Debate Over Feminist Pop Stars Not Always So Simple
Self-avowed non-feminist Meghan Trainor performing at House of Blues in February
I have to be honest: as a male writing about feminism and the ever-changing landscape of women in music, I feel a bit apprehensive because there is a certain set of rules and moral guidelines I must not break.
For example, when I use the term "women in music," am I perpetuating a separate standard for female artists than male artists and totally going against the gender equality feminism is trying to achieve, or am I simply trying to talk specifically about musicians of the female sex? And is it bad that I only use female pop stars as examples in this article, or is it just that they are the ones who typically get asked about being feminists?
Even if I don't mean to -- even if I completely support feminist ideals in every way -- I will always run the risk of making some sort of statement. As an online music lover, this unspoken expectation is frustrating, but imagine being a musician in 2015. How many times have you seen headlines that read, "X Says She Is NOT a Feminist" or "Did Y Go Too Far With These Feminist Remarks?" Within the past year, the question of whether or not you are a feminist has flooded red carpets everywhere, and even in this day and age, many musicians still seem to be torn over it.
Meghan Trainor has a No. 1 song encouraging body positivity, yet declines that she is a feminist. In a 2009 interview, Lady Gaga said she wasn't either, but later wholeheartedly embraced the term. Miley Cyrus says she is "one of the biggest feminists in the world because [she tells] women not to be scared of anything," proving that she doesn't really know that the word means. Then you have Lana Del Rey, who simply says she doesn't find feminism "interesting."
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The truth is that feminism is completely subjective, but when an interviewer asks a female artist if she's a feminist or not, it turns into a "yes" or "no" question, which not only goes against the equality feminists stand for but is also just lazy journalism. If Lady Gaga views feminism as this, but Rihanna views feminism as that, then what does this deep-rooted movement stand for besides being a way for gossip sites to get pageviews?
Whichever way the artist answers, there is no doubt that they will get hate for it. If X says she is not a feminist the bloggers will bash her, with people throwing her albums in the trash and posting the photos to Twitter. Then if Y says she is a feminist, conservatives will reprimand her for it -- as we recently saw when Beyonce openly came out as a feminist to 10 million people at last year's Video Music Awards, and Fox News got mad at her for showing too much skin during her performance. Whether "yes" or "no," an artist's answer will piss somebody off. Again, most likely that's not her intent going into an interview that is supposed to be about her music.
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I am not saying that we should silence discussions about feminism; quite the opposite. In order for feminism to progress, it needs to be spoken about openly, but what we need to do is let artists speak about it on their own terms and not force them into labeling themselves as "for" or "against."
This is why I think Beyonce is such a great example for feminism in the music industry. Instead of letting some interviewer ask her whether or not she is a feminist, she declares her viewpoints through her music and live performances, literally defining the world "feminist" on every television in America. As fans and listeners, we need to start observing feminism in the music industry through artists' actions rather than the media's attention-grabbing and often misleading headlines.
Because like a popular feminist once said, "Don't get it twisted, this my sh*t...bow down, bitches."
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