Björk: “You’re Not Imagining Things. It’s Tough for Women in the Industry”

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I’ve spoken to a number of women that have used their platform to advocate for other females in music; they’ve spoken quite eloquently on these issues. Whenever I explicitly cover sexism, (usually in electronic music) commenters crawl out of the woodwork, explaining that sexism isn’t actually an issue.

Therefore, I keep writing about it.

Enter Björk, who’s just released her new album Vulnicura. The following is a quote from a recent Pitchfork interview

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Pitchfork: When it was originally misreported that Vulnicura was produced by Arca, instead of co-produced by you and Arca, it reminded me of the Joni Mitchell quote from the height of her fame about how whichever man was in the room with her got credit for her genius.

B: Yeah, I didn’t want to talk about that kind of thing for 10 years, but then I thought, “You’re a coward if you don’t stand up. Not for you, but for women. Say something.” So around 2006, I put something on my website where I cleared something up, because it’d been online so many times that it was becoming a fact. It wasn’t just one journalist getting it wrong, everybody was getting it wrong. I’ve done music for, what, 30 years? I’ve been in the studio since I was 11; Alejandro had never done an album when I worked with him.  He wanted to put something on his own Twitter, just to say it’s co-produced.  I said, “No, we’re never going to win this battle. Let’s just leave it.”  But he insisted.  I’ve sometimes thought about releasing a map of all my albums and just making it clear who did what.  But it always comes across as so defensive that, like, it’s pathetic.  I could obviously talk about this for a long time.

Pitchfork: The world has a difficult time with the female auteur.

B: I have nothing against Kanye West.  Help me with this—I’m not dissing him—this is about how people talk about him.  With the last album he did, he got all the best beatmakers on the planet at the time to make beats for him.  A lot of the time, he wasn’t even there.  Yet no one would question his authorship for a second.  If whatever I’m saying to you now helps women, I’m up for saying it.  For example, I did 80% of the beats on Vespertine and it took me three years to work on that album, because it was all microbeats—it was like doing a huge embroidery piece.  Matmos came in the last two weeks and added percussion on top of the songs, but they didn’t do any of the main parts, and they are credited everywhere as having done the whole album.  [Matmos’] Drew [Daniel] is a close friend of mine, and in every single interview he did, he corrected it.  And they don’t even listen to him.  It really is strange.

Pitchfork: How does it make you feel when this happens now?

B: I have to say—I got a feeling I am going to win in the long run, but I want to be part of the zeitgeist, too.  I want to support young girls who are in their 20s now and tell them: You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times.  Girls now are also faced with different problems.  I’ve been guilty of one thing: After being the only girl in bands for 10 years, I learned—the hard way—that if I was going to get my ideas through, I was going to have to pretend that they—men—had the ideas.  I became really good at this and I don’t even notice it myself.  I don’t really have an ego.  I’m not that bothered.  I just want the whole thing to be good.  And I’m not saying one bad thing about the guys who were with me in the bands, because they’re all amazing and creative, and they’re doing incredible things now.  But I come from a generation where that was the only way to get things done.  So I have to play stupid and just do everything with five times the amount of energy, and then it will come through.

When people don’t credit me for the stuff I’ve done, it’s for several reasons. I’m going to get very methodical now! [laughs] One! I learned what a lot of women have to do is make the guys in the room think it was their idea, and then you back them up. Two! I spend 80% of the writing process of my albums on my own. I write the melodies. I’m by the computer. I edit a lot. That for me is very solitary. I don’t want to be photographed when I’m doing that. I don’t invite people around. The 20% of the album process when I bring in the string orchestras, the extras, that’s documented more. That’s the side people see. When I met M.I.A., she was moaning about this, and I told her, “Just photograph yourself in front of the mixing desk in the studio, and people will go, ‘Oh, OK! A woman with a tool, like a man with a guitar.’” Not that I’ve done that much myself, but sometimes you’re better at giving people advice than doing it yourself. I remember seeing a photo of Missy Elliott at the mixing desk in the studio and being like, a-ha!

