Taking a Bitchfork to Pitchfork

August 25, 2012 | 0

We are the 12%

Pitchfork released its People’s List of the top albums since 1996 this week, and it is chocked fuller o’ white males than the Augusta National. Now, saying that you’re surprised Pitchfork readers like Radiohead is like saying you’re surprised Todd Akin doesn’t have a uterus, but lists like this one still reinforce the notion that indie music—and the street cred that comes with it—is Just For Men.

Here is Pitchfork’s top ten by points distribution, according to the 27,891 readers who voted in the poll:

pie chart of the top ten artists, nine of whom are white and all of whom are male
Hey dudes.

For those of you keeping score at home, every single group member or solo artist in the top ten is male with the exception of the two women in Arcade Fire (thanks Régine and Sarah!), and the overwhelming majority of them are white as well (nice to see you though, Kanye). If we expand our reach to the top 20, well, not much changes. In fact, out of Pitchfork readers’ top 20 picks of the past 15 years, none are by female solo artists and there are just two bands with female members: Arcade Fire and the xx, and both of those bands have more men in them than women.

This isn’t to say that Pitchfork’s readers are all douchebags, or that they have bad taste in music, or that they’re actively misogynistic or something. I happen to like most of the top 20 picks on that list, and chances are a lot of you do too. What this list does do, though, is underscore how heavily male the music industry still skews, especially when it comes to higher-minded “indie” fare. If we look at album sales during this same 15-year period, many more women top the charts, but since they’re pop artists like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Carrie Underwood, they aren’t considered when it comes to lists like this one.

a screen shot from the peoples list that shows the album cover for the strokes is this it
Not a welcoming space for women? Why would you say that?

Of the 27,981 respondents to this survey, just 12% identified themselves as women. Considering that Pitchfork, and music journalism in general, are dominated by men, this is not a shocker. But considering that women make tons of music, lots of it really fucking good, the question remains: Why do we keep seeing dudely lists like this one? Are music fans so stuck in their white male ways that when someone asks them what they’re listening to they STILL default to Radiohead? Or does sexism have nothing to do with it and Radiohead is just THAT good? (Sexism does have something to do with it; Radiohead isn’t that good.)

My theory is that white dudes have dominated the rock and rock criticism scenes for so long that even now, in 2012, when plenty of women and people of color and queer people are making great music, it’s still the white cis dudes that get the attention. Somehow, when a site like Pitchfork asks readers for their favorite albums, all anyone can think of is Radiohead, Wilco, Radiohead, and Radiohead.

We’ve likely all been mansplained too by some rock-loving dude, or felt like we had to bow out of a music conversation with a bunch of hypereducated guys because we couldn’t remember the names of all of the Broken Social Scene side projects (that really happened to me, btw). The music scene as it exists in these spaces isn’t very accepting of women, or feminists, or people who just like what they like but don’t have the liner notes memorized. This Pitchfork list is no exception and no surprise, but it is a sad reminder that 15 years may have passed, but the scene has stayed pretty much the same.

This story by Kelsey Wallace, originally appeared in Bitch Magazine online and is re-printed by permission. 


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