The Smirnoff Equalizer may have a name more evocative of bottle service than feminism, but the new tool from Spotify and its vodka-proffering partner is here to do for music something like what the Bechdel Test did for film. Introduced ahead of this week’s International Women’s Day (Thursday), the Equalizer links with your Spotify account to break down how much time you spend listening to male versus female artists.
Supporting female creators in the arts has gained traction in pop culture and politics, but streaming charts and award results provide the data to throw cold water on the music industry’s “girl power” rhetoric: In 2017, all of the top 10 streaming artists on Spotify were male, and more recently, the Grammys sent the message that women needed to “step up.”
Spotify has decided its role in rectifying this problem lies in helping its users recognize their biases. (It also has the ability to mock its users with advertising—with great power comes great responsibility.) If you like female artists in theory but your numbers reveal you never actually listen to them, this tool provides a good excuse to course-correct. (In addition to percentages, the Equalizer generates more gender-balanced playlists for users to go along with their results.)
Spotify, which also teamed with DJ, producer, and trans rights activist Honey Dijon to create the tool, had a timely and worthy goal here, one that is somewhat tempered by the heavy Smirnoff branding. Let’s hear it for brands spending money to position themselves next to progressive causes, but does everything have to be so branded? Must we introduce another corporation into the already pretty corporate machine that is the streaming music industry? But Smirnoff will not be denied: To enter the site, users have to confirm that they are over 21, which means that a whole lot of young people won’t have a chance to analyze whether their listening is skewed (unless they can, through only the most advanced hacking techniques, aka simple arithmetic, figure out how to bypass the site’s age filters). Maybe we should be happy Smirnoff took interest and not, like, Skinnygirl? It’s a start, and cheers to that.
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