© Katrine Wallevik
Peer-reviewed article

Gender Matters

The Significance of Gender/ing in P3´s Music Radio Production
2. Juni 2022
Fokus: Sounding Women's Work II
  DOI https://doi.org/10.48233/SEISMOGRAF2805


This article gives anthropological insight into how gender/ing practices mattered in P3´s organization of music production in the mid 2010s. Through field reports and interviews with actors in the field the article reports from a P3 production environment where gender/ing stereotypical cultural (music) models and everyday enacted sexism weaved in and out of unfortunate gendered alliances between the listeners, the hosts and a ‘blind’ management, and could be seen, at its best, to be sustaining status-quo when it came to gender representation in music (and inequality), and, at its worst, to be strengthening gendered un-equality. While trying to pin out some attention points to be aware of in everyday sexism in environments of music production, the article explores the potentials of combining an Anthropology of Learning with an Ethnomusicology of Affect in order to investigate processes of what anthropologist Cathrine Hasse calls for the ‘centrifugal and centripetal forces’ of ‘cultural models’ in work environments, which means, in this particular case, the inclusion and exclusion of gendered artefacts, bodies and things in the spaces of P3´s music production.

The Significance of Gender/ing in the P3 Radio Production

In this sense, to know the significance of something is to know how and why it matters, where ‘to matter’ means at once ‘to materialize’ and ‘to mean’. (Butler, 2011 [1993], p. 7)

On the 8th of February 2021 the Danish newspaper Politiken brought an article with the headline »DR acknowledges: Female talents find it too hard to get on the air,« followed by the sub-headline, »The vast majority of the music on your radio is played by and written by men. DR maintains that this has so far been due to less music being released by women. But at the same time DR acknowledges a blind spot« (Wind-Friis, 2021).1

DR2  (Danmarks Radio/Danish Broadcasting Corporation) is – for those not familiar with Danish media infrastructures – Denmark´s state subsidized Public Service institution that since the mid 1920s has provided Denmark with media content of all kinds. In the mid-2010s I carried out extensive anthropological fieldwork in a smaller fraction of DR by engaging with the daily production of the popular music mainstream channel P3.3 P3 is, within DR, a public service popular mainstream music radio channel, equivalent to BBC’s Radio 1. P3 broadcasts popular music with the aim of reaching young audiences (Krogh, 2018, p. 1), and in the mid-2010s the channel was the biggest radio channel in Denmark with approximately 1.6 million weekly listeners.

Throughout many years DR has dismissed repeated accusations about lack of gender diversity in their popular music programming. But recently, as the above-described newspaper article implies, there have been new tidings coming out from the Danish public service institution. This article reflects on matters of gender/ing4 and the significance of gendered infrastructures and politics within work environments of DR´s popular music radio station P3. Based on empirical material from my fieldwork, what follows is an anthropologically grounded reflection on what DR in the above quote refers to as a ‘blind spot’ concerning the public service corporations’ trouble with gendered dynamics and gender representation in their popular music representation. Taking outset in musicologist Susan McClary’s (ethno)musicological premise that ‘music is always dependent on the conferring of social meaning’ and that ‘the study of signification in music cannot be undertaken in isolation from the human context that create, transmit, and respond to it’ (McClary, 1992, 21), I will – from an ethnographic perspective – look at some of the social dynamics within the work infrastructure when the P3 radio content in mid-2010s was produced on a daily basis and consider an omnipresent gender/ing in the media and music production culture as the main reason for some of the challenges with gender equality that DR face. Inspired by McClary’s (1991) proposal of a feminist critique in musicology, I raise questions concerning the significance of gender/ing practices in the work environment I took part in as part of my fieldwork: What kind of gender/ing practices were experienced in the production of music on P3? How and where did gender/ing practice appear? Why was it happening, and how can such gender/ing practices of music production be understood historically and intentionally? And finally, as McClary proposes: »whose interest is being served by the public deployment of such devices« (McClary, 1991, p. 23)?  

The following article expands upon these questions, by considering the significance of gender/ing on different levels in the P3 organization and how gender was enacted in the mesh of artefacts (humans, bodies, feelings, things etc.) that made up the production space on DR´s P3. By doing so, I will discuss how ideas of gender seemed to matter in those particular environments, where matter – aligned with the introductory Butler quote – means »at once ‘to materialize’ and ‘to mean’« (Butler, 2011 [1993], p. 7).

© Katrine Wallevik
© Katrine Wallevik

An Ethnomusicology of Affect: Touching on Things, Bodies and Affects in Music Production Spaces

The Danish labor sociologist Lotte Bloksgaard sees ‘gendering processes’ (Bloksgaard 2011, p. 1) and the ‘gendering of work tasks’ (2011, p. 17) as one of the main causes for a highly gender segregated Danish labor market. In her 2011 article she points towards how governing »norms about what is appropriate work for women and men respectively« have impact on »the way in which men and women are placed in the labor market and in organizations« (2011, p. 8). 

Cathrine Hasse, Danish professor of culture, technology and anthropology of learning has studied what she calls, the »centrifugal and centripetal forces« of »cultural models« in work environments in order to understand the processes of inclusion and exclusion of »artefacts«5 in cultures at work (Hasse, 2015, p. 294). In this article I specifically reflect on processes of inclusion and exclusion of perceived ‘female’ and ‘male’ matter in the work environment at P3. 

Like Bloksgaard uses the notion of the gendering processes, I wish to stress the processual nature of becoming a gender when (intra-)acting among more or less gender/ing artefacts or things in more or less gender/ing sociality.6 Following this theoretical line, my aim is to reflect on how cultural models of gender, how gendered bodies and things in the work environments, and how processes of gendering in situations can be seen to direct bodies and things in the workspaces of producing popular mainstream music radio on P3 in the mid 2010s.

