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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

[–] DebraKadabra 47 points (+47|-0)

A relative of mine was on the fast track to child stardom, but her breasts came in between filming seasons and she got shit-canned from the children's show she was on. Certainly there were other options for her to take, ahem, but her and the family decided to just have a normal life instead. Looking back, I am so glad. What a toxic industry.

That video posted the other day had an interesting interview snippet with Miley Cyrus. It's such a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. When I was a teen, I hated Brittney spears for becoming so hyper sexual and playing up male fantasies. Now I know better and I just feel heartache for every one of these young ladies.

[–] ligaments [OP] 37 points (+37|-0)

An excuse that gets used often by men is "she was very mature for her age." This is a cultural myth, that young girls 'know more' or are 'in control,' and thus it makes it okay to sexualize them, to objectify them, to abuse them.

It's depressing to watch women on a feminist-run site buy into that same myth. The way some Ovarit users are claiming she is responsible for her own objectification, that she somehow has agency, that she is in complete control of these decisions, that there's no possible way that her career, actions and words are being decided for her--it's another version of "she was mature for her age."

This industry breaks grown women, but a 19 year old whose career started when she was a minor somehow has that kind of agency and knowledge?

[–] XX_Power 7 points (+7|-0)

I haven't seen so many people say it's her fault and responsibility 100%. I think mostly women were just venting because there goes another barely legal kid prancing around in her underwear, having her stomach photoshopped away. It's sickening. But i think most of us are sick that she is pressured to do this, not sick at her.

I'm starting to think that similarly to what you laid out, this was all the plan all along. Make her non sexualized for a long time which to a lot of men, makes them want to see her naked and degraded even more! Then when she turns legal, she suddenly comes out as a blond large breasted bombshell. This stunt will make everyone who profits of her a shit ton of cash. It worked for Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Kylie Jenner, and so many more...

[–] lucrecia 35 points (+35|-0) Edited

Mostly I've been confused at comments implying this is something new. I can't watch 'Bad Guy' because I get too creeped out by how sexualised Eilish is in that video/song, in a way that seems designed for paedos. This just seems like a continuation of that exploitation.

[–] estina 12 points (+12|-0)

Totally. I said this on the other thread but I always found her depiction hypersexualized.

I also agree with OP in that I generally assume it’s scripted by people controlling her image, but idk for sure. People that consume pop culture differently than me may have a different opinion though

[–] starry 6 points (+6|-0)

Right? I'm still weirded out by people who apparently think that as long as you don't show skin you cannot be sexualized, no matter the context of the actions.

[–] stern-as-steel 12 points (+12|-0)

Exactly this. That song freaked me out low key. Some aspects of her dancing, her posture, her lyrics were always sexualized. Just not the clothing I guess. That almost makes it more insidious - we look up to her (if we’re young girls) but we’re still getting the same messaging all along if we glance below the surface.

[–] lucrecia 12 points (+12|-0)

Yeah, I'm not normally that unnerved by sexualisation in media because I'm so used to it but that song creeped me out, because it's using this twee "older man's idea of a little girl" language while this teen crawls around a bunch of middle aged men murmuring lyrics along the lines of "I'll get on my knees for you", "I might seduce your dad"; she's depicted with bruises and bloodied (a lot of guys find that shit hot and I 100% believe this was designed for them), she's positioned to get crotch shots, they put her in a choker and in a candlelit red room where she sits on a near-naked man and so on. It's laser fucking targeted at paedophiles. I don't think I've been that creeped out since Blurred Lines where all the models looked like they'd been drugged into complying with that video. And now people are like "she hasn't been sexualised until now because she wore hoodies" and I'm like "did we see the same video?!!".

[–] remquarqk 27 points (+29|-2) Edited

I've always been impressed by Chloë Grace Moretz. She's only 24---when she was 16 she refused to be sexualized on a set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jesixntch08

[–] momofreyrella 11 points (+11|-0)

Not only did she have people looking out for her, but she is also an actress able to say no to certain opportunities. Billie is a musician and they are owned by the record company if I understand it correctly they have to do what the record company tell them to do. Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus werent in control themselves because they were musicians. If they didn't actresses they would have the chance to decline roles as well

[–] remquarqk 0 points (+1|-1) Edited

True. If anything it shows the major differences between women with support and some degree of power vs. women who don't have it.

[–] hypatia 7 points (+7|-0)

She had a really rabid and disgusting pedo following, too!

