Monday, September 24, 2007

Choice and control

I didn't post a Musical Monday last week. It was a busy time at school, I was exhausted and most importantly I couldn't think of how I wanted to phrase my post. I still can't to tell you the truth, but I won't let that stop me this week. This is a long one.

Last week, I posted an entry about the child model Maddison Gabriel and mused about the fashion industry using someone who is not a woman to represent women on the catwalk. Obviously, I was pissed about it, with good reason I think. Then I finished up that post with a Tori Amos suggestion that those girls like Britney Spears, girls who had lost their way, bare crotch girls who behave badly, need a mother. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. By lately, I mean, my whole adult life.

The Maddion Gabriel thing from a week or so ago highlighted to me one thing with absolute certainty and that is that: the status quo does. Not. Work. For. Women. and anyone who thinks it does is completely berko. It doesn't work in the first world and it doesn't work in the 3rd world. I shouldn't have to spell out why it doesn't work but in case you need it have a look at violence on the streets, sex, religion, fashion, education, corporation, politics and capitalism for a taste of that why. I don't even think it works for men either, to tell you the truth - but if we're going to compare (and yes we are) then well, you're not seeing 12 year old boys being sexualised by the media. You wouldn't see men standing for that either - which is an important point. Us girls, in terms of media representation and politics allow ourselves to be degraded - and then some of us actively take part in that degradation. That's why you have someone like Maddison Gabriel saying that it's all she ever wanted to do. That old gem: "It's my choice".

People get confused a bit about the difference between women's choice and women making the only choice they can in a situation that is not quite the best. I get confused because some choices seem really dumb, also some choices are applauded and some are not. For instance, musically speaking why is it accepted and applauded for a woman to wear a skimpy bikini in a soft porn video clip while allowing some fat pig of a producer to write their songs for them and market them to young girls and horny boys in a way that has nothing to do with music at all. Whereas it's not quite the same for a curvaceous, outspoken lesbian woman to write her own lyrics that are political and demonstrative. The first will have a lot of success because she fits into the accepted role of female as valued by both men and women - the other will struggle both musically and socially. Which choice would you make, the easy road or the high (and harder) road? Taking the easy road propagates the myth - taking the high road changes things but ultimately means that you might be ostricised. Some choices are easier to make than others and some choices are made for those who don't have the guts to stand up and fight against them.

When I quoted that Tori Amos little ditty about Britney needing a mother, I wasn't really thinking about the tennis club attending, SUV driving (quick, key it!), latte drinking, hot MILFS of the Eastern suburbs. I was thinking about women paying attention to who we are, and where we have come from rather than what society wants us to be. We are rather important to the human race, us little ladies but unfortunately the story changed with Adam and Eve and we're all a bit lost now I fear, it's not just Britney. The story that women came of the rib is fiction, we never came of the rib, instead women carry BOTH male and female within us and so, perhaps rather than Adam's rib producing Eve it is actually Eve that produces Adam and in fact all of humanity. Not just a one trick pony mind you - it's happening right now somewhere. I'm of course talking about the Earth and universe itself which produces all (and personified by woman or mother) and which was once worshiped in its own right favoured only much, much later for another deity: God (personified by man or father).

I'm not going to turn this into religious bashing because this is purely social commentary but the point is - civilisations are built and ruined on the back of a story but stories change, the way we live now - our politics, our degradation or choices or whatever, is due basically to a fundamental shift away from the way we viewed those stories back then not because we are living in the way it should be or because it is the natural order of all things. Things change - the way of the world is not ever absolute. I'm saying this to make a rather pertinent point about stories (both his and hers) here - not to point fingers. We both have our stories and us women just happened to forget ours.

This is why when you have someone a little bit different making a big ruckus about the way things are and how they should change then you just have to listen because it's apparent that the way things are has only worked for so long because us girls have accepted it, owned it and are now producing it ourselves.

I truly think that the most effective form of control is not overt but that which has the consent of whom you're controlling. I mean, it's harder to control those that kick and scream and bite and are willing to die just to get away from that control than it is to control one who not only agrees but comes up with their own punishment.

