11:13 am - 02/06/2013

Is feminism a dirty word for popstars?


Yesterday I had one of the oddest experiences. I was conducting an incredibly inoffensive phone interview with Ella Henderson, the 17-year-old starlet of last year’s X Factor, trying to understand why she was fronting up Disney’s Safer Internet Day.

None the wiser, after around 20 minutes of carefully managed and unilluminating conversation, I decided to broaden out my questions – to get a sense of the Ella, the young popstar from Grimsby recently thrust into the bright limelight. However, this was when things became tricky, for Ella, having recently signed a record deal with Sony – was surrounded by an army of PRs and publicists from both Disney and her label.

Every time I asked her a question, the line sounded like it went dead, as if someone seemed to silence the phone. There would be a pause and then a carefully constructed answer would be delivered by a very polite and inoffensive Ella.

Ella Henderson pictured with her X Factor mentor Tulisa and other X Factor judge, Nicole Scherzinger at the National Television Awards in January 2013

Having just found out that her music idol was Beyoncé – on account of her “clean cut image” and the fact you never see “bad stuff written about her”, I followed up by asking whether she, a girl of 17 now in the public eye, considered herself a feminist.

Big mistake. Suddenly a gruff man’s voice out of nowhere growled: “She’s not answering that.” Said aggressive man when asked who the hell he was simply replied: “Her PR”. I then pushed for Rude Bloke’s name and was told “Russell.”

I then asked why she couldn’t answer this question, and he replied “She’s just not. It’s not to do with Safer Internet Day

Well neither was my question about role models or when her first album was out. I ended the ‘interview’/managed PR chat there and then – not before telling ‘Russell’ aka, the tool minding Ella, that he was giving someone very sweet, a bad rep indeed.

Now I just hope the irony of having a man, or anyone for that matter, stop her from answering the f-word question, will occur to Ella asap. And that she realises, while she does need guidance through the manufactured pop world at the tender age of 17, what she does not need is an aggressive bloke telling her not to say whether she is a feminist or not.

So here’s my message to you Ella Henderson – sack Russell today.

However, Rude Bloke’s (that’s what he is now known as from here on in) intervention left me wondering about whether feminism remains a dirty word for popstars – especially those coming off the X Factor conveyorbelt. It’s not like asking someoneif they are a racist. What is the perceived negative connotation for a wannabe big-time popstar like Ella Henderson of the f-word?
Is the f-word too dirty for pop?

Happy to say she wants to be a positive role model for girls everywhere, Ella’s not allowed to say whether she believe in equal rights for men and women? Something’s up.

Why is it even considered controversial in the modern day? Lucy Jones, deputy editor of NME.com, thinks for most artists it won’t be. However, for some they will be advised against it out of a fear of pigeon-holing the pop star and putting fans off.

“I guess calling yourself a feminist is a political stance. I personally don’t think it would alienate an artist from fans. If anything, saying you were a feminist would stand the artist out as someone with a viewpoint and get them more support. There is no evidence which suggests calling yourself a feminist is a dirty word for pop fans.

“However if you are a pop star coming from the X Factor – it is very manufactured and her people will be more sensitive about everything she says. Everything from Ella’s clothes to her lyrics will be controlled,” she explains.

Jones also quotes Alice Glass, lead vocalist of the band Crystal Castles, who in a recent interview with NME, went as far to call herself a vigilante feminist because “we [women] need an army because the mainstream hates women”.

Glass also thinks a lot of female popstars don’t sell a good image of themselves to children as women. She cites Katy Perry (who recently refused to say she was a feminist) as an example of a pop star claiming to be all liberated – and yet dresses up in cup cake bras - and accuses her and others of sexualising children with their provocative clothes and actions on stage.

Pop versus the rest of the music industry

Ruth Drake, who founded Toast Press PR, which provides PR for a wide range of musicians – including Crystal Castles and many other strong female voices such as Florence & The Machine, Jessie Ware and AlunaGeorge, says its very different working with fiercely independent and intelligent artists – rather than a manufactured popstar.

