Although we’re all aware of the greed and discrimination in the music industry, it’s still alarming to see specific incidents of undeserved fear and heartache based on gender. In the last few days, two awful accounts of bigotry have surfaced in the news, reminding us that sexism in the music world exists on a massive and global scale.
The first story, as you may have heard, made headlines on Feb. 1st after a disturbing YouTube video of J-pop star Minami Minegishi of the group AKB48 went viral and sparked controversy. In the video, the 20-year-old pop star –– who had just shaved her head in a state of frenzy prior to recording –– tearfully apologizes for having a boyfriend. That’s right. A 20-year-old woman was made to feel as though she owed the world an apology for having a boyfriend.
She explained, “What I have done was such a thoughtless and a lack of self-awareness behavior.” Minegishi’s position in the group was consequently demoted (AKB48 is comprised of 88 members who perform everyday in shifts, and there are apparently ranks within the group) and it has yet to be determined if her membership will be terminated.
As with many other cultures, Japanese pop stars are expected to look and act sexually, but in a totally virginal and off-limits kind of way; they serve to fulfill the male fantasy –– while raking in millions of dollars for their labels –– but they are completely dehumanized and stripped of their basic rights and needs in the process. This particular group evidently takes the disturbing concept one step further by prohibiting its members from engaging in any romantic/sexual relations, lest they lose their innocence and no longer attract droves of perverted fans.
Meanwhile, an all-girl Indian rock band has just disbanded after becoming targets of an online hate campaign and having a fatwa issued against them. Pragaash (meaning “First Light” in Kashmiri) won third place in a battle of the bands competition in Muslim-dominated Kashmir, but the attention they gained from their achievement was so terrible that it caused them to not only stop performing, but to break away from music entirely. One of the three members even fled to another city.
The girls have been called “sluts” and “prostitutes” by online hate campaign participants and “indecent” by the Muslim cleric-issued fatwa (FYI they were all wearing jeans and long-sleeved shirts/jackets). While members of both local and online communities have shown support for the young women, others have relentlessly threatened them and their families, and made accusations of “Western-style cultural waywardness.” (Trigger warning for threats of rape and violence in the image below.)
Matters of this nature are obviously complicated by cultural and/or religious differences, but the fact remains that sexism and the denial of basic human rights are common and prevalent across the globe. It also raises the question of how much more we need to evolve before it is universally recognized that this type of behavior is not simply oppressive or unfair, it is a crime.
Written by Nicole Woszczyna