Was the Hottest 100 Of All Time sexist? asks Triple J’s Hack

triple j drum logoA couple of weeks ago, guest Hoyden Orlando asked why Triple J’s first draft of a “potted history of music” failed to showcase significant numbers of women. (The history has since been edited.)

The “Hottest 100 Of All Time” has since aired, and audiences have been shocked to find that only two songs in the top 100 – two! – were sung by women. Only six female-fronted songs made it into the second batch of 100, so it wasn’t as though the men just edged women out in the final vote – women are just overwhelmingly absent. This sort of discrepancy doesn’t happen by accident; we can quibble about the locus of the problem till we’re blue in the face, but it’s a clear sign of entrenched, largely-invisible sexism in action. Quibbling about the locus is pointless because the locus is everywhere. This is the Matrix.

TripleJ afternoon talkback show Hack today called for a bit of feedback on the testostofest finale. It was great to hear people phoning in making intelligent and feminist observations – women and men both.

A couple of folks stood out as particularly unhelpful, of course, too. One bloke phoned in talking about how women just can’t sing with the same emotion as men can, which was an eyeroll moment. And JJJ presenter Zan Rowe was flailingly defensive, taking the “It’s not us, it’s you!” approach and saying over and over and over again that it was “democratic” and not Triple J’s fault, instead of engaging with the issue in a substantive way or taking responsibility for a plan of action.

Listen to the show for yourself in an hour or so if you’re in WA, or wait for the podcast to be up on the Triple J site. The show can now be downloaded (it will be up for a week) at the Hack site.


– Check out the latest buzz on the #hottest100 on Twitter

– Quoth the Raivans: “Hottest 120

– girlie jones: “Hottest 100 and Sexism

– Fuck Politeness: “Hi, we’re women, we make up OVER half the population

– Larvatus Prodeo: “JJJ Hottest 100: Women free edition

– a shiny new coin: “to have a voice

– Articulate: “Why are the hottest artists male?

– Lip Magazine: “hottest 100 of all time a “cock forest”

– Godard’s Letterboxes: “Hottest (white male) 100

– ONTD Australia: “Triple J Hottest 100 of all time…

– LiveNews: “All male artists in Triple J’s Hottest 100 Of All Time countdown

dogpossum: “jjj’s hottest 100: where was Lil Armstrong?!

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. Would it be ok to link to an alternative ‘best of’ poll I’m running on my livejournal?

  2. I certainly like the sound of an alternative ‘alternative’.
    I liked the marketing guy on Hack this afternoon who observed that it looks clear that Triple J’s demographic is waaaay less diverse and, let’s face it, less cool than they like to think.

  3. Please do purrdence, having read the comments over at LP I’m about an inch away from poking my own eye out with a fork – I couldn’t play Helen’s suggested drinking game as I have a child in the house and I don’t think he needs to witness his mother have her stomach pumped.

  4. less cool than they like to think

    That was comically harsh, orlando (quoting 3xJ’s marketing fellow). First I laughed, then I frowned, then I just got a bit sad inside, and now I’m laughing again at my own misery. Ten points for kicking the dag!
    Thinking about it as a democratic problem, in one respect, triple J can’t be faulted for the bigotries of the electorate, and Rowe’s right to disclaim responsibility for listeners’ voting behaviour. A fraction of them would have gone to the website to see the suggestions, and paraphrasing Mary on the other thread, it’s a more depressing thing when a majority opinion simply democratically reflects a powerful ideology. This just gives one more reason to trust the electorate less with matters of art and substance, IMHCEO (that’s humble crypto-elitist opinion).
    Thinking about it as a new media phenomenon, there ought to be huge credit given to feminist and music blogs for calling the station on the polling. Hooray to bloggers, and hooray to orlando here.

  5. Hm. I think there’s a missing forward-slash somewhere, sorry mods.
    [Not any more! Can I put in a plug for the Text Formatting Toolbar? ~L]

  6. http://purrdence.livejournal.com/370669.html

    Alternative Poll Here. Open until the end of July.
    If you can post in the poll proper, just leave your list in the comments.
    Cheers 🙂

  7. I think there were some serious practical issues with the poll – it started out with no “suggestions” list, voters had to just dream up their 10 songs. This was obviously unpopular because after a week or so they provided a long list of songs you might like to vote for, which was simply an unedited dump of everything that had been voted for up until that point. It doesn’t take a genius to see the flaw in that plan.
    It is a seriously hard job to nominate your favourite 10 songs of all time. People are going to look all over the place for inspiration. For example, does anyone really think Michael Jackson would have done so well a month earlier? As a result, Triple J should have been aware of the massive influence of anything they put on the website, in that list of options, on air as memory joggers and listed as other artist’s top 10’s.
    I completely wimped out and failed to vote myself, but the standout gender bias to me was Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah – KD Lang’s is SO much better, in my not-at-all-humble opinion. Of course, individual songs mean nothing, and no doubt that particular choice reflect Triple J’s obsession with Jeff Buckley much more than sexism. However, it’s the trend that tells, and in the all the songs I heard proposed and mentioned, there actually wasn’t a female artist that was presented to me that I seriously considered – possibly there just wasn’t one at all. That’s what Triple J had control over, and that’s where they failed.

