Philosophize this, Jan Wenner

Jan Wenner joins music industry heavy weight and alleged rapist Neil Portnow in making privileged, entitled and frankly moronic statements that once again expose the music industry’s hostility to women and black people.

Weiner is freshly dropped by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board due to comments he made regarding his upcoming book release where he interviews droll bore Bob Dylan and admitted megalomaniac U2 frontman Bono. The inconspicuously titled book “Masters” features interviews with 7 white men, and when asked about why black and/or women performers are not in his ‘Zeitgeist” he responded by clarifying that;

“When I was referring to the zeitgeist, I was referring to Black performers, not to the female performers, OK? Just to get that accurate. The selection was not a deliberate selection. It was kind of intuitive over the years; it just fell together that way. The people had to meet a couple criteria, but it was just kind of my personal interest and love of them. Insofar as the women, just none of them were as articulate enough on this intellectual level.”

Weiner’s use of the term articulate is a racist dogwhistle, and when given the opportunity to backtrack in the interview, Weiner takes it, but the fact it slipped out is a great example of how dominant groups use language to diminish minorities. Weiner’s belief that women and black artists are unable to philosophize about music is correct to him, which is to say that their philosophies are not ones that Weiner would recognise as valid. Women have this pesky philosophy called feminism and Black people have these idea’s in their heads about double consciousness and critical race theory and honestly, these kinds of philosophical ideas are clearly above Weiner’s station. 

This whole debacle reminds me of Muted Group Theory.

Created by Shirley Ardener and her husband, Muted Group Theory (MGT) is basically saying that since white men dominate culture and therefore language, they have the power of naming. Women and Black people therefore have the difficult task of not only trying to express themselves in a hostile environment but also experience the mind-bending difficulty of expressing themselves using racist and sexist language.

 “The main idea of MGT is that “Language serves its creators better than those in other groups who have to learn to use the language as best they can.”

I decided to compile a list of strategies of resistance as it pertains specifically to the music industry.

Name the silencing factors

Fantastic examples of this are the instagram pages Book More Women and Lineups without Males where music festival posters are reposted to show only the bands with at least 1 woman in them. However there is no better document regarding equity and inclusion in the music industry than the Inclusion Initiative’s annual report on popular music.

Reclaim, elevate and celebrate music by Black Women, White Women and Black Men

(and if that title seems weird and disjointed, that is exactly the point made by Muted Group Theory)

There are literally too many artists here to name, and it would be an insult to even try to name all of the artists deserving of recognition. So I decided to recreate the book cover, here are my 7 “Mistresses” of music (Note: The opposite sex equivalent of Master does not imply someone at the top of their skillset, reinforcing the sexist nature of language and how women and black people struggle to communicate)

My picks for the lead female philosophers in music; Nina Simone, Madonna Ciccone, Aretha Franklin, Carrie Brownstein, Kate Bush & Dionne Warwick.

Create new words for the language system that are inclusive of marginalized groups and gendered words and experiences.

    This is one of the more interesting and fun forms of resistance. The re-imagining of language reminds me of the many different songs that incorporate gibberish lyrically. What exactly do the Spice Girls mean when they want to Zig-a-Zig-ah? I’m also reminded of the Jazz musical element of Scat with its vocal improvisation of phonetic wordlessness, and the haunting glossolalia the Cocteau Twins. I can’t help but wonder if these instances are our muted group consciousness trying to communicate that which we have no words for.

    If you are interested in reading more about sexism in language, I highly recommend

    “A Person Paper on Purity in Language” by Douglas R Hofstader”

    Use media platforms to give voice to these groups.

     Soundgirls – Empowering the next generation of women in Audio.

    Music Production for Women – Encourage and empower more women in the field of music production and technology

    Girls Makes Beats – Empowering the next generation of female DJ’s, producers & engineers

    Black Music Action Coalition – Advocacy organization to address systemic racism within the music business.

    Black Lives in Music – Working towards dismantling structural racism in the industry

    Black Artist Database – Support and buy from Black artists

    Universal Music Group Task force for Meaningful Change – Lots of different initiatives

    Lastly I want to leave you with what I believe to be one of if not the most well written article on this matter;

    Beyond Racism & Misogyny by Kimberle Crenshaw

    Philosophize that, Weiner.

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