When did it become the norm for women in music to be trampy 24/7?
Believe me, there is nothing wrong with owning one’s sexuality. But is the concept of being in charge of your sexuality synonymous with acting like a stripper in heat? Over the past decade or so, the role of the woman in pop music has gone from being occasionally titillating to basically playing the role of a ho. Misogynist? Not at all. Work with me here. Name one huge-selling (platinum level) female star in popular music right now who doesn’t pull her clothes off at any available opportunity. Alicia Keys. Hayley Williams. Mary J. Blige. Meanwhile, think of iconic female performers from yesteryear: Aretha, Patti, Chaka, Joni, Carole King). Hell, think of female country performers today. Think of Aaliyah, Latifah, Lyte, Jewel. Not that they weren’t sexy (well, not that some of them weren’t sexy), but the seduction was implied and not rubbed in your face.
Female singers trading on their femininity is nothing new. Hey, part of the reason Diana Ross became such an icon in the Sixties is because she was sexy. But that wasn’t *all* she was. Even in the Nineties: yeah, Madonna was edgy, but she was countered by artists like Alanis Morissette and Lauryn Hill-women that sold millions of records and were able to do so without being overt about their sexuality. I mean, Alanis had the whole “go down on you in a theater” thing, but she wasn’t parading around in next-to-nothing, writhing and moaning like…Britney, Christina, GaGa, Rihanna, Katy Perry and just about every female artist making waves these days. There was a sense of mystery to their sexuality-it wasn’t the only thing they were trading on. Is it even possible these days to be a female hip-hop artist and not be overtly sexual? At least in the days of Kim and Foxy, you had Missy and Lauryn Hill to counterbalance. Nowadays, there’s just Nicki Minaj. This is NOT a good thing. Where’s the emphasis on talent?
Now, I’m totally not a prude. Actually, you could probably rate me pretty high on the freak scale. I might be a gay dude, but I appreciate titties as much as the next guy. However, I don’t find in-your-face sexuality to be very…uh, sexy. Especially if it comes from a place of desperation and/or is played for shock value. There’s a lot to be said for subtlety. Madonna? Sexy chick. However, she was more sexy when it was somewhat coy (see: “Bedtime Stories”) than when she was pushing her titties in everyone’s face (see: “Erotica”, her least essential studio album before she started sucking about ten years ago). Janet? “Pleasure Principle”-sexy. Nipplegate? Not sexy. And she went from being every black man’s perfect woman to an almost-desperate one-note performer who appeared to want to distract us by disrobing, hoping we wouldn’t notice that the music was getting shittier and shittier. And we see where the over-sexed image has gotten Christina Aguilera (we won’t talk about Britney, because she has nothing else going for her except her hotness…and even THAT’s fading fast).
I’m not saying all girl performers should start wearing turtlenecks or goose-down jackets. Everyone wants to be titillated. It’s just that trading exclusively on your sexuality (as opposed to your talent) does for womankind exactly what T-Pain style cooning does for Black folks and Adam Lambert-style flamboyance does for gay artists. It puts everyone in a box that then becomes extremely hard to get out of. It makes no sense for a minority group to fight so hard for equality and then fall back on the stereotypes that their oppressors use against them.
Further example of using sexuality as a desperate measure to attract controversy (and perhaps record sales)? See below…