Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

An anonymous fan sent in a Facebook message to synth-pop vocalist Lauren Mayberry earlier this year “This isn’t rape culture. You’ll know rape culture when I’m raping you, b****.” Mayberry, currently occupied by supporting her band’s debut LP The Bones of What You Believe, is concomitantly living a split life. Half of her livelihood is spent living out her dream as the frontwoman for her own band, Chvrches, and the other half is spent dealing with manic fans propositioning her for sex and then complaining when Mayberry denies the public access to her body.
This is far from 2013’s first encounter of a female musician being treated as a slab of meat by her fans. Grimes, Lana Del Ray, and Miley Cyrus are among many women in the music industry to be relegated from recording artist to an object of sexual fantasy. While some, like Mayberry, are nothing short of disgusted that their status as female pop artists in the public eye has led to such subhuman treatment, others, like Cyrus, are clearly promoting their bodies (Google “Miley Cyrus VMAs” to know just to what extent this has come to). Questions depicting mucisians from prostitutes have been imposed be a few, while some refuse to check exactly what a celebrity is or what they are trying to do, demanding sexual favors that range from pornographic pictures posted in public domain to the performance of sex acts in concert venues that are intended to sell tickets for the performances of music, not of the body.
In the pre-release hype of Chvrches’s debut, traffic on 4chan’s /mu/ board was rife with commentary, not on the EP the band had put out, but of pictures of Lauren Mayberry. Comments ranging from “I wish I could date a girl like her” that extended as far out there as “I wish I could sniff her armpits” preoccupied a number of threads on the image board website before Bones came out.
While, ultimately, there is nothing immoral about sexuality or expressing physical desires toward pop artists, writing demeaning letters and requests to musicians like Mayberry is wrong, especially since this level of harassment has caused her to cut off all communication with her fans. Both Chvrches’s Facebook and Twitter accounts no longer allow messages, and all email traffic is now handled by the band’s agent.
Mayberry is far from the only victim of these crimes. Electronica singer Grimes, who initially broke through the mainstream with her early 2012 hit “Oblivion,” made a killing with the popularity of her album, Visions. The reaction from her male fans, generally speaking, seems to be the opposite of the critical acclaim her work has garnered her. Online forums did not see the same enamor as publications from the Quietus to Pitchfork Media, who saw the “wow, this combination of goth rock and witch house is awesome” seal of approval with a +8 best new music score.
The blogosphere instead saw an incursion of sexual perversions, which, like with Mayberry, found their way into Grimes’s mailbox, relegating a young and talented woman to the fetishized object of many American men. Tumblr accounts going far past posting songs and interviews “in honor” of this singer exist – going as far as to detail her wardrobe and tattoos, even speculating what her hair might smell like.Essentially, Grimes and Mayberry serve as two examples of assiduous musicians trying to live the dream musician life, but their fan base has caused them to cut down on the actual contact they can maintain with their fans, or in the case of Mayberry, cut it off completely.
On the flipside, current pop singer Miley Cyrus is a potential propagation of this hypersexual attitude towards women in the music industry. Aug. 25 of this past year saw Cyrus’s ebulliently open attitude towards sexuality in full force at MTV’s Video Music Awards. Cyrus performed chart-topper “Blurred Lines” with singer Robin Thicke in what will easily be the year’s singular most memorable performance. Cyrus continued to strip down and parade her nearly-nude body around Robin Thicke, while dancing and grinding against his body.
The first issue raised by this performance is the lyrical content of “Blurred Lines”: is it a song promoting rape culture in America? Second, were Cyrus’s dance moves and interactions with the African American stage dancers considerably racist? Questions aside, this is a recap of that short performance: a song that contained such lines as, “Okay, now he was close, tried to domesticate you / But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature” as a young white pop star paraded herself about the stage in a way that many people view from “white trash” to flat-out racist.
