk may have to beat off
the intrusions of creeping auxiliary male hands which start turning knobs
without any negotiation - something they would not dream of doing to another
male engineer.
Noticeably absent in the above texts is a sense of collective process in the
movement of women into techno-musical activities. The women speak
separately of their own individual commitment and the difficulties which it
entails, but none appear to come from a strong sense of solidarity with other
women who are pursuing similar paths. It may be that they are, as yet, too few
of these women for significant networks to develop. It is possible that major
reinventions of the self tend to drive individuals inward in a search for
resources, rather outward to establish support and connection. Some women
may be averse to the separatist connotations of the word feminist and regard
their alliances with 'people' as a priority, perceiving consciously created
alliances with other women as dubious and unnecessary, especially if those
other women also appear to be struggling in their relationships with
technologies. Whatever the reasons, this situation renders each woman isolated
in an idiosyncratic course of resistance to the dominant regime of truth on
gender and music technology - this can be a lonely and difficult path.
It seems that the exercise of power in enabling and productive ways is not
necessarily accompanied by feelings of pleasure or even comfort. When women
challenge the dominant regime of truth about gender and technology, they are
digging at the very roots of gendered identity in our culture and a sense of
disruption and transgressed boundaries may well arise. This can be acutely
uncomfortable and the resulting disorientation to long-established gender
identities provocative or even threatening.
Thus while the most overt barriers to women's participation in male-dominated
areas have been made illegal and socially unacceptable (though certainly not
universally so), covert obstacles to women's success remain, not the least of
which is an unspoken sense of intrusion into alien territory. This is often heavily
reinforced by male peers who attempt to ignore the presence of women in their
classes and working spaces. It takes courage and commitment to work through
feelings of discomfort as the feminized self is reinvented, to overcome a sense of
inadequacy when first attempting to learn new technologies and to persist in

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achieving the levels of competency which will bring experiences of satisfaction


and pleasure.
A few highly capable and determined women succeed, as students, in pursuing
their lone trajectories across the electronic soundscape. They graduate with a
good chance of creating a niche for themselves in the industry - not just because
they are competent practitioners in a range of specific technologies, but because
they have already had considerable practice in transgressing traditional
boundaries of feminine gender and developing strategies for survival in an
androcentric work culture. They have high expectations of themselves - in
music, as in other male-dominated areas, women who succeed generally need
to be substantially better at the job than most male practitioners. Their voices
ring out clear triumphal notes against the underswell of compliance to the
dominant discourse and the dissonance of those still locked in the early stages
of the challenge.
As a performer, university has actually taught me really well how to use stage gear.
That's one thing it's been really useful for. I've sorted out about amplifiers,
microphones, PA stacks, front-of-house, mixing desks, all that stuff. It's been wonderful
like that - it's completely sorted it out for me and I'm quite a good person to have on
stage now. I know when things go wrong how to problem-solve (Simone).
Technically I find everything I've learned in Audio and Video really handy, really
useful, in that I feel like I've got a really well-rounded way of expressing myself. I've
covered most of my bases now and I feel like if I wanted to say something that I'm not
really held back in any way anymore in saying it. I know I could make a video or a
documentary or any type of music I felt like doing... I could get it produced and the
technology's not stopping me actually getting it out and that's what I love - that I have
learnt that. I didn't know all that before I came here. Now I feel whatever I wanted to do
in any of that sort of media, I could and I feel confident in that (Jackie).
The development of the notion of the self as active agent is the crowning
achievement of Foucault's contribution to analysis of how power relations
influence the behaviour of individuals. For feminists, this concept opens a way
for perceiving women as other than the passive victims of patriarchal systems
of oppression and suggests how women might explore the fluid dimensions of
identity and power as a dynamic inter-play between overarching cultural
patterns and the autonomous strategies of individual agents. Such an approach
has profound ramifications for feminist projects which aim to empower women,
making it possible to retain a notion of transcendence in challenging the
limitations of current social conditions while dissociating from theories which
appeal to universal reason and cast women as an differentiated social unit.

