MeToo# vs. MTV
It was International Woman’s Day, I’m at the gym watching MTV on the cardio machine’s screen. MTV is featuring music clips of the best woman-power songs.
Beyonce’s “Run The World” was number 2, and number 1 was Ariane Grande’s “If God Was A Woman”. Musical taste aside (I happily admit I felt pumped up by Beyonce’s beat and there was some OK lyrics), I was disappointed. “Really?”, I thought, “This is their strongest moment?” Disappointed!
With a title like “God Is A Woman”, Grande had the opportunity to explore some really interesting issues but instead the song says that sex will be so amazing with a woman like her, you will think God must be a woman. Now, don’t get me wrong, I quite like some of Grande’s songs, they are fun pop. But when such a song is meant to represent female power (and don’t even go there with the God thing), I get cranky.
Not only was the message weak but the lyrics were intellectually dull and emotionally shallow. Lyrics include:
You, you love it how I move you
You love it how I touch you
My one, when all is said and done
You’ll believe God is a woman
And I can’t even deal with Miley Cyrus. My favourite line ever for “dumb -things-young-people-say” is awarded to this pygmy for the cause of feminism, when she said, “So probably around 40, around that time, I heard that’s when people don’t have sex anymore”(1). I assume this is her motivation for fully embracing and exploring her sexuality in such a “Klassy” way.
Poor Miley seems to have confused sex with amateur sport, rather than having ever experienced the truly amazing, earth shattering, sacred, intimate, deeply spiritual, vow binding, communion act of love making. Just an observation by an over 40 woman (I just threw down my imaginary microphone).
I find it incredulous that these pop princesses would dare to claim feminist philosophy. Here’s one quote by Grande in an interview with Billboard “If you’re going to rave about how sexy a male artist looks with his shirt off, and a woman decides to get in her panties or show her boobies for a photo shoot, she needs to be treated with the same awe and admiration.” (2).
Ok, well let’s watch MTV for a day and do a count of how many times women artists wear clothes that bring focus onto her “boobies” and “panties”, and a count of how many times a male artist gets his shirt off, or Lord help us, focus on his crotch, and see if the count comes close to equal?
Here’s a Miley classic when speaking to BBC Radio 4: “There’s absolutely no contradiction at all between being a feminist and taking your clothes off and being comfortable about displaying your sexuality. (3)”
These plastic-pop-princesses do not seem to understand that they contribute to a culture that paints women as sexual playthings with the cerebral substance and emotional depth of a barbie doll. To claim sexual exposure is a step forward for empowering women is like claiming, “I feel strong because I get to choose who treats me cheaply”.
A slave who chooses their master is not empowered, they’ve been played.
To find ownership over your sexuality is only a part of feminism. It is potentially dangerous if it does not sit within an intellectually constructed framework. This framework should not only have scholarly gravitas but also include enduring and eminent values like dignity, nobility, and integrity, the essential ingredients of true strength.
Exploring sexuality outside of such a framework is like doing surgery on infected womanhood, and having the scalpel but no other surgical instruments.
SEXUAL EMPOWERMENT OR EXPLOITATION?
Sexuality outside of this framework is vulnerable. Without its underlying values and philosophical keys, sexuality becomes susceptible to abuse. Historically, popular music has embraced the culture of sex, drugs and rock’n roll. It has been a place to explore our dangerous sides similar to horror movies and crime thriller fiction. However, it has jumped over the lines of exploration to exploitation. This has evolved into blurred lines, as Robin Thicke sings in his song of the same name:
Had a b#@%h, but she ain’t bad as you
So, hit me up when you pass through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your a%s in two
Swag on ’em even when you dress casual
I mean, it’s almost unbearable
Must wanna get nasty
or how about this:
Nothin’ like your last guy, he too square for you
He don’t smack that a%s and pull your hair like that
When Thicke performed this at the MTV awards, Miley Cyrus infamously twerked away at his crutch. He was wearing a suit, she was wearing underwear, WTFeminist?????
This is a song that celebrates sexually predatory behaviour. In fact, much of the pop music culture celebrates vulturous sexuality. It is no wonder the MeToo# movement is merely a whisper in the music industry.
