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I don't really pay attention to celebrity culture, nor do I have social media, so it's been interesting to watch Ovarit discuss female celebrities like Ellen Page and Billie Eilish. Something that has really stood out to me in these discussions is that a significant amount of women on here seem to believe that female celebrities have a large or near-total amount of control over what they say and do.

I've been taken aback at some of the comments I've seen. In the case of Billie Eilish, a lot of people have been blaming her directly, making all kinds of claims about what she's thinking or why she would choose to sexualize herself in the way she has. It's being framed as some kind of failing on her part. That she's some kind of idiot, desperate to stay relevant, that she's brainwashed, that she genuinely believes this is empowerment, that she's doing this because she's insecure. To be fair, I have seen some people make comments about how so many other young female pop stars seem to go this same route, but then many just continue to assume that it's the personal fault, or decision, or choice, of these young women.

Why? Why are you so willing to believe that these women have any agency over their own careers? So much of it feels like blaming women for the decisions of men, but with extra steps.

We should absolutely be critical of choice feminism and of hyper-sexualization & objectification being framed as 'empowerment,' but I guess I'm just confused as to why people, in particular women on a feminist website, are content to stop there and not take it any farther? Why is everyone content to assume that the female celebrities saying these things--which conveniently enough, support the idea that women are (sex) objects to be owned and consumed by men--are in control of what they're saying? And before someone tries to quote her Vogue interview at me, do you honestly believe that celebrities, whose entire lives are managed by PR, are never made to lie?

It's been interesting to watch Ovarit users compare the Vogue cover to her previous style of baggy clothing and weird hair. Many times, on this site and elsewhere, I've seen her discussed as having a kind of authenticity because she wasn't dressing provocatively, and was making explicit statements about how she didn't want the focus to be on her body. As I've listened to people discuss her and celebrate her (old) style, I couldn't help thinking that it was such a brilliant marketing scheme on the part of whomever is controlling her image and career.

In a culture where everything is hypersexualized, and there's an obvious social reaction to that--the rise of identities like asexuality, for starters, and the fact that such social trends are easily observed because everyone posts everything to social media--creating and molding a young female celebrity who rejected that kind of hypersexualization would be almost guaranteed to become popular. I think the majority of people love to believe they are different than the rest somehow, and they want to see that reflected in the media they consume, the celebrities they follow. Whether they are aware of that or not.

I'm curious what everyone else thinks about these things. And frankly, I'm tired of seeing adult women on a feminist-run website personally blame a younger woman (whose entire teenage life and career has been controlled by others) for the actions of an industry that is run by men, bigger than her, and has already claimed her as its next victim. I'd like to have a discussion about female celebrities that specifically focuses on how they are controlled and managed.

I don't really pay attention to celebrity culture, nor do I have social media, so it's been interesting to watch Ovarit discuss female celebrities like Ellen Page and Billie Eilish. Something that has really stood out to me in these discussions is that a significant amount of women on here seem to believe that female celebrities have a large or near-total amount of control over what they say and do. I've been taken aback at some of the comments I've seen. In the case of Billie Eilish, a lot of people have been blaming her directly, making all kinds of claims about what she's thinking or why she would choose to sexualize herself in the way she has. It's being framed as some kind of failing on her part. That she's some kind of idiot, desperate to stay relevant, that she's brainwashed, that she genuinely believes this is empowerment, that she's doing this because she's insecure. To be fair, I have seen some people make comments about how so many other young female pop stars seem to go this same route, but then many just continue to assume that it's the personal fault, or decision, or choice, of these young women. Why? Why are you so willing to believe that these women have any agency over their own careers? So much of it feels like blaming women for the decisions of men, but with extra steps. We should absolutely be critical of choice feminism and of hyper-sexualization & objectification being framed as 'empowerment,' but I guess I'm just confused as to why people, in particular women on a feminist website, are content to stop there and not take it any farther? Why is everyone content to assume that the female celebrities saying these things--which *conveniently* enough, support the idea that women are (sex) objects to be owned and consumed by men--are in control of what they're saying? And before someone tries to quote her Vogue interview at me, do you honestly believe that celebrities, whose entire lives are managed by PR, are never made to lie? It's been interesting to watch Ovarit users compare the Vogue cover to her previous style of baggy clothing and weird hair. Many times, on this site and elsewhere, I've seen her discussed as having a kind of authenticity because she wasn't dressing provocatively, and was making explicit statements about how she didn't want the focus to be on her body. As I've listened to people discuss her and celebrate her (old) style, I couldn't help thinking that it was such a brilliant marketing scheme on the part of whomever is controlling her image and career. In a culture where everything is hypersexualized, and there's an obvious social reaction to that--the rise of identities like asexuality, for starters, and the fact that such social trends are easily observed because everyone posts everything to social media--creating and molding a young female celebrity who rejected that kind of hypersexualization would be almost guaranteed to become popular. I think the majority of people love to believe they are different than the rest somehow, and they want to see that reflected in the media they consume, the celebrities they follow. Whether they are aware of that or not. I'm curious what everyone else thinks about these things. And frankly, I'm tired of seeing adult women on a feminist-run website personally blame a younger woman (whose entire teenage life and career has been controlled by others) for the actions of an industry that is run by men, bigger than her, and has already claimed her as its next victim. I'd like to have a discussion about female celebrities that specifically focuses on how they are controlled and managed.