It’s a lot of what people see. During a show, because there are people onstage doing the other bits, I’m just a singer. For example, I asked Matmos to play all the beats for the Vespertine tour, so maybe that’s kind of understandable that people think they made them. So maybe it’s not all sexist evil. [laughs] But it’s an ongoing battle. I hope it doesn’t come across as too defensive, but it is the truth. I definitely can feel the third or fourth feminist wave in the air, so maybe this is a good time to open that Pandora’s box a little bit and air it out.

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39 Responses

  1. Verne L

    I hate to break it to you, honey, but it is tough out there for everyone. Women, at this time in music, seem to be dominating.

    Reply
    • GGG

      That’s not really her point, honey.

      Plenty of women have always been at the top of the music food chain. She’s saying they often aren’t taken seriously as artists, though, but rather a mouthpiece through which some guy’s or guys’ ideas are sent.

      Reply
      • Verne L

        That is correct, and she just needs to accept it. That’s how she made her career and money.

        Reply
        • GGG

          I mean, looks like the most she plans on “doing” about it is just talking about it in interviews. So she basically has accepted it. Not like she’s organization a march or something.

          Reply
  2. T. Cooke

    I agree with Verne that it’s supremely difficult for most, but calling her “honey” is uncooth. It is a suprise that she hasn’t been properly credited. She shouldn’t have to market herself as a producer to get proper credit. For me, she has been tantamount to the female auteur. Artists, male or female, tend to whine a lot. That should change. Pitchfork seems more like a spoon nowadays. I am an artist. My name is T. Cooke.

    Reply
  3. Name2

    Officially, Bjork pulled a Taylor Swift on this one with the streaming services, but Rhapsody briefly had her new album available for stream/offline download. (It’s gone now.) So I guess I get to listen to the offline download until I have to “phone home” to Rhapsody on my mobile dev. within 30 days.

    Incidentally, the album is amazeballs. Stunning.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Man remember when women couldn’t vote??

    Remember when blacks and other minorities were traded as chattel property??

    Remember when the woman would only stay at home and cook and clean and only the man would go make the money to bring home??

    Remember when chinese and japanese immigrants came here for a better life, building all our railroads??

    Remember when a third of the jews were wiped out due to anti sematism??

    How about those poor girls in Africa being traded as sex slaves by vicious ruthless psycho killing lunatics still going on today right now as we speak??

    Remember when poor innocent civilians had the a-bomb dropped on them while just going about a pure miracle life that came upon them?

    I mean, remember???

    Tis important to keep those people in check at all times, but overall life is pretty darn decent compared to how it used to be, i mean even going back just 100 years things are so much better…

    Remember when medicine and health care was so lacking theyd prescribe fresh air for diseases? Or just straight amputate limbs from minor lacerations? Remember when, when, when…

    Back in the day if you were born into a lower class the only chance you had was die fighting for your freedom or else take the knee and carry a sword around prodded by some ruling class to go debowel and gut other humans, all for a small chunk of bread and some canvass roof over the head…

    Oh man, times are tough eh???

    Small steps girl, small steps, things always get better, it just sadly takes a long time for people to wake up, and sadly, its not only women or blacks that are in this fight, social class division is more a problem where those of us who are not some visible minority really get the screw job, but hey, i feel ya, tough living with those millies in the bank and all that fame and name power to have a better life then 99% of us, but hey, i feel ya!!!

    lol

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      TL/DR of the above post:

      Bjork should be quiet because the world used to be worse.

      Unless you include me in the conversation than it’s an outrage!