This appalling song spent 33 weeks on the U.S Billboard Hot 100. It was number one in at least 25 countries. It became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with sales of 14.8 million. Here in Australia, it topped the ARIA Singles Chart for eight consecutive weeks It also earned Thicke a Grammy nomination (4). This song made its way into our cultural consciousness.
WHERE’S THE TIME’S UP IN THE TIME OUT GIG GUIDE?
The popular music industry is a major part of our culture. It is an industry which provides calories to our culture, an industry that creates communal language, an industry that creates computer-edited idols to be emulated and worshiped. While the Me Too# movement emerged from the movie industry, it’s sister, the music industry, has been mysteriously silent. There have been rumblings but not the same earthquake of accusations, not the same “time’s up” stance of other entertainment industries.
“A recent survey of 1,227 musicians by the Music Industry Research Association found that 72 percent of female artists had faced discrimination because of their gender and 67 percent had been the victim of alleged sexual harassment” (5). The reality is real skin and blood women (and men) are being sexually abused and horrifically manipulated with very few being brought to justice.
So “WhereToo” for the “MeToo” movement in the pop music industry? Perhaps it should glean some wisdom from its Grandma- classical music. This year, radio station ABC Classic honoured International Women’s Day by dedicating four days to the music of women composers. This festival, led by all women presenters, explored the lives and music of female composers over a 1000 years of history (6).
A BETTER WAY FORWARD
MTV could learn much from this incredibly positive and inspiring festival. If we really want to make a difference on International Women’s Day via the pop music industry let’s celebrate and venerate female musical artists that surround their sexuality within a true feminist framework.
Let us celebrate musical artists who embrace a feminism which sees women as much more than sexual playthings, as women who can only have money or power if they sell their sexuality.
Let us reach for so much more than even this.
Let us celebrate music that includes legitimate social commentary and creates righteous change. Let us celebrate women artists who are intelligent, creative, innovative, veracious, interesting, multifaceted humans.
Smart not slutty.
Dignity not degradation
Creativity not cleavage
Brilliance not booty
So I present to you:
MY INTERNATIONAL WOMAN’S DAY PLAYLIST
1.”Respect” by the Queen, Aretha Franklin
2.”Heart of Glass” by Blondie. Blondie was strongly sensual without ever wearing pants with a wedgie and twerking.
3.”Rumour Has It” by Adele. Really, anything by Adele because she completely demolished the pop-princess-barbie-doll with extraordinary talent.
4.”Love Story” by Taylor Swift. This woman is not abused by the musical “powers- that- be” because she set herself up as her own boss. Plus she cheers for other women singers. Finally, falling in love and feminism are not mutually exclusive to me.
5. “Praying” by Kesha, written after breaking free of her abusive producer.
6. “Quiet” by MILCK. The unofficial anthem for 2017 Women’s March in Washington. If you want goosebumps, watch this beautiful Capella version sung at the march: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/adolfoflores/people-are-calling-this-song-the-anthem-of-the-womens-march
7. “So What” by Pink. This woman is no victim post-break up. In fact, never the victim.
8. “Enough Is Enough” by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summers. Babs is THE Boss. These two extraordinary diva’s are the Ebony and Ivory of “Classy” with a gold sequinned capital “C”.
9. “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, just say what you wanna say girl.
10. “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Black hearts. I’m ready to shred prejudice up! (Definitely one for the gym)
11. “Just A Girl” by No Doubt. Again, gym worthy with a touch of punk and a lotta spunk.
12. “I Am Changing” by Jennifer Hudson, to keep the soul strong.
13. “Four Women” by Nina Simone for the jazz lovers. This song has so emotional depth, I had to consume chocolate after listening to it just to recover.
14. “Morpheus” composed by Rebecca Clark. I discovered this piece while listening to ABC Classic’s Women Composers Festival. It’s never going to be on MTV but I just had to add it because it so incredibly beautiful.
LET ME KNOW THE SONGS YOU WOULD PUT ON YOUR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY PLAY LIST.
by Elissa Macpherson