The XFM Rebrand – Blatant 90s Sexism Disguised as a Lads Club

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Did you notice yourself going back in time? No no, don’t bother looking around for vintage cars, bell-bottom jeans or casio tape players; that is not the evidence I am talking about. Instead, our miraculous time travel manifests itself in one humble radio station – XFM.

Photo by Richard Berry

Photo by Richard Berry

On the 21st September, the world of music will get a little more depressing, as gender equality in the industry takes several steps back and well-known indie radio station, XFM, switches over to a painfully testosterone-infused, ‘Radio X’.

The rebranding of XFM will grace us with “the first truly male-focused, fully national music and entertainment brand for 25-44 year olds”. It will be fronted by an all-male central lineup, including Chris Moyles, Vernon Kay, Johnny Vaughan and Kaiser Chief’s Ricky Wilson. Bad news to any women out there hoping to make it big on Britain’s only prominent indie rock radio station. There is always Absolute Radio, but you do sometimes have to sit through some easy-listening Bruno Mars or pop-y Madonna before you get to the Blondie, Foals and Red Hot Chili Peppers records.

I can only assume the ‘X’ stands for “exclude half the population”, or maybe “extremely sexist nonsense”. Really they should have called it ‘Radio Y’, for that pesky chromosome us women have missed out on – the one that would have allowed us to enjoy anything with a tempo higher than 110 bmp and more than one recorded guitar. Alternatively, it would also work as “Radio Y does this exist?”

Did anyone request this? The last time I checked, I did not hear my fellow women complaining about being coerced into listening to rock music. This may come as a surprise to the geniuses behind ‘Radio X’, but it is a popular assumption that a lot of us actually quite like indie rock. Maybe I am being unreasonable – maybe this is just an effort to protect us females from head banging too much to ‘Lust For Life’, lest we end up burning ourselves over the stove, or disturb the innocent minds of the babies we will eventually be stowing in our uteruses if ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ starts playing too loudly. I often forget to thank the patriarchy as I am usually too busy concentrating on ironing out the creases of my imaginary boyfriend’s shirts.

It is not just women who should be offended by this; Radio X assumes that men are dying to only hear the same bands XFM have been repeating for years. Surely the modern man cannot possibly survive without football jokes and cheesy features?

Vernon Kay believes “the launch of Radio X is the dawn of a new era in radio”, except it’s not. It is nothing but a revival of what the music industry looked like in the 90s – a scene with a patronising attitude toward women who claim to like music and the erroneous association of good rock with easy humour. “Great Britain needs great banter” – a statement confidentially made by Vaughn. I cannot help but wonder how much music he will actually manage to fit in between all the megalols he is planning for his drive time show.

XFM broke the news on their website, where they have listed 18 bands that they are proud to support and play, including Mumford and Sons, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Kings of Leon. Of these 18 bands, only two include female musicians, suggesting the male-focus will not be merely restricted to presenters and listeners.

Quite frankly, I am bored. I am bored of arguing about something that is so painfully obvious – women like rock music too. Are we spoiling the party, XFM? Do our unimpressed responses to your cringey lad banter ruin your fun and require you to exclude us from your boys club? Will you feel more comfortable talking about tits and beer when you think it is just middle-aged men tuning in?

Great Britain does not need “great banter”, Johnny Vaughn, it needs great music. Apparently I will now need somewhere new to listen to it.

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Jessica Brough is the Editor of bite (2015/16). She writes about music and popular culture.

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