Only Heartbroken Women are True Artists

‘women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends . if they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized’

Björk recently wrote a powerful Facebook status welcoming the winter solstice and damning the misogynistic music industry. In her post she talks about how her recent DJ set was reviewed compared to how her male peers were reviewed. A large majority of the reviewers said she ‘hid behind the desk’ and was not really ‘performing’, a criticism that, yes you’ve guessed it, her male counterparts did not receive. I don’t think she was surprised by this. No working female artist is surprised by misogyny anymore, it’s kind of a given, and at first I sadly kind of saw it as non-news. But after I read her status, I started to think about it differently. She was saying that women are often not legitimised in their art form until they are heartbroken.  As women, ‘if we dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience .’ And I think this is actually a really pertinent issue which we don’t think about enough.

It took me less than two minutes to think of recent examples in theatre. It took me another thirty seconds to think of some examples in art. This is something I haven’t thought about properly until right now and it’s now all I can think about. Because it’s not just about sexist reviewers. It’s about how we (or don’t, in fact) legitimise female performance.

To start – Yerma. I kind of feel like I can’t really pass judgement on this one because I didn’t see it but I read a lot of reviews on it and also I know the play. Billie Piper is one of the hottest picks of 2016 for all the ‘Best Female Performance’ awards. It’s widely agreed she gave a stunning performance as a woman heartbroken for her non-existent child, her lost lover, her neglectful husband. So many of the press photos surrounding the show were of Piper sprawled on the floor, broken and maddened with grief. I have no doubt she gave a wonderful performance, but I think it’s worth asking, as Björk does, whether we gave it more thought, more visibility, because she was so brutally torn apart by love and by men. Or perhaps this was not the reason why we legitimised it more, but it was a certainly a factor in why the performance was so well-received. There was a small backlash about the sexism of the play but widely it was dismissed because it was a good show, right? And that’s what the original story was, so it’s not like someone’s written something new and sexist, they’re just reviving an old sexist thing. Anyway, not the point, the point is we put, are putting, Piper on a pedestal because of her performance of heartbreak. It’s the same problem with the Medea’s, the Ophelia’s, the Blanche DuBois’s – according to our view of the great roles for women, we are only really performing when we’re broken.

It’s not just theatre. It’s in music, art, poetry – nearly every art form has this problem when it comes to legitimising female voices. In art, take Marina Abramović, one of the artworld’s strongest, most controversial figures and yet her most watched Youtube video is when she breaks down in tears in front of her ex-partner – Ulay. It has 14 million views where her other videos, where she talks about her art, have at most 500,000 views. She is one of the artists I respect most and yet that was how I first heard about her. When I was in sixth form I ran a workshop based on her practices in class for about an hour. I would say one of the only times everyone was really moved and engaged was when I talked about that video and her release of emotion. It really saddens me because her art is above everything about control and her most infamous moment is a loss of control.

This obsession with heartbroken women rears it head again in the poetry we read. Sylvia Plath is one of our most celebrated female poets, and one of our most infamous. Again I knew about her relationship with Ted Hughes and the nature of her death and heartbreak before I knew about Tulips, now one of my favourite poems. She is recognised because of her tragedy, not only her illness but the relationship with the men in her life, she was broken hearted because of Ted and because of her father. And, if you think this is exaggerated at all – I googled ‘great female poets’ and one of the first names to appear was Plath, and alongside it were her main ideas and themes – ‘Death, motherhood etc’. Whereas when I googled ‘great (male) poets’ the first to appear was Wordsworth whose main themes couldn’t wait to announce themselves – ‘Nature, the self, the body’. Notice a difference?

I could honestly go on about this for pages and pages, there are countless examples in all the art forms. I do think a lot of people will disagree with this but it’s just what I’ve been thinking about. Do we legitimise the performance of female heartbreak, of the broken and grieving woman, over other kinds of female performance? Do women need to bleeding and crying to be considered worth hearing, watching, or reading?

I want you to prove me wrong, I really do. But just before you jump on this, I think it’s worth asking whether these were just coincidences or whether this is something we need to think about.

Björk certainly thinks we do but she also wants us to move forward into a more positive and inclusive 2017. I want that too.