Besides looking at learning processes and at centrifugal and centripetal forces around gender/ing cultural models, I aim to highlight aspects of emotions/affects and the body and explore how an anthropology of emotion or affects within ethnomusicology can be helpful when dealing with questions of gender/ing and music in everyday (work) practices. Music anthropologist Ruth Finnegan speaks of an anthropology of emotions that welcomes a »multiplicity of musical experiencings, interfused overlapping with thoughts, embodied affect, and personal creativity« (Finnegan, 2003, 191). Likewise, Danish culture studies scholar Devika Sharma argues, how we should not think of feelings as psychological dispositions. On the contrary, feelings make (individual and collective) surfaces appear, make them to be touched upon, and make them materialize (Sharma, 2019, 530). Sharma refers to feminist scholar Sara Ahmed, who in her book The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2014) writes how feelings are performative:   

It is through the intensification of pain sensations that bodies and worlds materialize and take shape, or that the effect of boundary, surface and fixity is produced […] It is through the recognition or interpretation of sensations, which are responses to the impressions of objects and others, that bodily surfaces take shape. (Ahmed, 2014, 25-26)

While walking around P3 when doing fieldwork, the work environment materialized in front of me as I encountered and touched upon many objects—a lot of matter, so to speak. I touched, felt, smelled, sensed, read, heard, tasted, and moved among matter and objects that surrounded me when treading my path in the field. I was touched, too, as my own body-matter blushed, wondered, laughed, shivered and even cried in relation to things that mattered around me in the P3 environment. Likewise, I saw my collaborators and conversation partners being touched by and touching the environment they acted in and accounted for. 

This article is a product of such embodied experiences. While being in the field, I noticed how my »developmentally embodied responsivenes« (Ingold 2011, 64-65) directed my attention and sensitivity towards certain aspects of the field,7 while most certainly (unfortunately) being blind for other important issues such as for instance matters of racialization.8 What I saw in the field, and my particular sensitivity towards gender/ing matters, was for sure related to my own embodied experiences, my particular embodied knowledge. At the same time, however, this sensitivity towards gender/ing refers to structural matters that has been highlighted through the global MeToo movement the past years. Hopefully, the following field story from DR´s P3 will help strengthen our – regardless of our gender identification – ability to see, and strengthen our language to talk about ´how gender matters?‘. 

That said, I like to stress that since DR is a huge organization with multiple fractions, with different work collectives, subsections and different cultures at work, I do not propose any general conclusions with this article. Rather, the following is an anthropological imprint situated (by me) in time (mid 2010s) and place (P3´s production section). However, I do hope for the article to be reflexive and open-ended, and that such reflections might contribute to DR´s intra-organizational diversity work and people that have interest in organizations and gender diversity. 

I begin where my PhD dissertation (Wallevik, 2019) ended, namely with testimonies of common everyday experiences of sexism on the floor working as a female identified human when learning to become a host apprentice on DR´s P3. The main part of this article pictures how a young female identified host apprentice experienced, on a daily basis, gender/ing dynamics in the workplace while working in the popular music mainstream radio production space. Then, I look at some of the reasonings and rationales that were implied in these testimonies in order for all employees in the everyday workflow to cope with and to some extend allow sexist behavior in everyday work situations around the production of the mainstream music radio channel. Following, I look into considerations about gender/ing among people in management positions in the music planning: I seek to pin out some of the reasonings and rationales, and the truth-making that such narratives bear witness of. This will finally point some arrows into the DR media research department and ideas of rationalization in Danish Public Service.

Learning to become a Music Radio Host: The doings of Bodies, Music and Gender in Practice

In her Anthropology of Learning (2015), Cathrine Hasse, uses the notion of ‘cultural models’ as the invisible models through which we learn to think and point out directions for our actions in practices (2011, 96). Cultural models »may be stated as organized expectations (formed by social designation) of how employees should behave at work and thus be connected with a local public discourse that ascribes meaning to actions and physical material artefacts« (Hasse, 2015, p. 241). Cultural models are the (not always outspoken) ´given´ truths, the common agreements, the corporate thinking that – together with many other artefacts – help direct actions in specific spaces. Hasse continues:

People learn to share more or less collective wholes of cultural connections through what I have called ‘cultural learning processes’. Cultural learning processes align artefacts as relata-within-phenomena. Artefacts to some extent become collectively shared anchors that nest a force of cultural thinking and vectors of movement with material surroundings (Hasse, 2015, p. 212)

As part of my fieldwork in DR´s P3 section I followed two young host-talents, Kirsten and Jens.9 They were both apprentices on the host-talent program.10  I met them in the first half of their apprenticeship when they were in the process of learning to become a part of the corporation as host talents. 

Kirsten and Jens were in the middle of their learning processes where they, to use Hasse’s frasing, ‘aligned artefacts’ in the environment on P3. Those artefacts were aligned in practice – according to Hasse and with a nod to posthumanist Karen Barad – as ‘relata-within-phenomena’, meaning that ontologies (or what Barad calls for onto-epistemology), the commonly generated ´truths´ emerged in and through situations and relating. In the following we will see how cultural models around for instance the body, around music, and around female identified radio hosts were ‘intra-acted’ (Barad, 2003)11 and hence, in situ, how those cultural models emerged as ‘collectively shared anchors’ and nested a force of cultural thinking, as Hasse described above. 

Bodies in Public/Work Space

Kirsten was, when I met her, 21 years old. When I told her in our first conversation, that I would like to follow both her and Jens in order to get both a male and a female identified perspective of entering and working on P3, she responded, »Well, I am sure those will be two quite different accounts!« (Kirsten, Interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed). 