Why then, do women partake in it? Is it because we're making the best of a bad situation? Is it because we've forgotten where we come from? Your guess is as good as mine.

But back to music. I wanted to go back to that idea of woman in skimpy bikini in a soft porn video clip singing songs that aren't her own versus a woman with an opinion and a musical instrument. One sells more than the other. One is loved more by men. One is revered more - but it's not because of her music. If Meatloaf sang that Umbrella song by Rhianna then he'd be laughed off stage - career over (okay it's already over). But the song is a hit, so obviously something is not adding up here! The song is not a hit because the song is fantastic, alas the song is the most annoying, overplayed piece of garbage I've heard in a long time. If a serious artist sang it while wearing jeans and boots and who didn't shave their pits and then gave an interview talking about gender politics then it wouldn't be a hit at all.

So what exactly is the function of these sexy women in music? It's not the music. It's the sex - and why indeed isn't the sex the same for male artists then? While JT might dance up a storm and [insert boy band here] might make the girls scream there isn't quite the same level of porn factor going on as is done with women in music. Men are sexy but the level of degradation isn't the same - not by a long shot and I won't hear one word that says otherwise. I've got nothing against sexing it up, but then again I think that there are a lot of things that are sexy apart from the greased up plastic boobs of the video clips of today. I'd like to "bring sexy back" in terms of musical ability or being able to convey emotion, or being outspoken or funny or strong and talented or something like that. I'd like to see sexy happen in a way that isn't about women doing whatever they are doing right now on video clips on Saturday morning on channel 10. That stuff, it's not only bullshit but it's harmful to our self image and we've had a long time of it and now it's time for everyone to realise that all of us being outraged by Maddison Gabriel being so young and being a model and sexy video clips on Saturday morning television are actually related. The culture is ripe for Maddison Gabriel type "stuff" - haven't you ever wondered about why?

So what do we do girls (and for anyone who cares about us)? Do you say something and risk being ostracised or do you just let it happen and partake in it? Or, do we find little avenues in the way we live now to carve new ways into the future?

Speaking of avenues in the way things are now. A few weeks ago while watching Australian Idol one of the contestants sang the song that I'm about to play for MM today. It's a great song. I mean GREAT! It's not quite Idol though. It's too confronting for idol - it was performed originally by a woman who weighs over 200 pounds, says what she thinks, is a lesbian and rather non-conformist and totally sexy. Obviously, Beth Ditto not going to make it big in today's mainstream Umbrella type musical climate. Obviously *that* particular Idol contestant was voted out the next week - not because of the context of the song and not because of Beth Ditto, I'd doubt that anyone even knows her, but because that performance itself was very different... It wasn't a great performance, granted - but it was just too different for Idol anyway. And that's the point - you can see how choices are sometimes made for us. If that contestant had performed a more conventional, sexier routine she might still be there this week, closer to her musical dream - but then I might not have heard the song. Funny how things like choices and control work.

Before I play the song I have to finish with this. Something that is actually at the core of all my beliefs in gender politics - men are women ..perhaps we should never, ever look at gender as a form of labeling - the world would be a far better place if we recognised that everyone is individual, no one is better than any other, everyone is scared, everyone is looking for a way to make their lives better, to love, to live or just to survive. Everyone is the same and different at the same time. A much better way to live - if only, huh?

The world unfortunately is drawn in gender lines no matter how you view it and there are still inequalities that need to be addressed and by God (or Adam's rib) I will have my say as should you, whether you agree or not.

So, on that and closer to the song. I came across a quote by Beth Ditto, lead vocalist for The Gossip on gender and difference.

"Women aren't cats, we aren't pets, we are just people trying to cross the freaking street to get an ice-cream cone."

I like it. Basically we're really not so different are we? Maybe the way we are viewed should be addressed now (instead of swept under that oh so reductive 'but it's their choice' statement you hear so often) so that girls who are still children now have a bit of a chance to realise that these badly behaved girls and soft porn video clip stars are actually not really what we want to be. Or are they? Our choice? Quite - let's make better ones.

Standing in the Way of control - The Gossip
(a song about Gay rights actually, but it works for most situations I think).

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