[–] SarahTheGreen 25 points (+25|-0)

This is a good reminder. Thank you.

I can see why women here forget. Most people here have no first-hand experience in show biz, for one, so they have no idea how bad it can be. And a lot of it is wishful thinking. I mean, women blame women all the time for all sorts of things, when we know better, because we wish things were better. And then we sometimes see what looks like exceptions.

There have always been women in show biz who did have some say in their public persona, but I think that's because in each case the industry figured they could still make money off them. I suspect that they came into the industry with an already strongly developed persona and marketing angle, too. I'm sure there are plenty of women who simply don't get work if they don't cooperate with the status quo.

In Page's case, she started as an ingenue, but that doesn't last forever, so she had to rebrand or go home. I think she should have gone home. Quitting is usually an option, at least.

[–] wilmas 18 points (+18|-0)

She started at 14 and wore baggy clothes not wanting to be sexualised (rightly so, though that she needed baggy clothes to prevent it is sickening) but she is 19 now maybe she want to explore herself more and is overcorrecting. Lets not forget Drakes creepy relationship with her, I hate to throw around these words but he was contacting Millie Bobby Brown to and she overcorrected also, so maybe some grooming might be going on. If I thought she was naturally growing up I would ignore this but Drakes involvement with two young girls who both put out provocative pictures is worrying.

[–] Stealthygal 9 points (+11|-2)

I read thar she got really annoyed with people's obsession with the body she had beneath the baggy clothes so maybe this is her way of saying "ok here it is lads sorry still covered up in shapewear too bad I.like it now shut up"

But she could have showed her figure and maturity just as well in a slim fitted non transparent dress.

[–] 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.

[–] Stealthygal 12 points (+15|-3)

I'm outside the Billie demographic, but the discourse around her is very much that she makes her own decisions about how she's presented etc. Her interviews suggest the same. There seems to be a big trend of independent artists being picked up because of their USP rather than having a USP thrust upon them. And of these young artists ostensibly having control over their image and output.

But we all know that is only part of the story. If you want to express yourself as a sexual being and you're female, then the sexy pinup shoot, the sexy bed sheet shoot, the sexy nude on a wrecking ball video, are the only ways to do that.

How can young women demonstrate their sexual maturity and availability WITHOUT presenting themselves in such a narrow way? That is the question I would like answered.

[–] milpathecat 29 points (+30|-1)

They shouldn't need to demonstrate anything.

[–] hedy 1 points (+2|-1)

Most of us have a sexual dimension to our lives that we do want to express in some way. The question is want, not need. And I don't think the answer, to someone who is rightfully if barely a woman, is "don't". It's society's responsibility not to reduce a woman to her sexuality, not a woman's responsibility not to express her sexuality at all in order to preclude the possibility of being reduced to it.

[–] hedy 1 points (+8|-7)

Most of us have a sexual dimension to our lives that we do want to express in some way. The question is want, not need. And I don't think the answer, to someone who is rightfully if barely a woman, is "don't". It's society's responsibility not to reduce a woman to her sexuality, not a woman's responsibility not to express her sexuality at all in order to preclude the possibility of being reduced to it.

[–] worried19 16 points (+16|-0)

Express to the public? I don't think straight men feel that way. Why should people in general express their sexuality to anyone but their sex partners? Sexuality as a performance seems restricted to women.

[–] milpathecat 7 points (+7|-0)

There is absolutely no need to express your sexuality, whether a man or a woman, to be recognized professionally.

[–] babayaga 6 points (+6|-0)

Expressing your "sexual dimension," you mean buying a push-up bra and showing some cleavage? Or, are you talking about wearing a necklace with a cock-ring pendant?

Women and girls are sexualized by men regardless of how we choose to express ourselves. If a woman, especially a young woman, feels compelled to make herself look "sexual available" to men then that says a lot about the media she's consuming. Because, catering to the male gaze, regardless of your own personal sense of style or comfort, is... unnecessary.

[–] klo137 10 points (+10|-0)

Why is it a concern for women to demonstrate as being sexually available? Why is it a concern for women to demonstrate being sexy for men? How is any of this feminist?

[–] Tnetennba 4 points (+4|-0)

Interviews with porn stars would also have you believing they're 100% in control.

[–] ligaments [OP] 1 points (+1|-0)

This is a great point. And women on this site are quick to be skeptical of porn star interviews! Yet they don't apply the same skepticism to a literal teenage girl who has been managed throughout her formative years.

[–] 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.

[–] 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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