In order to see how and why she felt this, I will dive in to at conversation with the host-apprentices Kirsten and Jens and their talent school ´headmaster´ (and teacher) Lotta. Over lunch one day we talked about the cameras in the studio and how it might or might not affect the behavior of the hosts:

Jens begins: «Maybe in the beginning you are a little over-focused on them. Then you slightly forget about them, but I am convinced that it changes the way you act on a fundamental level.« […] I ask Kirsten if she thinks the cameras affects her behavior. She says, »Yes—it didn’t in the beginning, but when the listeners, mostly men, started sending pictures of me via text message, I started to think about it a lot. If my hoodie was a little skewed, they commented on it, and so on.« I ask if she experienced that much. She tells me, »Yes, so many [listeners] comment on my appearance and my gender.« (Kirsten Fieldnotes, DR Cafeteria, date disclosed)

Kirsten had the experience of being valued according to her look/appearance and her gender, as she got a lot of (unwanted) gender/ing attention from the (primarily male) listeners. As we continued to discuss the subject over lunch, Kirsten explained how she felt a little double about the gender-related attention, and the discrepancies in trying to make serious music communication and then being met with gender/ing attention in response: 

Kirsten continues: »The other day I came on, just for a short comment, to do a recommendation for Roskilde Festival... I recommended Joy Division... then someone commented right away, ‘That girl looked nice.’ ‘Can we get her on again?’ ‘More of her!’ And I was only on for two seconds. But then sometimes it is really rough responses that come from the listeners. [...] One wrote, after a serious comment about some music, ‘Does she also have tits?’ We all laugh at the table, in a sort of tragicomic atmosphere. Lotta, the headmaster, says that you get trained as a woman to shrug off those comments and just laugh at them, but sometimes what they write »is just deeply gross and hurting.« Jens tells us that he does not receive such comments. (Kirsten Fieldnotes, DR cafeteria, date disclosed)

It was not only from the P3 listeners that Kirsten was met with sexist and gendering responses in her attempts to be a professional music radio host. In another (private) conversation Kirsten told about her first really engagement as a host talent apprentice in an all-male editorial production team:

There was a pretty tense atmosphere in the production team from the beginning. And at the same time I just think, when I arrived, then it really culminated in bad vibes [between the others], and then... then it was the worst time to get a girl into the group. And then a girl who was even supposed to be funny! There was absolutely no room and time for that! I really experienced quite a great deal of, you know, light sexual harassment and discrimination. Every time I came up with an idea, they said it was a little better if it was the journalist intern, Nils, who performed it on air, »because he was a boy.« They said it straight out! Then it was just a little funnier, they argued—also because it “primarily was a male program,” as they said, and it was primarily the male listeners who were active. So, uh, maybe I »could give birth to a baby for the program (ha ha)«—or I »could go on a lot of dates (ha ha ha)« and things like that. (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed)

Kirsten (and her fellow female identified hosts) felt in the situations above how she emerged primarily as a female body and secondary as a learning professional radio hosts in these settings. It seemed to be a commonly accepted pattern of behavior when the (male) listeners and colleagues gave sexist, gender stereotyping and sometimes »deeply gross and hurting« feedback to the female employees in the corporation. Furthermore, the female employees were expected or even corporately ‘trained’ to cope with it, as the host talent headmaster (and teacher), Lotta expressed it.  

It is worth dwelling a little with the thought that DR (at that time) would choose to train the female identified employees to be able to »take it«, to accept unwanted gender/ing attention, rather than to train the corporation to say no and resist sexist behavior collectively and in all relating. The sexist behavior was looked at as a personal problem (that belonged to the woman, it seemed), something every single female identified employee had to learn to cope with, and preferable »just laugh« at, as Lotta, the headmaster put it.

Music, Microaggressions and Shame

Beside the experience of gender-related attention and discrimination that in above situations prevented Kirsten from getting the desired practice training as radio host, she also – when she finally was given the chance on air – experienced patronizing and degrading behavior from fellow hosts and listeners in unity in the shape of e.g. gender/ing micro-aggressions. Also, and maybe particularly, when it came to maneuvering around music matters:  

You know, it is hard with all the boxes that they put you in all the time. I had a creepy experience the other day in Jacob’s program. He asked me about something in relation to a Metallica track, »Nothing Else Matters«, that was about to begin. I answered... shortly... and he sort of told me off – on air – as a final remark, just to close down: »Kirsten, don’t you know that one never talks during the intro to »Nothing Else Matters?« I was a little shocked by his comment, as it was him who had asked me in that particular moment. But what was more, I have never gotten so many hateful text messages from the listeners: »Well done, Jacob! Keep that bitch gagged!« and »Good how you showed that bitch her right place.« And stuff like that. It was really shocking to me. Normally I get texts [that say], »Nice voice«, or »She sounds sweet«, or something like that. But this—this was just scary! And those are our core listeners. That is the voice from the workman trailor. I tell you. And then maybe our [P3] ways take color from that sometimes. We have to speak the language of the listeners. Jacob apologized afterward. »I guess a kind of backlash came on,« he said. He was right, his patronizing comment didn’t quite make the situation better. (Kirsten, Interview, Walk & Talk around DR Byen, date disclosed)

Not only was Kirsten shamed online and on air by her colleague for apparently not ‘knowing’ the unwritten rules about the (male) band Metallica. The shaming and patronizing behavior from Jacob was, in the interpretation of the situation on air by the listeners, transformed into negative loaded female prefixed words and with speech acts advocating for different sorts of punishments of Kirsten for her faults. 

