Delivering the third annual John Peel Lecture in Salford last night, former classical-music prodigy and reformed raunchy popster Charlotte Church took it upon herself to enlighten the rest of us about the sordid ways of the male-oriented entertainment industry. According to Church, the biz makes money by exploiting sexualised images of young women like herself. Despite having been a willing participant in this grubby industry - only too desperate at the time to escape her previous choirgirl image and making a small fortune in the process, it seems she has now decided it was wrong. Funny that!
Church’s tirade once again raises the question - when did pop music become the place to work out society’s morals? Hasn’t pop always been a platform to spit out the unconventional, experimental, subversive, saucy and, yes, even offensive? Charlotte’s speech is patronising not only to fiercely ambitious and hugely successful young starlets like Miley Cyrus and Rihanna, but to women more generally. To argue that young female stars are coerced into selling their body image to bolster their careers is to say that women are feeble-minded and impressionable. Hmm… wasn’t it the Victorians who thought women were delicate flowers and helpless victims?
Her second dig was at pop audiences, who it would seem can’t handle of bit of ‘twerking’ here and some frivolous fun there. What Church seems to forget is that humans have something called an imagination, meaning most of us know very well the difference between a bit of escapist fun and the real world.
The real scandal here is not the supposed sexism of the pop industry but the gall of these self-appointed female warriors, censoring what they find offensive and anaesthetising fun on behalf of phantom victims. Stop blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, Charlotte; take some responsibility for your choices. If you can’t take the heat of the industry, then get out.
Saleha Ali is a writer and researcher based in London.