If we are habits, nothing but habits, is music a feminist failure?


  • Assoc. Prof. Sally Ann Macarthur Western Sydney University


Deleuze, feminism, habit


As an exterior force of relations and habits, feminism is conceived as a failure that needs a radical rethink. In this conceptualisation, feminism has failed to remove gender bias from institutions of work and in music it has failed to solve the inequalities of gender and race. Drawing on the philosophy of Deleuze as applied by Elizabeth Grosz, I explore what an immanent approach to thinking about the dynamics of feminist work and its habits in music might do to generate new understandings. I begin from the premise that the disciplinary apparatus of the modern institution makes everything the same, neutralising gender differences and eradicating any possibility for variation and unpredictability. I then shift into immanent thinking, arguing that when music performance in the higher education music institution is separated from the strictures of music curriculum and assessment regimes, transformations become possible. To illustrate this idea, I discuss a student performance of Bruno Mars’ song, Chunky, mashed with Michael Jackson’s PYT (Pretty Young Thing), at a Western Sydney University Art of Sound Concert presented in the Playhouse Theatre in October 2018. I argue that the performance, moves out of the rigidly coded gender norms of the institution into the plane of immanence.

Author Biography

Assoc. Prof. Sally Ann Macarthur, Western Sydney University

Associate Professor Sally Macarthur is a musicologist whose research draws on Deleuzian philosophy and feminist poststructuralist theories to investigate twentieth and twenty-first century music in the Western classical tradition. She is the author of Towards a Twenty-First-Century Feminist Politics of Music, published by Ashgate in 2010, and co-editor of Music’s Immanent Future: The Deleuzian Turn in Music Studies, published by Routledge in 2016. Her earlier books, Feminist Aesthetics in Music and Musics and Feminisms, continue to be widely cited. She has been a lead investigator with Distinguished Professor Dawn Bennett, Curtin University, Associate Professor Sophie Hennekam, School of Business, La Rochelle, France, Professor Cat Hope, Monash University, and Talsha Goh, DCA student, Western Australian Academy Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University on the International Study of Women in Music, 2015-18, publishing 7 articles in international journals, including Musicology Australia and the British Journal of Music Education. Associate Professor Sally Macarthur is Director of Academic Program for the Bachelor of Music and Master of Creative Music Therapy programs at Western Sydney University and she is an Honorary Adjunct Associate Professor at the Elder Conservatorium, Adelaide University.




How to Cite

Macarthur, S. A. (2022). If we are habits, nothing but habits, is music a feminist failure?. Journal of Music Research Online, 12. Retrieved from https://www.jmro.org.au/index.php/main/article/view/41