I n case you forgot that female musicians are too frequently objectified, there have been a few reminders recently.
(Maybe you did need a reminder. Apparently the point has sunken in, though it should have a long time ago.)
Thursday morning, Solange Knowles tweeted, “I find it very disappointing when I am presented as the ‘face’ of my music, or a ‘vocal muse’ when I write or co-write every fucking song.”
Among the replies was this one from @MikeWardEvrybdy: “sadly critics always put female musicians in the same narrative of having a great male mentor that makes her talents shine.”
Her 140-characters-or-less missive, and that particular response, echo the much lengthier complaint made by Grimes on her Tumblr two days earlier. You should read the entire post, but here are the relevant highlights:
“I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if i did this by accident and i’m gonna flounder without them … I have never seen this kind of thing happen to any of my male peers
“im tired of being considered vapid for liking pop music or caring about fashion as if these things inherently lack substance or as if the things i enjoy somehow make me a lesser person
“I’m tired of creeps on message boards discussing whether or not they’d ‘fuck’ me
“I’m sad that my desire to be treated as an equal and as a human being is interpreted as hatred of men, rather than a request to be included and respected”
Meanwhile, the other Knowles sister is attempting to exercise her power by banning photographers from her tour. But it doesn’t feel empowering. Beyonce shouldn’t have to care about some bad photos because they’re being taken while she is blowing the world away with grueling, nearly-flawless performances.
Have you tuned this out yet? I hope not. The insistence that this kind of talk is ungrateful whining or that the problem isn’t real is utter bullshit. We still struggle to talk about female musicians without even a casual reference to appearance.
Someone who says, “I’d rather be sexualized than ignored” is almost as big a part of the problem. This isn’t about whether or not Grimes or Solange is gorgeous, or whether some assholes think Bethany Cosentino could stand to lose a few pounds. It’s about, well… honestly, it feels too obvious to even have to state.
We should first and foremost be talking about the talents and musical contributions of these women. Without qualification.
You can write that Solange has crafted pop in her own indie image without once mentioning that she’s stunning. Really, you can. It is definitely not relevant whether or not you want to have sex with her. And a male musicians’ attractiveness is hardly ever deemed relevant. (Except when it’s Adam Levine. Sorry, Adam.)
Making this point feels like shouting into a void or firing BBs at someone wearing a bulletproof vest. No one is listening or it’s bouncing right off. But I’ll keep yelling and keep firing, and hopefully women like Grimes and Solange, with their much more massive influence, will keep at it, too.
Now, go listen to Visions and True because those two really kill it.