Representation Of Women In The Music Industry


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Representation Of Women In The Music Industry

  1. 1. Representation of Women in the Music Industry By Chloe Ward Chloe Ward Tuesday, November 19, 2013 1:37:54 PM United Kingdom Time
  2. 2. “Nothing is provocative anymore Even for kids No room for imagining 'Cause everyone's seen everything” - ‘Sex Yeah’ – Marina and the Diamonds It is a well known and commonly talked about fact that the way women are represented across the music industry is not reflective of women in real life, and the effects of this are commonly debated about. Although women are commonly sexualized and stereotyped across the media, there seems to be a hyper-sexualisation that occurs in the music industry as an accent to the music that many call ‘mediocre’ in order to help sell it. Sex has always been used to sell products, from fruit to IT services, and music is no exception to this rule. It is important to remember however, that with music playing such a prevalent part of our everyday lives, that this is having a large impact on us. • 31% of American girls admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a strategy for weight loss • 9 in 10 girls say the fashion and media industries place a lot of pressure on them to be thin • 80% of parents have seen their children sing or repeat sexual lyrics without realising their meaning • 1/3 of parents also said their child had copied the overtly provocative dance moves they had seen pop stars perform. Professor Sut Jhally points out that women often are seen to perform provocatively through touching themselves, male artists and other women. This behavior, if emulated by children, could obviously be damaging. Interestingly this behavior is rarely seen in male artists. The excuse for women doing this behavior is explained as them asserting their femininity and expressing themselves sexually, beyond the boundaries of what is usual for women. It would undoubtedly cause a fierce and offensive row over sexuality if a male artist was to carry out actions seen in videos such as Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop. Similarly, we wouldn’t see male artists kissing each other on stage as a means of creating a flirty scandal, such as Britney Spears and Madonna. This can be seen as suggesting that women’s sexualities are taken far less seriously than men’s and this can be damaging to women too. Jhally suggests that this highly sexualised fantasy world in which female artists are indulging lesbian fantasies and expressing themselves through promiscuous dance routines has set the standard for women in the music industry, forcing them to promote their bodies and looks in order to become successful in an industry dominated by powerful men. Chloe Ward Tuesday, November 19, 2013 1:37:54 PM United Kingdom Time
  3. 3. “American youth are being sold the concept that women and girls’ value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality” - The Representation Project Miley Cyrus in an artist where this seems to have gone slightly too far, especially in the eyes of social media. Rarely a week goes by without Cyrus posting a photo of herself in revealing clothes (or seemingly nude), releasing a scandalous new song with provocative lyrics and a video that attracts outcry, or performing at an awards show in very little. Originally, Cyrus shot to fame as Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana, a Disney character who lived a double life, spending half her time as a regular teen girl with Tennessee roots and the other half as a global pop sensation. It is for this reason that her actions are so alarming to so many members of the public – because they were used to seeing her with such a safe and inoffensive image of a young woman, and one that many young girls could look up to; the explosion of the ‘new’ Miley Cyrus generated a lot of outcry and it is hardly surprising. Many people defended her, however, as reinventing herself and showing people that she had grown up, and as trying to shrug off the old Disney image she had had so carefully cultured for her over the years. The majority of concerns came from people who were understandably shocked at the new look – branding her as ‘disgusting’ and her actions as ‘wrong’. What is interesting though is that when the same people spoke of Lana Del Rey (second picture down on the right), they talked about her in a much fonder way. Cyrus’ songs are definitely risqué, but none of them are quite as overtly sexual as Del Rey’s – lyrics such as “my p***y tastes like Pepsi Cola” are probably more provocative than those in some of the songs written by Cyrus. However, it is often the presentation of these women that has an impact on how they are perceived. Lana Del Rey’s entire celebrity image is one of class and sophistication, with designer clothes, lavish jewellery and beautifully styled hair. On the other hand, items of clothing such as a nude PVC bikini and crudely styled pigtails are at the opposite end of the spectrum. It seems therefore that the way these female celebrities present themselves during their performances and publicity defines them as artists, and especially so when nudity is involved. One journalist, writing for the Australian Daily Telegraph asked “How have we allowed a small group of men in the music industry to confuse pop music with stripping and portray women in such a demeaning, one dimensional way? And how did it quietly become the backdrop to our everyday lives?” Chloe Ward Tuesday, November 19, 2013 1:37:54 PM United Kingdom Time