Ethnomusicologist Kristine Ringsager has pointed out, how »music helps make identity social« (Ringsager 2015, p. 6). After only a short while in DR, Kirsten´s ability to be social in the work environment was narrowed in relation to music, as she found it necessary to stop »musicking« (Small, 1998) in this particular sociality: 

It is funny because my use of music has really changed, on a personal level, in the last two years [...] Music was [earlier] purely personal to me. I can neither sing nor play any instruments, and I don’t know what is technically advanced, et cetera. But I listened to a lot of music. For me it was about what music could give in terms of feelings. Then I meet someone like my boyfriend, who was at the music conservatory, and I meet people working at P6 Beat. They can just say, »That is good because…« and, »Notice what the guitar does right there!« That has really intimidated me. My God, do you have to... do you also have to know these things when it comes to music? That I had never considered. The technical part of anything, and what is right and what is wrong? [...] So music plays a surprisingly small part for me now. Especially after having started at DR [...] Yes, it [music] did take up an insane amount of space when I was younger. Often when I listen to music now, I think, God, I should do this more often. Because... umm... it somehow purifies. But I think that... umm... the fear of liking something that all the others think you don’t know enough about, or don’t think is »you«, has influenced me a great deal, because I would like to be the best at most things – especially if it is something I work with. Then it is easier to say, »That sounds good« and »That is not so good« [she enacts the last sentences in an indifferent way, as if she couldn’t care less]. (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed)

Kirsten stopped sharing her music preferences in the shared social space of the work environment. Kirsten used »when she was younger« to relate to music »in terms of feelings«. But in the environment in DR she experienced that she had to know »the technical part of anything and what is right and what is wrong« and this, she said, had really intimidated her. She »feared« liking music that was considered »wrong« in the sociality of P3’s music production environment, hence she had developed an indifferent attitude towards music in the social. 

Anthropologist Ruth Finnegan describes how emotions »in a common twentieth-century [musicological] view« is seen »as something bodily and opposed to the intellect« […] that »must be controlled and refined by reason« (2003, p. 182). It would seem that cultural models such as »the value-laden oppositions between mind and body, intellect and emotion« (2003, p. 181) was upheld through everyday interactions in the DR music department (on some radio channels more than on others). Furthermore, as we saw in Kirsten’s case above, this definition of value and power (through/in music) was entangled in the social of everyday production with a gender/ing tone to it.

In her writing of feminism and affect, Devika Sharma (2019) refers to moral philosopher Sandra Lee Bartky (1990) when she identifies primarily two kinds of »women’s shame«. On one hand there is the shame over the (female) body (being »fat, old or ugly«); on the other hand Sharma (and Bartky) point to a more blurred, affective attunement to a specific social environment that shows itself as a pervasive experience of inadequacy. Sharma uses words such as diffuse, subtle feelings of inferiority and inadequacy to describe this affective attunement. Such an affective attunement was, I find, mirrored in Kirsten’s new sorrowful indifferent attitude towards music and feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. I will get back to this combination of music shame, body shame and diffuse power mechanisms in the social of music production environment, and consider it as a mirror of what Sharma has pointed out as the generalizing and faceless nature of controlling women (Sharma, 2019, p. 525). 

Female Stereotyping in the Music Presenting on P3

A reinforcement of female stereotypes in relation to work-tasks, humans and things seemed also to narrow down the space for the female identified Kirsten. I will touch upon the male identified position later, but first let’s see how Kirsten described the female host roles that seemed to be available platforms for her: 

But I really think it is hard not to just take on one of the roles that are expected [...] It is like you have to be a little strict when you are a woman, because that is the path for becoming... sweet or funny. This very, you know, ironic but not self-ironic strictness, where you embarrass the man or something. You cannot be... or if you are unsexy, then you are very conscious about it. And it should be done with thick irony. Ehmm. [...] I have to really dig deep into myself [she makes digging movements toward her stomach] in order not to jump in and just take on one of either female host stereotypes. It would be a whole lot easier. (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed) 

Kirsten explained how she felt she was given certain categories of ‘female’ host roles she could pick from; she could either be »the sweet« or »the strict« female host, and she should always be »sexy«. 

At times Kirsten had the desire to »follow the direction of the [cultural] models« (Hasse 2015, 240) for female host characters. She felt a strong force toward shaping herself in the expected image, for following some of the laid-out paths. Kirsten had an ongoing internal conflict, and as it seemed that the ticket to airtime (and participation in the practice space) was fitting the expectations and enacting a stereotypical host role, she was struggling. Even though she resisted, she had to her own great annoyance experienced that sense of »falling in«: 

And sometimes on my first show, when I eventually came on air, I caught myself doing that! I enacted the strict radio host. And that I really, really regret! Because it... you know, the reason for me to apply was to become a host. Not a girl host. And not a boy host. You know, not sour or strict – ehmm, or manly or something – but just... HUMAN. I know, it sounds completely utopian [she laughs]. But I just find it sooo strange! (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed) 

The narrowed learning platform offered to Kirsten in practice complicated her wish for becoming a proper human radio host, as she described it. She struggled with finding her place as »human« in a culture that she felt was pushing her into unwanted stereotyping, or cultural modeling of the »female host role«. She rejected the directional forces of the cultural models that she experienced in everyday participation. 

As mentioned earlier I also interviewed Jens. Through these interviews as well as through my observations, it seemed that the young male identified person were to a large extend encouraged to find his own style as a host, to challenge himself and not to be afraid of making a fool of himself while testing things. He got a lot of airtime on radio to try things of. He did meet challenges and critique and feedback on his hosting, but not one time – while I was observing, and in his own words in interview – he was met with comments on how he appeared as a “male host”. He did not – from neither listeners nor editors get references to his gender or other bodily attributes while hosting. His gender identification did not seem to matter as a hindrance in these work surroundings (read more about Jens´ learning process in Wallevik 2019, chapter 6). 

