It is a truth universally acknowledged that sex sells. When Christina Aguilera burst into that boxing ring in 2002, oiled up with only a pair of crotchless leather trousers and a barely there bikini to cover her modesty, she took advantage of this model of supply and demand. In the process, she did more for feminism than anyone could have imagined.
This prerogative to wear what we choose is a statement of empowerment. Although Emily Davison may not have chosen to recreate Britney’s school girl outfit or Beyoncé’s leather leotard at the Super Bowl, she would surely be proud that individuals are breaking free from the chains and shackles of social expectations to claim their right to freedom of expression. The fact that artists in music videos can wear what they want – and the fact that they can teach younger generations that they can do so too – is a cause for celebration, not condemnation.
Our freedom to express ourselves through our apparel, and the freedom of music artists to do so too, should not be negated. The motives of individuals should not be placed under the microscope, and the justification advanced as to why individuals should not have the right to dress as they wish – ‘to avoid giving people the wrong idea’ – should not be overstated. An argument structured in this way is analogous to a claim that you should refrain from buying an expensive car so as not to leave a trail of breadcrumbs for potential thieves. Surely the solution is to educate those susceptible to ‘getting the wrong idea’, rather than to impose social restrictions on the autonomy of individuals? We should not have to live in a world that still concerns itself with what the victim was wearing. It is ‘slut-shaming’ that is the true challenge to feminism, not the ‘sluts’ themselves.
This said, if Christina Aguilera wants to get ‘dirrty’ then who am I to stop her? In fact, I may even join in.
For by Annabelle Clarke
It is a woman’s prerogative to wear what she chooses. But women shouldn’t have to feel that wearing sexually provocative clothing is the only way to feel attractive, empowered or successful. The prevalence of celebrity role models, notably in the music industry, who don bottom-skimming skirts and minuscule crop tops, generates the entirely opposite image. Whilst women such as Christina Aguilera and Rihanna may feel empowered, are they empowering the women they influence? Are they furthering feminism, or undermining it?
I’m not saying that wearing sexually provocative clothing is undesirable for the individual: prima facie a woman can wear whatever she chooses, no questions asked. But when an entire industry, capable of shaping women’s perceptions of themselves, their bodies, of shaping the very attitudes of men and women alike, is saturated with artists wearing sexually suggestive outfits, these women come under a duty to present a little variety. In the same way that the modelling industry shouldn’t use an excess of teensie-tiny models, an industry which has such a great influence comes under a duty to its subscribers.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. So too should empowerment. Sexually provocative clothing is one way to feel attractive and empowered, and that’s great. But it isn’t for everyone. Music artists should take steps to change the wider image they are presenting, and show that yes, a woman can explicitly flaunt her body to feel empowered, but that she also has other choices. Some artists do break the mould: look at Taylor Swift: the epitome of femininity and beauty – respected and empowered? Hell, yes. And not a pair of crotchless leather trousers in sight.
Women like this show that overt sexuality isn’t the only way to feel attractive or empowered. The music industry should stop being a mouthpiece for a notion which undermines this.