Harry Styles: Feminist?

So as we all sluggishly dragged ourselves to work after a no-doubt indulgent long bank-holiday weekend, we were treated to a rude awakening call; a general election.

However, rather than wallow in this impending doom I call Great Britain’s future I kept scrolling through Twitter for the meme’s and the will to live.

When I came across this little snippet of an interview by everyone’s fave babe, Harry Styles.

harry styles comments

Now, I am well versed in white boys getting more credit than they’re due just for saying basic things like ‘women deserve human rights’ and shit. But I was actually genuinely a little impressed by Harry’s comments.

It is true that teen heart-throb boyband types grow up and suddenly want to be perceived as a srs tortured soul who has more srs things to be interested in than screaming girl fans.

However, Harry brings up an increasingly interesting comparison that I’ve seen used before. The Beatles were (are?) considered the greatest and most successful band of all time. They are considered the epitome of musical talent. Yet who were their core fanbase? You guessed it; teenage girls.

beatles fans

You’ll get many a male hipster these days though shouting at teenage girls wearing Beatles t-shirts that they’ve no right to be wearing it and to name Ringo Starr’s neighbours cat in order to prove herself worthy.

Is it probable that Harry Styles’ manager or agent may wish to tap into a new fan demographic? Is it really understandable that their marketing/PR team want to appeal to a new audience?

There is so much money in teenage girls. They have so much disposable income. Why would anyone want to move away and leave that? Unless they thought that teenage girls and their opinions weren’t credible. Unless they considered teenage girls and their opinions dismissive.

Which largely as a society, sadly, we do.

Beatlemania allowed women of that time to break free from society’s expected gender norms. However ‘mania’ and teen fanatics has now, after 50 years, become the norm that society expects from teenage girls and now ridicules it.

We need to demand respect of teenage girls and their interests. Demand respect from our parents, brothers, grandparents and most of all journalists and the media. Continually speaking of teenage girls interests as if they are ‘stupid’ or ‘silly’ and ultimately aren’t credible is terribly dismissive of teenage girls themselves. And this should not be acceptable.

Pop-Culture Lover 

I have no shame in a lot of things if I’m completely honest and loving pop-culture is something I will never be embarrassed about.

I don’t believe in ‘guilty pleasures’ and I think the phrase ‘sell out’ should have died a death 15 years ago.

This blog post will be mostly relatable to music but can be applied across most of the arts.

I have this very vivid memory of myself sitting in General Studies in College (that’s 16-18 years old for any non-English people reading). It’s a well known sit-off lesson in the UK and so a few class mates and I were sat around chatting. Some of them had been to Leeds festival the previous summer.

I then witnessed what I can only describe as one of the most face-Palm moments of my life so far. This came from a skinny, slightly spotty boy with his wrist adorned with all of the festival wristbands he’d visited the previous summer up and down his arms.

He proceeded to say that he’d seen his once-favourite band Kings of Leon live and that there were thousands of people at their stage and they’d become ‘such sell outs’.

kol

I asked him what he meant by this. He explained that they’d become too popular and no one appreciated their old stuff like he did.

In my mind, surely a band that you loved so much becoming popular and garnering so much attention is a good thing? Surely you want the best for them and to get to become the best of their profession? Which assuming in the music world is becoming number 1 which therefore in extension means becoming more popular and selling more records.

Apparently to some people there is something unattractive about popularity, about pop-culture that is something to be sniffed at, that the uneducated masses flock to because they can’t make their own decisions about their tastes and preferences. This is where songs and films become guilty pleasures. Ever noticed that guilty pleasures are always something really popular?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do see where people like this are coming from. Harry Potter is my baby. I was just the right age when The Philosopher’s Stone was released and was able to grow up absorbing everything that world had to offer.

Now with the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them being released I do feel like my ‘baby’ is being prised from my arms and being thrown to millions of pre-teens who won’t appreciate him. Young-un’s who don’t get it, who don’t know what it was like to grow up with Harry and have him and his world comfort you when you were experiencing some terrible teenage crisis.

But the best thing about pop-culture is getting to share those experiences. Those new fans of Fantastic Beasts will now go back and experience Harry for the first time and that is amazing because I believe it is worth experiencing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am currently travelling in Asia for a few months. If I snubbed things that I deemed ‘sell-outs’ and too popular, I would have nothing to talk to any of my new friends in hostels or bars about.

Pop-culture connects you to people. It gives you things to talk about and bond over. I own a deathly hallows necklace (obviously) and you would not believe the amount of conversations that has started.

Don’t get me wrong, supporting independent, less popular, music and film is good and commendable. But then the point I’m trying to make is, when your favourite independent film becomes super famous, don’t abandon it for some hypothetical moral highground. You liked it for a reason, and so do the other thousands or millions of people that are now sharing this experience with you.

That is nothing to be ashamed about. Pop-culture is amazing and becomes a comment on our society at the time and a reflection of our shared interests and lives.

Embrace shitty pop music and the next big blockbuster- it’ll at least give you something to discuss when you’re next at the pub that’s for sure!

You’re not feministing correctly!

