One of the things that stands out to me is the fact that "the bands with even one female member is a whopping 388 out of 2000 bands". Like Samhita and Ann, I'm a bit appalled. I'm also a bit intrigued. I would think that there are a whole lot of social factors going into whether or not women would be playing in bands, including but not limited to how the culture at large influences who is interested in being a musician and who thinks they should be on the side of the stage offering their adoration, as well as a multitude of other factors that stem from both the sociological and the individual. After all, even in conceivably feminist-friendly spaces, the aura of the greater culture still looms. As Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads said regarding the early days of punk rock, ‘Women musicians tended to be treated like women drivers…if they aren’t much good, well what can you expect? And if they’re hot stuff, it is despite the fact they are women' ('RiotGrrl: Revolutions From Within', Signs, Vol 23, No. 3).
That sort of stigma has to be somewhat debilitating as an artist, or even getting to the point where one wants to be an artist. If that mindset is still prevalent (and I see no indication that it is not), then it not only affects women who are musicians but the men judging them. If a woman is auditioning for a band or even looking to audition members for her own band, wouldn't it seem plausible for social assertions such as the kind Weymouth discussed to be - even unintentionally - damaging? Are women in bands an example of another case where women are, due to the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding them, judged differently than their male peers? It seems likely that Dr. Bonnie Bassler's conclusion about women in science, that "women scientists have to achieve two and a half times what their male counterparts have to achieve to have the same credibility" may be also applied to women in bands.
So, assuming that the amount of women even interested in making music is less than men (ignoring, for the moment, why that may be), then it would make sense for the amount of women and the amount of men in bands at festivals like SXSW wouldn't be equal. But the disparity between 388 bands that have even one female member versus the whole 2000 bands available seems a bit high. And questioning that seems like a good thing. Which is why questions like this on the Feministing post:
"Would you have rather they skimped on the acts they wanted to to play just so there would be more women there?"
rather confound me. Firstly, it sets up a false argument. The argument isn't that the promoters should have skimped on bands they wanted to play there in order to maintain a greater level of equality, but why is there such an inequality? What reasons could there be for people wanting to have more male bands play than bands that contain women? It could be as simple on an individual band level as "The bass line in band X is better than the whole of band Y". But in looking at the whole, a different set of issues emerge. Looking at the individual bands is focusing on the trees instead of the forest.
But almost more importantly, thoughts like the one above only reinforce societal inequities. There is a scene in American History X, where Edward Norton's father is talking about how in reading books written by people other than the white men who have always made up the tomes of great literature, there is some disservice being done to those other works. In essence, it boils down to the thought that to highlight a neglected work means to undervalue or ignore a work that has already been considered great. But that isn't really how it goes. If all we read is Shakespeare and Dickens and Twain, we miss the bigger picture. And we cut voices out of our bigger picture. Access to public space is an exercise of privilege - the privilege to be noted and noticed. Too often, the already privileged occupy that space, because they are, also too often, those who control the distribution. So instead of griping about demanding the sublimation of the organizers' own desires for gender equality - an equality that may already be hampered by things outside of their control - we should be looking at how who controls the modes of exposure helps or hampers those who become exposed, and how that affects things like parities between bodies, parities between gender divides and racial divides and even the content of songs.