When I was much younger, I'll admit I had a naive, sexually-driven view of what it might be like to be a woman. It was the culmination of an inherently sexist upbringing by popular culture and the one-dimensional musings of my male friends, but it was my reality nonetheless.
It wasn’t until I had passed through the intensified nexus of the sex-drenched realm that was high school that I was introduced to the idea of male supremacy. Having seen the other side, I was unable to revert back to my former, more simplistic view of the world, one where everything was fine and everyone had the same opportunities, regardless of gender.
As my relationship with music grew deeper, it became impossible to look past the troubling narratives at play for women in music. To be a female artist is far too often a choice between being overtly sexualized or relegated to obscurity, a potent microcosm of the plight of women in the world at large.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, singer and actor Tinashe spent much of her focus addressing the sexism that she’s encountered during her tenure as a performer. Tales of the music industry’s male dominance are as plentiful as your desire to look for them, but Tinashe turned her sights to her fellow artists of the opposite gender, and their lack of genuine support in particular.
Despite high-profile nods of respect via tour support slots with Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, collaborations with Britney Spears (“An icon”), and being hand-picked by Janet Jackson to perform at her 2015 BET awards tribute (“I died … Dead”), she feels that her male counterparts have been less supportive. “Male artists don’t really co-sign female artists like that, and if they do it’s always like, ‘Are they fucking?’ It’s never, ‘Oh, I really like her music.’”
Much in the same way that white allies can be a powerful aid in the struggle for racial equality, men in the entertainment industry have an opportunity to advocate for their female counterparts and increase their accessibility beyond mentioning their names as sexual targets in verses and interviews.
Later in the interview, Tinashe expanded on the harsh reality for women in music—particularly black women—saying, “There are hundreds of [male] rappers that all look the same, that sound the same, but if you’re a black woman, you’re either Beyoncé or Rihanna. It’s very, very strange.”
Countless talented, diverse women are offering fantastic music to the world, and their struggle to exist within a system that only seems capable of housing one or two female stars at any given time can be legitimately lessened through the efforts of those that have historically dominated the industry—men.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with women expressing their sexuality through their music of their own accord, but that shouldn’t and can’t be the only basis on which their popularity and accessibility are allowed to flourish. For as far as we've come as a society, there's still so much further we must go to properly balance the power structure within the entertainment industry, or we’ll inevitably continue to perpetuate the same type of one-sided narrative that led to kids like me thinking the way I did.
We owe it to the vast array of female artistic voices out there to make sure that doesn’t happen, and I hope Tinashe’s comments continue to inspire future artists to buck back against a system stacked against them.