“I would never advise any of my clients not to say they were a feminist. I just don’t think it’s a dirty word in anymore. Most young women like Jessie [Ware] and Florence [Welch] wouldn’t think anything of saying they are feminists.

“Writers like Caitlin Moran [author of bestseller How to Be a Woman] have made feminism less of a dirty word than it has ever been. It’s totally acceptable now in my opinion.”

However, Drake knows she is working with very different artists than typical very mainstream popstars.

“The female singers I work with are very strong-minded and honest. Fans want artists who are doing something credible and real. It's possible that people in the music industry who work with more manufactured commercial pop acts could be concerned that feminism has negative connotations, but I think you should never under estimate your artist or your audience.”

James Penycate, founder of Ooh Brilliant, a music PR and digital agency, representing the likes of Syron and Tom Odell, said this type of question is something Ella Henderson’s team should always be prepared to answer.

“Whether she is a feminist or not feeds into the same area as to whether she is a role model to young women. For us it is important that artists can speak calmly and articulately. Yes, it is our job to protect the artist – but they also need to know their views on key issues which could crop up in interviews and be of interest to their fans.

He says he would never warn a female singer client off saying whether she was a feminist or not, but he does recognise the need of the big labels to market their pop acts through mainstream media – which can sometimes mean them needing to have mainstream and inoffensive views.

“I do feel young women coming up through the X Factor have it tough. There is instantly a lot of pressure to be a role model to millions of young girls. They do need taking care of.”

More than a decade on from the Spice Girls’ crass ‘Girl Power’ slogan, there couldn’t be more strong women dominating the charts – from Emeli Sande to Adele to Lady Gaga.

Music industry boss, Miles Leonard, who scouts talent for Parlophone and Virgin, told Telegraph Wonder Women last year: “The term girl power is dead. But there is a new version of expressing yourself which isn’t having to stand up and shout about girl power and being an independent woman. The notion of women being empowered is not dead, maybe it's become more reflective.”

Leonard, who revived Kylie Minogue's career and discovered Coldplay, pointed to Adele - the biggest selling artist in the world right now - who has found fame and fortune through being honest, reflective, upfront, he said. “Adele's Someone Like You is immensely empowering. There is truth and honesty in that which reflects an inner strength.”

However, despite this move away from shouting about girl power, artists such as Paloma Faith, enjoy being upfront about their feminism. She said in a Telegraph interview last month: “I would call myself a feminist, but I believe in equality: I love men (contrary to the beliefs of a lot of my ex-boyfriends); I don’t want to put them down. Some men think that if you’re empowered and sure of yourself then you’re a man-hater, but it’s like, 'No, I’m just the same as you are, but maybe just a tiny bit more confident.’”

And Macy Gray took it one step further when I interviewed her a few weeks ago, saying she wasn’t a feminist – because that term denotes women are equal to men. “Women are better. We are so much bigger, so much more capable, and can do a lot more than men,” she explained in a straightforward manner.

While I never expected Ella Henderson to go that far, I did expect her to at least be allowed to answer for herself whether she classed herself as a feminist. Rude Bloke or not, Ella Henderson is a sweet young woman with a bright talent living in Britain in the 21st century. She needs to be allowed to answer this question, and many others moving forward, in the very same voice that those around her are cashing in on.


Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
atomicdogmeat 6th-Feb-2013 05:12 pm (UTC)
I'm not reading all that but yes it is.
la_petite_singe 6th-Feb-2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
“Writers like Caitlin Moran [author of bestseller How to Be a Woman] have made feminism less of a dirty word than it has ever been. It’s totally acceptable now in my opinion.”

Wait, whaaaaaat? Isn't that book totally stupid? I seem to recall her saying a lot of ridiculous things.