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        you missed the part about it being important to keep those people in check, im just making sure people keep things in perspective, as it is important and will help them better formulate their plan of keeping those people in check and so that things get better, just reminding to keep things straight so that people dont react or act in a bad or improper way…

        details people, details, the devil is in the details…

        Reply
        • Anonymous

          You come on here every day yelling about how much you get screwed over. Bjork says it’s hard for a woman, too, and all of a sudden she should put it in perspective? Seems like you’re guilty of exactly what she’s talking about.

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            and as i said above, details… you obviously havent read all my material and posts where i do keep it in perspective, but i do appreciate the continued slandering and attacks, its rather kind and i do honestly and truly appreciate the time you have taken to respond and tell me otherwise…

            yes, im significantly more of a victim then she is, as i outlined above, but at the end of the day and in the big picture of things, im happy to have a nice flush-able toilet with soft toilet paper steps away wihin the heated walled structure i happen to have over my head, a nice comfortable bed and ability and access to many different things… good place im living in, 2nd best jurisdiction in canada, its clean and friendly and lacking much crime, the ocean is near, the women are gorgeous albeit a bit stand offish and isolated and private, mountains nearby, trails and golf courses, good services, nice health care system, decent government, overall a lovely place to be living…

            me bellyaching is me just putting the truth and realities out there, once i feel enough people have heard ill stop, i just want to ensure history gets documented accurately here, mostly i couldnt really care less, i just love having the ability to make music how i want and when i want, all that other stuff is just that other stuff…

            im sick and poor, for the most part, i dont have any debt so that makes me rich in one sense, and i control my time and that makes me super rich, so in perspective all is good, im just tired of some people who dont have it much in perspective… ive been homeless, ive been setup and screwed over, i understand what she says and can sympathize with it, however, at a certain point we have to understand how good we have it, and if you are at the level of a bjork, while good shes fighting the good fight for her species and gender, lets be honest, there are significantly worse things happening out there…

            im a lover, women are my mission, im all in their corner, so dont get it twisted, but lets be honest, ive gotten just reamed in that industry, so the money she has in the bank and the achievements she has and legacy shes built, makes her cries seem a little like a baby in a bib sucking on a pacifier, but hey, all is good, im cool with it….

          • Bandit

            Pseudonym

            You two need to pick one.

            While it is often easy to tell who’s writing, (not gonna say how) Continuously posting as Anonymous is ridiculous

          • Anonymous

            man, after watching that good docu into Manson and “the family” last night, which had a different perspective then ive seen before, and since him and his ilk dont interest me at all other then as a psychological study into how ridiculous some people are, since his dream was to be some famous rockstar and he was rubbing elbows with some big hitters in the business, theres no chance im posting any other way then anon, and to be honest, has me running for the door and likely to try and fully remove myself from the internet completely… the way i am and how my life has worked, i bring people like that around and piss a lot of people off, so no thanks, vrooom and goodbye see ya later…

            i dont need to be interacting with crazies and i certainly dont want to be putting myself in harms way of psycho lunatics like Manson and his ilk, which obviously still exist strongly everywhere, more so in the music and art worlds then possibly anywhere else… i value life, mine especially, and i like to enjoy it, and nothing is worth having to deal with people like him and “the family”, so they can all fight and claw for their little fame dreams and ill happily move on with life far and away from that craziness…

            🙂

          • jw

            Your pseudonym doesn’t have to be your SSN.

            In fact, it probably shouldn’t be for reasons other than your impending run-in with Charles Manson.

            Also, you’re no Dennis Wilson.

