Why don't you care about being sexy?" and "Why haven't you done a scandalous photo-shoot?", asked the man in the pale blue shirt. I'm doing a bunch of interviews in Europe leading up to the release of my second record. Interview after interview after interview. I'm getting tired.
I've always found doing interviews to be pretty exhausting. I can talk for hours to people I don't know anything about, who have probably already invented the character that they want me to be and have written the tone of the article before they've even met me anyway. I tell them how I got into songwriting, where I grew up, what my mother and father do for a living. They ask me about my favourite bands, to comment on other female artists that I'm being compared to. They ask about my personal life, my boyfriend, my bunny rabbit, my favourite foods and cities in the world, my first kiss, how I feel about myself, how I deal with the pressure, my diet.
They're looking for a couple of great one-liners, a little piece of gossip and a bitchy remark, most of the time. I'm half Irish and I was once told by Amy Raphael (writer of Never Mind the Bollocks; Women Rewrite Rock) that I suffer from "Irish Catholic guilt" Apparently Danny Boyle suffers from the same condition. There must be thousands of us out there, we should start a helpline. I think this is where my inane sense of needing to explain myself, wanting to give so much, to talk, to fill the silence, to come across as intelligent and well-rounded and thoughtful and opinionated in interviews must come from (that and my intelligent, well-rounded, thoughtful and opinionated mother, of course).
Sometimes I leave an interview feeling confused, insecure and a bit mental, like a little part of my personality has been given away to someone who in hindsight probably didn't deserve the ownership of it in the first place and won't be taking care of it.
Cue Mr Pale Blue Shirt asking me why I don't care about being sexy. At first I'm not quite sure how to react. Am I angry? No, not straight away (this comes later). Am I offended? Though I should be, the answer is, surprisingly, no. I'm confused, a little bored, exasperated. "Why don't you care about being sexy?" I reply. "What makes you think that I don't?" and then: "What gives you the right to ask me?" I have a sneaky feeling it might have something to do with the fact that I have a vagina. Yes, I am a woman, and for some reason this is the first thing I'm judged on before anything else in any interview, review, gossip magazine and by society in general.
Firstly, I don't even know the answer to that question. Do I care about being sexy? Erm, yes sometimes I do, I want my boyfriend to think I'm attractive, for sure. I like to look pretty, I like wearing clothes that make me feel nice and I buy my lingerie from Elle Macpherson's underwear range, but as a musician and an artist it's not something that I give any thought to. I am not a model or a stripper or a burlesque dancer. I don't think that just because I am a female that I should have to answer this sort of question.
The reasons I have not done a "scandalous photo shoot" are simple.
1. Because it has nothing to do with my work or art.
2. Because I think it's dumb, and
3. Because I don't see it as a particularly sexy thing to do.
I think that Nuts magazine is tasteless and ridiculous, I think someone who sends in a picture of their "tits" to be rated by a magazine is insecure and their boyfriend must be a total dick.
I spend so much time as a woman in a man's world trying to get the world to judge me on anything other than my breasts and body shape that I couldn't possibly throw it all away so recklessly; all that hard work gone in the flash of a camera. And guess what? I don't feel suppressed by this, or unsexy! I don't feel the need to tone down on my femininity either. I am liberated by many things. By punk women in history, by Suffragettes and Suffragists and Bikini Kill; by my girlfriends, genius glitter queen Brigitte Aphrodite, poet Laura Dockrill, artist Sarah Maple, actress and writer Sarah Solemani, singer/songwriter Soko, and amazing teen band Supercute! By The Cribs political, smart, feminist and refreshing views in the rock scene. By the fact that I live in a world where I can be free sexually, I can wear revealing clothing if I want to, I can buy condoms, go on the pill, get the coil, talk about sex, write about it and keep it to myself if I wish.
I just don't see why being "sexy" in a very commercial sense of the word has to come into me being a musician or being creative. I'd prefer to talk about women and men who've changed my life and should change the lives of others. I want to keep creating, to make things, to write better than I did before, to play my instruments more, to hone skills, to travel and read books. I want to learn how to use my sewing machine, to cook better, to make my live show more raw, more passionate, more exciting. I want to make albums, to act, to explode for goodness sake! I have so much to give that isn't based on my breast size or sex appeal.
When it comes to making art and living I try to soak up good and make my own version of good. I don't excuse shitty rock-star behaviour from anyone. I don't buy "hey, a man can do it and get away with it, so just call me a rock star". Neither do I believe in making life choices on what will sell more records (and I have been told in the past if I had less opinions I would), I don't care, as far as I'm concerned.
What history has taught me is that intelligence and art will always be remembered. I am free to care or not to care about being sexy at any time, and I am free to offer and be offered something more real. Real sexiness is about confidence, intelligence, mystery, art and passion. So I guess I do care about being sexy then, though I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that terminology, seeing as most people don't seem to agree with my definition of the word.
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