Monday, 21 September 2009

Chris Brown: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

So I'm finally doing a Rihanna and Chris Brown post. Well, really just a Chris Brown post. I've put this off for a number of reasons. Firstly, I didn't see the point in writing a post when it first happened, just sort of saying it had happened and that it was terrible because, well, we all know that. Secondly, I wanted to see what happened to Brown in the months after the incident, his trial and his career. I feel that there's more to talk about at this point, mainly to do with the way Brown has dealt with the media.

I have to admit that I knew very little about Brown before this incident, not being particularly fond of the brand of dull as ditch-water r'n'b that he's been so successful at selling. From what I've read though, he was viewed as a real 'good guy', this was an integral part of his branding and image. Part of the shock people felt when this story broke was a result of this squeaky-clean image. And to be honest, many of his loyal fans continued to defend him on the blogosphere, some even going as far as to say that Rhihnna must have done something to deserve the brutal attack. Obviously Chrissywiss just isn't capable of doing anything his Mom wouldn't approve of. Men saying this is a worrying trend, but perhaps more worrying is that this defence often came from young women. Apparently there is a large group of young women out there who really feel that if they checked the text messages on their boyfriend's phone and accused him of cheating, they would deserve any violence that came their way. Or maybe they don't believe that, but they'd prefer to think that than accept the fact that Brown's behaviour was unjustifiable.

Then there is the apology. Call me cynical, but this came across as scripted (by a lawyer most probably) and a calculated attempt to create some closure and sympathy so that he could continue with his career. From his conservative (and, frankly, bizarre) outfit to his constant references to G-d, his mother and spiritual teachers, this was Brown trying to claw back his nice-guy image. His reference to the domestic violence he witnessed in his own home as a child, in the context of everything else he said, sounded hollow. Domestic violence is not simply 'uncontrolled rage', it's about entitlement and subjugation. The fact is, he felt entitled to hit Rihanna, probably because she's a women, an incredibly successful woman to boot.

Another public appearance, another ridiculous nice guy outfit. Brown appeared on Larry King's show with his mother. King asked him how he felt when he read the police report which details what he had done to Rihanna. His answer? 'I'm like, wow' and 'that's not the person I am'. Way to avoid answering there Chris. It clearly is the sort of person you are, you did it. This is obviously another attempt to distance himself from what he did, like it was another person who committed the abuse, not him. This is even more apparent when he claims that he doesn't remember it happening. Oh, using the old 'blackout' excuse there are we Chris? He clearly isn't worried about becoming a cliché. Brown never really addresses what he did, he never answers anything. It strikes me that it is only men who get away with this behaviour. Where womens' lives are scrutinised, men are often allowed to bluff their way out of uncomfortable situations.

It's a shame that Rihanna doesn't have the luxury of escaping from what happened, the leaked photographs of her abused face preclude this. She's been blamed for teaching girls that abuse is acceptable (because she accepted his apology and apparently took him back) and has been criticised for appearing in raunchy photo shoots, with people questioning if this is acceptable behaviour for a domestic violence victim (survivour). Brown seems to have avoided this level of scrutiny despite the fact that he was convicted of a violent crime. It seems there is no limit to the amount of blame that women are expected to shoulder.

At this point, it's hard to say whether Brown will go on to regain his success. His fans, or former fans, seem to be split roughly between postions that almost condone his behaviour and a sort of patriarchal, 'you don't do that to a woman, I want to beat him up'. He does seem to have lost the respect of lots of young fans though, which is generally positive (it would be better if it came from a place of gender equality rather than wanting to protect Rihanna's honour), but I'm sure many will just accept his apology and continue to throw girl-hate at Rihanna. It almost makes me wish I was a former fan, just so that I could stop buying his records.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

My Wordle...

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Riot, grrrls.

A couple of months ago I blogged about what it means to be a female musician today. Recently I've been thinking about what it's like to be a female music fan/geek as well and I've decided it's just as weird and shit. This was summed up for me the other day when I was in Sister Ray, a record shop in Soho, and I was the only woman there. And this isn't a one-off. I've always found independent and second hand record shops to be full of boys. The same goes for gigs, at a fairly recent Sonic Youth gig I attended girls were outnumbered by boys by at least three to one.

Are girl music geeks invisible on the music scene? Are there thousands, even millions, of us listening to bootlegs and b-sides in our bedrooms feeling intimidated by the macho atmosphere of many gigs and record shops? Absolutely. I know I was worried recently when I thought I was going to a Sonic Youth gig (yes, another one) alone. Last time was pretty rough, everybody was taller than me, male and going nuts. There's no way I'm going to hide away at the back when I could be thrashing about at the front but it's always good to know that you have a friend there to haul you up from the floor if needs be. There's also the problem for girls at gigs that some horrible boys will use their proximity to you, and the fact that you are stuck, to get 'handsy'. This can range from people rubbing up against you and groping because they think you won't notice in the throng (I did notice, and I know you noticed my elbow in your ribs and the bruise it must have left), to more serious sexual assaults and even rape and gang rape (during Limp Bizkit and KoRn at Woodstock). Most women who attend gigs will have dealt with some sort of behaviour on this spectrum.