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5.3

Feminist Agendas and the Limits to Foucault


There are limits to the usefulness of Foucaults work in feminist projects. He
appears quite uninterested in exploring the conjunction of power, gender and
the self and this is consistent with his strategy of desexualization or of thinking
in terms other than the polarities of masculine and feminine. This approach has
some credibility. As McNay points out, "Given that the construction of sexuality
around sexual difference has been a powerful tool of subjection for centuries, an
emancipatory strategy must aim towards a redefinition of the body and its
pleasures beyond such rigid categories" (194).
However, Foucaults view that the real strength of the womens movement has
been its departure from sexualized forms of thought is clearly at odds with
what most feminists would see as its achievements and current preoccupations
which continue to focus on exploring specific facets of what it means to be
sexed female and gendered woman. Thus while Foucault may be seen to be
sympathetic to feminist agendas on a broad political level, his silence on the
implications of gender differences leaves his work open to the charge of
androcentrism - that when he talks of the body or the self, it is the male version
that is implied and misleadingly conflated with the general.
Another problematical area for feminists wishing to mine the emancipatory
potential of Foucaults work is his rejection of all meta-narratives and value
judgements (a postmodern characteristic) and accordingly, the normative
assumptions on which social change might be based. McNay (1992) points out
that this is indicative of a significant disjunction between post-structuralist
theories of difference and feminist theories of sexual difference. While there is
significant cross-fertilisation of thinking between the two areas, they have
different underlying agendas which create important points of divergence. Poststructuralist work on deconstructing the subject is primarily a philosophical
exercise. Feminist critiques which make use of its insights and strategies retain a
commitment to notions of political agency and intervention and are firmly
situated within the politics of everyday life. Postmodern perspectives view any
social critique pitched at a general level as invariably insensitive to and
repressive of individual difference, denying any possibility of transcendent or
emancipatory values on which to build political solidarity. It may not be
desirable or even possible for feminism to accept the postmodern rejection of
metanarratives.
Whilst feminism has to guard against the dangers of generalization, it nevertheless rests
on the fundamental assumption that the inequality between the sexes is indefensible and

122

unjust. Such an assumption informs feminist analyses of the position of women in society,
it underlies their call for global abolition of gender-related inequalities and establishes a
basic standard against which actual and potential social reforms can be measured.
Without some fundamental notion of what constitutes the legitimate and illegitimate uses
of power in relation to the subordination of women, feminism would either run into
normative confusion similar to that which pervades Foucault's work, or it could even
cease to exist as an autonomous movement (McNay 1992: 196-7).

While Foucault's idea of practices of the self is informed by a strong political


commitment and is clearly intended to feed into wider processes of social
transformation, by refusing to establish basic normative guidelines or collective
aims for such practices, it is not clear how an individual might expand his/her
vision to a collective plane and embrace the ideal and the practice of
responsibility to other members of society. Without indicating how strategies of
self-transformation relate to a politics of solidarity, Foucault's work describes a
limited politics of isolated individualism. This phenomenon has perhaps been
illustrated in the context of this study. By refusing to outline any normative
standards against which various techniques of the self can be assessed,
Foucault's ethics tend to collapse into an incoherent relativism and to privilege
an isolated self within an elitist notion of aesthetic practice, rather than
understanding the self as embedded in and shaped by social interaction. This is
at odds with feminist attempts to understand more fully the intersubjective
dimension of social relations.
However, Foucaults notion of power as dispersed and accessible to all
members of the social body and the ongoing radical critique of the self in
exploring identity and agency resonates with a feminist critique of essentialism
and a political agenda which foregrounds emancipatory social change through
challenging existing relations of power. Foucaults exploration of identity does
not founder in a boundless diffusion of the subject or a celebration of
heterogeneity for its own sake, but is associated with a strengthening of
individual agency embedded in politics of creative alternatives and resistance to
overarching regimes of truth. The living out of this agency in resistance to an
entrenched dominant discourse is amply demonstrated by the women who
participated in this study. Foucault's final work on the self with its ethical and
political considerations offers substantial points of departure for feminist theory
and practice in its attempt to resolve the dilemma created for feminists when
political agency is undermined by a dissolution of unified subjectivity.
In the light of these comments, a key task for feminists is to find ways of
transcending the polarized modes of thinking which have characterized much

