The Importance of Music to Girls


Tomorrow is International Women’s Day 2010. It is, according to the event’s website, “a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future”. The day has been celebrated for over a hundred years and is actually a public holiday in many countries, including China, Russia, Bulgaria and Vietnam. It’s not a holiday in Ireland but there are a lot of events taking place to celebrate the day, which you can read about here. The University of Limerick is hosting an International Women’s Day Conference entitled “Women & Recession: Strategies for Survival”

The gap in gender equality in Ireland has narrowed over the course of the last century. In 1918, women were allowed to vote for the first time at that year’s general election. Contance Markievicz was returned as the first female MP but she elected to decline her seat at Westminster. Four years later, the Irish Free State gave the vote to men and women aged 21 and over. In 1990, Mary Robinson was elected the first woman President of Ireland and she was succeeded in 1997 by the present encumbent, Mary McAleese, who is in the final year of her second term as President. In fact, four of the five Presidential candidates that year were female. Nevertheless, the percentage of female representation amongst TDs elected to the current Dáil is only 15%

In 1932, women civil servants and national school teachers were obliged to give up their jobs on marriage. The ban on married women teachers was lifted in 1958, while it took Ireland’s entry to the EEC in 1973 to remove the ban on married women in the public service. The EEC also brought further legislation that saw the introduction of social welfare allowances for single mothers the same year. The Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act (1974) and the Employment Equality Act (1977) made it unlawful for employers to discriminate on the grounds of gender or marital status. 1979 saw contraception allowed for married couples over the age of 18 and maternity protection for pregnant employees arrived two years later. Constitutional amendments to laws governing abortion and divorce failed in the 80s, although the 1996 divorce referendum introduced divorce legislation for the first time. Despite these advances, this recent ESRI report, The Gender Wage Gap in Ireland, highlights that women in Ireland are paid 22% less than men despite the fact that over half of the two million workforce is made up of women. The report concluded, however, that this gap is likely to fall further as women gain higher qualifications in education and increased levels of experience in the workplace

Gender inequality can also be found in the male-dominated music industry. The success of female singers and performers has often depended upon how they look and their sexuality has been used more frequently to sell their records than has been the case with male performers. Also, I’ve got a feeling that recordings by male performers tend to sell more than those by female artists. I’m guessing that this is because men tend to be more obsessive about things like music and spend more on it that women do. I had a look at the most played artists on my last.fm account and found that fewer than 20 of my top 100 are female. I’m afraid that my gender may have something to do with that low percentage. Anyway, here’s a song from each of my twenty most played female singers and bands fronted by women. There is an international flavour to the selection even though the majority of the artists come from the English-speaking world. The exceptions include France Gall and Nouvelle Vague from France, although the latter sings in English, as do Emiliana Torrini and Ane Brun. Sinéad O’Connor mostly sings in English as well but here I’ve included her singing in Irish on Mná na h-Éireann (Women of Ireland). It was written by Seán Ó Riada who based it on a poem by Peadar Ó Dornín. It is a celebration of Irish women and is a fitting tribute to Irish women on International Women’s Day


Low Happening – Howling Bells (Australia)

MIA – Emmy the Great (England/China)

Song for Nico – Marianne Faithfull (England)

Jigsaw Puzzle of Life – Kate & Anna McGarrigle (Canada)

My Brambles – Alela Diane (USA)

Private Lily – Moriarty (France/USA)

Ne Me Quitte Pas – Regina Spektor (Russia/USA)

Seasons in the Sun (Terry Jacks/Jacques Brel cover) – Black Box Recorder (England)

Mna Na hÉireann (by Séan Ó’Riada) – Sinéad O’Connor (Ireland)

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (Bob Dylan cover) – Lisa Hannigan (Ireland)

You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome (Bob Dylan cover) – Madeleine Peyroux (USA)

Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel cover) – Emiliana Torrini (Iceland)

Eighties Fan – Camera Obscura (Scotland)

Indoor Fireworks (Elvis Costello) – Laura Cantrell (USA)

Laisse tomber les filles (by Serge Gainsbourg) – France Gall (France)

Too Drunk To Fuck (Dead Kennedys cover) – Nouvelle Vague (France)

Mama, You Got A Daughter (John Lee Hooker cover) – Cat Power (USA)

True Colors (Cyndi Lauper cover) – Ane Brun (Norway)

Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer cover) – Florence & the Machine (England)

Good Night (Beatles cover) – Sarabeth Tucek (USA)

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