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She Pop: In Defense of the Spectacle: She Pop Begins

Well, here is something exciting to behold: the beginning of She Pop, a brand new – and hopefully informative – guest blog on pop music here at Bitch!

The blog, I should note, will be written by me – and I, in case you are wondering, am Sady Doyle. I have my own blog, Tiger Beatdown, on which you will find many hastily typed and strongly worded things that have occurred to me over my various lunch breaks. And, in addition to this, far more professional and less unhinged things have also appeared under my name in various classy Internet locales! And now, I come to you, the people of Bitch, to share my thoughts on the vast crazy carnival of gender performance that confronts us, each and every day, in mainstream pop music.

"But," you say, "does Bitch not already offer a vast amount of high-quality music coverage?"

It does, indeed! Bitch has always been one of my favorite places to go for careful, thoughtful, smart analysis of music, and for recommendations of pro-lady music.

"How then," you continue, "can you hope to justify your presence in my browser, Sady Doyle and/or She Pop? I demand that you justify it, young lady! Do so at once!"

Reader: you are sort of testy today! Nevertheless, I can and will justify my presence immediately. Yes, Bitch has always covered music. And it has always covered music very well. However, music is only the tiniest fraction of what pop is about.

Pop – big, loud, silly, blatantly commercial mainstream pop music – is less interesting as music than as spectacle. The songs themselves, catchy though they might be, exist mainly as marketing tools for pop stars: the big, glittering, almost mythological personas that are presented to us every day in videos and interviews and gossip rags. It's the idea of the pop star – the way that real live people are turned into characters in public dramas – that is most fascinating to me.

Pop stars, finessed and manufactured though they may be, are reflective of wider cultural attitudes. They have to be: that's how they get to be popular in the first place. If they weren't speaking to people, no-one would listen. And the way that we talk about them is often extremely revealing. I mean, if you ever doubt the existence of misogyny in this world, just read The Superficial for half an hour: that should restore your faith in the concept.

If we feminists refuse to take pop spectacle seriously, if we dismiss it as too shallow and silly to merit consideration, we're missing out on everything it has to teach us about gender and sexuality. There's a lot of recent stuff that is far too interesting not to talk about: Lady Gaga's bizarro performance-art take on female sexuality, Katy Perry's terrifying Spring Break ethos and internalized misogyny masked as female "rebellion," Lily Allen's gut-level feminist bravado, the purity-ring-and-hand-holding appeal of the Disney crowd, and the endless parade of Good Girls and Bad that provide daily insights into what we, as a culture, want from our public icons of womanhood. Not to mention what is going on with the dudes! (What is going on with the dudes, exactly? I may never get it. Jonas Brothers HUH? Crabcore WHAT?) Whether or not you listen to the music, it's hard to deny that these figures have an impact, simply because they reach so many people – often people who are very young, and looking for someone to show them how to be pretty or sexy or fashionable or cool.

Puzzling out what that impact might be, precisely, is my mission here. Reader: I hope not to bore, but to entertain! And, while my project looks silly on the surface, my hope is that the findings will delight and intrigue you. So, I hope you will at least hang out with me for the next few weeks as I try to parse it all.

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Comments

3 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Welcome Sady!

I look forward to your unhinging in this space!

Yay!

I am super excited that you are writing for Bitch now, Sady. I'm looking forward to this She Pop business a lot. Also, thank you for that Crabcore shout out, that shit is hilarious. I hope that She Pop can devote some time to the trend of midwest scene kids finding it acceptable to stand on a stage shirtless and scream awful things about women over bad booty bass beats.

Thanks for the Lily Allen shout-out.

While she's not exactly a feminist icon, I do think her lyrics include a lot of powerful ideas. I'm sad that the review of her latest album in Bitch didn't even mention her "Fuck You" track, an eloquent and justifiably angry rant against W. Bush, British government and homophobes!
I look forward to everything this column has to say about the rich mining ground that is modern pop.