Feminists Are Annoying

Article written for controversial school pamphlet:

FEMINISTS ARE ANNOYING

From personal experience I can tell all women it is essential that you do not proudly proclaim yourself a ‘Feminist’. You must remember to never try to assert your authority – this will be only detrimental to your cause. Make sure that, if by some horrible coincidence you are labelled a feminist, everyone knows you don’t hate men.  Most likely you will be outed, stereotyped or disagreed with on most accounts. Of course, if I were in fact to give out instructions on ‘How to be a Feminist’ it would inevitably be completely hypocritical of the point of this article and also would be ‘annoying’.

Yes, I could make this an angry, rampant article about feminism and how women are treated unfairly because it is an extremely relevant issue but I don’t think it’s interesting anymore. I agree that we should shut up about feminism, we’ve heard it all before and it’s boring. Honestly, I’m bored too. I am bored of having to continually assert my right to speak, be heard and be respected. I’m also bored of the fact that mentioning the word will get you nowhere except eye-rolling and heavy sighing. Because feminists are bitchy, and loud, and annoying – right? Someone has got to shut them up.

I’m being satirical, by the way. I’m being funny. Feminism is funny – isn’t it? Irritating feminists is really funny. It’s hilarious that I am still compelled to write an article in a private, liberal boarding school about how women are not treated equally to men. Humanity has walked on the moon but girls are still having to prove their right to equality. I get it – talking about feminism makes us uncomfortable. But actually, it should be uncomfortable, and awkward. I want you to feel a little ashamed, annoyed and bored by this article – I want you to feel something. Get annoyed and get angry. Feminism is now so far removed from its original purpose that it has become a demonised and largely rejected concept for most people. The intended impact of feminism has become lost amongst the ‘white feminists’ and ‘menimist’ movements of Twitter and the media. For those who don’t know, mainstream ‘white feminism’ does not only disregard intersectionality but sometimes even attempts at diversifying their feminism actually contribute to the dilution of intersectional feminism by speaking over the voices which talk about the wage gap and exploitation of WOC. Be proud of standing up for equality and associating yourself with a ‘feminine’ concept.

It’s ironic because most of you have probably stopped reading by this point – the only ones left are the people who want to disagree and the bra-burners. What I’m trying to say is that yes, I agree with you, feminists are annoying. Sometimes you think we need to shut up. The reality is, feminists are annoying because they have to repeat themselves over and over again. Feminists are annoying because they get wound up by stupid little boys (and girls) who believe it is their god given right to be in on an inside joke against women, when in fact they are perpetuating the sexism which has been alive for hundreds of years and ridiculing a cause which women have literally died for. Why did no one teach them to shut up?

Has Sia Gone Too Far?

Sia’s Elastic Heart music video is the latest controversy to hit the music world. Recieving over 5 million views in the first 24 hours, this latest single is classy pop magic, filled with head flicks, passion and electronic key changes. Classic Sia. The music video features Maddie Ziegler, the same extraordinary girl from Chandelier. However, it also has a guest appearance from Shia LaBeouf. Both are clad in nude coloured skin tight leotards and dance around a large cage, similarly to the aforementioned Chandelier. People saw this and they immediately assumed a promotion of pedophilia.

In my opinion, Sia, a world renowned and critically acclaimed pop queen, would not intentionally promote anything of this nature. Her new hidden identity has allowed her to express herself in her music in a far better, and far freer way. You can practically hear her heart pounding out of her chest in every beat, and she clearly carries out her work with the up most passion and conviction, and in turn I would imagine she expects some respect, as an artist if not as a person. As for this music video, it is not about a relationship, not a sexual one anyway. Sia predicted, wisely as always, that there would be a backlash towards the video. She hasn’t been controversial for the sake of controversy, she has employed two extremely talented individuals to express her music. There’s a number of people who have interpreted this video as a presentation of Sia’s relationship with her father, which is valid from an artistic perspective, but she has stated specifically that it is not about her father, and these interpretations do somewhat perpetuate the abuse element of the piece.

