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Church hits out at “juvenile male-dominated” industry

By | Published on Tuesday 15 October 2013

Charlotte Church

In what turned out to be a very timely event – given the recent online squabble between Sinead O’Connor and Miley Cyrus, not to mention the ongoing discussions around this summer’s Universal-released and published (and Beats endorsed, of course) rape anthem ‘Blurred Lines’ – Charlotte Church gave a speech about the relationship between women and the music business at the Radio Festival in Salford yesterday.

Delivering the now annual 6 Music-backed John Peel Lecture, Church covered a number of related topics, including the lack of women in key roles in the business, the increased sexualisation of music videos accessible to children, the tendency for some women to make their music for or about men, and the pressure on young female singers to sex-up their acts. And although the diversity of topics did blur the overall message a little (making it less of a rally call for action, and more a summary of the issues) it was on the latter topic that Church covered the most interesting ground.

Whereas Madonna exploited sex for creative and commercial gain in the 1980s in a way that said she was in control of her life and her sexuality, Church mused, that model has since been corrupted so that aspiring pop females are told “take [your] clothes off, show you’re an adult”. And while the female stars who pump out increasingly sexual content and performances think they are pushing boundaries and taking control in fact, Church reckons, they are being coerced into choosing a product that makes their mainly male backers very rich, while sending out a very bad message indeed to the young women in their fanbase.

Recalling her own experiences as a child star who then aspired to a grown up career in pop, Church said female singers “are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish; as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win. When I was nineteen or 20, I found myself in this position, being pressured into wearing more and more revealing outfits and the lines that I had spun at me again and again (generally by middle aged men) were ‘you look great you’ve got a great body why not show it off?’ or ‘don’t worry it’ll look classy; it’ll look artistic’. I felt deeply uncomfortable about the whole thing, but was often reminded by record label executives just whose money was being spent”.

Noting that it is entirely possible for singers and songwriters to deal with sex without being sexist, Church suggested that what she perceives as the almost childish exploitation of female sexuality by the pop business was the result of a male dominated industry with a “juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality”. Adding that the exposure of young women to overly sexualised music videos and live performances was likely indoctrinating the next generation of female pop stars into believing they too had to act that way, except they will have to push the supposed boundaries even further.

You can read Church’s full speech on the Radio Today website here and listen to her delivering it for the next week on the iPlayer here.