And yeah, no surprise, people still don't really get what "feminism" means. That first story about the phone interview sounds like an age thing, too--younger women are disrespected and not taken seriously a LOT. Shame.
superhetoric 6th-Feb-2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
she does say a lot of dumb shit, but her argument is that if you think that women should be allowed to make choices for themselves, you're a feminist and that's that. it's easy to believe that people are all good or all bad but the truth is that most of the time there are shades of gray and that's true of caitlin moran.
ceilidh_ann 7th-Feb-2013 01:57 am (UTC)
Moran thinks you're a feminist unless you're a pole dancer or you wear heels because the former is letting the rest of women down and the latter gets women raped. She's awful and completely inconsistent with her own argument.
prettywitch 6th-Feb-2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
Ewww, esp since she's a racist. This article just lost all credibility.
prettywitch 6th-Feb-2013 05:24 pm (UTC)
vervain 6th-Feb-2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
no but a lot of people irl like her and identify themselves as feminists because writers and comedians in her vain, have made it more acceptable to say you are a feminist.
lenra 6th-Feb-2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
yeah i didn't like her book.
zeldafitzgerald 6th-Feb-2013 05:47 pm (UTC)
Moran is totally a snot for ignoring the WOC experience and acting like a brat when called on it. Her book did a decent job of "demystifying" what feminism is, especially considering how well it did outside the US. Also, IIRC, she calls out her self-proclaimed idol Germaine Greer for her transphobic-brand of feminism.
ascot_gavotte 6th-Feb-2013 06:49 pm (UTC)
idg any book or article with a title like "How to be a Woman." you're a woman if you want to be.
eggtard 6th-Feb-2013 05:18 pm (UTC)
speaking of feminism in pop music:

I got my beyonce ticketsssssssss!!!!! i nearly passed out
troy_macclure 6th-Feb-2013 05:21 pm (UTC)

I'm waiting for my pre sale to start. The VIP packages look like a rip off, though. X_X
eggtard 6th-Feb-2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
they really, really do.

i would've maybe considered, but nah. plus i was buying for my boyfriend and friend too, and my credit card limit does not go up that high haha
open0rclosed 6th-Feb-2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
what VIP package? is that the beyhive pre-sale package? i signed up for the beyhive just so i could get presale tix.
ponpiri 6th-Feb-2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
Fuck you and the horse you rode on!!! (jk but for real tho)

I tried sooo hard to get some Brooklyn tickets this morning but was locked out of the site for an hour and when I finally got on, someone took the last ticket as I was entering my CC info :(
waffled_flambe 6th-Feb-2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
I wanted to get Brooklyn tickets so badly but her site crashed at 10 (I guess from the influx of people) and when I finally managed to get in like 45 minutes later they were sold out :(
rainbowren 6th-Feb-2013 05:32 pm (UTC)
I got my beyonce ticketsssssssss!!!!! i nearly passed out

Omg I'm so jealoussss!! It will be amaaaazing!! :)
open0rclosed 6th-Feb-2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
yayyyy!!! i'll probs pass out too if i get mine when they go on sale.

I signed up for beyhive to get pre-sale tickets but now I think I might just wait for ticketmaster.
prettywitch 6th-Feb-2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
LUCKY!! I was gonna buy some but my mom said wait because she works at a hospital and says they always bulk buy tickets for big shows to give to employees like how radio station do. So I'm holding out.
kwikimart 6th-Feb-2013 05:46 pm (UTC)
i hate u so much omggggggg

i'm just waiting for them to be available here
whutness 6th-Feb-2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
metyouwho 6th-Feb-2013 06:27 pm (UTC)
Congrats!!! Are you going to a US show? Do you know any way to see all the price levels? When I look on ticketmaster it just says price range 60-280 and I want to know what is in between.
justrachna 6th-Feb-2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
Men will never realize/admit this because then it takes away their power.
zeldafitzgerald 6th-Feb-2013 05:58 pm (UTC)
Agreed, re: regressing. Twenty years ago female musicians/acts like TLC, Alanis, Madonna and The Spice Girls were ubiquitous, powerful and weren't likely to be afraid to be labeled "feminist."
existential 6th-Feb-2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
i was born in the 80s so i def remember the 90s and tbh it seems like back then we were more forward-thinking on pretty much every social issue...i blame 9/11 and its aftermath and dubbya tbh :/
slurp 6th-Feb-2013 07:27 pm (UTC)
spice girls are feminists?
greenfairy_87 6th-Feb-2013 08:52 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I grew up thinking girl power was just something that would always be around and that riot grrls and Lilith Fair were as much a part of society as Lollapalooza.
ms_mmelissa 6th-Feb-2013 06:00 pm (UTC)

