What a surprise, we’ve the coopting of Christmas traditions to lay out the feminist case for something or other. Here it’s the idea that all male choirs are an abomination unto the Earth Mother and really, something must be done. At which point, well, you know, reality? Male and female voices are different – and yes, that extends to the time before puberty. And yes, we do have rather substantial proof of this.
Why do so many choirs exclude women? It’s time for this outdated practice to change
We all love the soaring harmonies of a full chorus at Christmas, but many choral institutions still don’t let women sing
Well, one start to it would be that they’re private institutions and how they run themselves is up to them. If we’re to have any meaning at all to liberty then that does have to be true. But leaving aside the basic philosophic point there really are times when men and women are sufficiently different that we’d want to rationally discriminate. Voice is one of them perhaps.
This being not really true:
One argument often made to justify excluding women is that men and boys alone offer a unique sound. And there are a lot of defendants of the tradition. Yet studies have found that the line between boy and girl trebles is much blurrier than most people think.
Who did the studies, why and how? For “studies show” is a weasel phrase. But we do in fact know differently. A counter-tenor is a very different voice from the female range equivalent. So much so that we’ve the example of the castrati – that female voice range but with the power of the male voice. So different that they used to hack the wobbly bits off* entire cohorts of boys in the hope that one or two might be able to sing as adults.
Now, whether this is sufficient justification – well, that’s not our business is it? These are private organisations who can use anything they damn well like. Just as any group of whatever sex or gender are entirely at liberty to sing as and with whom they wish in their own set ups. The important bit being this over here belongs to them, what you do belongs to you. You know, this liberty thing?
*Well, not quite, more usually a thread used to kill the testicles but it would be done on an entire cohort of orphan boys, not knowing who would be able to sing after puberty.