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Are Female Artistes being Systematically Side-lined?

Are the intentions to promote girls’ and women’s issues genuine, or a stance to have access to funding? Image by Unsplash

BY THABANI H. MOYO | @The_CBNews | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | OCT 4, 2021  

Promoting girls and women in the arts sector is key, but how genuine are the efforts being made?

BULAWAYO (The Citizen Bulletin) — In a bid to promote female artistes during the September Arts festivals, there has been an introduction of programs that are skewed towards women issues. Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo even went to the extent of setting aside a day to celebrate and empower women.

Even though girl and women empowerment is a cause for concern, some questions remain unanswered; hence, an interrogation is needed. These include: how much impact have these deliberate moves to focus on promoting women issues made? How much are women willing to take a leading role in the Cultural Creative Industries? Are the intentions to promote girls’ and women’s issues genuine, or is it a stance that most organisations have taken to access funding?

There is a general convergence on the idea that female artistes are at the periphery of the arts, and the past two years have not helped but escalated the situation. The current COVID-19 lockdown situation demands that artistes are present in digital spaces, which are dominated by male artistes. Most of the organisations that offer services to record performances for live streaming are dominated by male artistes. Most of the content streamed live is by male artists. Why is this so? Is it because women are not empowered when it comes to the manipulation of digital technology?

It seems like COVID-19 lockdowns have exposed challenges female artists face, and one of the greatest challenges is access to resources. Lack of resources has affected female artistes as most of them are failing to access digital spaces. Online performances have been dominated by male artistes during live stream shows. Are those providing streaming platforms deliberately shutting out female artistes?

One of the reasons why female artistes remain side-lined is the failure by advocates of women to understand that it takes two to tango; hence there is a need to empower men on women issues. If women are being trampled upon, the perpetrators are men.

To continue with segregator approaches that exclude men in addressing women’s issues is likely to realise little or no impact. Has it ever flashed in the minds of those organising these events that men could be stepping on women due to ignorance? If women are to be visible as taking the lead in the CCIs, we need men who will support them but not compete with them.

There is a need to have deeper interrogation of the problem. The problem could be stemming from historical factors. Women have never been given free spaces to find themselves. Women have always been forced to perceive themselves through patriarchal lenses. The construct of society has left women bruised and failing to have a positive outlook of who they are. It is therefore, paramount that women need help to change the way they think about and perceive themselves.

It is the norm for society to look at women as sexual objects and hence women turn to give back what society expects of them instead of portraying themselves as worthy. The majority of women are therefore satisfied by their current role as being there for men, and this is reflected by our arts landscape where women are there as Eves or to help men achieve their goals.

Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo celebrated the empowerment of women. Image by Intwasa Arts Festival

Female artistes are trivialised and prejudiced in the creative sector. Those who are lucky to make inroads are quickly labelled and their successes viewed as benefits of ‘lap dances.’ This has frustrated most female artists, and many have abandoned the creative sector. The arts sector is a jungle where it’s the survival of the fittest. It is where you eat, or you are eaten, and in most scenarios, females find themselves being ''eaten'' by men who have a privilege and gatekeeping mentality. It is not surprising that most female artists leave the sector due to pressure from their families and husbands. Others bazaba ngumphako wendlela.  

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Men generally have a sense of entitlement and privilege. This has seen women struggling to access resources to assist them in developing their careers. Men turn to treat females as others.  This approach means that less value is put on female artistes. There is a need to change the mindset. Male and female artistes need to understand that they are more alike than different. There is a need to blur the boundaries that society has created around males and females. The systemic and structural erasing of female artistes need to be challenged.   

In conclusion, women in arts in different fields must be empowered. Leadership, activism and mentoring must lead to more constructive collaborations and understanding between male and female artistes.