Working Against the Silencing of Women Sound Artists: Wikipedia Editing

My pet project for the last few months has been editing the List of Female Electronic Musicians on the English Wikipedia site. It’s been somewhat of an uphill battle and there was definitely a learning curve. I found it disheartening to see so few names on the list, especially when I was first starting in synthesis and electronics. As I’ve gotten deeper into the world of music technology and sound art, I’ve discovered that the lack of female representation in the field isn’t necessarily due to the lack of artists. There are lists of female artists and composers scattered around the internet, but they are harder to find than the wiki page (I’ve linked a few of my favorite articles and lists at the bottom of this post).It’s not unusual to be the only woman in the room in audio or music technology, which can be a very discouraging experience. Having role models working in the genres and fields of your interest is a crucial part of breaking down the social barriers preventing women, trans, and gender variant individuals from being involved in music technology and media.

This issue is very important to me because I’ve often been the only woman in the room. The most frustrating part of this experience for me has been that I am seemingly not really allowed to talk about it. Editing the wiki page felt complicated and sort of wrong on some level because I felt like I was adding to the “female” as a genre problem. The playing field is not yet level but there is resistance to being othered or classified by gender. But I thought back to those times when I was alone and surrounded by men, and I thought of all the women I know who are afraid to start or who have been pushed away from music technology because of the constant micro-aggressions encountered in the process of working. I wanted people to have access to role models, because I remembered how important finding positive role models was for me when I felt isolated in my work.

I am currently enrolled in the MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media at Mills College, while working part time as a Music Lab Technician at a school in the city. Mills College’s Undergraduate programs are all female/trans/gender neutral, and the Graduate programs are open to all genders. About 8-10 people are admitted to the EMRM MFA every year, and I am currently one of three women. I am the only female lab tech in my department at work. All of this is to say, that despite my constant curiosity and enthusiasm for music technology and sound, I often feel isolated and frustrated. I know for certain that I am not alone in this feeling.

So the Wikipedia page was just like a kick to the gut every time I looked at it, and I was determined to change that. When I started editing there was barely a page worth of artists, and now there’s over 200. I put out a call to a few groups on Facebook to add artists they saw missing too. Along the way there have been a couple of admins that have fought against the changes made to the page, removing artists on the grounds that they were “non-notable” and adding a “notability” clause in the header. This seems innocent enough at face value, but their conditions for notability were seemingly impossible to attain and very vaguely defined. For instance, if the individual in question was in a “notable” band but did not possess a page of their own, they were removed. Even artists WITH pages were removed  (I had to add Clara Rockmore and Ruth White about 4 times). I started making pages for artists who did not have their own and adding them. I was adamant about maintaining the page and re-adding artists for weeks on end. Eventually things started to stick.

This is just the beginning. More artists need pages created for them so they can be amended to the list, and there are certainly artists I don’t know about or have overlooked (I’m only one human). If you can think of any other artists to add, I encourage you to do, and to make pages for artists as well. I only hope that this page will bring attention to the hard work of oft overlooked artists while providing a glimmer of hope to individuals just getting started (or struggling along the way).

Here are some of my favorite sites and lists highlighting the work of female artists: