Sound Of Change 2013: banging on about all the wrong things

In an article headlined ‘”Why does female empowerment need to involve leather knickers and heels?”: Twitter backlash over Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez at Chime For Change concert’ the Daily Mail today asks:

Chime For Change’s Sound Of Change concert was meant to be the event that put women’s rights firmly in the spotlight. But the overall message of Saturday night’s star-studded concert at Twickenham Stadium in London seemed to be lost on some of the performers, according to many critics. Twitter brimmed with harsh but fair questions, including why modern day feminism requires wearing a pair of ‘spiked heels’ and underwear, and if the sexy performances were entirely appropriate.

Why does modern day feminism require wearing a pair of ‘spiked heels’ and underwear? Short answer: it doesn’t. Sound Of Change was just one concert, supported by a major high-end fashion label, featuring performances by a number of very famous pop star ladies who like singing songs about sex, dancing and wearing revealing clothes. Being mad that a concert to support female empowerment sponsored by Gucci features too many thin women in skimpy clothing is like being mad that McDonalds’ Fight Against Famine concert (not a real thing) features too many hamburgers. It doesn’t represent all of modern day feminism. It doesn’t have to.

Feminism means different things to different people. Beyonce’s particular brand of feminism – singing about being an independent woman while dressed like something out of the porn parody of Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome – may not be the same as yours. It’s understandable that some women feel disappointed that such a huge opportunity to raise awareness about global women’s rights issues has been given to represent such a small section of feminism – the booty popping, Brazilian bikini waxed portion. But that doesn’t mean that it is right to try and break down those who are trying to build the rest of us up – no matter how misguided they may occasionally seem.

Even if you believe that leather knickers and heels are the epitome of female oppression, then surely those who feel the need to wear them in order to forge a successful career are the victims of it, and should be given enough love and support from their fans that they feel comfortable walking out on stage in whatever they want. But who’s to say that they aren’t doing so already? Beyonce doesn’t look like an oppressed woman to me. She looks like a superhero.

God forbid women should want to look and feel sexy. As everyone knows, all women absolutely hate sex. Women need to be empowered and freed from the shackles of being able to have sex with any consenting adult that they want, whenever they fancy it, and feeling awesome doing it. Bonus points go to the lovely Twitter users who spiced up their feminist outrage with a dash of slutshaming. ‘Rita Whora sl*t dropping is kinda contradictory of the whole point of chime for change’ wrote one probable Mensa candidate.

Whatever it takes for a woman like Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce or Rita Ora to face a constant barrage of criticism about their every move, wiggle and ass shake – raising twins as a single mother after three broken marriages, being accused of faking a pregnancy, having your ex accuse you over Twitter of cheating on him with ’20 dudes’ – and to keep on coming out on stage in front of millions of viewers and absolutely killing it, is ok by me. If that’s leather knickers and heels, great. If that’s jeans and trainers, that’s great too. If that’s flannel pyjamas stained with ketchup, even better, because I’ve always hoped that one day Beyonce will look up to me as a fashion icon.

Even the one super famous woman who performed at the Sound Of Change who turned up fully covered – Madonna, in trousers, a turtleneck and lace gloves – attracted criticism for her appearance. As she told the audience ”We cannot change this world, nor begin to treat each other with human dignity, without an education. Let tonight be the beginning of this revolution because education is not a luxury, it is a basic human right”, some viewers were ‘distracted’ by her ‘puffy’ face, which looked as though she was recovering from cosmetic surgery.

For those of you who were too busy being horrified by other women’s bodies, faces and sexualities to concentrate on the concert, here’s a little bit more information about what those ladies were trying to raise awareness of (from chimeforchange.org):

  • Around the world, girls and women lack the protection and equal opportunity they deserve. Domestic violence and trafficking disproportionately affect women. And in spite of gains, women hold just 21% of seats in national parliaments globally. But given the opportunity, women empower themselves and improve outcomes for their families, communities and countries.
  • 800 women die every day during pregnancy and childbirth, but 80% of those deaths could be prevented with proven solutions and access to care.
  • 60% of the children not in school are girls, but studies show that investing in girls’ education raises GDP and employment. Providing opportunity for girls improves outcomes not just for them, but also their families, communities and countries.

Were you able to concentrate on that ok? Of course you were, because I’m not wearing leather knickers.

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