Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


Susan Fast




Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music was the first all female music festival to tour North America. Its founder, Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan, hoped that Lilith Fair would demonstrate the "great and diverse music being made by women." What was immediately apparent in the inaugural 1997 tour, however, was the predominance of white singer/songwriters. As a consequence, the festival did not celebrate a diverse range of women musicians, but rather a particular "women's music" community informed by the patriarchal ideology of "Woman" and respectability. The white, middle class, heterosexual woman performer was the norm at Lilith Fair; in addition, the predominance of singer/songwriters guaranteed a particular construction of the body: contained and constrained. Furthermore, as Lilith Fair 1998 and 1999 attempted to diversify the festival's line-up, the notions of diversity and difference were enacted in specific and problematic ways, reproducing the racial duality white/black and enforcing this hierarchy by the way in which the festival utilized physical space. This thesis locates Lilith Fair in ideologies of gender, race, class, sexuality and community in order to investigate how the music and extra-musical activities of Lilith Fair constructed this particular "women's music" community. By considering the festival's relationship to the notion of respectability, the problems of representation this invokes are explored, especially with respect to the position of women musicians in popular music. The musical performances are then examined as a space in which the women musicians were able to both resist and invest in respectability. Finally, the representation of Lilith Fair in the print media is critically examined in terms of how this discourse evoked gendered hierarchies, marginalizing the significance of Lilith Fair.

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