By Francis Nicholson
Don’t you just love pop-culture feminism? Since the Spice Girls back in the 90s, it’s been the same song, but now with a new name and new purveyors of its empty and horse-shit message to spread to the masses. After a few romantic ballads, a few heartbreak hymns, and a few upbeat “Let’s Partee” numbers, there comes a time in a young, female pop star’s life where she needs to tell the world, “I am not just a product of a sex-obsessed, objectifying, commodifying, insipid culture that’s focused on money, possessions, status, and looks. No, I’m an icon of female empowerment. I’m just as strong and bad-ass as those men, and I’m going to make a song and music video to prove it.”
How do you show you’re equal to men?
Well, you copy all the cliché cultural stereotypes of what it is to be masculine, and then do exactly what they do, but in Spandex and tight-fitting outfits; basically venerate violence whilst being sexy, and maybe add a bit of lipstick-lesbo undertones to make it even more racy for the guys watching who you don’t even care about anyway, ‘cause this one’s for me, ladies! It’s like a highbrow version of bikini mud wrestling. Two recent examples of this are Demi Lovato’s “Be Confident” and Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” Both show bad-ass chicks kicking male butt. It’s extreme violence with no consequences, you know, just like in real life, all the while keeping their make-up and sexiness intact. Bravo, girls. Score one for Team Fuckwit.
Shouting female empowerment whilst allowing oneself to conform to the sexy prerequisites of a female celebrity is both disingenuous and straight-out depressing. In 2014, Beyoncé released “Pretty Hurts” about our cultural obsession with looks and beauty pageants and how it was costing women their souls. She sings…
Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst. Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts. Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst. We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see. It’s the soul that needs the surgery
All great lyrics, yet the accompanying music video shows Beyoncé glossed up and looking stunning, confirming all the points her song was meant to combat. A video with no make-up, no lighting, and no digital touch-ups would have made it a powerful message, but no can do. Pretty may hurt you, but it still makes me and my record company loads of money.
Therein lies the contradiction and hypocrisy that pervades this celebrity industry.You can say whatever you want about female empowerment, just don’t deviate from the script of remaining sexy, sellable, and conformed to what is expected to make sales. There are obvious exceptions to this, such as Adele and maybe SIA, but they are definitely the exception, not the rule, and I imagine they have to work even harder and be even more awesome than most to ensure they are given the credit where it’s due.
There are so many intelligent, creative, political, and amazing women for the younger generation to look towards for inspiration (small list below), yet their voices and contributions are drowned out in the dross of the loud, vapid, and omnipresent celebrity culture our children our engulfed in. I can’t switch it off, but I will do my upmost to let my two young daughters know those role models are as empowering and as worth listening to as the plastic, headless Monster High dolls they have at the bottom of their toy box. Maybe even less.
23 inspiring women not in sexy clothes.