It makes me sad that so few women will call themselves feminists (obviously excluding those who have legit reasons for not calling themselves feminists or prefer to identify as womanists etc).
zoaster_toaster 6th-Feb-2013 06:13 pm (UTC)
I wish it wouldn't be an issue, but there are always gonna be some stupid, vocal asshole guys who will claim that they're being discriminated against.
stephaniebrown 6th-Feb-2013 05:21 pm (UTC)
i'd never get annoyed at a woman who didn't like to call herself a feminist (because lbr, there are lot of things wrong with modern day feminism), but i really hate how people misunderstand the point of feminism completely and just choose to write it off as "lol women want to be better than men' without actually thinking about it :(

Edited at 2013-02-06 05:21 pm (UTC)
genbu_no_miko24 6th-Feb-2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
duckyduck92 6th-Feb-2013 05:24 pm (UTC)
like how taylor swift said she isn't a feminist bc she doesn't believe in boys vs. girls.

like come on.
stephantasm 6th-Feb-2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
LMAO what a weird thing to say
wheresandrae 6th-Feb-2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
this is why these kids need to go to school. everyone is so fuckin dumb!
open0rclosed 6th-Feb-2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
ugh, so many pre-teen and teen girls idolize her and this is the dumb shit she says.
ponpiri 6th-Feb-2013 05:43 pm (UTC)
That's a childish thing to say. Why would she degrade both genders to girls and boys at 22?
whutness 6th-Feb-2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
fanabana 6th-Feb-2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
I agree. When you've got high profile feminists like Julie Burchill spouting the most abhorrent shit about transgender women it's no surprise that younger women are put off being labeled as feminists, even if they are ardent supporters of womens rights.
ladybozi 6th-Feb-2013 05:28 pm (UTC)
mynamehere07 6th-Feb-2013 06:10 pm (UTC)

Feminism is so fractured and misunderstood, I don't get mad that a lot of people want no part of it.
r0ckthec4sbah 6th-Feb-2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah theres a lot problems with feminism being the cause of cis white middle class women but when I hear girls in my classes qualifying statements about gender equality with "I'm not a feminist but..." it really really kills me.
zoaster_toaster 6th-Feb-2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
I understand how people can be put off by the word by some prejudiced things that some prominent "feminists" do (ala Caitlin Moran "not giving a shit" about women of color's experiences and others who ignore/make fun of the gay/transgender/queer community), but the "women are better than men" argument against it is dumb.
ponpiri 6th-Feb-2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
Of course it is. They've got to sell themselves to their male demographic some way.
stoicana 6th-Feb-2013 05:22 pm (UTC)
And Macy Gray took it one step further when I interviewed her a few weeks ago, saying she wasn’t a feminist – because that term denotes women are equal to men. “Women are better. We are so much bigger, so much more capable, and can do a lot more than men,” she explained in a straightforward manner.

