Sunday, 12 February 2012

Why has Lana Del Rey got the feminists riled up?

In ‘A Room of One’s Own’ Virginia Woolf stated that ‘it is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to …in any way speak consciously as a woman’. Over 80 years later there is still something shockingly relevant about the statement, particularly in relation to a music industry where pop stars, especially female ones, are torn apart for any perceived fault or misconception, even if it is trying to be anonymous. The unavoidable recent example of this is Lana Del Rey: pop star, feminist icon and fraud, all rolled into one.

Lana Del Rey has unwittingly managed to expose everything that is wrong with the music industry, if you’re a woman. Whole album reviews have been a dedicated discussion from whether she’s undergone surgery to get ‘those’ lips to whether she’s a record company construction, who’s duped all the indie darlings into thinking she’s an incredible pop chanteuse. But everyone seems unable to perceive how fatuously irrelevant the discussion is. It’s indicative of the culture we live in that we have to minutely analyse and dissect every pop star that comes on the scene.

Unless they’re male. I could list pop stars (and celebrities in general) who have been massacred by blogs, tabloids and gossip magazines. But curiously, they’re all women. I can’t think of a single example of a man being criticized for not wearing the right clothes, not being the right size or for possibly being manufactured by a record company. Look at everyone from Jay Z to Ziggy Stardust (Bowie’s manufactured alter-ego). They haven’t received the same backlash because they used to be plain, old Lizzie Grant from New York. It might seem incredibly cynical of me to blame the anti-Lana Del Rey movement on sexism within the industry, but it’s equally as naïve to assume that the sense of universal disdain Del Rey is prompting is due to a dislike of her music, when clearly her record sales and youtube viewing figures can’t be based on her infamy alone. 

It is not a prerequisite of pop music to be original or to be authentic. Part of the attraction of pop is a chance to escape from reality, to be taken in by a persona. As Sasha Frere-Jones eloquently put it in the New Yorker “why is pop music the only art form that still inspires such arrantly stupid discussion?” The obsession which grips the music media is unconstructive to not only assessing the music, but upholding these pop stars as role models.

It is time to end the blatant objectification and unfair criticism of women in the music industry. People who have been criticising Lana Del Rey for being manufactured and unnatural should maybe consider a world where women weren’t targeted with abuse because of the way they portrayed themselves in the media light. Maybe in that world we would see more female pop stars willing to be themselves instead of hiding behind the mask they are criticised of wearing. 

Jessy Parker

1 comment:

  1. If female stars are criticised for wearing masks, it makes no sense for them to hide behind them - why not just be themselves? That's what people want. It's illogical for them to hide.

    I think the reason that Jay-Z and Bowie weren't criticised was because of the era they rose to prominence in, and the fact that Bowie was open about his constructed alter-ego.

    We now live in an age where authenticity can be very important for an artist. There are many more talented musicians vying for our attention these days, and we live in a world where we are closer than ever to those we choose to follow. Outlets like Twitter allow us to peek inside the personal lives of many of these artists, and we slowly but surely become closer and closer to them - whether we actually know them or not. On top of this proximity, we all attach personal meaning to an artist's work. This means that when someone is outed as a fake or insincere, it can change the context of that for the audience - whether that's rational or not.

    In short, we like to believe that the emotion being conveyed by people is real. We like to believe that they're being sincere, and that this is a genuine expression. We don't want to be told that they're a fake - that they're pandering to our tastes, or fulfilling a persona - for what could simply be financial gain.

    I whole-heartedly agree that many reviews I've read put far too much focus on irrelevant aspects of her, instead of her music itself. And I agree that male musicians should be under the same scrutiny as females in this department.

    But the reality is that intent and authenticity can be a big thing in music now. We don't like to be lied to or fooled. Genuine emotion is the strongest, and when you're outed as a phony, that can change a lot of things.