As neither pop nor cutesy classical are really my thing; Charlotte Church’s career has not made much of an impression on me. While I noticed (and was impressed) by her appearances on HIGNFY and at the Leveson Inquiry – whose cast lists overlap rather strikingly – but generally I’ve found her pretty ignorable. Had Buzzfeed not done an article on it, I wouldn’t have noticed that she was delivering the John Peel lecture.
However, I’m glad I did. While recent precedent might lead us to doubt the value of musicians discussing sexism in their industry, her lecture was actually rather enlightening. It is striking to hear it spelt out how the sexualisation of female artists is the product of a commercial imperative not a sign of liberation:
When I was 19 or 20, I found myself in this position, being pressured into wearing more and more revealing outfits. And the lines I had spun at me again and again, generally by middle aged men, were: “You look great”; “You have a great body, why not show it off?” Or, “Don’t worry, it’ll look classy. It’ll look artistic.”
I felt deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing, but I was often reminded by record company executives just whose money was being spent. Whilst I can’t defer all blame away from myself, I was barely out of my teenage years and the consequence of this portrayal of me is that I am frequently abused on social media, being called “slut”, “whore”, and a catalogue of other indignities that I’m sure you’re also sadly very familiar with. Now I find it difficult to promote my music in the places where it would be best suited, because of my history.
And Church does a surprisingly good impersonation of a Guardian columnist:
Canadian electronic artist Grimes, whose third record Visions was met with universal acclaim says, “I don’t want to be infantalised because I refuse to be sexualised.”
To my mind, what this industry seems to want of its women increasingly is sex objects that appear childlike. Look at the teddy bears everywhere. The Britney Spears Rolling Stone cover with the Teletubby from 1999. I state again: Lolita.
The terrifying thing is, the target demographic for this type of music is getting younger and younger. Jennifer Lopez seemingly trying to engulf the camera with her vagina on Britain’s Got Talet earlier this year is a mild example of how frequently carnal images creep into the realm of what is deemed OK for kids.
But ultimately it does not need to be like this. Sex can be art. Look at Bjork’s The Patene, a highly sexual and sensual record by a woman entirely in charge of her career and sex. The same can be said about almost every Prince record, and should be. Both are artists, adults and human beings, intelligently addressing a human subject, not exclusively a male one.
And for a final bonus here is her trashing of the repulsive Robin Thicke:
And so, to Blurred Lines, which many in this room have no doubt added to their playlists. The Blurred Lines video, which had the biggest part in jettisoning a song by a mediocre artist into the biggest track of the year, was on YouTube for just over a week before it was taken down and remains on Vimeo without any age restrictions. The indefensible Robin Thicke stated in an interview with GQ that his intention was to do everything that is completely derogatory towards women because he respects them so much.
He continued saying, “People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman.’”