Panel: Sounding Out Genders
Feminist and gender studies in music began much later than similar discussions in other disciplines. Susan McClary, who authored one of the first texts to systematically explore the intersections of gender, music and sexuality – and this text was published in 1991 – says that for a woman musicologist to discuss these issues prior to the late ’80s would have been professional suicide, because there were so few women musicologists at that time that they were granted, in her words, only ‘tentative toe-holds’. Indeed, prior to McClary’s 1991 publication, it was a book authored by someone who identified herself as a literary critic that perhaps had most influence on many feminist musicians: Opera, Or the Undoing of Women, published in France in 1979, translated into English in 1988, and written by Catherine Clement.
What is it about music that has kept it so resistant to feminist and gender studies? Several theorists point to music’s association with the body and with subjectivity. Music makes us dance, we listen to it for sensuous pleasure. It is the least visual of the arts-an audience can have a direct bodily experience of music with our eyes closed. Music moves through us without
boundaries: it cannot be framed, pinned down, or shut out by ears that can only be open. Music is linked to the rhythms of the body, of sexuality. Because of its ephemerality and visceral power, music has been classified as dangerous
- Andra McCartney (Canada) has been a Ph.D. student in the York University (Toronto) Graduate Programme in Music since 1994. She received an M.A. in 1990 in adult education from St. Francis Xavier University and a B.A. honours from Trent University in 1983.
Full text p.193-195