Breaking the Silence: Shania Twain on the Persistent Sexism in Country Music

Author Arto Mäenpää - 18.4.2023

Shania Twain, the legendary Canadian country music singer, recently made headlines when she stated candidly that country music is more sexist than ever. Twain has had her fair share of encounters in the male-dominated country music industry over the course of her three-decade career, and her statement has prompted a discussion about gender imbalance in the genre.

Twain’s emergence to stardom in the 1990s changed country music with her powerful, feminist lyrics and stunning appearance. Her debut album, “The Woman in Me,” released in 1995, became a worldwide success, selling over 20 million copies and won her numerous awards. Her succeeding albums, including “Come On Over” and “Up!” solidified her position as a country music legend, propelling her to become one of the best-selling female musicians of all time.

Twain has overcome hurdles and obstacles that are all too prevalent for women in country music throughout her career. She has spoken out about the pressures she faced as a female artist to comply to traditional gender norms and expectations, as well as the double standards she faced.

Her recent assertion that country music is more misogynistic now than ever has raised eyebrows and sparked debate about how the genre has evolved over time. Twain observed that in this day and age of social media and online streaming, female singers are often judged more on their appearance and personal lives than on their talent and music. She also mentioned the lack of representation of women in country music award shows and on country radio and royalty-free music, where male artists dominate the airwaves.

The data to support it

Twain’s observations are supported by data. In a study conducted by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in 2020, it was found that women made up only 10.4% of country music artists and 2.6% of producers in the genre. Moreover, only 16% of country songs in the Billboard Hot 100 in 2019 were performed by women. These statistics highlight the stark gender imbalance in country music and indicate that there is still much progress to be made.

One of the reasons for the current state of gender inequality in country music could be attributed to the changing dynamics of the music industry. With the rise of digital platforms and social media, the focus on image and personal branding has become more prominent. Female artists are frequently expected to conform to traditional beauty standards, and their appearance, personal lives, and decisions are scrutinized and criticized. This has shifted the attention away from their talent and music and toward their outward looks, resulting in less opportunities for female performers.

Another factor contributing to the current condition of gender inequality in country music is the persistence of gender stereotypes in the genre. Female artists are frequently required to adhere to established gender roles and portray a certain image in order to be accepted, whereas men artists are typically celebrated for their masculinity. This can limit their artistic freedom and expression, resulting in a lack of diversity in the music that is marketed.

Despite these challenges, there are also voices of dissent against Twain’s statement. Some argue that the country music industry has come a long way in terms of gender equality, with many female artists achieving commercial success and critical acclaim. They point out that women like Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Kacey Musgraves have carved successful careers in country music and have been recognized with awards and accolades. They also highlight that country music has produced anthems of female empowerment, such as “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae, which challenges gender stereotypes and sexism in the genre.


Another critical part is shifting the narratives and expectations around female country music musicians. Women should not be restricted to traditional gender roles or pressured to conform to a specific appearance. They should be able to express their artistic abilities, thoughts, and experiences without fear of condemnation or retaliation. This includes breaking down gender stereotypes and supporting diverse depictions of women in country music, such as women of all ages, races, body shapes, and sexual orientations.

Additionally, fans and listeners can help to promote gender equality in country music. Fans may help increase the visibility and success of female performers in the genre by actively seeking out and supporting them, attending their concerts, streaming their music, and communicating with them on social media. Fans must acknowledge their influence on the industry by supporting musicians who challenge the status system and advocate for change.

Finally, Shania Twain’s recent declaration that country music is more sexist now than ever has drawn emphasis on the genre’s persistent issue of gender inequality. Despite the advancements made by female artists over the years, issues such as limited representation, persistent gender stereotypes, and a focus on image and personal branding remain. However, there are various views on the level of gender equality in country music, with some highlighting women’s development in the industry.

There is a need for improved representation and opportunity for female performers, as well as shifting narratives and expectations surrounding them, to build a more inclusive and equal atmosphere in country music. This includes encouraging diversity, addressing gender stereotypes, and ensuring equal opportunities for advancement and exposure. Fans and listeners can also help to promote gender equality by actively supporting and engaging with female artists.