Play Your Gender shines a light into the deeply rooted misogynist culture that is rampant in the music industry and its effect on the women working in it today – and perhaps in the future if nothing changes. Despite women being some of the highest paid artists around, director/co-writer Stephanie Clattenburg brings to the forefront the people behind the faces of music to show the distinct lack of females within the industry, and how that can affect both those already working in it and those aspiring to enter it.
To this viewer, for a while at least, Play Your Gender seemed to simply outline the problems that many women, unfortunately, face in any profession, without actually going into a huge amount of detail and lacking a “call-to-action”. Issues like not being taken seriously within their role, trying to work while juggling the expectations of having a child, and dealing with sexual advances in the work place are unfortunately as common as they are troubling. However, it soon dawned on me that I was looking at it the wrong way. This documentary can serve as a conversation starter, one to a conversation that needs to be had.
Clattenburg and editor Sarah Byrne do a great job in keeping the conversation specific to the points they are trying to make, bookending points with factual statistics that are then discussed by women and men within the industry who talk about how and why this might be. This provides a profound insight into the experiences that women have experienced in an industry that seems stacked against them from such a young age, and how they are forced to deal with unjust situations and the very knowledge that they are in a male-dominated industry. The implications that Clattenburg uncovers in this film should be worth noting in more than just the music industry. As she peels back the layers of how underrepresented women are, you steadily discover that a lot of the discrimination happens at the lowest level, which may be why so few roles for females are available at the top.
While there are certain women making strides every day, it’s within industries like this that serious change needs to occur in order to achieve some form of equality. As the film suggests, sexism within the music industry is not just a mostly accepted notion, but something that is deeply engrained into the culture of music.
Play Your Gender is a very well put together documentary with a clear message and some profound first-hand accounts of what the music industry is like nowadays. But, again, it’s more than this particular sector. Clattenburg’s passionate doco highlights that this conversation can certainly stretch to other industries where equality is sorely missing. Maybe you can be the one to start a conversation after watching this film?
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10
Screening at the 2017 Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. Details, sessions and tickets HERE.