Eh. Why does this have to be a superior/inferior situation?
superhetoric 6th-Feb-2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
i was on a date with some dude from okcupid and he was i guess trying to impress me with his ~feminism~ by talking about how superior women are to men. it just made him seem like an even bigger misogynist because he was basically just parroting the stereotype that women are sweet and organized and good to a fault. i kind of hate that. women are people, and people have flaws.
buncha_cruncha 6th-Feb-2013 05:28 pm (UTC)
IKR? I can kind of see what sentiment she's going for, but...no.
croutonochrist 6th-Feb-2013 05:33 pm (UTC)
To me it just goes back to the learned misogyny women grow up with. Being fed the idea that GIRLS RULE THE WORLD that really just covers up the real issue of women having no real power.
ladybozi 6th-Feb-2013 05:36 pm (UTC)
The point of feminism is EQUALITY... this is why people have no clue what feminism is all about, and constantly put it down. I was listening to a PODCAST where they were saying Feminists are just a bunch of angry women who burn bras.

jaimelannister 6th-Feb-2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
someone needs to do their research
ponpiri 6th-Feb-2013 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm all for social and legal equality for all, but I'm of the opinion that women are better. Just my observation gathered from my experiences.
loveumbrella 6th-Feb-2013 05:52 pm (UTC)
It's just learned behavior, I've seen or heard a lot of peopl... men (lbr here) say that feminism is just about putting men down and taking away their ~rights, which only confirms they are afraid their privilege they are fully aware of is taken away from them and they'll have no power over women, when in reality it's about no one having privilege and everyone having equal power. So no wonder a lot of women can't imagine that situation either.
ohbubbajoan 6th-Feb-2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
ignorant people. simple.
bellwetherr 6th-Feb-2013 07:05 pm (UTC)
lol i see your point but i also don't see any lies in that statement.
superhetoric 6th-Feb-2013 05:23 pm (UTC)
yes. except for the cool ones. like grimes. but she's not really a "pop star"
stephantasm 6th-Feb-2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
bindi grimes is "cool"?
nocturnelles 6th-Feb-2013 05:25 pm (UTC)
I would call myself a feminist, but I believe in equality

See, that's probably one of the main problems. So many people have different ideas of what the word feminism really means.
stephaniebrown 6th-Feb-2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
i'm hoping that was a misprint or a typo or something, and was really supposed to be 'because' instead.
ladybozi 6th-Feb-2013 05:37 pm (UTC)
ashtraysoul 6th-Feb-2013 05:38 pm (UTC)
mte, makes it very reasonable to have reasonable discussions
m_pendulum 6th-Feb-2013 05:29 pm (UTC)
I remember how happy I was when I heard Kerry Washington saw herself as not just a feminist, but a womanist. Be still my heart.

