Sunday, 12 July 2009

Rebel girl?

Sometimes I feel like a Contrary Mary. A lot of my favourite musicians are women, people like PJ Harvey, Patti Smith and Kristen Hersh, as well as bands like Le Tigre and Bratmobile. I even put on a clubnight, Girl Germs, with a brilliant friend, celebrating awesome music made by awesome women. You would think then that I would be pleased about the much-hyped influx of young women making records and selling loads of them.

And I guess I would be if I felt that this was at all sustainable rather than just another fad. I think these two quotes (given to the Guardian) sum up the problem:

"The best thing about it is that it's glamorous," he says. "It's more interesting than a bunch of boring blokes, singing drab bin-men music." (Paul Rees, editor of Q magazine)
"I've spoken to a couple of A&R men recently who have said 'Please don't send us to see any more girl singers. We're just so bored of them'." (Steve Lamaq)
Obviously, the answer is not to get out of the boring indie slump with better, and more interesting music made by men and women alike, it is by creating an 'indie totty' genre. Women have become a genre. This is why we are seeing such disparate artists as La Roux (more on her later), Florence and the Machine and VV Brown lumped together in lazy articles all over the press. If this is true, we'll see this 'phenomenon' go the same way as the ill-fated 'nu-rave' genre once the 'girl' quota is filled and they've all released albums. It's obvious that women are still a glamorous novelty in a world that's still, for the most part, dominated by men.

And, disappointingly, the women who have made it (for however long) don't seem to be too concerned with taking this system to task. Take La Roux for example. Now, this is old news but I really want to address her now infamous quote about violence against women from an interview with The Quietus:

What's your stance on the way that female musicians either choose to or are forced to use a sexuality that's essentially just designed to appeal to men?

"It's really patronising to women. I know that there's far more ways to be sexy than to dress in a miniskirt and a tank top. If you're a real woman you can turn someone on in a plastic bag just by looking at them. That's what a real woman is, when you've got the sex eyes. I think you attract a certain kind of man by dressing like that. Women wonder why they get beaten up, or having relationships with arsehole men. Because you attracted one, you twat.

Oh Elly, it could have been so good. You could have said all of the right things, but you chose to say this. I can't applaud La Roux for her rejection of a 'traditional' feminine aesthetic anymore because she so clearly sees this, and herself, as superior to it. Instead of holding men responsible for their abusive actions, she blames women who make a choice to wear 'miniskirts' and 'tanktops' in order to feel sexy. Instead of a positive message about female individuality and diversity of sexuality, she scorns women who make different fashion choices to her and indulges in some old fashioned 'slut' blaming.

In fact, because of the crappy way the music industry works, La Roux has these 'twats' to thank for her position today. If they didn't exist and dress this way, there would be nothing for La Roux to be positioned against. Women in music can't just exist and do their music thing, they have to be pigeon-holed and divided up.

What I'm trying to say is that the music industry sucks. It allows a few women in for their sex appeal, and fewer in because they are 'different'. They then have to spend their entire career proving either how sexy or how different they are in order to sell records and keep the label happy. It's not fair that La Roux has to be a spokesperson for her gender, in a way that her male peers aren't expected to be, but she certainly needs to re-think blaming women in this callous and uninformed way.


  1. And she's not just dissing women who dress differently, she's outright blaming the victim. "Well, she was dressed like that, so she deserved it." How sad.

  2. Personally, i can not stand la roux, she sounds awful. But the fact that she said mind reels. And you are right about the thing with women being grouped in music; how does a woman ever get considered as a serious artist??