Women in the Music Industry VS the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy

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Hands Off Gretel

A world of Incels, online abuse, sexual assault and sexualisation, and a backlash against women speaking for themselves led Getintothis’ Amelia Vandergast to look at the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy.

In a society where women can say that they’ve been sexually assaulted so many times they can no longer count, we’re in a society which has drastically let women down.

In a society where toxic male behaviour is frantically rationalized via ‘slut-shaming’, we have a glaring problem.

And it isn’t going to be resolved by censoring women.

Articles addressing the overwhelming misogyny and toxic masculinity in the music industry are always going to be met with defensive adversity.

So, before we start, yes, I know it’s not all men, and yes, I know that men are sexualised and sexually assaulted too, I’m not undermining anyone’s experiences, nor am I painting women as glorious faultless creatures.

It’s not my intention to spit divisive vitriol or widen the chasm of conflict, only simply point out the deep-rooted inequity which exists.

The industry is hard for everyone, but when oppressive misogyny and repetitive instances of sexual assault are thrown into the mix, can we all just agree that it’s a little bit harder?

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In 2019, Lauren Tate from Hands off Gretel (come on guys, IT’S IN THE NAME) created a media storm by simply requesting that her personal space is respected at gigs via an open letter.

There are now 2.2k comments on the original Facebook post.

Read for yourselves the torrent of abuse including memes made with Lauren’s photos pointing out the supposed hypocrisy of dressing how she chooses and not wanting to be manhandled at her shows.

It’s almost as though some men think if someone’s attractive, they don’t deserve respect.

The job of any artist is to share their experience and insight through their music and allow audiences to find resonance, but if we can’t allow them to speak out publicly on matters which are affecting them so adversely, what does that say about the position we will give them as artists?

No one’s truth should be vilified by a sociopathic lack of empathy.

Dolly Daggerz shared her experience of being sexually assaulted while performing as the frontwoman in her band Tokyo Taboo in 2019 in Louder Than War.

She also faced a backlash from people frothing at the mouth as they desperately tried to justify the actions of their testosterone carrying comrades.

The inclusion of a pole in her spectacularly immersive live performances brings far too much confusion for some when it really shouldn’t be too hard to understand.

Artists are there to entertain, in whichever they choose, just because they show you their sexual agency, it doesn’t mean it is up for grabs.

Just as I’m all for female solidarity, I respect that men will have solidarity amongst each other, but allowing that solidarity to remain unfaltering and unconditional needs to end.

Frustrative confounded confusion around sexually empowered women may have changed through the decades.

But we’ve now reached the point where men will gladly accept the title of ‘Incel’ (Involuntary celibate) to express their annoyance that despite women being obviously sexually liberated, they struggle to get laid.

Top tip lads, we can smell your entitlement and fundamental lack of respect for our autonomy a mile off and it’s a bit of a turnoff. If you’re new to the prospect of ‘Incel’ culture, there’s no better introduction to the topic than Berlin-based Alt-Pop artist La Roboka’s recently released music video Incel Boy.

(And yes, she got plenty of hate on Reddit for that release).

As a female music journalist, I’m not immune to the lack of basic respect either, that was made pretty obvious the first time I covered an event abroad.

The person responsible for picking me up from the airport and checking me into my accommodation made a pass at me as soon as he checked me into my room.

At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what I was wearing and how I carried myself. You’re welcome to be as confused as I still am. I’d met them an hour ago and spoke to them in nothing but a professional capacity about music and the event. The only thing on my mind was having a nap after 24+ hours of being awake.

I definitely didn’t want to be tucked in by a man old enough to be my dad.

My naivety in the belief that I would be respected by all men in the industry was sufficiently stripped that day, it wasn’t all too long before it would start to be re-affirmed by the likes of male promoters and band managers in my network making entirely unprompted advances and making my job infinitely more awkward.

The random AM messages attempting to solicit sex from me should be their shame to carry but inevitably, I’ve been lumped with the weight of it.

The inspiration behind this article came from a band manager who had invited me to watch their band in Newcastle. I’d originally accepted the invitation, and then the caveats started to show.

You know, the total non-creepy act of scrolling through years of Facebook photos, liking them, and popping up in my inbox 30 minutes later. I’m very aware that I’ve got off incredibly lightly in comparison to what some women have to deal with.

I’m not throwing a pity party hoping that you’ll all rally around me.

But all of it illustrates a bigger picture, I’m about to get to it, and It’s about to get a little bit Freudian.

Until recently, I tormented myself with the anger and the confusion of why such prolific ‘nice guys’ couldn’t give me the same courtesy. Until a female promoter pointed out the issue; some men don’t have the capacity to feel desire and show respect.

Which led me to explore the Madonna-whore dichotomy and how women are compartmentalised in the music industry. Through the dichotomy, women are either seen as a maternal figure (a Madonna), or a promiscuous whore, and there’s very little grey matter in between.

Which would explain why some men find it so hard to believe that any of the aforementioned artists in this article are anything but the latter end of the dichotomy.

The archaic notion seeps from centuries spent nurturing the belief that women have no sexual agency themselves, but they merely accept the sexual agency of men. It’s not all too much of a radical realisation, but to this day, artists disproving the myth are chastised and branded whores.

They’re only one sexual assault from being told it was all their fault in the first place.

You’d think in 2020 we would have been able to move away from the repressive male and female stereotypes, but they still linger behind the infuriated misogynistic cognitive dissonance.

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There is still an unholy amount of unnecessary worth on women’s sexual statuses. It’s all too obvious, that sometimes, this overrides anything else that women do – such as enter into the music industry.

There will always be sex symbols in our society, and that doesn’t have to change.

What needs to change is the narrow view we have of these women, they shouldn’t be forced into the innocent virtuous mould of the Madonna before they are respected.

Around many sexual violence debates, you’ll hear “what if it was your sister/mother/daughter” because this really is what it takes for some men to open their mind to the idea that the women they sexualise are also human and worthy of compassion.

Women have come this far; they’re not going to regress and start being apologetic for their sexuality now.

One day, they may be just as accepted and respected as the male artists whose sexual prowess impossible miss, until that day, we can stop pretending that male privilege doesn’t exist in the music industry.

The positive note I’ll choose to conclude on is that incredible music is being made while female artists claw their way out from under the repression.

Such as the overwhelmingly empowering single Big Mouth from feminist punk outfit Petrol Girls, the video introduces their solidarity, not silence campaign raising court costs for a defamation case after speaking out about the multiple instances of sexual abuse from a well-known musician.

 

 

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