Last week BUST published an article called “The Classical World Can’t Stop Fat Shaming Women” about the preoccupation with opera singer Tara Erraught’s weight in several musical reviews. Andrew Clark, writing for the Financial Times stated that "Tara Erraught's Octavian is a chubby bundle of puppy fat,” and added, as an afterthought, that her performance was "gloriously sung." And he wasn’t the only one. The snide commentary was everywhere.
All of that craziness got me thinking about the skewed perceptions that we have of women in the music world. It’s tough out there, living up to the industry’s (double) standard. Kimbra, the rising New Zealand-based artist, describes the importance of female musicians being “disciplined about what drives [them] because the peripheral roles can so quickly become the focus and the art takes a back seat along the way.” (Read more from her interview here!) Because, of course, if a female artist is worthy of recognition, it can’t be for her art! No, it has to be her body (“She’s too big!” “She’s too small!”) or her clothes (“Call the fashion police! She’s not conforming!”) or her personal life (“Who’s she sleeping with now?”). It’s as if the worst thing we could do would be to legitimize her as an artist by considering her for her art instead of judging her for her personal choices—wouldn’t want her to think that she can just go off and be successful without running into some form of misogyny, right?
Canadian musician, Grimes, talks about her problems with the music world in her AMAZING Tumblr-manifesto entitled “I don’t want to have to compromise my morals in order to make a living,”
“I’m tired of creeps on message boards discussing whether or not they’d “fuck” me.
I’m tired of people harassing my dancers and treating them like they aren’t human beings.
I’m sad that my desire to be treated as an equal and as a human being is interpreted as hatred of men, rather than a request to be included and respected (I have four brothers and many male best friends and a dad and i promise i do not hate men at all, nor do i believe that all men are sexist or that all men behave in the ways described above).”
Trust me, Grimes, we’re all tired of it. Just because a woman is a performer, doesn’t mean her body is a billboard for your judgments and misguided values. In fact, she probably became a performer so that you could listen to her music, discuss it, and, hey, if you don’t like it that’s okay. You have a right to say that, because she, like any performer, has presented her music to the public forum for that kind of discussion. But her body is not part of that discussion.
It’s so great, though, that people are starting to talk about this.
The website Fight Misogynist Music has some amazing posts that call out misogyny or create a forum for artists to talk about their experiences with sexism. Of course, Beyoncé’s push towards feminism has been a huge success (it’s difficult to find people who don’t approve!). We’re starting to move in the right direction! So pat yourself on the back, feminists and feminist-music-listeners, and go listen to some music. :)
Images courtesy of ripitup.com.au, imgartists.com, mtvhive.com, and http://fightmisogynistmusic.wordpress.com/.