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Women in country or the lack thereof, part two

Jeffrey Remz  |  June 5, 2015

Debate about the role of women in country music, or the lack thereof, continues.

The same radio consultant who made headlines last week by saying that radio stations ought to get rid of female artists for the sake of ratings, labeled the music industry this week as "sexist."

Keith Hill came under fire for not only saying women ought not be played for the sake of ratings, but also labeling them as the "tomatoes" in the salad compared to male artists, who are the "lettuce." My view has not changed - fresh tomatoes taste a helluva lot better than lettuce.

Singers, including Miranda Lambert and Martina McBride, made it clear they weren't too thrilled with the comments. Of course not. The comments created a firestorm on social media among other places.

Hill's statements also made it clear that females are in the hole when it comes to country. They just don't get much airplay. A look at yesterday's Billboard Hot Country Songs chart reveals that the only females among the top 25 songs were from Kelsea Ballerini with "Love Me Like You Boy Mean" and Carrie Underwood with "Little Toy Guns."

A few women, Grace Potter, who isn't country, and Catherine Dunn, charted by playing supporting roles to Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw respectively. Little Big Town, which is number one with "Girl Crush," of course, is half-female.

In a follow-up story at Country Aircheck, Hill said, "I'm not going to make any apology for using the tomato analogy, as some have counseled me. What I want is to understand why they are so angry. And it's because they think we (as an industry) are sexist. And you know what, we are."

"Well, it's bias, but not by conscious thought," he said. "No one says, 'We dislike women' or sets out to hold them back. But I do understand their perception that I am unfair and the industry is unfair."

"God populated the planet with just as many women as men," he said. "We live in America, and we want equality - certainly in opportunity even if we don't expect it in the outcomes. Unfortunately, country radio and the record business appears to be the most sexist business on planet earth, but it's not by willful, malicious intent."

"It certainly looks like we make decisions based on the sex of the person who is singing, but we don't. The results appear to be incredibly sexist, but it is bias based on consumer behavior, and it's very strong."

Hill is saying, in effect, that the market drives the decision on who and what to play. I would argue, perhaps naively, in this dollar driven, not artistic-focused industry whatever happened to a radio station sticking its neck out to support music they believe in?

Music is a part of our culture, but increasingly - and not just in country - it has become more business than art. Plain and simple, female artists are and should be part of the equation. I find it hard to believe that there aren't able female country artists out there. A few who are - Brandy Clark and Kacey Musgraves - get deserved acclaim, but don't get airplay.

Sad, but there seemingly hasn't been a lot of reaction to Hill's latest comment of admitted sexism. I don't expect Music Row to stand up and be counted, but not do they seem to refute the comments.

Here's hoping for better times for the women of country, a rare breed these days.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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