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of the debate on modernism and postmodernism. Basic normative standards


need not necessarily threaten the autonomy of the individual. Indeed,
individual difference may be better protected in an environment based on
tolerance and collective standards than in one of laissez-faire individualism.
Inversely, a politics of self-actualization need not inevitably collapse into
fragmented individualism, but may contribute to wider forms of liberatory
social change. By building on Foucaults foundational work on the technologies
of the self and juxtaposing it with the metanarratives of feminist critique, it may
be possible to build cogent and original theoretical perspectives and practical
strategies of research and action.

5.4 Radical Reinventions - Women Power Up The Circuitry


I have no compunction in juxtaposing a post-structuralist Foucaultian
framework of analysis with a feminist manifesto affirming that it is both right
and desirable that musical women challenge on multiple fronts the constraints
of the dominant regime of truth which privileges male appropriation of
technology. As Zimmerman (1986) points out, we need to unmask the hidden
functions of technology in a stratified society, since technological advances tend
to reinforce the status quo and to aggravate the past power relationships
between the haves and the have-nots. If women continue to remain outside the
circles who design, produce, distribute, use and modify new technologies then
we relinquish important ethical and moral responsibilities to affect decisions
that may have profound implications for the whole social body and its
descendants. Haraway (1990) argues the point powerfully in relation to her
cyborg metaphor...
(T)aking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing
an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the
skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others,
in communication with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are
possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations.
Cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have
explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves. This is a dream, not of a common
language, but of a powerful infidel heteroglossia. It is an imagination of a feminist
speaking in tongues to strike fear into circuits of the super savers of the New Right. It
means both building and destroying machines, identities, categories, relationships,
spaces, stories (223).

The popular music industry is a cogent example of what may transpire when
women support the dominant discourse and leave the tyranny of its gendered
categories unchallenged. Individual women may choose paths which require

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minimal engagement with the industry's rapidly expanding technological


possibilities. However if women en masse make this choice then the ongoing
design of technologies and of the very industry itself (its values, ethics,
organisational structures and professional practices) will continue to remain in
male hands, playing the same old androcentric riffs. According to a Foucaultian
analysis, there is an immediate possibility for women and other marginalized
sectors of the community to exercise power, to refuse collusion with the
dominant discourse, to create radical new configurations of gender and new
forms of music and music-making. The task for women, as I see it, is to generate
both internal resources to deal with the old cultural implants that tell us we
can't do this and external strategies which best support our learning processes.
I recently had the experience of working with a group of five mature-age
women students in the university's 24-track recording studio. Three women
acted alternately as engineers and musicians, recording a newly written
instrumental composition, and two of us filmed video of their project (for a
mini-documentary on women in the music school). It was a highly productive
and pleasurable morning's work and was the first time any of us had created
such an opportunity for ourselves. Women do not tend to hang out in peer
groups in the studios as men do, yet this is one of the most important modes of
learning and gaining skills with technology, as well the means to recording each
woman's music to her own taste and nuance. This was an empowering
experience and one which we will no doubt recreate. It provided, for a
transitory moment, a model of women working technology and learning
cooperatively to our own creative agendas and at our own pace. One strategy in
the de-gendering of music technology may be the re-gendering of it as feminine,
an appropriation by groups of women, unhampered by male interests and
demands.
The pleasure and power of achieving competency with the techno-tools of
creative expression, using these tools with integrity to have one's say in the
world, and earning a living by following one's passion are rich rewards which
an increasing number of women will demand for themselves. This movement
has begun and will, I believe, gain momentum through the complex process of
women engaging with the technologies of their fluid and enormously
resourceful selves as well as with the technologies of the material plane to create
an unprecedented array both of musical products which truly express women
experiences and of new regimes of truth which reflect the diverse multiplicity of
women's choices around their music and their preferred technologies.
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5.5 Conclusions and Recommendations


