Hall of Fame remains a ‘boys club’

Published 6:00 pm Friday, January 17, 2020

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The newest inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame were announced this week, and six more musical acts will receive the accolades of being considered amongst the best. This year the honorees are Depeche Mode, The Doobie Brothers, Whitney Houston, Nine Inch Nails, The Notorious B.I.G., and T-Rex.

Though I’ve personally never actually heard of the first and last names on that list, I’m not going to sit here and argue about whether any of these candidates are “worthy” of being in the Hall of Fame. The whole thing was established in 1983 to honor people who have been well-known and influential on the music industry. Plenty of musicians have made their mark on the music scene in some way, and so it makes sense that plenty of musicians are added to the collection each year and they are all deserving in some way.

What I take issue with, however, is that there have not been a lot of women receiving this honor over the past 35 years. According to an article from NPR, a researcher crunched the numbers and discovered that, as of 2019, less than 8 percent of the 888 inductees so far are women.

And before anyone wants to chime in to argue that maybe there just aren’t as many talented female musicians taking the stage, think again. Eight percent does not sound even remotely close to a proportionally representative number. It sounds more like they just aren’t looking past what’s right in front of them. (It reminds me of the same dumb arguments about why the NFL only has three African-American head coaches right now. You can’t seriously expect me to believe that there are only three qualified coaches in the entirety of America. It’s not because the talent is lacking…)

Last year, Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks were both inducted in the Hall of Fame, and both pointed out the lack of women among its ranks. Did the voters listen this year? Apparently not, because Whitney Houston is the only woman this time… and hers is a posthumous award since she passed away in 2012.

In the same NPR article I was reading, Craig Werner, a former member of the nominating committee, said in an interview that “the issues are much more what happens to that ballot once it goes to the larger electorate. I think that the electorate makes dumb decisions on a regular basis.”

It’s about 1,000 people who get to vote, and that includes previous inductees who are, as pointed out earlier, mostly men. I can’t say for sure that’s why the demographics are so skewed towards one gender, but I think it’s reasonable to assume it’s at least one factor. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame remains a “boys club” whether the voters are intentionally aware of it or not.

Though with people like Janet Jackson and Stevie Nicks speaking up at their own induction ceremony about the issue, people really ought to be aware of the issue going forward.

I’m not advocating for anything like specific requirements that say a certain number of men and women have to be added each year. Forced diversity isn’t diversity at all. I’m just saying that there are still plenty of lady music-makers out there to be considered, and it shouldn’t be a hard choice to start including more of them.

I’ve written about this same sort of topic in the past, mentioning an art museum trying to increase their collection of works by women artists as well as noting more female representation in football play-by-play coverage. And I don’t think I’ll stop talking about this kind of thing anytime soon because there’s still a long way to go to kick down gender stereotypes that hold women back from accomplishing great things.

But it’s not just myself and other women who need to try to fix this problem. We need more men to step up and help. Because like I mentioned a few paragraphs up: they’re the ones who are doing most of the decision-making.

The old “boys club” should be a thing of the past.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com 252-332-7206.