Certainly, there is another view to her antics: unquestionably scintillating marketing. Whether one views her as white trash or an enjoyable pop singer, there is no question that events from her VMA performance with Thicke to photos of her from her ex-fiance Liam Hemsworth’s 22nd birthday party, or other photos of her drinking beer as young as 17 years old, Miley Cyrus successfully made her way into the minds of many Americans. From her latest album, Bangerz, she had two Top 40 charting singles, “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” the first of which peaked at number two and the later becoming Cyrus’s first number one hit to date, with the album itself also topping the Billboard chart at number one. Both of these statistics serve as a clear indicator that the public is, at a minimum, curious about Miley Cyrus, if not captivated by her.
The polar opposite of Miley Cyrus’s extreme would be Swedish house duo the Knife. Early 2013 saw the release of Shaking the Habitual, the group’s first album to emphasize lyrical content over the fun house grooves they made themselves known for on works such as 2006’s Silent Shout. In an interview with Pitchfork Media’s Ryan Dombal, lead vocalist Karin Dreijer Andersson stated the duo was aiming not to sound like “a white male rock band.” The band was instead “queering” their sound for Shaking the Habitual, an act both members defined as a protest against Sweden’s treatment of queer individuals and what the two defined as the government’s “extreme wealth.”
Additionally, any further prodding from Dombal about the duo’s view of a perfect society, or if the band was worried their fans might find the work as “preachy,” the twosome dodged these questions by adding that the lyrics dictated the music, and therefore, the album also sounds different from their past works. Is that bit of information relevant to the composition present on Shaking? Yes. But was it the answer the interviewer was looking for? Absolute
ly not.
If her obsession with Bjork’s voice simply outweighed her obsession with Bjork’s status as a woman, the Knife would have easily released the single best record this year. Shaking is an album that sonically tosses in everything from a detuned zither to oppressive, mechanically-modulated vocals from Dreijer Andersson, infusing twentieth century avant-garde composition with East-Asian influences, still under the guise of house music. Instead, they focused on “poetry” that quotes writers from Jeanette Winterson to Michael Foucault, allowing their genuine musicianship to be primarily dictated by women’s role in society. If the Knife had not felt the need to make a poetic and political statement using their resources and status as musicians due to the oppression of living in Sweden as cited in Dombal’s interview, the album would have been entirely masterful.
Back to Mayberry, her recent opinion piece for the Guardian on her blatant disdain for misogyny, both online and in the real world, ended with her saying, “My hopes are that if anything good comes out of this, it will start a conversation, or continue the conversation which is already happening, encouraging others to reject an acceptance of the status quo, and that our band can continue to do what we are doing in our own way and on our own terms.”
Despite harboring a hope that this form of harassment will end in her lifetime, Mayberry sadly admits defeat in that it currently exists. While her moves against it are not as extreme as the Knife’s double-LP, in which instrumentalists attempt to take the role of poets to verbally combat sexual oppression, both share a conscious state of victimhood. Miley Cyrus, arguably the current largest personality that this misogynistic culture in the West is drawing on, also stated “I wasn’t trying to be sexy,” in a recent interview with Rolling Stone Magazine.
Her comment brings into question if her recent actions were an honest attempt to promote the human body, or a ploy on the part of her PR team to promote a single record. In a case like hers, the industry sees an abundance of sales, but the public sees exposed flesh and hears lines about how women “know they want it,” at least according to Robin Thicke. This leads to emails to people like Grimes and Mayberry and culminates in an almost one hundred minute protest against gender inequality, as is the case with the Knife.
In enjoying a stage personality or the face of a musician, it is evident that fans sometimes neglect the men and women of the music industry’s status not so much as performer, but as human beings. What ultimately separates the pretty faces of singers like Lauren Mayberry from the rest of the world’s pretty faces is the public’s access to hers, and, when those few wild fans lose their tact, it leads to a bright musician such as Mayberry shutting herself off from the rest of the world.
Jeffery Holmes is a second-year student majoring in secondary English education. He can be reached at JH791223@wcupa.edu. 

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