Kirsten slowly developed an impression that there was very little or no room for inventing her own ‘funny’ character as a woman in the corporation. Soon she began to envy Jens, who in her mind inhabited a different place than her for being funny: 

I envy a guy like Jens so much. Because I just feel that when he says something that is funny, then it is just, like, with no filter. But I feel very often that when I say something, then it is, like, I did say something funny, but I am also a girl. I feel like this bites me in the ass all the time. (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed) 

It seemed that while in the organization there was a common consensus that everybody – despite gender, sexuality, color etc. – were met with equal opportunities in DR, another picture was drawn when the two apprentices began their actual practice training as hosts on the different editorial teams. The spatial and psychological bordering was regulating and depriving the female identified subject, Kirsten, for agency in the workspace, for possibilities to be professionally challenged and for creating meaning in everyday work situations.

Centrifugal Forces in the P3 Work Practice

Let me sum up some of the structural contours around gender/ing that appeared in above situations. First, we saw how the female body in everyday work situations was withdrawn from practice participation. Through everyday enacted obstacles such as a) unwanted gender/ing attention that worked to un-professionalize the female subject, and b) being told that it was better when the male journalist intern did the on-air features, because ´he was a boy´, there seemed to be built up a kind of antagonism between the female body body and the male professional body. 

Second, we saw how Kirsten´s (´female´) irrational and feeling-based perception of music was ridiculed in contrast to her (male) colleagues, and that ´right´ and ´wrong´ ways of ´knowing´ about music was implemented in sociality with a somehow gendered tone to it. In her seminal book Feminine Endings (1991) Susan McClary looks at some of the (male) strategies throughout music history that has kept women from participating:

Male musicians have retaliated in a number of ways: by defining music as the most ideal (that is, the least physical of the arts); by insisting emphatically on its ‘rational’ dimension; by laying claim to such presumably masculine virtues as objectivity, universality, and transcendence; by prohibiting actual female participation altogether (McClary, 1991, p. 17)

Ideas of how music should be governed under a rational paradigm – ideas that resembles well with McClarys feminist critique – stopped Kirsten from sharing her music preferences in social space in fear of liking something that the others found to be wrong. Her apparently inadequate relation with music additionally narrowed down Kirsten´s social space on P3 and added to Kirsten´s feeling of being an inadequate female body in the shared workspace of culture and music production. 

Third, we saw how Kirsten felt that distinct stereotypes of female host characters created narrow spaces for her to act within. She felt she had her agency taken from her, as she was evaluated and looked at through a certain filter suitable for female hosts, while her male colleagues were evaluated with, in Kirsten words, »no filter«, as they were trained to find their own host characters. 

The gender/ing structures affected Kirsten (and her female identified peers) in her everyday ability to thrive in this environment. The skewed focus on (female) gender/ing confused Kirsten a great deal and it had consequences for her ability to thrive in these surroundings. Not only did she have to put up with »light sexual harassment and discrimination«, she also felt dis-entangled from it all because her work was taken away from her, she felt de-professionalized and dis-trusted as she was not trusted with responsibility in work situations: 

So, it was like this: I came up with an idea. It was given to Nils, the journalist intern. He came on air maybe three or four times during a program and made all different stuff. And I felt a little like this: Every time I gave them an idea and it was given to him, then he took a step closer into the spotlight, and I took a... sort of... a step away from the spotlight. Because he became more and more, like... popular... on my ideas. Which I know is completely crazy, because I didn’t come up with the ideas in order for me to perform them only. That was, of course, my hope, but still... it was so irritating. So, I just came there, gave them ideas, got shouted at, and went home. (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed) 

Besides feeling her hard work and ideas flow over to the journalist intern, who was given credit for them through the repeated on-air features that was given to him, she felt that she (as the only ‘girl’) became the scapegoat in the dysfunctional team cooperation. When I met her the first time, she was on a short stress related sick leave:

Then I started to, you know, show some bad signs. You know, like, my home just had become... in the end, in the last couple of weeks, my home was just chaos, and I, you know... I couldn’t do, um, the dishes, or water my plants, they just had to rot, because I simply couldn ́t deal with it all. I just went home and slept every day. I was completely trashed by being yelled at all the time. [...] In the end it was just completely a flatline. I didn’t come up with any ideas. I was completely indifferent about the program. But I also didn’t care about... a little too many other things. I didn’t care about anything. Luckily the program shut down—not because of me, but because of the internal conflict between the producer and the host, and then I was given a two-week break. I needed that. (Kirsten, interview, University of Copenhagen, date disclosed) 

Kirsten did not – as other unfortunate colleagues – experience physical body violence (as far as I know), but the everyday numerous small, ‘funny’, subtle gender/ing references or gender/ing expectations, created for her a very little fruitful platform for learning. Through misogynist and paternalist behavior, her co-workers and listeners at DR were reinforcing demeaning stereotypes about femininity (be they intellectual, physical, or sexual) that narrowly restricted Kirsten’s professional autonomy and advancement — as manifest intellectually, physically, and musically — relative to her male counterparts.12 Compared to her male identified colleague she spent immense time and energy on those complications (for more, see Wallevik, 2019, ch 6). 

According to Judith Butler it is the sum of different small acts that contributes to »what will and will not count as a viable speaking subject and a reasonable opinion within the public domain« (Butler, 2006, p. xix). Those small but structurally consistent regulations and marking of certain bodies, what Butler calls for »shaming tactics«, functions as instruments of censorship through »psychological terrorization«, and produces in practice ´reasonable´ and unreasonable´ subject positions in social environments.

The inflexible female gender category as well as all other small gender/ing acts of ´psychological terrorizations´, mattered as a hindrance for Kirsten’s linear learning process when she entered the place as an apprentice with intentions of creating her own and original funny female host character. It did indeed seem, to use Hasse’s terminology, that the organized expectations around ‘female’ matter acted as a »centrifugal (and exclusionary) force«, while the organized expectations around ‘male’ matter acted as »a centripetal power that maintains and includes« (Hasse, 2015, p. 294). 