          • Anonymous

            How could i be dennis wilson?? i’m me, dennis is dennis, charles was charles, you are you, unless of course you are trying to be someone else, i know i’m not, i’m good as me, which is who i am and im only trying to be a better, smarter, faster, stronger me, not trying to be someone else other then a better version of myself…

            and for the uninitiated, that little blurb is actually meant to help women, especially with their problems in equality, so just remember that when you want to reply and beak me about something…

            thanks for your time and your understanding… cheerio! 🙂

          • Anonymous

            if you think i think too highly of myself, then it’s nothing more then confirmation of my campaign, smoke show, and overall strategy, and that it is working perfectly, so thank-you for that, it can be difficult sometimes so i do sincerely appreciate it…

            im more like brian wilson anyways so your remark isnt even in the proper context, i mean if we have to make comparisons anyways… 😉

    • Anonymous

      A potentially interesting Bjork thread – killed by local insane clown posse.

      a bjork thread about sexism and injustice, fueling discussion about such things…

      the problem with people is they figure they put an article out and everyone will sit around like its show and tell, with our hands in our laps and our attention up front, waiting to be asked to raise hands to ask pre written questions for our guest speaker, all about them and them and only them and them, instead of a higher elevated engaging round table all is equal discussion on the bigger picture, like Gentlemen and Scholars would…

      Instead we are all supposed to just play like kindergarten toddlers, waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do and say, ooh ooh, whens nap time and snack time??

      So is this an actual thread where discussion happen, or is this just a dictatorship tyrannical media outlet and world where we have to talk only about Bjork and only her and everything her?? Why not just scan my fridge and let each industry figure out what supplies are low, ship them directly to my door and deduct my bank account accordingly??

      How about just emailing me the questions and answers you would like me to post so that we can all ensure we keep each and every last discussion perfectly to the direction of whoever it is being posted about??

      If it’s just an advertising and marketing and promotional spot for each artist and business posted, then just eliminate the comment section and we can all come browse around with our brains shut off and our wallets wide open, yes sir no sir how high sir!!!!

      😉

      Reply
    • jw

      I’m not convinced that there is a terribly interesting conversation to be had. Women don’t always get the respect that they deserve in creative industries. This is changing over time, but not without people like Bjork speaking out. On the other hand, some doors are open to women that aren’t open to men. Depending on what the woman’s aspirations are & how they’d like to be perceived, it can be an asset or a liability. It’s not totally fair to consistently present one side of the debate, as DMN tends to do.

      I think that the general perception of her as the creative force of her work versus someone like Kanye is that Kanye works on other folks’ albums, & so he gets a producer reputation. Bjork, on the other hand, so far as I’m aware, usually appears as a guest artist. Or at least that’s the perception, even if she’s contributing production. Like she suggests, it’s hard to know exactly who does what on any record, & most people without access to a first-hand account are just guessing. I don’t think that sort of thing is intentional or necessarily motivated by gender. Also, it’s a numbers game. There aren’t a lot of female producers, so one would jump to the conclusion that Matmos produced the whole record the same way that one would choose a route to a destination based on previous experience with traffic.

      What helps the situation is people like Bjork speaking out about what they aren’t getting credit for. Or more detailed liner notes. More detailed liner notes is always a plus.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        true enough and no doubt…

        i always enjoy hearing people saying what they arent getting credit for, i like transparency and the truth, no matter how much i might not want to hear it…

        what do you think, do you believe Sam Smith actually wrote stay with me, as if you saw, tom petty and bro are now getting 25% for it, they settled out of court it appears, and the pr statement is that sam was unaware…

        isnt it much more plausible hes more like Buble, a great singer who is gay, kind of fit the bill for what universal is pushing and the whole still trendy thing of gayness, and just fronted as a writer to appease whatever campaign they are on about these days??

        otherwise he would be very well aware, so either hes just fronting and lying for his employer, else its a pr statement not wanting to admit they knew damn well what they were doing…

        whereas someone like Kesha got greased with no credit and no royalty for her bit on that flo song however might have helped spurn her career on, so its tough to say in that stupid industry…

