Monday, September 9, 2013

Sexism in the music world

In a recent interview (, the world famous conductor Vasily Petrenko made a comment that male conductors are better for orchestras than their female counterparts. It is discouraging to realize that such a dated statement is heard from a respected authority in the music world. The timing was sensitive too, as conductor Marin Alsop was to become the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms in the near future. Petrenko’s attitude is an insult towards the efforts of gender equality and takes a step back in the long progress. Based on these comments, as well as the fact that there are far less top women conductors, parts of the music field seem to be slower in removing the glass ceiling than other professional fields. As a result of this, the development of the field is largely in the hands of men, and lacks women’s contributions. I wonder what opportunities and experiences there would be to discover if women had always been given the same possibilities as men. 

Petrenko’s defense for this statement is not that women conductors cannot reach the same level of expertise as men, but that they are a distraction to the players. In addition, he states that a woman’s family would come in the way of business and personal life. His comments are heavily influenced by the male perspective; it is expected that a woman will have children and be responsible for their upbringing. The notion of erotic distraction is filled with objectification. Don’t men have families too? Can the women in the orchestra not be distracted by an attractive man on the podium? He later claimed to have talked about only the situation in Russia. Nevertheless, women are women everywhere; it is disappointing to see that being confined by old beliefs is still true in 2013.

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