The grime scene has always been heavily dominated by men, with alpha male ideologies pushing women in the scene to make themselves appear more masculine, both in appearance and performance.
Over time, women have been able to glamorise their image, and they now have a more diverse representation from more androgynous to hyper-feminine.
Women are beginning to carve out a narrative for themselves, pushing back against objectification, colourism and misogyny often found in the scene.
But the problem of male domination in grime persists. Lyrically, men tend not to address women in their challenges. They do not appear to be considered as equal competitors, with many Male MCs using words associated with femininity and homosexuality to insult one another.
Whereas, women are found in larger numbers behind the scenes, working as journalists/writers, PAs, videographers, event’s organisers; they are found in places where their contribution to the scene is more hidden. There are still only a handful of female DJs and presenters.
Grime makes little room for numerous women to have agency or be in leadership roles. It is primarily a space where heterosexual men have power and agency.
The male narrative found in Grime – seeing women as objects and appendages is integral to wider discourses of sexism within the music industry, where women have less agency or autonomy comparatively.
This is often highlighted and foregrounded as a Black music specific problem (e.g. Hip-Hop misogyny). However, this culture runs through the fabric of the music industry, regarding music creation, distribution, and business.
This has recently come to mainstream attention again in the Kesha legal case and #MeToo movement. This is extendable beyond the music industry and is also reflective of the sexism against women prevalent in patriarchal societies.
Women come together to collaborate, paying respect to the women who have gone before, quite possibly owing to an understanding of the small number of women in the industry. Recently, Lioness did a ladies remix of her track DBT which featured female artists addressing issues of colourism and empowering women, particularly black women who are particularly marginalised.
In my own research, i.e. when I personally attended more niche/smaller events, I didn’t feel marginalised or objectified by the men around me, However, I noticed there were few black women like myself, and in some instances, I was the only black female in the room.
This absence mirrors the issues raised in the DBT remix. Evidently, there is a lot more work to be done, for both men and women, but the more that women come together, the more chance we have of thriving in the industry, breaking ground and conventions along the way.
Monique is a Sociologist and an authority on Grime and Politics. She completed her PhD at Warwick University focusing on ‘race’, spirituality, class, gender & music as it relates to #Grime.