        you are right, overall its tough to know, but if you listen to most of kanyes newer work and his latest with robyn, its just not that good anyways so who cares?? … mike dean has said kanye does a lot and seemed pretty open to the process, so its safe to assume that he actually is producing, but a lot of it is definite pr garbage to make their model actor look better to their customer buying cattle… hes also a more stubborn asshole rollin with some g’s, so it could be he pushes or demands where maybe bjork acquiesces more?? give people a fraction of a millimeter and theyll try and take the whole damn thing, so who knows, maybe i do, maybe i dont, maybe you do, maybe you dont, maybe its all just show, all jsut entertainment, all to just be taken as such, maybe, maybe not, who knows… it is c3ertain that everything is all contrived marketing pr garbage, no matter the field or endeavor, and i sure hope as the consumer age dies that so does that crap…

        its pretty tired and played out, but theyll keep on doing it until the last drip is dropped out, as you only need to fool so many people at once, and their core buying and listening base, is all young people or soap opera judge judy watching moms or whatever, who couldnt care less, they just like the poster image so they can dream and escape the doldrums of their miserable lives…

        all women have to do is close their legs and they will rule the World, luckily for us they have chosen to be infantry soldiers in an unbeatable army, as no sane man can resist an army of easy appearing women, it creates peace…

        anyways, its certainly better then talking about old bitter jaded musos whos dreams have been dashed and sit around bashing everyone all the time because they have no woman to beat on at home or whatever…

        the injustices are still happening everywhere at an exorbitant rate and its getting real tired and old, you would have hoped with the explosion of information and knowledge that the human species would have been able to elevate itself to a bit higher level of understanding and get over itself and see the bigger picture of things, but alas, it is what it is…

        and you are right, women do have many advantages, they have a much better chance at success and a living in adult cinematography, whereas almost no men can make a go at it, which is a shame really… it isnt fair, the injustice oh the injustice!!!!!!

        😉

        Reply
      • Nina Ulloa

        “On the other hand, some doors are open to women that aren’t open to men. Depending on what the woman’s aspirations are & how they’d like to be perceived, it can be an asset or a liability. It’s not totally fair to consistently present one side of the debate, as DMN tends to do.”

        So you want me to write about ways men are discriminated against in the music industry?

        Reply
        • GGG

          It’s tough being a white male in the music industry. When I was starting out I lost two admin jobs to hot girls! FIGHT THE POWER!

          Reply
        • jw

          No, but real journalism doesn’t just pick a side & push it, it acknowledges the larger picture. It seems like you’ll publish anything that agrees with your agenda, & what that actually does is undermine the point you’re trying to make, because anyone can do that. It’s tougher to objectively analyze these issues. I could start a blog selectively reporting on how beautiful women have used their gender to reach undeserved stature in the industry. But if you acknowledge both sides, & analyze to what degree being a woman is an asset versus a liability, that’s irrefutable.

          For instance, I would love to know how you think these complaints should be received in light of the “Summer of Ass,” & whether you think that Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, etc, are harming artists like Bjork who are trying to taken seriously as artists, or if they’re exercising their rights as feminists to decide how they want to portray themselves. And what female executives’ roll should be in how female artists are portrayed, & how seriously they should be taken as artists. Clearly, not all women in the music industry are on the same page here. One could probably make the argument that you’re advocating for the minority.

          Reply
          • Anonymous

            This post’s point could have been made with 95% fewer words and 1000% less creepiness.

          • Anonymous

            Please extrapolate on your reasoning and theory into how it could have done as such, perhaps there are more points in there that you have missed due to skimming or lack of proper reading and digesting the information contained therein??? …

            Is it really creepy or is it your perception of it, or rather, incorrect perception of it???

            I’m at the point in life that anyone who thinks a post like that is creepy, is someone with a very troubled past, who was possibly damaged or hurt when they were young or at some point in their lives, or else have certain beliefs, perhaps they are church goers or nuns or something…

            We are born naked and only exist due to sex, yet we shy away from it and get all weirded out by it, why is that?? Perceptions built up over many many years of certain people pushing certain beliefs, laws and overall societal propaganda, entertainment etc.

            When did just plain straight up real truth as it is become creepiness??

