3 October 2013

in which I read too much into things

I have spent the morning watching YouTube videos. This was not just on a whim but because the first thing I did this morning (after reading the brilliant new post on Hyperbole and a Half) was read an article about an open letter from Sinead O Connor to Miley Cyrus.
The two names mentioned together was what drew me to it. I didn't really understand why she might be bothering. The letter, which you can read here, was apparently written as Miley had quoted Sinead O Connor's seminal Nothing Compares 2 U video as the main influence for her newest offering.
I read the letter, I agreed with most of what Sinead had to say. And then I clicked on the link to watch the video. I won't say I was horrified, I wasn't even that surprised that it has finally come to a point where a female singer is entirely naked in her own video. But I was so frustrated that Miley had thought it was ok for her young fans to watch that.
I can't help thinking about all the young girls, like my own, who will see that and have so many questions. Aside from the obvious "mummy, why is that lady in the nuddy?" and "isn't she cold like that?" that I would get from mine, there are so many things that older girls will have to think about.
I watched the video and clicked on one of the next videos that were suggested. This was the famous "twerking" video. But even that was less bothersome. At least she was (mainly) clothed in this one. I'm obviously more of a prude than I thought. And, genuinely, I'm not really that fussed about what these girls are wearing. It's their body, it's their choice. But I wonder if it really is.
Clicking on another Miley song "Party in the USA" reveals a very different image being portrayed and also lyrics that tell of an independent girl attitude about not wearing stilettos to fit in with the in crowd. Brilliant, this is the kind of song I want my daughter to be listening to. And that was how it started. Clicking only on videos that were suggested I had a look at some of the female artists that are out there at the moment.
My daughter is suddenly very aware of the outside world and is starting to be aware of "cool". There are girls at school who talk about different singers than she's ever come across. I clicked on Jessie J's Do It Like A Dude as it's one madam already likes. She doesn't understand the lyrics (probably just as well) but has picked up the chorus and can be heard singing "do it like a brother, do it like a dude" every now and again. I like the song, I'm not going to lie, that's why she's heard it. But it isn't massively suitable.
But at least Jessie seems to be able to keep her clothes on. I looked for more girls and clicked on a few Katy Perry videos. I was trying to stick with pop/urban as that is what is most prevalent. Katy, again, mostly managed to stay dressed in the videos that I watched. Her lyrics are quite clever and sometimes powerful. She talks of independence and making it on your own values. Again, I like. I would like my daughter to believe she is important enough to not allow herself to be messed around.
I skipped the Beyoncé section as she watches a lot of those at home. I like Beyoncé, and I like the majority of her music. I like her videos and even though she seems to be wearing less clothes with every album, I'm not too bothered about her being madam's favourite. On to the wonderful Pink and her Stupid Girls video. I have mentioned my love for this video in an earlier post, but it seemed appropriate to view it again now.
And she still wins. Feisty girl, speaking about women making something of themselves instead of pretending to be vacuous. I love that song so much for all it says and the humour that she manages to get into it. I also watched a couple of Lily Allen's videos. Other than loving her sense of humour and her catchy tunes I found the song The Fear is another attempt at dealing with what women think they should be. She is so wonderfully straight talking, but perhaps a little too old for my 4 yr old!
Lily Allen led on to La Roux. Now, madam loves the song Bulletproof and I have to say that I love the video as La Roux is being exactly who she is. She is very striking and possibly not considered pretty (though, I think she is, but I think Tilda Swinton is and people disagree there, too). But I love that she isn't trying to fit into an image of what an attractive female should be. Because (based on these videos) girls should mainly have "bikini bodies" and be willing to prance about on camera showing said body off. *shudders*
Then I watched the Lady Gaga video for Born This Way. I actually had real trouble with it. It's a song that sings of acceptance and being proud of who you are (so far, so good) but there is no-one in the video that would not be considered one of the beautiful people! They are all skinny and, again, in nowt but their underwear. Does no-one ever get cold? I really loathed it. I have trouble with a lot of Gaga's imagery as a lot of her videos could well be mistaken for porn. She wears so little and poses so provocatively. The over-sexualisation of girls is something I really worry about. I resolutely refused to buy my child a tracksuit that had "cute academy" emblazoned all over it last winter. There were no plain tracksuits available in the girls section. They all had a slogan based on attractiveness on. I bought her a boys one.
On to Kelly Clarkson, again madam knows one of her songs quite well (it's in my favourite film) but again I'm quite happy with Kelly. Also, I know she speaks out quite a bit on size issues as she regularly gets a lot of negativity for gaining weight. She's cute, she sings about stuff I approve of, she gets my vote. Next up Pussycat Dolls, now I know that they're no longer together but watching their video with new eyes was quite strange. Again, I think that adult women should be allowed to wear what they want and be left the hell alone for it, but little kids look up to these women and I think they should be more aware of their influence.
I don't want my child parading around in so little clothes! (prude, prude, prude!) Oh and judging much today, oh yes!
On to Cheryl Cole, someone else madam already likes songs by. I only saw one song and it was pretty meh. I found her fairly harmless really. Better than Rihanna who was up next. Now Rihanna. I confess to liking her music, but I don't like her style. I felt nothing but sorry for her after the Chris Brown incident and was cross with her for going back to him. But she really nailed what my issue is. She started out in the Pon Da Replay video as a kid. Wearing her baggy jeans and her beanie hat, like all the other girls she probably grew up around. Now, half naked (or more) in all her videos. Why does growing up, for these girls, seem to equate to an inability to keep their clothes on? What message does that send to my child? Who are all the people around them that are encouraging that image? Why does it sell?
I worry for these young girls. How will they feel about themselves when they're older? Oh, and I did watch a couple of Nicki Minaj videos but as they were so lyrically explicit I wouldn't let madam anywhere near them in the first place, never mind her (what seems to be) underwear only policy in her videos...
I asked on twitter for sexy singers and was given only one response. Eartha Kitt. I had to giggle. So true, but she was sexy in such a different way. So much less in your face. And I think the world is a sadder place for that.
Now, I know that what I would like my daughter to listen and aspire to will be entirely different from what she wants. And it is her right to choose. But I do hope, by exposing her to artists who try and be about their individuality and who want girls to be the best at what they are, she might grow up to hold herself and her own values above what other people tell her to be. 
So she does go for that career she wants and she dresses to please herself and not the world. She is smart and funny and I hope she always thinks that those are admirable qualities and never hides her light. 
(I am now listening/watching Eartha Kitt on YouTube... I <3 her!)      

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