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.