Written by Jenna Dreisenstock
Image Credit: Brendan O’Connor
Within all spaces of the media world, as is continuously proven; the public’s perception of a womxn’s physical appearance (as in general situations) always goes as such – one would assume, that a womxn’s physical appearance when putting herself out there as a musician would make no difference whatsoever in the way that people respond to her skills and music. Obviously, it would make complete sense – because why in the world would someone’s physical appearance affect the ways in which we respect an artist and her work?
Unfortunately, as I have mentioned in previous articles before and as we are all (most of us) blatantly aware of this fact – womxn are constantly on the receiving end of various types of systemic misogyny. This presents itself in the music world in various ways, however this article focuses specifically on the way in which a female-identifying artist can be on the receiving end of unprecedented hatred solely based on the way they look. An immense amount of pressure is placed on us as womxn every single day to conform to western beauty standards – we must be unreasonably, dangerously thin, white, able-bodied and young in order to be considered ‘beautiful’ in the eyes of a corrupt society. This seeps like poison into every area of media – the ways in which older male actors are swooned over by the public regarding their ‘dashing’ appearances as they grow older, while female-identifying actresses are berated for ‘letting themselves go’ – for not having a ‘bikini body’, for naturally growing older as one does (?) and so on, and so forth.
To examine the origins and definitions of the specific phrases I mentioned is a whole other subject within itself (I mean, what does the term ‘letting oneself go’ even mean though? Really?) however we cannot deny the serious truth of the misogyny that female musicians face if they do not fit into that certain westernised standard of ‘beauty’. Many female musicians are harrassed for the ways in which they choose to present themselves – it can almost come in any form. Too ‘sexualised’, too ‘modest’, too ‘over the top’ – too ‘man, she sure has let herself go.’ – too ‘wow she really is growing uglier as she gets older’, too ‘her appearance doesn’t fit her music, she should change her look’ and the continuing rubbish spouted by misogynists as well as sexism ingrained in media that continuously perpetuates these awful stereotypes and ideas.
It’s easy for me to immediately want to state that ‘every womxn is beautiful’ yet I don’t want to say that phrase; I feel as though stating that, normalises the idea that a womxn’s appearance is what matters within her musical career; or her very existence. Every womxn deserves to feel beautiful, comfortable and proud of her body and her appearance. Every womxn deserves to feel confident about herself in the way she chooses to present herself; but a womxn’s beauty is not defined by misogynistic societal standards of beauty nor should this ever be an ‘issue’ within the music world.
If anything, all I can say is – in the face of harassment and adversity, the one positive thing that truly comes from this all is when we as womxn put ourselves out there and say – hey, fuck you, my appearance and relationship with my body is my own and has nothing to do with the music I make as these choices are my own; for generations of younger womxn, female musicians specifically in this context – grappling with this insidious sexism; yet seeing womxn in the public eye embrace themselves despite the horrific, sexist statements thrown their way – it may very well inspire many to feel positive about their bodies and embrace themselves. It’s awfully sad that it has come to this, but thank you to all the womxn who continuously speak out about body positivity in the face of this corruption. Our worth is not defined by these unreasonable, disgusting standards of beauty or physical appearance; our beauty lies within who we are, and what we create. The trolls who try to bring us down will never live up to the beauty in which womxn collectively hold within their unbridled power.