Pop star slams 'hyper-sexualised' music industry

Charlotte Church on the cover of one of her early singles.
Charlotte Church on the cover of one of her early singles.

Singer Charlotte Church has attacked the sexism of the "juvenile" male-dominated music industry, which she said was increasingly creating and promoting "child-like" sex objects.

In a keynote lecture, she backed calls for an age-ratings system for near-the-knuckle music videos and said radio executives needed to shoulder some responsibility for playlisting artists who relied on "soft porn" to boost their profile.

Her comments, in the address to radio executives at the annual Radio Festival in Salford, come as there is increasing concern about sexual imagery to sell music with singer Miley Cyrus appearing naked in her video for the single Wrecking Ball.

Church, who like Cyrus found success in her early teens, told how she faced considerable pressure to promote her music in ever more suggestive outfits and she said the legacy of revealing outfits is that she faces a barrage of abuse online, being called a "slut" and a "whore".

And she warned younger stars who succumb to the pressure to sell their sexuality: "Now I find it difficult to promote my music in the places where it would be best suited because of my 'history'. But at the time it was the option presented to me."

Church, 27, said women were being "coerced" into sexual roles to cling on to their careers and she classified women who were overtly using sexual imagery to boost their careers such as Rihanna and Cyrus as "unattainable sexbots".

She said that approach was "the most commonly employed and most damaging, a role that is also often claimed to be an empowering one".

Church went on: "The irony behind this is that the women generally filling these roles are very young, often previous child stars or Disney-tweens, who are simply interested in getting along in an industry glamorised to be the most desirable career for young women.

"They are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win.

"The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine, from the way we are dealt with by management and labels, to the way we are presented to the public.

"You could trace this back to Madonna - although it probably goes back further in time. She was a template setter. By changing her image regularly, putting her sexuality in the heart of her image, videos and live performance - the statement she was making was - I am in control of ME and my sexuality.

"This idea has had its corners rounded off over the years and has become `take clothes off, show you're an adult'."

She pointed to a provocative new video for Rihanna's latest single Pour It Up which had notched up more than 40 million views on YouTube but said the singer's sexually charged performance was generating "a tonne of money" for the men who write, produce and run her record company.

"It is a multi-billion dollar business that relies upon short burst messaging to sell product. And there is no easier way to sell something than to get some chick to get her tits out, right? When the male perspective is the dominant one, the end point is women being coerced into sexually demonstrative behaviour in order to hold on to their careers."

Church branded the music world "a male-dominated industry, with a juvenile perspective on gender and sexuality".

And she agreed with Annie Lennox who recently voiced a view that age-ratings may be appropriate for music videos.

"Whilst channels like YouTube and Vimeo have a responsibility in dealing with these issues, radio stations shouldn't think they are beyond criticism.

"If there are no sanctions put upon music that is written so zealously about genitalia, or uses soft porn in its promotion online, what is to stop artists feeling that making their music and videos more sexy will undoubtedly drive up their online views and subsequently encourage more radio play."

- PAA

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