Charlotte Church has launched a scathing attack on the music industry branding its depiction of women as “hyper-sexualised”, “cartoonish” and “male-dominated”.
In a far reaching address, the former classical-singer-turned-pop-star warned female artists of “denigrating” themselves and said decisions she had made at the behest of the music industry had left her open to a barrage of abuse that was still harming her career.
Speaking in Salford at an annual lecture in honour of the late broadcaster John Peel, Church, 27, said women were being “coerced” into sexual roles to cling on to their careers, while those using sexual imagery to boost their careers such as Rihanna and Cyrus were classified as “unattainable sexbots”.
“The irony behind this is that the women generally filling these roles are very young, often previous child stars or Disney-tweens, who are simply interested in getting along in an industry glamourised to be the most desirable career for young women,” she said. “They are encouraged to present themselves as hyper-sexualised, unrealistic, cartoonish, as objects, reducing female sexuality to a prize you can win.”
Drawing on her own experiences the Welsh singer, whose top 10 hits included Crazy Chick and Call My Name, recalled her transition into pop music from a clean-cut classical singer. “When I was 19 or 20, I found myself…being pressured into wearing more and more revealing outfits and the lines that I had spun at me again and again (generally by middle aged men) were ‘you look great you’ve got a great body why not show it off?’ or ‘Don’t worry it’ll look classy. It’ll look artistic’”
And in a warning to emerging stars, she added: “Now I find it difficult to promote my music in the places where it would be best suited because of my ’history’. But at the time it was the option presented to me.”
She added: “Whilst I can’t defer all blame away from myself, I was barely out of my teenage years, and the consequence of this portrayal of me is that now I am frequently abused on social media, being called ‘slut’, ‘whore’ and a catalogue of other indignities that I’m sure you’re also sadly very familiar with.”
The comments are likely to intensify debate over pop music’s increasing use of sexual imagery which has intensified since August after Miley Cyrus’s controversial performance at the MTV video music awards.
The former Hannah Montana actress’s performance drew widespread condemnation not least from Irish singer Sinead O’Connor who said her work was a measure of a music industry that was intent on exploiting her.
O’Connor later threatened legal action after Cyrus replied to her open letter with a series of Tweets which appeared to mock her history of bipolar disorder.
But in an unflinching speech, that will be broadcast at midnight on 6 Music, Church described the exchange as symptomatic of “online pissing contests” that “only serve to detract from the strong messages being put forward by [other] artists .”
Even those not known for propagating sexual imagery were addressed in Church’s speech which will be broadcast on Radio 6 at midnight. Taking the example of Adele, Church said: “Lyrically her songs are almost without exception written from the perspective of the wronged woman, an archetype as old as time, someone who has been let down by the men around her, and is subsequently in a perpetual state of despair.”
She added: “The culture of demeaning women in pop music is so ingrained as to become routine, from the way we are dealt with by management and labels, to the way we are presented to the public”.
Church’s fame started at the age of 11 when she sang classical music during a telephone interview on ITV's This Morning. She went on to release a number of classical albums before having a successful pop career. In her speech she said: “If Rihanna had not grown up watching the videos of the nineties then it might not be quite so essential for her to portray her sexuality so luridly, so constantly, and so influentially upon the next generation.”