  8. There were some annoying things about the conversation on Hack. One thing that really got to me was that people kept saying ‘there’s a big question mark over why’. Actually, there’s not. As numerous people have pointed out, music made by women is not considered ‘greatest’ or ‘hottest’ material. But the thing that really bugs me is that people ignored the point made by the woman who’d done research into grunge and riot grrl music. She pointed out that at the time women were acclaimed, alongside the male artists. But slowly, as time passed, only the men of grunge are remembered as really having made grunge what it is; which also makes it possible to continually claim that women are ‘breaking into’ rock music, when actually there’s a substantial history. This demonstrates pretty clearly that it’s got fuck all to do with the ‘quality’ of the music (as if such things were not already gendered, and yes, dear arsehole-who-rang-in, there are indeed ‘big emotions’ other than anger, and actually women have done pretty fucking well at that anyway, having had good cause), and way more to do with how we make our histories. And in that, I think JJJ really needs to think about its role.
    Yes, apparently democratic. Except that to behave as if JJJ were not playing an educative role in its audiences’ musical appreciation, which shapes the exercise of that ‘democracy’, is really very odd. The average age, apparently, of voters was 21. So let’s see, where do they source their sense of music that ‘passes the test of time,’ of ‘classics’?? Well, from music that has continued to be played. I would not be at all surprised to find that the percentage of low-rotation, older songs by men weighed much higher than those of women; and in fact, I suspect that most of the songs listed have, at some point, been played, and referenced, and called ‘classic’. And of course, things like ‘Imagine’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ are referred to all over the place (I’m thinking of the Stairway references in Wayne’s World, or Teen Spirit referenced in Moulin Rouge, or the soundtracks of nostalgia movies, for example) as classics. Where’s the references in general pop culture to Bikini Kill, or Hole, or Patti Smith, or any of the dozens of others mentioned on the other thread? Nada. Not to mention the freaking suggestion lists. So yeah, Zan Rowe can claim it’s all the audience’s fault, and various others can say ‘there’s a big question mark’ over the why but it’s pretty fucking clear. The way we tell history builds the present, and that makes particular futures possible in turn. JJJ needs to ask itself what future it wants for itself, and realise that its role in creating gender balance in music extends beyond having contemporary women artists represented, and into rewriting not just music history, but how music history is done. Grr. Sorry. You all know this. I’m just ranty.

  9. Also, what is with the drastic overrepresentation of Radiohead? They must have become one of those bands that current angsty teens ‘discover’ and feel ‘speaks to them’ or something.

  10. @WP – I think it has to do with Radiohead being one of the bands over-represented in the influences artists report – much like the Pixies. They are widely regarded as having critical acclaim without being “mainstream”, hence much muso kudos for liking them. Do I sound cynical? Bands don’t list Bette Midler or Janis Ian or even Michael Jackson as their influences (at least not the ones Triple J plays), but it’s hard to imagine that none of them were never influenced by some “daggy” artists.
    In short, peer pressure.

  11. WP, that’s an excellent point about the low-rotation, older songs. I know I’ve heard JJJ play Nirvana recently, but do they still play Hole? I wonder if they have any stats.
    And I wish I could say to Zan: it’s not “democratic” when you ask four women, two groups with women in them, and 27 men for their opinion.

  12. Ariane, thank you for saying that about the kd lang version of Hallelujah. It’s my favourite song of all time, and I favour the original Cohen version second of all, and yet everyone everywhere is all about the Buckley version. I found the kd lang one by accident, after having it recommended by a friend, and I have never, ever, heard it played on air. Ever. The Buckley version, on the other hand, wasn’t it a theme song to a popular series once? As well as being played on JJJ, Rage and the like regularly?
    But no, of course it’s totally democratic and unbiased. We should be able to choose our favourite songs by women even if we don’t know they exist, having never heard them played on air. Obviously.

  13. Something I observed personally which strikes me as significant, but I’m not sure how: when ranting about this to friends, many didn’t recognise the names of female artists I threw out there – PJ, Tori, Blondie, Kate Bush, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday (I know right?), just to name a few. But when I hummed the chorus of a couple of their “hits”, like Cornflake Girl or Wuthering Heights or Sinnerman, the response was nearly unanimous: “Oh yeah! THAT song! That’s awesome!”
    Did anyone else have this experience? Is this something to do with name recognition maybe not being as strong with female artists? Like most people can straightaway tell you who sung Karma Police, but not This Mess We’re In (even though the lead vocalist on the first did guest vocals on the second)? I’d be really interested to hear if anyone noticed the same thing.
    Also this article is interesting,
    and if you click through to J Play the ‘Most Played’ lists are interesting:
    Sorry for the dodgy linkage – I’m not sure what HTML to use? :oS

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