by Terry Lynn Waldon
Looking at the extent of the negative media attention given to the so-called Lolita images of female teen pop singers, it is obvious that a sexist way of thinking still exists. How can the media and the public be critical of the Britneys, Christinas and Mileys of the world for their wardrobe, (or lack thereof), but not be critical of the wardrobes of boy bands like LFO, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees?
These male groups also embrace the ‘less is more’ wardrobe when it comes to their concerts, videos, and photos, but the media backlash that female artists suffer for wearing similar clothing is not there for the male groups.
Female sexuality has always been a topical issue: how far can a woman take her sexuality before it becomes bad taste? Why do males get away with baring their chests without coming under fire by critics?
“I definitely think that everything has its time,” says Anastasia, one half of the Montreal duo Sky. “But it’s her (Britney’s) body and no one told her she had to dress more sexy. It comes down to what the masses do with it. It becomes a reflection of our society. If you were exposed to more European cultures you would see far more sexuality and no one seems to have a problem with it there.”
The image Britney projects is partly the idea of her promoters, who are savvy enough to know that the Lolita image can enhance her career. Her music may be deep-rooted in the teen market but her image crosses over into the adult market, where she is often shown on adult magazine covers posing seductively while still maintaining an air of innocence.
No matter what we may think of Britney, this marketing ploy has worked in her favour in terms of commercial success. Promoters know that selling these Pop artists as fantasy boyfriends or girlfriends to their fans can only enhance their appeal, despite the talent these groups may or may not have.
It was their video for “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” that showed the Backstreet Boys in all their (mock) striptease glory. It was enough beefcake to rival the female singers’ cheesecake, but the boys have become less blatant over the years.
Were we really shocked when Britney executed a striptease on the MTV Awards? I.d. are an up-and-coming vocal group based in Toronto. Twenty-two-year-old group member, Gary, believes that there is a difference between the way that female artists and male groups use their sexuality.
Gary explains, “With the girls…Britney and Christina…they’ve got half tops and they are pretty much naked. There’s one thing with sex appeal and there’s another with flaunting your sex appeal. I think with the boy groups…there might be one or two groups out there where they are all naked (Blink 182) or have their shirts off…but the majority of them don’t. I don’t see B4-4, N’Sync or anybody in concert or at award shows take off their shirt. They come across very sexual but that’s sex appeal…you can’t help it. If that’s your personality it’s gonna come out. Britney and Christina are actually using sex as a tool to sell. Being uncovered and wearing practically nothing…I think it’s the vanity of the girls.”
The reality is that if artists are adults they should be allowed to dress any way they choose. However, if criticism is directed towards the female, then the male should come under fire as well.
For example when then-16-year-old Moffatts drummer, Bob, appeared in nothing more than his boxers in the music video for their song “Girl of My Dreams,” it hardly caused a ruffle. There was no media backlash that said that he was too young to be appearing half-naked lying on a bed. Would the reaction have been different if 16-year-old Mandy Moore was lying half-naked on the bed?
“There is no backlash because of the simple fact that they are male. Males who go around topless are still considered respectable because they have been doing it for so long,” states 17-year-old Torontonian, Ammee.
Nader, a 15-year-old Britney fan, says, “I think that Britney is an honest person. I went to her concert and I don’t think that her clothes are sleazy. She wears those things to keep cool…the girls like to look at the boys just the way that the guys like to look at the girls. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with what any of these artists are wearing.”
Tina, a 13-year-old LFO fan proves that girls also have double standards. “I saw LFO in concert recently and they were hot! The fact that Brad and Devin took off their shirts was an added bonus.” However, at the mention of Britney Spears, Tina shrieks, “Ewww! Britney is a skank. She walks around half naked.”
I then point out that what she finds disgusting in Britney, she found appealing in LFO.
Without missing a beat she answers, “LFO are talented…they can sing, unlike Britney, who needs to strip because she has no talent.”
There will always be a difference of opinion when it comes to the images that pop stars project. But if we are going to get into debates about the subject, let us make sure that we level the playing field and modify our critical thinking. In fact, let’s just start thinking and using our better judgment. After all, what we do, what we say, and what we wear is still ultimately up to us. We have to expand our minds because how we perceive female or male artists can be a reflection of how we view each other.