Saturday, 2 November 2013

Pop Stars in their Pants.

by Emma Bell

As I was sitting watching Miss Jessie J at the O2 arena on Tuesday, I mused: “All that talent and she still has to go on stage in her bra and knickers.”
Look, I understand the common tradebacks on a statement like that: She’s empowering herself. She’s making her own choices.  No-one’s telling her to!
But her big fat backing band of blokes were not in their pants. They were busy playing their guitars and keyboards and drums and generally making good (if generic) music.
The backing singers weren’t in their pants. They were in some schlumpy black legging and t shirts.
The support band (male, guitar band) WEREN’T PLAYING THEIR GUITARS IN THEIR UNDERPANTS.
So why was Miss J in five different nude leotards with strategic spangles which left no–one in any doubt as to her femininity?
Josephine Baker
The female body occupies an awkward space in popular culture. The body has always been a signifier of a transaction between a consumer culture and the artist. Madonna made a career on parlaying a powerful message about sexuality and power. Mademoiselle Josephine Baker danced nude in public for her male and female lovers and broke any number of racial and sexual prejudices whilst doing so.
But – today -there seems to be an unfortunate by-product of an infantilised society that marks the movement into adulthood as an excellent excuse to project an image of femaleness that seems strangely out-dated and Freudian.

OK, you’re 18. No lumps and bumps anywhere. Super. Bravo. But what else have you got? A great song? Something really interesting to say about the way the music industry sees you? Something fantastically new about the world we live in? No? Because right now seeing another female pop star in a thong is not actually shocking. There is no Shock of the New. And there is no comment on How We Live Now.

When Gaga stripped naked in a London club this week during a show, she was literally taking this phenomenon to its inevitable conclusion. 
It is boring and conforms entirely to an out-dated "Madonna/Whore" view of females that bears no resemblance to the young women I see and know who are smart, literate, funny and bloody minded: females who want to compete on their terms. And not to have to do it dressed up like a stripper.
When Rhianna cavorts in an Irish field in her bra and knickers she is selling something.

When Miley Cyrus twerks at the MTV awards, it is she who is in her flesh coloured underwear, not Mr Thicke. And it is she who is selling something.
And that something is product. And the product makes money for as long as it can and then the product will be discarded.
And it is they who run the wrath of trolls, misogynists and fundamentalists who want to tell women to shut up and get out of the public space.
Still, she’s empowering herself. She’s making her own choices.  No-one’s telling her to.

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