My initial intention in pursuing this project was to explore, through guided indepth interviews, women music students' perspectives on their training
experiences and prospective careers in the industry. From the wealth of
material yielded in these interviews, I sifted out a more narrowly focused
intention which was to identify women's discourses on their relationships with
music technology and to situate these within other prevailing discourses in
contemporary music culture. It is, in essence, an exploration of the gender
politics within which contemporary music technologies are embedded. To
further this end, I examined interviewed data, read across a panoply of texts on
feminist theory, research, critiques of culture and technology, musicology and
social philosophy and gathered gender differentiated statistics on musical
activity.
These sources pointed to the existence of a dominant regime of truth in Western
cultures which supports masculine appropriation of technology and renders
femininity marginal to this relationship. This regime surfaces in the popular
music industry, privileging men's access to and employment in a range of music
technologies and severely disadvantaging women. The resulting imbalance
extends to women's roles in actual music-making since the instruments used in
popular music are electrically powered and amplified through electronic
systems and are, I suggest, perceived as 'high-tech'. The (minority of) women
who are active in the industry participate for the most part as singers who play
the body as instrument. They tend not to engage, as men do, with a whole
gamut of old and new technologies (contrived mechanical extensions of the
body) as instruments and as tools for sound reinforcement and recording.
Participants in this study demonstrate that, in counterpoint to the dominant
discourse, are multiple women's discourses colluding, interrogating, resisting,
contradicting and bypassing its import and creating their own truths about
women's interests, everyday activities and capabilities. Their voices tell the
stories of how women embrace power proactively for themselves as well as
how they refuse its responsibilities. Most are cognizant of being sold short as
women and are not out to accept the verdict. Their voices cannot be silenced
and it is imperative that the music industry take their concerns into account for
its own well-being as much as for women's own, for commercial gain if not as a
response to calls for social equity and justice.
126

Training providers (eg. university music schools, TAFE colleges, Ausmusic,


Skillshare, and numerous private individuals and institutions) also need to take
responsibility in initiating programs that support women's access to technical
skills in music and do not continue to assume that all students come into
courses on an even playing field. Denial of gender imbalances and refusal to
address the difficulties women face in moving into male-dominated areas of
training and employment simply lends tacit support to their continuation. The
material contributed by the women students who participated in this inquiry
provides insights into how they themselves collaborate in the cultural processes
that render them alien in the electronic soundscape. It also spotlights some
women reaching out to grasp the pleasure, productivity and power that may go
with technical competence. In choosing to engage with technology, whether it
be as instrumentalists or electronic musicians or sound engineers, these women
are consciously defying gender boundaries and challenging the ideological and
practical regimes of work and training institutions that would keep them
confined to limited, rigid and stereotyped roles. They need support in this
process.
I would like to have included here an inventory of strategies which women
have used to strengthen and maintain the processes of empowerment which
they have already initiated in staking a claim on technology in the
contemporary music terrain. Such strategies would be associated with resources
and actions from both the inner and outer realms of experience, However, I did
not interview with this intention in mind and such an exploration must be
reserved for another project. The findings from this inquiry suggest that most
women tackle their learning of technology in isolation or by ranging the fringes
of male activity, rather than by forming solidarity groups and setting up
cooperative learning situations with peers. Women who achieve success in
endeavours involving music technology tend to be lone pioneers in a male
world, intensely committed to their creative agendas and to accessing any area
of knowledge and skill perceived as useful to their realisation.
A fertile ground for action research projects would be music technology
programs offered by tertiary institutions and by private training providers. I
have found virtually no existing research which aims to illuminate the different
strategies people use in tackling technological learning. It would be very
interesting to know more about the methods of high achievers and, particularly,