The video is about Sia. It is about her mentality and ‘two warring Sia states’. Whether it is a present and past Sia, a disturbed and sane Sia, or an uncontrollable and stable Sia we may never know, she may never reveal this to us, but what she has told should be respected. I just can’t help but feel a little disappointed in these comments. From watching the video you can see that this beautiful piece of dance, theatre, art has a deep rooted emotional centre and the elegant, modern choreography pushes all the right boundaries. Judging this video as sexual and abusive is crude and is a discredit to Sia, Maddie and Shia. They have all worked incredibly hard on this, especially Maddie, a girl of only twelve and the flawless accuracy and passion which seeps through the screen is what people should pay attention to. If you see this video as supporting pedophilia then you need to check yourself and realise that it’s probably you that needs to reassert their view of music, people and society, not Sia.

Have Alt-J Become Too Commercial?

Yesterday, Alt-J released their second music video for their upcoming album. ‘Left Hand Free’ already had controversy surrounding it after claims that the band wrote the song in 15 minutes after their record label told them they needed to write a more catchy song which could be played on the radio. Alt-J have of course denied this claim, but it was not hard to convince people of the rumour, when the song was so different and mainstream to anything Alt-J have ever done before. Therefore, when the video was released, it seemed that it might help some of the fans understand the reasoning behind the single.

 

However, many fans have been saying that Alt-J have lost their creativity and innovation after this video was released. The music video depicts a typical summer day in southern USA, with young people having fun and presenting the perfect summer. It undoubtedly looks like a vapid advertisement for beer or a holiday and disappointed a lot of people. It also undeniable however, that it fits exactly with the song and sparks the same discussions. This video clearly reflects how the song is typical and fairly meaningless, mirroring popular culture. Alt-J haven’t lost their creativity, they are making a comment about the music business and also just having a bit of fun. Interestingly, Alt-J placed a ‘1’ after the title of this video. It may have just been a mistake, but it could also mean this video is the first of many.

This band were clever to not lose their fan base by first releasing ‘Hunger of the Pine’ which was still a new direction, but it stuck to their old methods and sound. The video for ‘Hunger of the Pine’ is again an accurate reflection of the song.

 

It is simple, and puts across a clear image to it’s audience. The complexity of the song and video is obvious, but it is presented in an intelligent and enjoyable way. ‘Hunger of the Pine’ proves that Alt-J still deeply care about their music, purpose and the meaning behind these tracks. Of course Alt-J haven’t become too commercial. They are doing things how the want, the way they want and yes, they may lose fans, but they will also gain new ones as well.

Why We Should Still Buy CDs

It is very rare that I would think to buy a friend their favourite band’s new CD, I would rather give them an iTunes voucher, wouldn’t you? Despite having a music library of nearly 4000 songs, I own very few CDs, and the ones I do own consist of Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson. (Please excuse my clearly exquisite music taste at age 12). This is the case with most of my friends as well, as far as I know. I’m only sixteen and it doesn’t feel that long ago that I spent pocket money browsing hmv, and treasured my handheld CD player.

We all own an MP3, or an iPod, and everyone downloads music straight to their device without a second thought. Even iTunes is being out done by the likes of Spotify and Napster, offering free subscriptions and unlimited music. Don’t get me wrong, these services are great, so useful, and make music extremely accessible. But, sometimes I think it would be nice if we all still bought CDs, even if not to listen to on an old stereo. My dad for instance, will often buy CDs from amazon if the band is significant or he wants the collection. For example, he bought ‘Ghost Stories’, Coldplay’s newest LP and although it isn’t one of his favourite albums and he doesn’t listen to it all the time, we have every other Coldplay CD and I think it is almost like a memento of the band.

Most people, including myself, don’t buy CDs anymore of course, because technology has moved on, and we don’t feel the need to buy them. I personally feel it is a great shame, and CDs are cheap, easy to acquire and often beautiful reminders of a time, place or person, or if you’re like me, your (slightly embarrassing) tween years. Having discovered that my parents actually do have quite good music taste, I scoured their vast CD collection for my GCSE revision accompanying music. While doing this, I realised that the sleeves of the albums, and the accompanying lyric booklets were quite interesting and an insight into the aesthetic of the band. Here are a couple of my favourites:

I hope you agree that we should buy CDs, and that you also enjoy the look and feel of a brand new album in your hands, only a few days after it’s release.