The Gender Paradox: Criticism of Women and Women as Critics

Hamer, Laura (2019). The Gender Paradox: Criticism of Women and Women as Critics. In: Dingle, Christopher ed. The Cambridge History of Music Criticism. The Cambridge History of Music. Cambridge University Press, pp. 272–290.



In May 2014 a storm erupted in the British classical music world when five established male critics fat-shamed Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught, who was performing Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier at Covent Garden. Instead of focusing upon Erraught’s technique or interpretation, the critics ridiculed her physique. Writing in the Financial Times Andrew Clark referred to Erraught as ‘a chubby bundle of puppy-fat’; Michael Church in The Independent and Rupert Christiansen in The Telegraph both described her as ‘dumpy’; Andrew Clements in The Guardian called her ‘stocky’; and Richard Morrison in The Times characterised her as ‘unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing’. Although these sexist comments drew widespread condemnation, they are symptomatic of a centuries-old tendency for empowered male critics to fail to produce objective assessments of female musicians.

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