The listeners: Male Stereotyping and Rationales when Producing P3  

Above, I have investigated questions about ‘what?’ and ‘how?’ gender/ing structures existed in P3´s music production in the mid 2010s. In doing so, I have followed McClary’s proposed method for a feminist critique of music practices that I presented at the outset of this article. I will now continue with some thoughts and considerations regarding McClary´s final critical questions about ‘why?’ and about »whose interest is being served by the public deployment of such devices?« (McClary, 1991, p. 23).  

When looking at the above excerpts from the empirical material I gathered as part of my fieldwork there seemed to be a common agreement in the production room around the ´fact´ that P3 (in the particular program sections I followed) had predominantly male listeners. As Kirsten for instance expressed in one of the interview excerpts quoted above: »(T)hey argued—also because it ‘primarily was a male program’, as they said, and it was primarily the male listeners who were active«. As Kirsten furthermore expressed, it was somehow accepted that this male identified point of reception triggered a language that would ´naturally´ involve sexist content: »And those are our core listeners. That is the voice from the workman trailor. I tell you. And then maybe our [P3] ways take color from that sometimes. We have to speak the language of the listeners.« Kirsten and Jens learned that P3 wished to speak the language of the listeners, and somehow this language should resemble a male identified point of reception that was naturally connotated with misogynist behavior. 

Not only was the misogynist behavior put in immediate connection with the imagined primarily male reception, it also had a somehow class-bound implication sticking to it. When Kirsten pictured the voices from the workman trailor, she was referring to a common iterated corporate ‘truth’ that P3 was the preferred radio channel for the working man. It also seemed to be accepted when the stereotyped male listener from the workmans trailor gave sexist, gender stereotyping and sometimes »deeply gross and hurting« feedback to the female employees in the corporation (a pretty generalizing assumption, I would say, that not only connected all men with sexism, but also somehow aligned workman staff with misogynist view points and sexist behavior). Furthermore, the female employees were, as we saw above, expected (or even corporately trained) to cope with it as a personal problem; the female identified employee had to “learn” to cope with, and preferable »just laugh«. Last, one could indeed argue, based on above stories of female stereotyping in the music hosting, that the female identified hosts were trained not only to cope with it, but also to sustain and create such power dynamics by building stereotypical female host characters that would please and sustain such structures. 

The presumption of the typical male listener somehow seemed to justify the re-iterations of diverse misogynist and paternalistic patterns of behavior both within the P3 organization culture (in the everyday work practice) and as an imagined community channeled on air through everyday interactions between hosts, music, and listeners. 

When discussing gender/ing dynamics within the P3 format, I find it necessary to finally (briefly) touch upon another important part of the music planning on P3, namely the head of music, Peter, who was in charge of selecting and encoding music for the channel during, and whom I talked to a couple of times during my fieldwork. Through these conversations, but also through other conversations with employees around P3, it stood out that gender-questions in relation to music representation was not – at that time – an outspoken prioritization in the music planning.13 Instead of prioritizing gender issues when choosing music for P3’s mainstream format, Peter stressed how he was concerned with how individuals, archetypes, and different stories enacted in the mainstream format rather than with ideas of genre:

These days [on P3] it is more about artists [earlier, it was about genre]. So, what kind of archetype is the artist? Is it that sweet girl? Is it that bad boy? How many bad boys are currently there? [...] Is there always a bad boy, and is there always a sweet girl? It is very much like narrating a fairy tale. You know, like... archetypes. There are not a lot of different stories within the mainstream. You can always take it back to... you know... archetypes. You very rarely think, »OK, this is really a purple unicorn! This is different!« (Peter, Interview, Peter´s Office in the P3 Office, Date disclosed)

In Peter’s P3 mainstream fairytale universe there were ‘bad boys’ and ‘sweet girls’. So even though gender/ing was not an official prioritization in the music planning, stereotypical and biased gender fantasies and gender stereotypes seemed to be pretty omnipresent in Peter´s and DR´s making of the P3´s mainstream music format that was build up like narrating a fairytale. When I asked Peter, what kind of reasoning that governed the music programming, he came up with two main reasons: On the one hand, choosing and encoding the music from a centralized position was a way to produce cheaper radio. Besides the cost-efficient effects of using software14 to select and program music, Peter told me that music scheduling on the other hand was a way of using technology to help create a distinct channel format and thereby give listeners precisely what they expected (according to the corporation), when they expected it. He explained:

What we know through Medieforskningen [DR’s Media Research Department] and through common knowledge is that people want to use radio like, for example, McDonald’s or Noma. You do not go to Noma and expect to get hot dogs. Or what if you came into McDonald’s and could not get fries, because it was Tuesday, and Tuesday was salad day! It is all about the expectation to... that you have some expectations of a product or a media... There just has to be what you want, when you want it! And for this purpose, music scheduling is very effective. (Peter, Interview, Sofa Section outside P3s Office, Date disclosed)

Peter referred to the music ´knowledge´ that was generated in the DR Research Department, when he expressed a corporate wish to mirror the listeners expectations and deliver »what you want, when you want it!«. This reasoning was corresponding with Kirsten and her colleagues’ descriptions of the corporate expectations to please the listeners, to speak ‘their’ language and give them the kind of media content that (DR thought) they were likely to expect.

According to musicologist Mads Krogh, the use of digital technologies and tools in the work processes of making flow radio increased through the 1980s and ‘90s alongside processes of rationalization that pursued »efficiency (e.g. maximum cost-efficiency in terms of listener share), calculability (via audience measurement), predictability (via corporate strategies) and control (via profiling and playlist management)« (Krogh, 2018, 73). 