64 comments

[–] Tnetennba 4 points (+4|-0) Edited

You've said everything I've been feeling. I was aghast at the responses to this literal teenager. If she was 29 the critiques would have some merit, but this girl has been in the public spotlight during her formative years. She's young, she's going to make mistakes or blindly listen to her PR team.

Women here were judging her for not already having 40 years worth of life experience and the resiliency of a hardened adult woman who's already faced waves of misogyny and made it out alright. Her journey is literally just beginning, this is the exact age where we all learned how predatory and awful men are, where we wanted to experiment sexually now that we were "real" adults, and we've learned and grown from that.

But to tear down and trash a 19 year old girl for a magazine cover? What the everloving fuck???

Everyone freaked out about Miley Cyrus doing the exact same thing at the exact same age. Is Miley Cyrus a hooker dead in the gutter? Or did she follow normal human development and learn from her sexual social faux pas?

[–] JLT 2 points (+2|-0)

Her journey is literally just beginning, this is the exact age where we all learned how predatory and awful men are

Speak for yourself. A lot of women I know have had close to a decade of this understanding by the time they are 18.

Everyone freaked out about Miley Cyrus doing the exact same thing at the exact same age

That's a really interesting parallel. I knew girls younger than Cyrus who criticized the sexualization of her career 11 years ago. I think the girl writing the opinion piece was 14, and she was criticizing a 17 year old Cyrus at the time. The point is, this sort of critique doesn't only come from 40+ year olds, and as the 14 year old demonstrated, you don't need to be 18+ to start learning about feminism or the objectification of women in the media. In fact, I'd argue that general resources and information on these topics are more widely available than 11 years ago.

But to tear down and trash a 19 year old girl

Women are criticizing her choices because we're not the sort of people who believes everything a woman does is empowering. She's not a child, let people above the age of majority take responsibility for their own behavior. And quite frankly, radfems on the internet finding your outfits over-sexualized and un-feminist is about as inoffensive as criticisms go.

[–] Sesostris 3 points (+3|-0)

There is an economics to this. The more a woman in the public eye resists a sexualised image, the more of a 'scoop' for the magazine who finally convinces her to 'go sexy'/undress etc. Thus there is increased pressure on her to do so.

It's always sold as empowering. It rarely if ever is.

[–] Cymbel 8 points (+8|-0)

I am so tired of seeing libfems think that every "choice" exists in a vacuum and thus, must be totally self-constructued and that's agency and empowerement. I get that other feminists might believe that partly, too.

Everybody is saying (when talking about Vogue and Billie), "read the article, she says she wanted to wear lingerie and uncomfortable clothing and expose herself like that."

I so don't like this arguement. It is devoid of any contextualization. She is 19! How on earth do they think a 19 year old might have a lot of agency, let alone in a predatory industry like that. And if we look at what happened to E. Page. She hid her being a lesbian for so long because of all her handlers, and she hid her tomboyish manner for soo long; it had clearly damaged her profoundly. Ellen was well in her 20s when she could finally open up because her handlers and managers probably gave in. And even then, it wasn't enough because they were probably still telling her to wear her hair long! Which is why she decided to cut it short now that she is allowed to because she is a "man".

