Sky Ferreira has a talent for more than looking sexy despite one critic’s crush

LA Weekly apologized to the pop singer for an article which dwelt longingly on her breasts just the latest example of masturbatory writing about female artists

As best I can tell, the use of overt female sexuality to market products from pop music to ice cream bars to cars to beer and beyond has three effects: it encourages men and women buy crap they dont need; it makes too many women think that being sexy (and its supposedly necessary component, skinny) is an important life goal; and it convinces men that the world at large really, really cares about their boners.

The latest writer to overestimate the universes interest in his prosaic demonstrations of physical arousal, joining a storied cast of characters, is LA Weekly music critic Art Tavana. In a reported effort to offer words of praise for pop artist Sky Ferreira, he instead dedicated a large proportion of his nearly 1,500 words to her breasts, which he said in various different ways reminded him of Madonnas own defiantly atomic boobs. He also suggested that an entire field of study be dedicated to figuring out why people (ie men) want to bang her, while managing to say next to nothing about her actual art other than he thinks shes a middling vocalist who is more indie than her critics suggest.

There is no more turgid template in the boner prose canon than the piece that attempts to wrap in an aura of mystery whatever externality nominally caused the writer to get a tingly feeling in his no-no place.

And yet, Tavana went there, declaring it incredibly important to consider his and his readers physical attraction to Ferreira a talent; its her instrument and his editor let him, earning them the ire of other writers and of Ferreira herself, though she thanked the editor for his eventual apology.

Tavana and the LA Weekly arent outliers here. Many other publications also default to sexualized pictures of female artists accompanied by the sort of prose for which the term masturbatory was invented in their coverage. Take Chuck Klostermans 2008 Esquire interview with Britney Spears, in which he uses the word pantsless four times in the opening paragraph; or Jennifer Lopezs interview on Watch What Happens Live when the topic was not her turn as a judge on American Idol or her new NBC drama, but her rear end. Bjrk recently talked about how shes spent years overcoming the perception, including in interviews, that she doesnt make her own music (a complaint with which, post-Lemonade, Beyonc probably has a lot in common); no less than Tavanas own beloved Madonna said last year: Since I started, Ive had people giving me a hard time because they didnt think you could be sexual or have sexuality or sensuality in your work and be intelligent at the same time. And thats not even to get started on how many female actors face questions not about their roles, but their bodies and their diets.

Many women musical artists or not choose for reasons personal, commercial, coerced and/or otherwise to show themselves in ways that will be deemed sexy or sexual, for reasons all their own. But womens sexuality is not the only thing that defines us as people; artists sexual charisma or photographs that various men find sexy arent inherently the most important thing they bring to the table as artists.

Whether or not you like her music, and despite her relative youth, shes not unworthy of serious consideration as an artist and as someone too familiar with the pressures faced by young women in the music industry to conform to a particular aesthetic (musically or otherwise), as <a href=”http://www.rookiemag.com/2012/02/sky-ferreira/” data-link-name=”in” body link” class=”u-underline”>she demonstrated in a more-than-four-year-old interview in Rookie.

She talked about, as most girls learn and most women know, the perils of being sexy: that its defined by the male gaze, not the way you feel (though, in fact, women can feel themselves sexy without a single mans stamp of approval); that it has the potential in a mans eyes, to overshadow anything else you do; that you cant be sexy in any but a non-threatening way; and that feeling or looking sexy and being sexual arent necessarily the same thing.

But Tavana,who makes his living at writer, still waxed on about a years-old Instagram photo of her, saying she looks like a freshly licked lollipop as a way of praising her as an artist.

Readers have been here before. Women in the music industry have been here before. The pretty-girl-can-do-thing-other-than-be-pretty idea isnt surprising in 2016. Its not a useful framing of an artists work for even a general audience that might not be terribly familiar with it. The consideration of why one pop star might give one male reviewer more of a hard-on than other pop stars (Tavana wrote that Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and even Beyonc didnt strain his trousers in quite the same way, as though anybody needed to know that) isnt a serious point of critical inquiry. Its a window into one mans 30-year fascination with Madonnas tits.

If a dude thinks that the stirrings he gets in the pants-place is the most defining thing about a given woman, that says far more about the man in question than the artists hes trying to define. Women, even those of us who arent artists, have value as people whether or not that provokes any physical reaction in men. And, if it doesnt provoke a reaction, theres not a reason for any of us to care.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/22/sky-ferreira-sexism-female-artists

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