Following, it can be argued that behind the different cultural models that directed the spaces in the everyday workspace, there seemed to be rational arguments of efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. In the everyday production Peter, the head of music, enacted a highly gender/ing stereotypical cultural model (a fairytale with bad boys and good girls) and with this ‘technology’ together with other gender/ing technologies he created and controlled the mainstream format. The gender stereotyping and the predictability of fairytales (of good girls and bad boys) narrated through music did somehow concur with the corporate ideas and vision of efficiency, calculability and predictability built around ‘knowledge’ in the music format. In the light of creating recognizability for the listeners, gender stereotyping (as well as e.g., class stereotyping) would be easy cultural models to grasp for the listeners. Such stereotypical narratives would create a great deal of recognition when iterated musically again and again on air.

Conclusion: Blind Spots and Larger Social Implications

We have now moved around on different plateaus in DR´s music radio production department and seen how highly gender/ing (sexist) behavior in everyday work situations intersected with highly gender/ing (sexist) attention from the listeners, as well as corporate predictions about the typical male P3 listener. We have seen how those gender/ing (sexist) alliances were legitimized through sentences like »we have to speak the language of our listeners« and somehow those sentences were echoing the rational logic within the corporate idea of »giving people what they want, when they want it«, hereby mirroring an underlying populist, and rationalist, reasoning in the music programming. The general presumption and acceptance of the P3 male listener as a person that want sexist content and a general acceptance of sexist behavior towards female employees created – at the time of my fieldwork – an unfortunate corporate culture that could be seen to push women and other female identified matter out of the organization. 

We have also seen a music flow and a format music channel programming that did not work to recognize gender diversity as a reasonable parameter in the daily planning while at the same time building itself up as a highly gender stereotypical format that narrated fairytales of »bad guys and good girls«. While not taking either an active pro- or con sexist stand, the musical gender stereotypical cultural model weaved in and out of the sexist alliances between the listeners and the hosts, and could be seen, at its best, to be sustaining status-quo when it came to gender representation (and inequality), and, at its worst, to be strengthening gender un-equality. 

Finally, we have seen a music production culture that is governed by »rational« parameters such as predictability, efficiency, calculability and control. The discrepancies between the rational intentions of the corporation (to be a gender-diverse environment) and the everyday enacted gender-biased behavior might be seen as a crack in the corporate vision and unified intentions across the corporation, yet another sign of what Krogh calls the »lingering irrationalitiesh that lie within an organization otherwise perceived as »rational« (Krogh 2018, 68).

Above descriptions of bodies, music, and gender/ing in the P3 workspace gives an imprint of what structural sexism in the shape of everyday gender/ing behavior can look and feel like from a female identified body’s point of view in a media production work environment such as DR´s P3 in the mid 2010s. This included misogynist and paternalist behavior from co-workers and listeners that operated along a continuum, ranging from explicit sexual harassment to overtly sexist remarks, to inadvertent, unconscious biases and gendered micro aggressions. The sexist structures were somehow authorized through a lack of prioritization, blind angles/unconscious biases and an overall uncontested argument of ´giving people what they want, when they want it´ (apparently they wanted sexist content?) 

Let’s dwell a little on McClary´s final critical question, about whose interest is being served by the public deployment of such devices? DR is a prestigious place to work, and Kirsten seemed to be navigating in a highly competitive environment. The inflexible female gender/ing categories mattered as an immediate hindrance for Kirsten’s linear learning process when she began the apprenticeship with intentions of creating her own, original and funny human host character. 

In a local and situational perspective, it is hard to overlook the fact that gender/ing was a tool of promotion for some, while hindrance for others within this environment. The different gender/ing platforms for learning that was offered to the newcomers helped the male identified body (regardless of good/bad intention) to advance while the female identified body was held back. Reminding her of her female body in almost all occasions, all the gender/ing »little cuts« created a bigger picture that complicated Kirsten´s and her female identified peers’ ability to thrive in this environment. 

Diversity theorist Katie Donovan uses the notion of »death by a thousand cuts«. As she writes on HuffPost, »[N]one of these cuts by themselves ‘go the real distance’ but put together the results are alarming« (Donovan 2016). Hence, although the single ironic comment made to Kirsten and her peers in work situations or on air, could be considered rather innocent, with no harm intended in any particular situation, they could not be isolated from the larger structures they were part of, and the fact that Kirsten and her female identified colleagues received such comments many times a day. Such comments would all insert a feeling of shame, both related to the female body and to a feeling of general insufficiency and diffuse affective attunement; a feeling that, according to Sharma, add to a picture of how the generalizing and faceless nature of controlling women can look like (Sharma, 2019, 525).

I indeed think that DR is right in presuming they have a »blind spot« when they produce music radio, as expressed in the newspaper article referred to in the beginning of this article. Mutual allowance and acceptance of everyday sexism around for instance music artefacts in organization, a lack of ability or willingness to see and hear what was going on, and a lack of language to describe it, was – from my point of view – a crucial blind spot when it comes to gender matters and gendering trouble in the (music) production environments on P3. Whether the paternalistic and misogynist behavior is rooted in irrational gender biased behavior among employees or rational calculability in the governance of media content, it clashes strongly with the corporations self-perception as a public service institution that values equality and diversity. 

Sociologist Ea Høg Utoft (2020) points to the fact that one of the biggest problems with gender equality in Denmark is common perceptions, self-understandings and national narratives that iterate how we already have achieved gender equality. She refers to the post-feminist double bind where we celebrate the past feminist victories and uses those stories to conclude that we do no longer need feminism. Hence stories and experiences with sexism in practice is likely not to be seen and heard, rather they are to be miscredited and rendered uninteresting or untrustworthy (Utoft, 2020, 93). 