            Man, loosen that Chasity belt a few notches already, unbelievable…

          • jw

            Please choose some sort of handle to post as, even if it’s Anonymous1. I can’t write a browser plug-in that ignores your posts if there are multiple people posting as Anonymous.

          • Anonymous

            It’s creepy because it’s you. Reading that with the image of you in your 1998 N’Sync sunglasses in my head just screams some creepy dude who can’t get laid. And reading that post, I think we know why…

          • Anonymous

            wowzers, perhaps you may want to meet me or talk to me directly then off the clearly full on surveiled and tracked internet where im obviously being so punished by a ton of different people and entities…

            im not going to lower myself to your pathetic level and engage in slanderous biff bullying like you people continue to against me for no good reason other then jealousy…

            at least we know how easily duped these people are if that is what someone intends to do, cause you couldnt be more wrong about me…

            i dint ask to be here, i didnt ask to look like this, i didnt ask to be blessed with the gifts i have been blessed with, so oh soooooooo sorry for being me….

            WOW

            it isnt like when i go to buy a pair of sunglasses i look up what nsync wore and make sure not to buy them, i just buy what i like at the time and what looks good on me and that which is a good deal, again, im terribly sorry for not being your vision of me…

            i mean, i am really tired of this serious character defamation yall keep putting upon me… the fact you think im a creep, goes to show exactly why society is so messed up, because i am anything but, quite the opposite actually, so its extremely scary…

            dont yall get it?? im done with music, i wont be doing anything publicly or fame wise, yall won, BACK THE F UP OFF ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            IMMEDIATELY!!!!!

            thanks for your kind understanding…

          • GGG

            I won’t continue where the other guy left off, but you DO choose how to carry yourself on here, and it’s weird at the very least.

          • Anonymous

            GGG, we all do dont we??? Just please remember mine is only due to how others are choosing how to act towards me…

            on here, to me, is the Internet, and the way i carry myself is based upon how it works and how my life goes…

            if you spent any time tracking and surveillance and spying on me over the internet, as so many people do, you will see quite a few different groups and factions of people trolling me and bullying me and threatening me and extorting me, all the time, you can even see it here, some music, some tech, some government, lots of cops at times, some criminals, some kids, some women, some this some that, all over me and at me all the time, for years and years it has happened, so my behavior online is simply due to how i’ve been treated online, its called self defense, protection, which i do with offensive tactics and defensive strategies…

            if you are unaware of my whole life and only just take what you see from a small snapshot of some online postings and possible misinterpretations and misconceptions from my music, then how can you come to any other conclusion then the one you have?? if you chose to know me fully, in the real world, all that has happened to me and better understood the real meaning of my lyrics and artistry and image and of course all that i have done and said, you would certainly get a much better understanding of why i do and say what i do…

            as i’ve said, to me the internet is just another stage where i’m acting and putting on a show, whereupon i intermingle fact and fiction, truth and fallacy, comedy and drama…

            GGG, bud, i assure you, if you met me in the real world in a calm one on one normal type interaction, im sure you would walk away scratching your head confused as to your previous perception of me….

            the internet, sadly, is not the real world, its a blackhole scamsville and super surveillance state, believe me, ive tried the full on the level professional business like thing, it caused me a whole lot of trouble, so im currently engaged in a certain and different strategy, for better or for worse…

          • Anonymous

            That response was directed at a since-deleted post by anon, not you, jw.

          • Bandit

            Ha Ha Ha

            That happened to me also. I responded to some incoherent self-contradictory diatribe of his/hers only to find the rant deleted later in the day

            What a blowhard

      • Name2

        Agreed. I’m definitely up for reading more about Bjork’s execution process. Hostile DMN peanut gallery, moaning about the troubles they’ve seen? Not so much, or at least in an appropriate thread.

        Reply
    • Anonymous

      Thank you for bringing such a deep and complex thought to the discussion then…

      Reply

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