Singer Grimes On The Problematic Way The Music Industry Treats Female Musicians

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Canadian singer/musician Grimes, aka Claire Boucher was featured on the cover of Fader Magazine recently, and in an interview she talks about her music, her roots, her beefs and her gender. The thing that caught our attention was the gender thing, obviously.

Not just because we are a site dedicated to discovering and sharing powerful messages about gender equality and gender identity, but because Grimes said some things about being a female musician that we have strangely heard before.

We’ve heard it from the highest selling female rapper of all time Nicki Minaj, we’ve heard it from quirky iconic Icelandic musician Bjork, and we’ve also heard it with a loud and thunderous book clap from British ingenue Charli XCX. What are we talking about? The way female musicians are treated by men in the music industry.

Let’s be honest, women don’t exactly have an easy ride in the biz and it’s evident by the media spin we read on a daily basis. Beyonce is slammed for standing in front of a feminist sign, for wearing a skimpy outfit on stage and for singing lyrics that talk about sex with her husband. Miley Cyrus’ reputation is dragged through the press because of her choices to break free from a superficial and sugar-coated Disney image and discover the empowered version of her sexual identity, and is called a slut and a whore.

Lady Gaga is called numerous tings for her outfit choices and avant garde music videos, and society fails to pay attention to all the revolutionary ground both she and the aforementioned women are breaking. This is how women and their bodies are still controlled largely by a patriarchal industry.

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When women do anything outside of the norm in music is it looked upon as shocking, and that is problematic in and of itself. When men act out in a manner that should be shocking, it’s considered normal.

In her interview with Fader, Grimes too sheds light on some of the ways she has been treated and perceived a certain way both by fans and industry people, largely because of the expectations put on her and almost every other young female musician.

She says she is sick of being “misunderstood” and labeled in certain ways, but let’s be real, it’s not a misunderstanding at all. It is her wanting to create her own version of herself, and fans not being happy about not catering to their every whim.

Fader includes a link to a Tumblr post dated April 2013 called ‘I don’t want to compromise on my morals to make a living‘ where she points out the gender bias directed at her.

“I don’t want to be infantilized because I refuse to be sexualized. I don’t want to be molested at shows or on the street by people who perceive me as an object that exists for their personal satisfaction. I’m tired of men who aren’t professional, [as well as] accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out’ (without being asked), as if I did this by accident and I’m gonna flounder without them. Or as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology. I have never seen this kind of thing happen to any of my male peers,” she wrote.

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Growing up in Canada, the singer who says it was first hearing Mariah Carey that made her want to be a pop singer, explains that her laid back upbringing made her more hyper-aware of the annoying gender games in music.

“I think it’s just the constant, almost daily offers of people to produce your music for you. I was raised in a house with four brothers. My dad was like, ‘You’re gonna be good at basketball. You’re gonna be the fastest runner. You’re gonna be good at math.’ I wasn’t raised as a boy, but I was not just raised as a girl,” she said.

Like Nicki Minaj has often stated about not wanting to be categorized as a “female rapper”, Grimes says the gender thing has negative connotations attached to it in music.

“I don’t wanna say I don’t identify as a girl, but I don’t fucking give a shit about gender. And the thing that I hate about the music industry is all of a sudden it’s like, ‘Grimes is a female musician’ and ‘Grimes has a girly voice.’ It’s like, yeah, but I’m a producer and I spend all day looking at fucking graphs and EQs and doing really technical work,” she said.

She also talks about the types of threats she gets both online and off. It is common knowledge that women are disproportionately targeted by trolls and bullies online, but being a celebrity that must increase 10-fold.

“I get threats constantly—all female musicians do. People want to, like, rape and kill you. It’s, like, part of the job. One time I was backstage at a show, and there was this random guy in my dressing room, and he just grabbed me and started making out with me, and I was like, Ah!, and pushed him off. Then he went, ‘Ha! I kiss-raped you’ and left. Shit like that happens quasi-frequently,” she shared.

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The fact that this is the “norm” for her is both disgusting and a sad reflection on music fans today.

Now she cannot travel without the presence of multiple bodyguards just in case something happens. This is the consequence of an industry that is hell bent on portraying women’s bodies as objects to be consumed, rather than women as powerful beings in control of their own bodies. The public gets the message that they can do whatever they want with these pop stars whose bodies are essentially presented to us as “public property”. It sounds horrendous, but it is the very reason people like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and more are taking back their sexuality and presenting it in a way that they decide.

Her feature in Fader was shared by a few other media sites, one in particular who chose not to share it as a piece of empowering media on a badass female singer, but as a click-bait article using her quotes on gender to generate heat. Vice took one of her quotes, where she talks about some of her songs being “diss tracks” and created a whole pseudo-feminist article about it.

Grimes was having none of it and after reading the article, tweeted the following series of 140-character rants against Vice (read from the bottom up). It is yet another example of a female musician being taken out of context and portrayed in a way other than what she chooses.

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The crazy thing is that this all goes back to and ties in perfectly with her 2013 Tumblr post where she started off saying “I don’t want my words to be taken out of context.”

For those of you who are fans of Grimes or who have seen her in concert, you know she’s a talented, badass and unique musician who we need more of! It sucks that she has to spend half of her time defending her words, actions and clearing up misconceptions. It sucks that MANY women in music have to do this! It sucks that the music is like an afterthought, and scandal and sexuality come first.

Sigh…

C’mon people, can’t we just make it about the talent? Or do we need to force everyone to watch the Always ‘Like A Girl’ commercial to remind them that being a female isn’t any less equal to a man, so they can get over it and start concentrating on the more important things?

Her beef with the Vice article is nothing new, as she talks about this problem exactly on that same Tumblr post.

“I’m sad that my desire to be treated as an equal and as a human being is interpreted as hatred of men, rather than a request to be included and respected (I have four brothers and many male best friends and a dad and I promise I do not hate men at all, nor do I believe that all men are sexist or that all men behave in the ways described above),” she writes.

Perhaps its a lesson to the media, to the music industry and to the fans. Instead of us trying to dictate and propagate a female musician’s presence in the world, let’s just listen, respect and take their word for who they are. It’s a problem that we feel we can hijack their narrative just because they are in the public eye. Would Bono, or Eminem, or Jay-Z ever let that happen to them? We think you already know the answer to that.

Grimes, keep on with your badass self and don’t ever change.

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