And now, people are telling me that Billie is so empowered and it was totally her choice. If only all women would start to make photoshoots in lingerie and always perform and work in leotards, I am sure we would have taken over the world already with so much power, right?

I am just tired of this lack of reflection about context, history, about reality.

[–] ligaments [OP] 5 points (+5|-0)

Thank you. I'm tired of the same things. I'm also tired of seeing grown women who claim to be feminists act like teenage girls suddenly have it all figured out, are full of confidence, and have the ability to manage their lives perfectly once they turn 18.

[–] Tnetennba 3 points (+3|-0)

Thank you so much for this, I felt incredibly alone yesterday. I felt like I was going insane seeing some of those hateful comments.

I'm reminded of how, in punk, women's insubordination was very quickly re-framed as just another way for men to get off.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXTMejFUqO4

State control and rock and roll Are run by clever men What they sell is selling very well

https://www.flashlyrics.com/lyrics/poison-girls/state-control-43

[–] orchidea 8 points (+9|-1)

I get what you're saying, but I wouldn't go so far in the other direction to say that these stars have no agency at all. It's infantilizing and stops us from discussing or considering what responsibilities or principles women can aspire to for the good of other women and girls, not only themselves.

[–] ligaments [OP] 4 points (+4|-0)

I would argue that child stars in particular have very little agency. If they're starting when they're minors, then yes their entire lives and careers are being managed and shaped by others. And if they become very successful, why on earth would their managers (or whomever is making money off them, in Billie's case that's her parents and brother) why would they just suddenly give her complete control once she becomes an adult?

Look at Brittany Spears for instance. The same thing happened to her. Her image was hypersexualized and everyone blamed her personally. Come to find out years later, none of that was in her control. She still doesn't manage her own money.

[–] orchidea -1 points (+1|-2)

I will agree on child stars when they are children, but I do think it becomes a grayer area once they start to mature. I think there is a space to be disappointed in an individual's decision while also recognizing that they may have been strongly influenced or even coerced. I do not think it is mecessary to judge the individual and their character in order to judge the decision in this way. Barring extreme cases (e.g. Britney's conservatorship) these people can walk away or set limits, given that they are after all the "asset" and if they want to take their ball and go home then the whole show is over. So they do have leverage.

[–] hypatia 0 points (+1|-1)

Did Annie Lennox have control over her career and image? Her and Laurie Anderson are two female artists from the 80s who I've been looking up to more and more.

I also feel like Sleater Kinney was a pretty cool band for me to look up to in high school.

[–] JLT 0 points (+2|-2) Edited

I have not seen the vogue cover nor do I plan to look it up. I don't really listen to music or watch a lot of movies/tv shows. I don't follow celebrities. This is the only comment I'm going to make on this issue, and that's because this topic has come up at least twice in the last day on this site.

As far as victim blaming goes, in my opinion these women are not being required to be in this industry. From my limited understanding, a lot of effort is put into making and keeping people famous. From that angle, at least, these women are partaking in that very conscious and extensive effort so I don't see how they can then turn around and complain about the results (fame, objectification, etc). Child exploitation in this industry is kind of a separate thing, but for most people above the age of majority, quitting is absolutely an option. There are plenty of other honest jobs you can do that don't involve this kind of soul sucking crap.

I'm not going to criticize Eilish's outfit because I have no idea what she wore. But I think people should be allowed to criticize her. As far as I can tell, nobody forced her to be a musician or to be on magazine covers or to wear specific outfits. It's not like she's living paycheck to paycheck on a min wage job; she can quit whenever she wants. These women are as far from victimhood as you can get. They're doing it of their own volition so I don't see why they can't be criticized for it. And FWIW, I do and have seen women criticize the industry as a whole, as well as the men behind it, I just find these women to be complicit rather than victims.

[–] Future 0 points (+0|-0)

Sorry but I can’t take your comment seriously since you’ve said you’ve not even seen the article or pictures. You try to justify that this is part of being in the music industry, but this does NOT happen to men.

