Analyse this. Submit your blog opinion posts about millennial engagement with politics and read expert views from around the world
The vast majority of Millennials in the UK and the USA value equality of opportunity for people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations and races (86% in both territories). Despite this,representation of some of those categories is low in political, music and religious establishments. Could the liberal views of Millennials in regards to equality explain part of the reason they have turned away from institutions which don’t share their values? And, if that is true, what about the Millennials who do engage with these establishments?
The figures are the same in the USA, a record 17% of Congress are people of colour, compared with nearly double that (38%) of the general population.
Still, the average age of an MP in the House of Commons is 50, for a Peer in the House of Lords it is 69, for a representative in the House is 57 and for a Senator is 62. This contrasts with data in the Millennial Dialogue report which suggests Millennials’ ideal politicians would be aged between 35 and 45. Whether or not the advantages of age hold true when it comes to politics, these differences mean that Millennials aren’t getting the diversity they (apparently) want in their political institutions.
Recent analysis by the Guardian, too, shows that out of 12 major UK music festivals this summer, theadvertised line-ups are 86% male (270 women are booked to play compared with 2,336 men). This is perhaps surprising because, although of course the bands booked to play are going to depend on who has had success with record sales, radio plays, and other factors controlled by other areas of the music establishment, live music is the industry which Millennials engage with the most. If they value equality, we might expect that they would demand more equal representation in their chosen area. In a similar vein to diversity in politics, however, I would argue that Millennials most value equality in its simplest form – thelack of overt barriers to participation, rather than, in a more complex way, tackling underlying issues (the misogynist tradition in rap and hip-hop,interlinking of brands which degrade women/fetishize female music fans and alternative rock bands, more focus on the appearance and image of female artists than their male counterparts) which hinder participation.
There is also evidence of, and much discussion about, less quantifiable instances of racial inequality in music. These complaints are about things like cultural appropriation and amarketing preferencefor (in both of these territories, at least) white musicians over those from BAME backgrounds. This is true especially as free access to music on the internet has helped to break down cultural barriersto music genres. For example, the apparent fetishization of black women and forms of dancing by Miley Cyrus, Azealia Banks’ claims about the appropriation of black music by white hip-hop and rap artists like Iggy Azalea, the passing over of Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video for a VMA best music video despite it breaking the record for views on Vevo.
It is plausible that the racial imbalance seen in those employed within the music industry has contributed to such instances of appropriation and inequality. Many claims on this topic are substantiated by a general feeling in the industries in these territories that conventionally attractive artists (and this normally entails being white, as well as other characteristics, like being thin for women or muscular for men) are more marketable. This is thought to come from problems ofpresenting certain groups in society as the ‘norm’, and so as artists they are not thought to be restricted to niche areas of the market. Additionally, by virtue of being the racial majority in both territories, most music consumers are white and there is a pre-supposed feeling that white fans will more readily buy an album from a white artist – this was apparently part of Dr. Dre’s logic for taking Eminem on. An artist’s marketability can be, then, ranked above their talent. This paves the way for cultural appropriation, in theory, because it allows for certain aspects of the very cultures which are deemed less saleable to be profited from by artists who, because they are not from those cultures, don’t experience the same discrimination at the hands of record companies (and, by extension, the record companies profit also).
Recognition of the impact of racial inequality may have contributed to the decline in power of the major record labels as Millennials increasingly rely on streaming services. Streaming services havelittle to no A & R function and as such feature such a broad range of artists that it is easier for Millennials to access the more diverse musicians who might otherwise have no platform.
This does not completely combat the problem, however, because record labels do still have influence (thanks to their [declining] economic power) over which artists become the‘superstars’. These artists remain dominant on streaming services because, when faced with a choice of tens of millions of songs, Millennials will experience a type of choice paralysisand tend to stick with the songs they know from radio plays or ad campaigns. For this reason it was reported in 2013 that 20% of the tracks on Spotify (4 million) had never been played.
Additionally, as I have mentioned, the problems of discrimination seem to pervade into the live music industry, which is thriving among Millennials.
While such claims are difficult to support with quantitative data, it is worth bearing them in mind in order to gauge the big picture when it comes to racial representation in the music industry.
Millennials in the UK are significantly moving away from the established state religion(Anglicanism) just as it allows the ordination of female bishops but not away from Catholicism which doesn’t allow women to be priests. There is a chance that the authority of religion, once it has won Millennials’ trust, is no longer subject to the kind of critiques we would imagine. It is perhaps in the nature of religion to hold onto some degree of inherent, unproven authority, with Millennials either accepting those terms or leaving completely (which many are). This is an approach which is not taken by music or politics, the structures of which better allow the unaffiliated or the sceptical to participate formally or casually.
There is evidence that the declining engagement of Millennials with the church has been spurred on by the alienation of a generation who hold very socially liberal views compared to their predecessors. In the USA this is not only true among the Democrats or left-leaning Millennials (although they make up the majority). The fact that the same generation is increasingly religiously unaffiliated is not a coincidence, either; According to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, Millennials were a lot more likely than the general US population to agree that the Church’s stance on lesbians and gays was ‘alienating’ (70% agreement compared to 58%); additionally, among Millennials who had left the church, 17% claimed that the Church’s views on LGBT issues were ‘somewhat’ or ‘very important’ in their decision to leave. Having progressive views about inequality in terms of sexual orientation and gender identification would suggest that such views are also held with regard to gender equality, and that such issues would, too, persuade them to leave the church.
An important difference between the existence of inequalities in music and politics and those in religion are that while the music industry and political establishments often haveimplicit biases towards those who are white, male, and of a certain age, discrimination on the grounds of gender is aningrained part of the Catholic church (and other Christian denominations and religions, too, but the focus is on Catholicism since this is where religion has survived the most among Millennials). This isnot a matter of perpetuating prejudicesthrough personal or institutional judgment, but is theactive exclusion of groups from certain practices.
Millennials, then, can be seen as far more sensitive to overt discrimination – like the formal exclusion of certain groups – than to much more subtle structures and microagressionswhich limit diversity. Their understanding of equality is much more concerned with the absence of formal or even legal barriers to participation than it is with bridging gaps by understanding the deeply ingrained discriminatory practices.
A main theme of this project about Millennials and their attitudes to establishments is that trust is the basis of authority, and where the clash between Millennials’ views about equality and an institution’s failure to accommodate people in certain groups is less overt, these institutions can win their trust in spite of discriminatory practices.