“Putting women in the spotlight for the first time after hundreds of years of being shunned out of the industry and history [...] is not tokenism.”WOCINTECHCHAT/ UNSPLASH

A petition calling for the Part IB Music Faculty paper ‘Woman and Music’ to be reinstated has received over 170 signatures, with 172 at the time of publication (13/05).

The paper “explores the rich, diverse history of women’s involvement in music and music-making across the centuries,” as well as touching on issues such as gender and sexuality.

The open letter states that one of the reasons for the removal of the paper was “perceived tokenism.” The letter disputes this, stating that the paper “serves to educate and offer students a fantastic opportunity to study an array of intersectionality studies including critical feminist theories, gender, sexuality, race etc. which themselves are poorly represented within the tripos.”

The letter adds that “putting women in the spotlight for the first time after hundreds of years of being shunned out of the industry and history by the particular focus on generally white cis men, is not tokenism.”

The letter also alleges that “very small uptake” was another reason for the removal of the paper, and counters that “just under 40% of students would have considered engaging with this paper, making concern of uptake null and unbased.”

One student, in a testimony included in the letter, stated: “I would say with some confidence that the Women and Music course has been one of the most engaging and insightful courses I’ve taken whilst at Cambridge...The course was so much more nuanced than simply learning about female composers and musicians, and gave me an opportunity to completely rethink how we examine history, musicology, gender roles, performance and many other elements connecting to the music tripos as a whole.”

Although a large proportion of the signatories are past or present Music students or students at the University, representatives of major Music schools have also signed the letter, including Niki Moosavi of the Royal College of Music and Daniel Elphick, a Teaching Fellow in Music at Royal Holloway University.

Chloe Newbold, the SU Women’s Officer, has also signed the letter. Meanwhile, the SU Women’s Campaign, posting in support of the letter, emphasised that “it is important that our curriculums are uplifting and celebrating women’s voices.”


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Responding to the open letter, a spokesperson for the Faculty of Music said: “The Faculty’s commitment to the study of women and music - which is a staff research specialism - remains unwavering. We work in close consultation with our students, and following feedback last year and low uptake for the ‘Women in Music’ elective, the Faculty has selected courses for 2021/22 that encourage intersectional feminist approaches that allow for the foregrounding of women’s experience in relation to other key decolonial themes.

“We have reassured student representatives that, should one of the cognate electives at Part IB fall away, we will reinstate ‘Women and Music’ for 2021/22. We have also confirmed that students will have access to the online course content from this year.”

The statement also noted that a Reading Group on the topic would be offered as an alternative to the paper, and that staffing arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year prevent its reintroduction for next academic year.

This article was updated at 14:25 (14/05) to include comments from the Faculty of Music