[–] JLT -1 points (+0|-1)

I don't need to know the exact details of a photoshoot to make meta commentary on whether or not people should be allowed to criticize an adult woman who is using the publicity to try and profit off of the very same people. These aren't leaked nudes or hacked cloud servers. This is a career decision by a public persona to make money from the masses. It's ridiculous to expect the masses to not give their input.

You try to justify that this is part of being in the music industry, but this does NOT happen to men.

I don't think the music industry must be sexist. But it currently is and the people in the industry are not essential workers, nor are people like Eilish forced to sing to support herself, so this is not so much something that has "happened to" Eilish as it is something that she has actively chosen to participate in.

I also don't see any issue with women criticizing male performers who objectify women, whether that's done by using sexualized depiction of women as props in their performance or by donning drag and playing the objectified women themselves.

Frankly, I don't see any issue with any celebrity being criticized for just about anything they're doing for attention. These people have expended a lot of effort to put themselves in front of as many pairs of eyes as they can manage; people can react however they want.

[–] Tnetennba 0 points (+0|-0)

As far as victim blaming goes, in my opinion these women are not being required to be in this industry.

Aka in your opinion the victim is to blame. She should have woken up on her 18th birthday with a completely blank memory where none of the grooming she experienced exists.

[–] JLT 1 points (+1|-0)

in your opinion the victim is to blame

No, in my opinion she is not a victim.

She should have woken up on her 18th birthday with a completely blank memory where none of the grooming she experienced exists.

All women grow up under patriarchy. We are influenced by it but we are still responsible for our own choices. I find your stripping women of their agency to be disturbing. Nobody is a blank slate; we must all put in the work to critically examine our upbringing and the world around us.

[–] worried19 0 points (+4|-4)

I realize she's young. I don't know the dynamics of her relationship with her family and managers. But unless there's some serious criminal shit happening, no one physically forced her to do that Vogue shoot. She wasn't dragged kicking and screaming onto the set. I doubt she was threatened with violence. At some point, adult women have to take responsibility for their own actions.

[–] Tnetennba 2 points (+2|-0)

So is there some sort of magic incantation or spell that happens on a girl's 18th birthday that magically wipes away all grooming?

[–] worried19 1 points (+1|-0)

No, but how long do we extend childhood for? 19 is a legal adult. We can have sympathy for young women, but we shouldn't infantilize them. In my opinion, anyway.

[–] inTERFerence 14 points (+14|-0)

Part of me wonders if was crafted specifically to detract from her message about sexual abuse. Like, let's put Billie in fetish gear and have her say that it's empowering so everyone will forget her bringing attention to violence against women.

Poor Billie. She's only 19 and she might think back on her life at this period and think it's okay, or she might be horrified at how she was duped into being pornified at such a vulnerable age. My suspicion is that it will be the latter.

[–] Tnetennba 3 points (+3|-0) Edited

I don't know a single woman who didn't blunder her way through that late teens early 20s period. We (my friends and I) dressed like baby hookers. The pictures make me cringe now.

[–] Griffxx -4 points (+2|-6)

Megan 3 Stallion is definitely in control of her career.

Lizzo the public seems to love Black phat girl whose living her true authentic self by dancing on stage and twerking in her stripper wear. She believes in body positivity. Unfortunately she had an incident where the back of her dress was very low. She reached down to pick up something, and everyone witnessed her thong at the NBA game.

Cardi B would like to sing and rap about serious issues. She did it with one of her records, and sales caved. So now she has to continue to sexualizes herself in stripper wear.

Nicki Minaj's Anaconda speaks for itself. And she's the original OG stripper wearer along with Lil Kim.

Shakira the JLo's halftime show at the Super Bowl was great, but got mixed reviews, by White pearl clutchers.

The singer who started it all was Madonna; who constantly reinvents herself on the back of Black Queer and Gay men's Culture. She would go to the clubs, to see what the latest dances where.

But she was the one that set all of this off.

[–] butchnerd 8 points (+8|-0)

Great post OP, thank you for sharing your thoughts!

It's always easy to judge and criticize, especially when it comes to celebrities and pop stars. But we owe it to each other -- not just the celebs, but our peers and other women in the world -- to take a step back and assess the situation.

Teenage girls aren't the ones in power, no matter how popular their songs are... we should focus on who's really pulling the strings.

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