Following the ruling that pop artist Kesha Rose could not leave her contract with Dr. Luke after her accusations towards him of sexual assault, the internet went a little crazy sparking the hashtag #FreeKesha. Across social media there was outcry and an immediate dialogue was opened regarding the matter, the fact that this was causing a discussion surrounding sexual violence itself is a pretty good thing. 

However, with this came social media users querying where any form of solidarity or discussion was from Kesha’s peers; other pop artists. Not just any artists, but female artists.

Suddenly twitter became a-blaze with people asking where Lady Gaga’s feminist views were now when it really mattered. Or why America’s sweetheart Taylor Swift had yet to make a comment. Almost every high profile celebrity had come under fire for not speaking up for Kesha. Initially, this was kind of great thing. High profile celebrities have a huge voice in society and the more they condemn this ruling and the entire stigma surrounding sexual violence the more educated their fans can hopefully become.

taylor swift kesha

This however, just felt more like witch-hunting. Where was the call for male celebrities to stand united with Kesha? People like Jay-Z, Coldplay, Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber have just as big a fan-base to make an influence with their comments. Especially in an industry that clearly favours men over women, could they not have had even more power if they made comment? Celebrities, predominantly female, did eventually step forward and proclaim their solidarity with Kesha, with one notable exception of Taylor Swift.

Swift did however make a donation to Kesha of $250,000 following the news that legal bills had put Kesha in some financial troubles. This led to quite a stir with fellow pop star Demi Lovato who decided that this wasn’t ‘good enough’ and that money doesn’t solve everything and made this abundantly clear on her Instagram and Twitter accounts. The media took this and ran with it and Taylor vs Demi was massive news for a good few days.

This caused a big problem. Although feminism has now finally reached the masses and has become rather mainstream, we see here that now instead of being the most popular or getting the most likes on Instagram, celebrities also have to be the most feminist. Celebrities were being judged for how they contributed, exactly what they said, or how they said it with regards to social and feminist issues. Whereas male celebrities were nowhere to be seen or heard.

It is great that Demi Lovato is so passionately vocal about this issue and feminism in general. It is also great that Taylor Swift donated money to Kesha’s cause and that she perhaps did this without speaking out to make sure the spotlight was not directed at her during this important time.

The entire debacle that ensued completely took away from the issue at hand. Whilst everyone was deciding which celebrity has been the most feminist or the more supportive friend, people like Chris Brown are still releasing music. It is great that celebrities are becoming more and more aware and vocal regarding feminism, but society should not condemn female artists for not speaking about every single social issue.

This is not a competition. This is a real person who is suffering. We need to instead collectively condemn Dr. Luke and the entire system that is currently in place which seems to value money above women’s lives.

 

Taylor Swift’s Evolution

As an English girl, Taylor Swift started out as just an obscure country singer. Country. Like, England doesn’t do country music. We can just about stretch to Dolly Parton but other than that, most people couldn’t name another country singer. Then with ‘Love Story’ and ‘You Belong With Me’, Taylor became more of a global name. Now, with her album ‘1989’ she has somehow managed to become an even bigger success and begin journeys into feminism and self discovery.

Let’s begin with ‘Shake It Off’ shall we? Taylor addresses the comments made about her by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the 2014 Oscars, insinuating that she can’t keep a boyfriend yada yada- (I was pretty disappointed in my gal Amy for that cheap hit tbh, but still love her forever). In the song, Taylor sings,

“I go on too many dates,
but I can’t make them stay,
at least that’s what people say”.

Taylor addresses the comments without being vengeful or bitter, but merely stating that ‘yes this was said about me, but I don’t care’ and proceeds to shake it off. Highly contrasted to Taylor’s last album, where the theme of revenge was dedicated a whole song. In ‘Better Than Revenge’, there are some questionable ideas surrounding blaming other women for her ‘boyfriend’s’ infidelity.

Moving onto ‘Blank Space’, or more specifically, the video. It continues ideas of Taylor knowing exactly how the media try to manipulate perceptions of her and playing up to the stereotype of herself; which is mature, intelligent and frankly hilarious. And not just perceptions of her, but the sexist viewpoints and caricatures of all women. I don’t see the media attacking Harry Styles for his long line of women, and crazily trying to work out which ex the latest One Direction song is about. Oh right, yeah, that’s cos he’s a guy and deserves more respect for his ‘work’, silly me. Taylor tackles this issue head on in an Australian radio show where she states that “no one says that about Ed Sheeran, no one says that about Bruno Mars” and she brands it as “sexist” as she should.

blank space crying

In her work and in interviews, Taylor has grown as a person and as a feminist. As I’ve already mentioned, on her previous albums Taylor was borderline hateful towards other women. In ‘You Belong With Me’ Taylor describes a girl as wearing ‘short skirts’ in a derogative way that insinuates Taylor is above that. It is also interestingly worth noting here that in ‘YBWM’, Taylor is technically the ‘other woman’ in the scenario described in the song. However, in ‘Style’ (a track on 1989), she described herself as wearing a ‘tight little skirt’; realisation that what women wear means absolutely nothing, and that sometimes she is that girl. Which is fine, as there’s nothing wrong with any girl.

Ultimately, I’m super excited to see Taylor’s evolution; she’s the idol to many young girls and if she continues down this path, she’ll become an intensely good role model.