I have tried with above stories to illuminate significances of gender and the everyday challenges with gender/ing behavior and sexism in everyday work environments of culture production. By listening to voices like Kirsten´s and centering those voices as part of the DR corporations internal development strategies (instead of rendering those stories ´uninteresting or untrustworthy´ as Utoft describes as a tendency above) it is my hope that DR and other corporations will build a sensibility towards inclusiveness and diversity in everyday work practices of culture production. Such a corporate enacted sensibility towards the value of diversity and equal participation would – besides bringing hitherto unrecognized potentials to the front – cohere far better with existing national perceptions and self-understandings of Denmark as a diverse society where all participate on equal terms.


  • 1All quotes from interviews and media texts that was originally in Danish are translated into English by the author.
  • 2DR is short for Danmarks Radio (Denmark’s Radio). From 1925 to 1959, it was called Statsradiofonien (the Danish State Radio Corporation), from 1959 to 1996 it was called Danmarks Radio, and from 1996 onward it has been called DR.
  • 3As part of my PhD research I engaged, during a year and a half, in conversations with the P3 head of music, with experienced music radio DJs on DR, with editors of music content, with newcomers to the Host Talent School, with the ‘headmasters’ for the Host Talent School, with superiors at the Music and Radio Department, and other actors involved in the daily making of P3. The full result of the work is gathered in my PhD dissertation ‘Flow or Stop? Culture Matters in P3´s Music Radio Production’ (2019)
  • 4In this article I explore active forms of doing gender in sociality as opposed to essentialist ideas of having gender by birth or by ´nature´. Hence I am using the word ´gender/ing´ throughout the article in order to stress the phenomenon of doing gender in an everyday context. In the following I explore experiences of gender/ing in everyday work sociality of music radio production.
  • 5Inspired from Cultural Psychology, Hasse uses the notion of artefacts. Hasse understands artefacts as all matter that are attributed culturally learned collective meaning in situations (Hasse 2011: 83-84)
  • 6Within different strains of theory there are different traditions for what to call the ‘matter´ that we entangle in. Parts of Cultural Psychology, Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and Culture Analysis (Lev S. Vygotsky (1978), Michael Cole (1996), Yrjö Engeström(1996) and Cathrine Hasse(2008)) works with the notion of ‘artefacts’. Feminist science studies works with notions of ‘matter’ and ‘things’ (Barad, 2003, 818), drawing on e.g. Butlers (post-structuralist) prementioned notions of ‘matter’ (Butler 2011(1993)). Anthropology of commodities or anthropology of things (e.g., Daniel Miller (1987; 1995); Grant D. McCracken (1990); Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood (1996); Don Slater (1997); and Richard Wilk (2007); Arjun Appadurai’s Towards an Anthropology of Things (1986) and Henara et al.’s Thinking Through Things (2007)) can be seen to contribute to the study of culture through/around ‘things’ or artefacts (Patico 2015). I explore in this article agency and intra-action (Barad, 2003, 818) in relation to ‘things’ in everyday work practices, where things are understood – like Hasse – as all matter that are attributed culturally learned collective meaning in situations (Hasse 2011: 83-84).
  • 7I have been touched in ways that relate to my own background as e.g. a 40 years old white female musician (electric guitarist since age 16). Or as white female music scholar (since age 19). Or for that sake as white female homosexual (since age 25). Or as mother and bonus-mother for three children (since age 35). One single important personal context I would like to bring forward here though, is that through my now 46 years of lived life I have built up a strong feeling and sensibility towards the fact that both my (female) body and my (female) music are politically contested areas in society.
  • 8It is beyond the scope of this paper to fully account for how gender operated intersectionally in the context of DR. But I will note here – at the outset of my article – that the racial makeup of DR was certainly very white, and it would make great sense to bring more attention to the intersectional dynamics of gender. But for now, my main focus will be on questions of gender diversity in the context of DR´s work environments of making up the music programming.
  • 9I have given all my informants pseudonyms for ethical reasons. To anonymize in media anthropology poses some severe challenges since the people and events in focus are highly public and hence very hard to ´hide´. I have been mostly concerned with anonymizing the ‘newcomers’, who I considered to be most vulnerable in this system. As a result of this ethic consideration there will be no dates on the interviews that I refer to, as this would blow the informant’s cover.
  • 10Every other year, DR accepts four host talents to be enrolled in DR’s Talent School (Talentudvikling) in a salaried apprentice learning program. The talents typically start in the DR radio section. The talent program was in the mid 2010s embedded in the DR Music and Radio department (Hartvig-Nielsen, 2015).
  • 11The notion of intra-action (in contrast to the usual ‘interaction’, which presumes the prior existence of independent entities / relata) represents a profound conceptual shift. It is through specific agential intra-actions that the boundaries and properties of the ‘components’ of phenomena become determinate and that particular embodied concepts become meaningful. A specific intra-action (involving a specific material configuration of the ‘apparatus of observation’) enacts an agential cut (in contrast to the Cartesian cut — an inherent distinction — between subject and object) effecting a separation between ‘subject’ and ‘object’. That is, the agential cut enacts a local resolution within the phenomenon of the inherent ontological indeterminacy. In other words, relata do not preexist relations; rather, relata-within-phenomena emerge through specific intra-actions (Barad, 2003)
  • 12Thanks to my peer reviewers for making such good points here.
  • 13It is beyond the scope of this article to develop on this point. To learn more about neglect of the importance of gender matters as well as unconscious biases around ´quality´ and ´musicality´ in the managerial fractions of P3, se also Wallevik, 2019, 134.
  • 14DR used the music controlling and the scheduling software Selector. For more information on this software solution, see Wallevik 2019.


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