Recently, female composers have been publicly calling for an end to sexist practices and pervasive sexual harassment within the music industry. Gibbs Law Group is investigating reports of female composers facing harassment, discrimination, or predatory behavior.
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#MeToo: Female composers allege harassment and discrimination in “an industry that has a culture that's for men and by men”
In a December 10, 2021 article, The Hollywood Reporter details the experiences of various female composers who describe harmful misconduct ranging from discriminatory comments to blatant sexual harassment. The article contends that while the #MeToo movement swept the nation and uncovered horrific instances of sexual harassment and abuse across industries, female composers for film, TV and other media were left behind.
According to Hollywood Reporter, several female composers said some “high-profile” male composers have committed sexual harassment and assault multiple times, but the women weren’t comfortable going on the record, citing fears of damage to their careers. “Nobody feels comfortable coming out,” a female music executive explains to Hollywood Reporter, “because it’s career-destroying.”
One woman in the article described an instance of a male composer reaching out unsolicited with an offer to mentor her, despite being only two years her senior. He later followed up with a shirtless picture, according to Hollywood Reporter. In other situations, she reports facing demeaning comments from fellow composers about how her looks make her better suited for roles like acting rather than composing: “You’re so exotic looking…you’d be perfect as a love interest or a prostitute,” she recounted to Hollywood Reporter. Another woman reported a peer making her fold his pants for him, saying simply, “You’re a woman.”
Female composers have attributed the issue of harassment and discrimination as the result of a variety of factors, including “the lack of a union for composers in the U.S., reliance on a largely uncredited freelance workforce, and a historically male-dominated music industry.” One of the composers interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter explains how without a union or any kind of Human Resources department, there is no official body for promoting equity and addressing issues within the industry. As most composers do freelance work, job opportunities depend a lot on individual composers’ ability to build relationships. And the field of composing is still extremely male-dominated: USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reports that across all composers for the top-grossing movies between 2007 and 2019, only 1.7% were women.
Female Composers Taking Action towards Equity
According to the Hollywood Reporter, some women have come together to protest the treatment of female composers in the industry. In fall 2020, composer Nomi Abadi founded the Female Composer Safety League. The group, described by Abadi as “survivor-centered”, now has more than 200 members who network, share advice, and participate in weekly online meetings. The group has recently been campaigning for more urgency in response to female composers’ cases by the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
Additionally, the Alliance for Women Film Composers (AWFC) was founded in 2014 by Laura Karpman, Miriam Cutler, Lolita Ritmanis and Chandler Poling. The organization’s mission is to raise visibility and create opportunity for female composers, and now has over 550 active members.
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