In an article for the Hollywood Reporter this week, Camille Paglia claims that Taylor swift and Katy Perry are ‘destroying feminism’.
Paglia compares Perry, Swift and their ilk to the vapid 50s personas of Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds. She describes their music ‘monotonous’ and ‘keening’. I’ve recently taken my own shots at the pop music world and I’m right with Camille… up to this point.
Camille loses me when she gives Beyonce and Rihanna favourable comparisons to the ‘white girls’. I presume that this because they seem more authentic, given the way that R&B evolved into today’s dance-pop–Paglia makes a big deal out of their ethnicity–but the truth is that their music is pretty much indistinguishable. These pop stars are not chosen for musical ability; they are dancing models chosen for how good they look in the music videos. Beyonce and Rihanna are products of the same cynical marketing machine. They’re just there to widen the sales demographics.
More interesting, perhaps, would have been to see Paglia talk about P!nk, who again sounds very similar to the other pop divas, but who now looks like a couture designer’s impression of a punk rocker and who sings about wanting to be a rock star. I think P!nk wants be something else, but doesn’t know how.
Paglia talks about the way that her Baby Boomer generation won themselves free of oppression and that these young girls are ruining her hard work, but there were plenty of smart female role models in Generation X. Remember the 90s? Courtney Love, Melissa Auf Der Maur, L7? Remember the ‘Riot Grrl’ movement? I admit that I’ve missed them, and I have vocally complained about it. But guess what? They’re still around. Joan Jett has been out there for as long as I’ve been alive, kicking ass and taking names.
And Generation Y? Maybe Angela Gossow doesn’t have the mainstream profile of Britney Spears, but for my money she’s a better feminist icon than all of Paglia’s cited heroes–Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Natalie Wood and Leslie Caron–combined.
Paglia’s Baby Boomers do not have a monopoly on feminism. Surely Paglia doesn’t think that women are that foolish and impressionable? Who will teach them how to be free once she and her generation of revolutionaries are gone? To claim that a generation has been ruined by such miserable exemplars of corporate marketing as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry is insulting and arrogant.
There are plenty of smarter role models out there for girls, and if they weren’t, they’d do what children have always done: they’ll make their own.