I am down with Sady Doyle. She is right. Katy Perry’s performance image/brand identity is a freakin’ regressive nightmare.
What offends me even more, though, as I think about what she says in the piece I linked (above), is that the varied regressive images of the women she discusses — Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry — are the dominant representations of women’s voices and art in the music scenes to which they belong. This is what women must look and sound and talk like — Virgin/Whore/Both-while-Neither — in order to make it on the grand stage of popular radio and television. Their primary audience is still essentially heterosexual males, whose priorities stand as the index of value relative to which others (heterosexual women, gay men, lesbians, trans* folks, etc.) are organized (according to the rules of traditional sexism and heterosexism).
Why can’t we let women who perform on that broader stage be like Nina Simone — open about her sexuality, owning it as her own, presenting it through her own agency, wanting to be pleased rather than trying to please some marketing exec’s imaginary fratboy, musically skilled and centered on the musical experience? Why can’t women be permitted, on that level, to be smart, to be strange, to be interesting and to be entirely themselves, indexed against something other than the Imaginary Fratboy Standard?
I find myself wanting to go back, always, to the blues when I hear songs of the Swift/Ke$ha/Perry sort. I wonder why?
Oh. OOOOOOHHHH. Yeah. That’s why.