It took me a long time to understand and accept myself as a feminist because there are so many ideas of what "true" feminist is and conflicts about choice feminism and all kinds of stuff that it sometimes just seems like too much pettiness.
ms_mmelissa 6th-Feb-2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
Kerry Washington is like the perfect person. The more I find out about her, the more I love her. <3
mynamehere07 6th-Feb-2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
What is the difference between womanism and feminism? I know that a lot of people reject classic feminism, but how does womanism differ? I'm really not familiar on womanism and have seen the term tossed around and it has me curious.
m_pendulum 6th-Feb-2013 06:57 pm (UTC)
Womanism is feminism that is concentrated around women of color, mostly black women, since we came up with the term. It was a way of going after gender issues that affected WOC that was ignored by mainstream white feminism.
bellwetherr 6th-Feb-2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
Aside from her little tweet about wanting to hug Lena Dunham, Kerry is a wonderful goddess.
phallus 6th-Feb-2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
Do popstars have to be feminists?
lenra 6th-Feb-2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
ponpiri 6th-Feb-2013 05:47 pm (UTC)
Nope. One thing I don't like is when people critique a female singer's lyrics on whether it's feminist or not. That's not the point. The point is that this singer is writing/singing about her experiences. If that includes some fuckery we don't condone, then so be it.
stephantasm 6th-Feb-2013 06:00 pm (UTC)
No and I think it's weird when people try to claim someone's song isn't "feminist" enough. Like, the lack of inclusiveness bugs the fuck outta me. If you're a feminist, shouldn't you be able to see that what another woman wants to do with her life doesn't have to gel completely with what you want?
zeldafitzgerald 6th-Feb-2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
Popstars certainly don't have to express feminism in their act/music but I would hope that, as a human, they would believe in/defend gender equality.
mynamehere07 6th-Feb-2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
I don't agree with the notion that we need to stick any female popstar into a "good woman" or "bad woman" box. Nor do I necessarily think that young girls should be looking to popstars as the end all be all of feminist theory. Thou I do get discouraged when a girl decides to say "well TSwift is not a feminist, so neither am I."
diamond_dust06 6th-Feb-2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
Shouldn't everyone be a feminist, at least insofar as feminism means a rejection of misogyny and a dedication to improving women's socioeconomic and political statuses? Isn't that the goal of any sort of anti-bigotry movement?
bellwetherr 6th-Feb-2013 07:44 pm (UTC)
Not at all. Though I do think it's weird that so many are adament to say NO without giving an intelligent reason as to why. IE Tay Swift saying she's not into boys vs. girls.
iamtheliquorr 7th-Feb-2013 01:59 am (UTC)
croutonochrist 6th-Feb-2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
Feminism isn't a part of pop music because female pop stars are bred to be every man's wet dream. Attractive, overtly sexual while remaining coy, non threatening, and not particularly smart.
vervain 6th-Feb-2013 05:32 pm (UTC)
this is so true
zimraphel 6th-Feb-2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
This. So much, this.
spankmypirate 6th-Feb-2013 07:06 pm (UTC)
Yep. That's why I can't bring myself to stan for so many contemporary female pop stars.
dirtyknife 6th-Feb-2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
So true.
fireprince 7th-Feb-2013 02:52 am (UTC)
Yet he majority of the fans of pop music are women and gay men. Pop stars are probably a byproduct of our patriarchal society but credit should be given where it's due. Many female pop stars do have significant control of their empires, control of their careers, and make the conscience decision to enter into the business themselves.
chandyland11 6th-Feb-2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
ONTD post about feminists?

lenra 6th-Feb-2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
croutonochrist 6th-Feb-2013 05:35 pm (UTC)
His speedwalk is making me laugh out loud.
nocturnelles 6th-Feb-2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
lol, pretzel day
songs4polarbear 6th-Feb-2013 05:50 pm (UTC)
perfect comment
rainbowren 6th-Feb-2013 05:36 pm (UTC)
Oh Lawd, tbh people just don't understand the term "feminist" any more. It's not about hating men, it's about being equal.
age_of_green 6th-Feb-2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
I wish they taught an equivalent of intro to women's studies in public high schools, just so people know what they're talking about.
rainbowren 6th-Feb-2013 05:42 pm (UTC)
Seriously. It's so disheartening to hear young women completely misinterpret the term, and write it off as "that word women use to hate on men." No honey.
mybetterhabits 6th-Feb-2013 05:47 pm (UTC)
there was one at my high school but it was an elective. one of the most interesting classes i've taken though.
ladybozi 6th-Feb-2013 05:49 pm (UTC)
UGH.. I hated women's studies. Maybe it was just my teacher but she screamed "I'm better than a man". I couldn't stand her, I just kept fighting with her. Lol

r0ckthec4sbah 6th-Feb-2013 06:20 pm (UTC)
This please and thank you. It doesn't even have to be just about women. It could be a class where high school students learn about different kinds of marginalized groups and privilege so it would include minorities, lgbt, people with physical disabilities, people with autism etc etc. Just telling high school students don't be asshats about this shit. The world would be a better place.
greenfairy_87 6th-Feb-2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
This. There are so many college-specific classes that need to be taught earlier and on a wider scale.
zimraphel 6th-Feb-2013 06:16 pm (UTC)
Equality? What are you speaking of, woman? Do you not know that ~men~ are the ones being oppressed nowadays? Oh, the misandry!

...I've been spending too much time on Reddit lately. God it makes me want to throw up sometimes.
poopanna 6th-Feb-2013 05:39 pm (UTC)
wanky wanky
Page 1 of 3
<<[1] [2] [3] >>
This page was loaded Jul 13th 2014, 9:45 am GMT.