127

successful women. Such research may provide insights into how technical
learning could be made easier for women who enter programs, wanting to gain
competencies, but handicapped by negative internalized notions about their
capabilites as women.
Another related field of critique would be inquiry into the ethics and the deeper
politics which inform techno-musical culture. We do not need to accept naively
that technology represents all that is best and most elevated in Western culture
and get caught in the consumer treadmill of yearning for an endless succession
of magic black boxes that will somehow transform us into legendary musicians
through their 'powerful' capabilities.' There is a thesis in those last two words
alone - I know this from browsing a range of music technology magazines and
noting the kinds of advertising metaphors that are used to sell equipment (also
see Pile in Chapter 2).
This study has featured the cautions of several women academics and
musicians who have expressed their concerns about an unquestioning embrace
of technology in contemporary music. Bandt (1988) reminds us that the artistic
vision must always remain primary to the creative process and it is risky to
immerse ourselves in technology for its own sake. She also warns of the health
hazards of long hours spent at the computer and of the constraints of a too rigid
computer language in composing music. Biddiss (1994) argues that music
technology is itself gendered and this raises a plethora of questions about the
terms of women's participation in computer music culture. And, as Pile (1994)
points out, there is more to the question of women's participation in audio
technologies than simply allowing it to increase. She suggests that women who
use these technologies have a responsibility to find sensitive ways of engaging
with them so that a perverse world is not simply reproduced and validated.
These authors offer pioneering efforts in a very new and highly pertinent field
of musicological analysis. Their voices need to be amplified and joined by
others to offer a rigorous critique of the interplay between culture and
technology in contemporary music, not just from women's perspectives, but
from men's.
My ultimate intention here is to contribute to a radical reworking of
constructions of gender, power and technology in contemporary music culture
so that women may not only participate fully in all aspects of the industry, but
also be proactive in shaping its training and work practices and in designing

128

the technologies integral to them. It is also a contribution to the burgeoning


feminist critique on culture and technology, differing from many that have
gone before in that it orchestrates (in a modest way) postmodernist
preoccupations. I have attempted to spotlight at a fundamental level the ways
in which power and knowledge around music technology are produced and
maintained in the service of masculinist interests. I hope also to have illustrated
the possibilities for subverting this regime through the everyday micropractices of women who have taken to frolicking in the techno-playful expanses
of the contemporary music terrain.

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Appendix A. INTERVIEW GUIDE


WOMEN SOUNDING OUT CAREERS IN CONTEMPORARY MUSIC
Im interested in how you came to be studying music here...
What was the background to deciding youd do this?
What kind of musical training and experience did you have before you came here?
What kind of goals did you set for yourself when you began this course?
Do you feel youve gained what you wanted from it?
Looking back over over the past few years of study, what stands out for you?
What has been particularly useful? ...or difficult?
Are there any ways in which you think this music school creates advantages or
disadvantages for women students?
Is it a user-friendly kind of place for the women studying here?
So what is it that you most value about being a musician?
Who or what really inspires you in your musical work?
Can you say what it is thats really central in your music?
What it is that you most want to convey to an audience?
Do you have a clear concept of who your audience is?
What kind of persona do you want to project as a performer?
Thinking into the future now, how do you imagine youll spend that first year
after you finish your course?
What do you believe are your main strengths in taking up music as a career?
Is there anything that frustrates or limits you?
How well do you handle the technology side of contemporary music?
In what ways will technology be important to your work?
What kind of a support network will you need to set up to give yourself the best
chance of thriving in the industry?
Are you confident you can create that for yourself?
Is there anything about working in the music industry that may be particularly
difficult for you as a woman?
What are the most important things you would consider when you come to making
big decisions about your ongoing career moves?
What would wildly successful mean for you?
What would it take for you to get to that?
How do you think about your future?
eg Do you have long-term plans or not? If so, how clear are these?

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