Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Church hits out over pop 'sexism'

Charlotte Church has lashed out at sexism in the music industry

Singer Charlotte Church has attacked the sexism of the "juvenile" male-dominated music industry, which she said was increasingly creating and promoting "child-like" sex objects.

In a keynote lecture, she backed calls for an age-ratings system for near-the-knuckle music videos and said radio executives needed to shoulder some responsibility for playlisting artists who relied on "soft porn" to boost their profile.

Her comments - in an address to radio executives - come as there is increasing concern about sexual imagery to sell music with singer Miley Cyrus appearing naked in her video for the single Wrecking Ball.

Church, who like Cyrus found success in her early teens, told how she faced considerable pressure to promote her music in ever more suggestive outfits and she said the legacy of revealing outfits is that she faces a barrage of abuse online, being called a "slut" and a "whore".

And she warned younger stars who succumb to the pressure to sell their sexuality: "Now I find it difficult to promote my music in the places where it would be best suited because of my 'history' . But at the time it was the option presented to me."

Church, 27, said women were being "coerced" into sexual roles to cling on to their careers and s he classified women who were overtly using sexual imagery to boost their careers such as Rihanna and Cyrus as "unattainable sexbots".

She said that approach was "the most commonly employed and most damaging, a role that is also often claimed to be an empowering one".

Church - whose speech is to be broadcast at midnight tonight by BBC Radio 6 Music - went on: "The irony behind this is that the women generally filling these roles are very young, often previous child stars or Disney-tweens, who are simply interested in getting along in an industry glamourised to be the most desirable career for young women.

"They are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win."

Delivering the John Peel Lecture at the annual Radio Festival in Salford, she said: "The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine, from the way they are dealt with by management and labels, to the way they are presented to the public.

"You could trace this back to Madonna - although it probably goes back further in time. She was a template setter. By changing her image regularly, putting her sexuality in the heart of her image, videos and live performance - the statement she was making was - I am in control of ME and my sexuality.

"This idea has had its corners rounded off over the years and has become 'take clothes off, show you're an adult'."

She pointed to a provocative new video for Rihanna's latest single Pour It Up which had notched up more than 40 million views on YouTube but said the singer's sexually charged performance was generating "a tonne of money" for the men who write, produce and run her record company.

"It is a multi-billion dollar business that relies upon short burst messaging to sell product. And there is no easier way to sell something than to get some chick to get her t**s out, right? When the male perspective is the dominant one, the end point is women being coerced into sexually demonstrative behaviour in order to hold on to their careers.

"This idea repeated over generations can't but have a negative effect on women whether they are in the industry or not."

Church branded the music world "a male-dominated industry, with an infantile perspective on gender and sexuality".

And she agreed with Annie Lennox who recently voiced a view that age-ratings may be appropriate for music videos and she went on: " Whilst channels like YouTube and Vimeo have a responsibility in dealing with these issues, radio stations shouldn't think they are beyond criticism.

"As Tony Hall, the BBC's Director General, announces the new iPlayer channel for Radio 1 the question must be asked: should programmers take into consideration the image of an artist when deciding whether to play and promote their music? There are countless examples from the last few years of songs that have been in high rotation, that have little to no artistic worth, but are just plain rude.

"If there are no sanctions put upon music that is written so zealously about genitalia, or uses soft porn in its promotion online, what is to stop artists feeling that making their music and videos more sexy will undoubtedly drive up their online views and subsequently encourage more radio play."

Church was scathing about the use of topless models in the attention-grabbing video for chart-topping hit Blurred Lines by singer Robin Thicke, whom she said was "indefensible".

And she also spoke of her disappointment that the "crass and misogynistic" promo was directed by a woman, Diane Martel.

Church continued: " To my mind what this industry seems to want of its women increasingly is sex objects that appear child-like. Look at the teddy bears everywhere, the Britney Spears Rolling Stone cover with a tellytubby from 1999. The terrifying thing is that the target demographic for this type of music is getting younger and younger."

She was scathing about a raunchy performance by Jennifer Lopez which was deemed acceptable for a family audience when the US star appeared on Britain's got Talent, which she said was " a mild example of how frequently carnal images creep into the realm of what is deemed OK for kids".

Church made clear the use of sexual imagery could be acceptable in the right context, such as in the work of Bjork and Prince and claimed: "Sex can be art."

But she concluded: "If the power was taken away from sex in pop by making it harder for younger viewers to access it, then maybe the focus would shift to making works of artistic beauty and conscience.

"And fundamentally that would actually be putting the power back in sex, for a future world where humans are able to portray their sexuality as it is for them."

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