Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Pop Stars In Their Underwear ( Possibly, Maybe )

A few days ago, we were contacted by a regular reader of Breaking More Waves who was unable to view the blog on her mobile phone. Her service provider (O2) had mistakenly blocked the blog on the basis that it was a phishing site or contained inappropriate adult content. On twitter we announced “Hoping we’ve been blocked by O2 due to our analogies of music to sex. New strap line: Breaking More Waves – a sexy music blog for adults.” Later, again on twitter we joked “All this adult content tomfoolery has got me thinking. Maybe I should do a ‘pop stars in their underwear’ feature. Any volunteers?” Unsurprisingly we didn’t get any replies; after all we only have 1 or 2 bona fide pop stars following us on twitter and a number of potential ones.

However, the tweets had already sent our brains cells off in a particular direction. One that concludes with this post. It may not be exactly what you expected. There are no pictures of Little Boots in bra and knickers straddled over a synthesiser or Thom Yorke doing that dance in just his pants. As one twitter follower commentated “when did you turn into FHM?”  Well we didn’t, not really. However we did continue the underwear theme yesterday by posting a video by Australian band San Cisco, where the band didn’t appear at all, but a number of women clad only in their under garments ‘larked’ around. When we tweeted about it and mentioned underwear wearing women it got one of the highest click through rates we’ve ever had. We’ll leave you to make your own conclusions on that.

Yet despite the lack of replies to our ‘humorous’ twitter request for undie wearing pop people, it’s incredible how pop culture and pop musicians use sexual imagery to sell their brand / image / music and how this imagery has developed over time.

In 2011 Erin Hatton and Mary Nell Trautner published a well-publicised paper following a detailed analysis of the covers of Rolling Stone magazine between 1967 and 2009 which found that sexualised images of men and women have increased, though women continue to be more frequently sexualised than men. In the 2000’s 74% of all the cover images of women on the magazine were found to be hyper sexualised. For the purposes of the study hyper sexualised meant that they exhibited multiple signs or symbols of sex.  Often women on the covers of Rolling Stone were shown naked (or nearly so); they were shown with their legs spread wide open or lying down on a bed—in both cases sexually accessible; they were shown pushing up their breasts or pulling down their pants.

The potential danger with this is that it gives a message out to society that it’s now acceptable to treat women purely as an object and not a human being at all. “Inside the dirty mind of a pop princess,” was the title on Rolling Stone for one naked Christina Aguilera shot, the implication perhaps being that Aguilera had nothing to think about except sex and further objectifying her as nothing more than a f*ck object.

When Lana Del Rey came to prominence on the internet last year there was a staggering amount of objectification (of sorts) around her. The numerous comments about her lips and her looks on the internet came close to classifying her as a cartoon rather than a real person. Yet at the moment that the Lana Del Rey lynch mob had reached its peak her images whilst sometimes being moderately sexual weren’t hyper sexualised. There were no pictures of her naked, or touching her breasts, but it seemed that society had shifted one dangerous step further. Quite simply being a female pop star, irrespective of what she was wearing, made her an object for consumption (either positively or negatively) by others with little regard to her music or any other aspect of her as a human being. Had the likes of the Aguilera cover almost 10 years previous moved society to a position where now every female pop star could never be judged on anything other than physical appearance?

This blog post is not attempting to lay a moral high ground (after all we purposely posted the video of the women in underwear yesterday to see what reaction we got and have celebrated intelligent bands like Pris who like to wear underwear as part of their stage wear ) and say what is right or wrong; we’re a firm believer that much of life isn’t black and white but full of grey.It is to simply question the route that we’re going. When artists parade round in nothing more than a bra or pants on stage and in photo shoots, are they actually expressing how empowered women have become or are they just adding further to the dehumanisation of women? Is Rihanna, a singer who has been through domestic violence and parades round in skimpy garments on stage choosing the correct thing to do ? Will there come a time when a potential female popstar will only be signed to a record label on the basis of how overtly sexual she's prepared to be. Or is this already happening?

Ultimately these choices of what to do or not to do are the individuals choices, but is society making these choices too limited ? 

We're sorry if you came here hoping to see pictures of Katy Perry in a bra and suspenders or members of Rizzle Kicks stripping off. We know and understand that the points we're making are fairly basic and have been discussed numerous times before, but the route of travel continues to be in one direction and we're not fully sure if enough people are at least questioning if it's a good route to continue ? The human body is a beautiful thing and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the naked form, we're not being prudish; but has the hyper sexing of pop culture gone too far ?


Anonymous said...

Damn and there I was thinking this was gonna be a hot photo blog of indie girls in their knickers.

Dave said...

Enjoyable post (as ever) I always enjoy your discussion articles Robin and good food for thought. To often it's just seen as 'that's how it is these days' without people questioning if 'that's how it is' is a good thing in the longer term.