I've written before about women feeling like they can't take up space and I think this is apparent at gigs which can become dangerous. It's safer to move and thrash along with everybody else than to stand still in the midst of everything and get trampled. Perhaps we're too scared to be rude to the asshole rubbing up us because we're taught to be polite and that if he gets angry we won't be able to defend ourselves. I remember being so pleased that I wasn't wearing a skirt as I crowd-surfed my way out of Pixies at Reading Festival, you hear of so many girls being violated in that situation.

And if it wasn't crap enough to fear being assaulted at a gig or embarrassed at a record shop, we also have to look out for girl-hate based on our love of music. If you wear a band t-shirt you face girls talking behind your back, 'She's just wearing it coz she thinks it's cool. Eurgh, I hate girls like that, it's so desperate.' People who wear band t-shirts of bands they don't like are lame, but why assume that somebody isn't a genuine fan just because they're female? I'm sure her boyfriend wouldn't be accused of being a shallow hipster if he was wearing it. I almost feel that some girls view themselves as the only real female music fan in the world, the rest of us are faking to get a boyfriend. I'm not saying you should be friends with every girl you see wearing a t-shirt of your favourite band, but I wish people would acknowledge how sexist and macho the alternative music scene can be and not buy into that bullshit. I'm reminded of a couple of my favourite points from the riot grrrl manifesto:

BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-heirarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.

BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused and/or turned against us via the internalization of sexism as witnessed in girl/girl jealousism and self defeating girltype behaviors.

I want girls to be happy when they see another girl in a t-shirt, it means more female faces at gigs. We should be getting stuck in at the front with our girl friends, teaching those boys who take advantage of the fact they're lucky enough to be near us in all our awesomeness exactly what happens if you touch us without our permission. One last point from the riot grrrl manifesto:

BECAUSE we know that life is much more than physical survival and are patently aware that the punk rock "you can do anything" idea is crucial to the coming angry grrrl rock revolution which seeks to save the psychic and cultural lives of girls and women everywhere, according to their own terms, not ours.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Want to be a hipster girlfriend? Look like a child.

It's probably not that surprising that an American Apparel advert has been banned. For the last few years they've consistently produced adverts featuring young women spread-eagled in their boyfriend's underwear, on all fours in hot-pants or topless in gym wear. It's not clever or interesting, just quite grim when you consider that the CEO, Dov Charney, has been accused of sexual harassment and once masturbated in front of a female journalist.

The reason it's been banned is that the woman looks as if she is under sixteen, and also because it is said to resemble an 'amateur-style photo shoot'. I'm not sure if I think the model looks THAT young, but the latter part is true. American Apparel have claimed the ad demonstrated that the hoodie is "soft to the touch" and that the model was not supposed to be viewed as"a sex object or in a negative or derogatory light". (Ta, Guardian) I'm sure I'm not alone in finding that hard to believe. After all, these photographs show a young woman gradually gradually revealing that she's topless under a hoodie whilst wearing teeny tiny shorts.

But it's not the most controversial of their adverts that I've seen. Check out this. I wonder if they would also claim that this was not sexual? When I first heard about this story, I really thought (hoped) it would be this one that had been banned. I'm sure that none of the models are actually under age, Ryan from the banned advert is 23, but they point is that they look young and vulnerable which is unsettling to say the least.

They've also tried to justify the ad by saying that because it ran in Vice magazine, it was unlikely to cause offense. I would agree that the ad won't have been the most sexist, offensive part of Vice. In fact, using very young looking women wearing very little in their photo shoots is something that the magazine is pretty obsessed with. A recent issue featured an extremely young and ill looking woman in a little blue swimming costume, playing about like a child. Ew. There's certainly a weird Lolita-esque thing going on in hipster lifestyle catalogues these days. The models appear as children, but are posed so as to that suggest they would be crazy in bed. Again, ew.

American Apparel has been lauded for the ethical way it treats it's LA base labour force, and this is certainly commendable. However, the way the women on its workforce are constantly simultaneously sexualised and infantilsed in its advertising is reprehensible. I guess it's understandable in a society that still wants women to be subservient and pure, but also up for having sex all the time. These American Apparel adverts are nothing more than pictorial representations of this tension and they deserve a collective 'YUCK' from the women they want to sell to.