  4. 4. “This is a fleshy, naked emergency – pop stars are too sexy for our kids” -­‐ Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, The Guardian On the other end of the spectrum we have Adele, often sold as an award winning vocalist, singer, songwriter and incredible stage presence. She is rarely sexualised, although many put this down to her being curvier than many of the other artists we see across front pages and magazine advertisements. She successfully subverts media and industry expectations of female artists, giving them empowering lyrics, breathtaking melodies and stunning vocals as opposed to breasts, bottoms and baring all. This is a glimpse into how it is possible to be successful without presenting a sexualised image – Adele has a net worth of $45,000,000, whereas aforementioned Lana Del Rey has a net worth of $12,000,000. Taylor Swift is a more demure artist too, although her penchant for releasing love songs regarding her break-ups has resulted in her being portrayed as a ‘man-eater’ and a ‘slut’ in the eyes of some social media users, as she has been known to date popular male celebrities such as Joe Jonas and Harry Styles, which is interesting considering Swift has not once posed for a partially clothed photo shoot, unlike more promiscuous counterparts who, while not praised for their sexual exploits, encounter very little backlash over them. Lorde, the woman in the third image down on the right, is an example of a new artist to the music industry who has managed to enter the industry with very little sexuality in her breakthrough track and who has not portrayed herself in a way that is considered to be overly sexualised or promiscuous. However, some other young artists such as Gabriella Cilmi, whose breakthrough track, ‘Sweet About Me’, became a global hit in 2008, admitted she felt ‘pressurised to present herself in a sexier style’ following the success of ‘Sweet About Me’, despite only   being 16. She claims the management she had at the time forced her into ‘dance routines, a sexy new image and topless photo shoots for FHM’. Welsh singer-songwriter Charlotte Church came out recently to talk about the pressures she faced as a very young female artist, who believes that young female artists are routinely ‘coerced into sexually demonstrative behavior in order to hold onto their careers’. She accused record labels of encouraging young singers to ‘present themselves as hypersexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win’. Chloe Ward Tuesday, November 19, 2013 1:37:54 PM United Kingdom Time
  5. 5. "The lines that I had spun at me again and again - generally by middle-aged men were: 'You look great, you've got a great body - why not show it off?'” – Charlotte Church Some female artists in the music industry have used their femininity and sexuality to their advantage. Jessie J is a prime   example of an artist who did this; in January 2011, she released the highly provocative ‘Do It Like A Dude’ – with lyrics such as “ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ money like a pimp/ my B-I-T-C-H’s on my d**k like this” alongside repeated uses of an expletive, as well as a highly promiscuous and startling music video. This successfully managed to pull a lot of media attention towards her, and following the spectacle that is Lady Gaga, the media expected her to release songs that became increasingly more sexual, more exciting and more provocative. Jessie J more or less did the exact opposite. Her follow-up song to this was Price Tag, featuring B.o.B, with lyrics such as “it’s not about the money, money, money/ we don’t need your money, money, money/ we just wanna make the world dance/forget about the price tag”. The rest of her singles also contained meaningful messages, about bullying and feeling comfortable in your own skin. She shaved her hair off for Children In Need in 2013, and the Guardian said of her decision to come out as openly bisexual as “valuable to young teens, especially for young girls unsure of themselves because of their sexuality and identity, to feel ‘that this does happen and this is normal’”. Another female artist seen as a good role model through her use of sexuality is Pink. Particularly in recent years, she has provided an image of healthy body and strength, especially with her aerial silk performances on her most recent tours. She became spokesmodel for CoverGirl in mid 2012, featuring in a mid 2013 campaign themed ‘beauty with an edge’ – which is something to bear in mind as they are indicating that she is not conventionally beautiful despite having this achievement. Lady Gaga is an artist that has suffered from a barrage of criticism in regards to her body, image, sexuality and music. Breaking onto the scene in 2009 with ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Pokerface’, she faced accusation of being a hermaphrodite alongside constant ridicule over her fashion choices and fierce anger aimed at her for ‘copying’ Madonna and David Bowie’s messages and clothing choices – despite many artists, male or female having drawn inspiration from fellow artists in decades before. In conclusion, it seems that women are represented in the music industry in a number of different ways. Some are portrayed as hyper-sexualised female goddesses, others as tacky and selfdeprecating. What some consider to be empowering is deemed embarrassing and tasteless for others; however, the real issue, it seems, is why female artists feel the need to present themselves in this way – and what we can do to change it. Chloe Ward Tuesday, November 19, 2013 1:37:54 PM United Kingdom Time