Dangerous Women Feminism: Female Pop Music Artists' Concert Tours and the Hostility That Has Ensued

Dangerous Women Feminism: Female Pop Music Artists' Concert Tours and the Hostility That Has Ensued

Panizza Allmark
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4829-5.ch006
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In the last 10 years, feminism has been foregrounded in popular music more than at any time. At the same time, female pop music artists have been the target of hostility because of the feminist messages they espouse. This chapter examines US-based female popular music artists who have embraced a postfeminist agenda. This agenda engages messages of empowerment, sex positivity, and elements of girl culture. In addition, this chapter explores the notion of resilience in relation to how these music artists have used the voice of feminism to become outspoken and show independence and strength in celebrating the female body. In particular, the author discusses the discourse of their concert tours, as this is a time when these artists are in the spotlight through both their performance and the promotional materials for those performances and as a consequence are more open (and vulnerable) to critique than at other times.
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At the conclusion of Ariana Grande’s ‘Dangerous Woman’ concert in Manchester, on May 22nd, 2017, a bomb was exploded which killed twenty-two people and injured one hundred and thirty-nine more, most of whom were girls and women. The gender-based component of the attack was evident as Grande’s fan base is predominantly pre-teens and adolescent females. Ariana Grande’s music is about being self-assured, optimistic and proudly feminine. It celebrates girl power. It appeals to young girls and her concerts are a space where girls can just be girls with other girls and engage with the music they are interested in. But this notion of freedom, the freedom to go to concerts, to be out at night and dressed up, which is a coming of age moment in Western society, became this time a night of terror. Grande’s sexual empowerment message and her playful femininity were seen as a threat to ISIS (the Islamic State militant group) who have claimed responsibility for the attack. Emily Crocket, in her article in Rolling Stone, suggests that the terrorist attack at Grande’s concert was certainly an act of violence, but misogyny was at its core. She contends that one of “misogyny’s powerful tools is protectionism” – the idea that women’s freedom should be curtailed because of the perilous nature of men (Crocket 2017, para. 6). The message is, you shouldn’t go out at night, you should cover up – because you might get attacked. Crocket states that the suicide bomber, 22-year-old Salman Abedi, “gave the world a sick reminder of the dangers of being a woman in public in 2017. It was an attack on largely female concert goers for doing nothing but enjoying themselves while listening to music” (Crocket, 2017, para. 2). As Sophie Gilbert asserts, “the venue he chose to target speaks volumes… To target her show is to target thousands of her fans who are considering their own emerging sexuality through the prism of her music” (Gilbert 2017, para. 5). Grande’s lyrics provide a formidable voice for young women and girls on the topics of love and relationships, and foregrounds empowerment and agency as part of girls self-fashioning.

To target Ariane Grande’s concert is to attack feminism, which at its most basic celebrates female agency. Crocket adds “these girls and women weren’t just listening to any music either – this was feminist music” (2017, para.3). It is evident that through her songs and public statements, “Ariana Grande has taken a strong stand against sexism and she does so kindly, joyfully and without apology” (Crocket 2017, para. 3). Grande’s pop feminism is about independence, self-determination and strength. It is about being unapologetic. In her topical song Dangerous Woman, she proclaims “[I] Don't need permission / Made my decision to test my limits”. This is the song’s main hook, and it is repeated many times. Her voice is assertive. The song is about pushing boundaries. It asserts a forthright sexualized femininity. This is a common thread shared by many female pop artists in the 21st Century.

Over the last ten years feminism has been more evident in the top 40 popular music charts than in any other time period. This is apparent in the performances of a range of U.S. mainstream pop music artists such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicky Minaj, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. By identifying as feminists, they are embracing a belief system that acknowledges the impact of being a woman. It is a position that is supportive of gender equality. In their music and their performance, the female pop music artists voice defiance towards the constraints of patriarchal femininity. The female artist’s voice expresses desires and motivations which emphasise resilience against oppression and exploitation. The female artist’s voice is a point of identification for the fans. The artist’s voice is the site of the performance and enacting of feminist principles, a medium of communicating the call for agency. Moreover, there is an emphasis on enacting feminist agency, defined as “women’s ability to be effective agents against their own oppression” (Isaacs, 2002, p. 129). As such there is a resistance to patriarchal positioning of the female as demure and submissive. Nevertheless, their performance of ‘woman as spectacle’ highlights “the fear of female sexuality and anxiety over the body [that] is inscribed in the Western music tradition” (McClary, 1991, p. 152). By evoking the female body and a heightened view of sexuality through their voice and performance, these female artists are seen as provocative. They defy masculine control. The female artists examined in this chapter convey a feminist message of sexual empowerment and feminist agency.

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