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Feminspire | April 20, 2014

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Women in Music: What Do Rihanna and Yoko Ono Have in Common?

Women in Music: What Do Rihanna and Yoko Ono Have in Common?

In most situations in the world, women are held to unachievable double-standards—to be a virgin but always willing to have sex, to be sexy but never considered slutty, and to never be needy but always answer to men. It has become a rarity for the image of a woman to be used for anything other than the consumption of men; our bodies are flaunted for marketing purposes, and our worth diminished to how men can use us. Unfortunately, there is no hiding from this truth—even in the music industry.

An artist’s career should be based off of talent, or how their work appeals to the audience. But in our society, success and beauty are closely intertwined, with women bearing the brunt of the pressure. Yoko Ono is a prime example—she faced and continues to deal with sexism as well as racism. Because fans and onlookers imagined her coming between the revered John Lennon and his music, she became subject to fierce criticism. Referred to as “Dragon Lady” by many of the public, Ono battled slights on her appearance—because she was not, apparently, considered good enough to be with Lennon—as well as severe slut-shaming, insults on her art and singing, and blame for the break-up of The Beatles.

As well as the intense public scrutiny and critique that comes with being a famous woman, other musicians are not always supportive. Bob Dylan shared that “I hate to see chicks perform. Because they whore themselves. Especially the ones that don’t wear anything.” As evidenced here, not only do the musicians have to meet a certain standard of beauty to be allowed in the music scene—they must also achieve that beauty in a way that others consider acceptable. Though female artists become public property, up for anyone and everyone to insult, demean, and sexualize, they must not hold control over their own bodies. In this public statement addressed to Michelle Obama, Beyonce is deduced to being unworthy of being a role model—simply because of how she chooses to dress her own body. A woman’s body, and what she chooses to do with it, is no one’s business but her own; however, the general public constantly displays disgust at whatever choice she makes.

But it doesn’t end at offensive, sexist remarks. Everyone has heard about the abuse Rihanna suffered from Chris Brown—which happens to be a large part of the problem. Any woman in that position would have to be strong to get through it, but when both parties involved were famous, the media invited everyone else as well—so that Rihanna had to recover publicly, rather than deal with her situation as normal. Rather than widespread support, however, the incident became an excuse for disgusting and misogynistic humor. But does this really surprise anyone? When has gender-based violence ever been taken seriously by society at large?

Music is a form of art that—other than when publicly performed—does not directly correlate to the corporeal image of the artist themselves in any way; it ought to revolve around their work. Male artists can be successful without being attractive, announce their sexual habits to the world, and wear what they please onstage (and off). To any woman, such things seem to be luxuries that we are not granted, freedoms that we must fight for, and ridicule that we must stave off. Women in the music industry work hard at what they do, and ought to be appreciated—without the high price that comes with it.

Written by Sarah Gay