Sorry, Camille – you can’t expect the likes of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga to fight this feminist battle

Female pop stars keep shirking the feminist label and Camille Paglia, for one, has had enough - so why is she looking for role models in all the wrong places?


To the list of things we know about Katy Perry – she kissed a girl and she liked it; she was, briefly, married to Russell Brand – we can add another.

She is not a feminist. We know this because, collecting Billboard’s Woman of the Year award, the pop star who shoots whipped cream out of her bra declared, “I am not a feminist but I do believe in the strength of women.”

Like those X Factor song stylists who can never quite decide which note they want to land on, female pop stars like to flirt outrageously with the F-label before cruelly shunning it. Perry is not the first. Other stridently “empowered” figures such as Lady Gaga (“I’m not a feminist. I love men.”) and Beyoncé (“I need to find a catchy new word for feminism, right? Like ‘Bootylicious’.”) have decried it, too.

Now Camille Paglia has had enough. The dissident feminist takes Perry and pals to task in an essay for The Hollywood Reporter in which she blames “insipid, bleached-out” stars for forcing women back to the “demure, girly-girly days of the white-bread 1950s”. Perry is no more than a “manic cyborg cheerleader”; Taylor Swift is shot down for her “cultivated blandness” and “mannequin posturing”.

While Paglia demolishing Swift’s feminist credentials brings to mind images of sledgehammers and nuts, it’s hard to argue with her. It’s when she goes on to praise “the elemental erotic intensity” of others like Rihanna and Beyoncé that her argument starts to look shaky.

Of course, young girls deserve better role models than simpering, peppy poppets, but pop music is probably not the place to look for them.

The worlds of politics, business, the media and literature are far safer bets. For how empowered can you really be when your function is simply to entertain others? Girl Power is great as far as it goes but it's still pop music, not fourth-wave radical feminist theory.

Naturally, in an ideal world, all female popstars would accept the feminist label and wear it with pride. But in an even more ideal world, they wouldn't even have to be asked about it.

When was the last time a male musician was quizzed about his gender politics, or felt the need to pronounce publicly on fatherhood or equality? Exactly. There's a long way to go.

Forget the red carpet, the dresses and the gushing acceptance speeches, the real interest of awards season is the parade of gracious loser faces. You know, the bit when the cameras hone in the nervous nominees to capture their reaction, hoping for a strained smile or an angry swear word when they don't win.

I felt for Olivia Colman at the British Comedy Awards, though.

Nominated against herself in the Best Comedy Actress category for brilliant turns in Rev and Twenty Twelve, she appeared twice on Nom-Cam, filmed from two different angles as she awaited the announcement of the winner.

When she eventually lost out to The Thick of It's Rebecca Front, her gracious loser face had to look convincing from all sides.

Fortunately, wonderful actress that she is, she pulled it off with aplomb.

* Poor Pippa Middleton. Stick with me! The Royal sibling wrote a Diary for The Spectator this week, in which she said she had been "much teased" for her book, Celebrate. Not least, she wrote, by a fake Twitter account @pippatips which spoofs her anodyne advice with zingers like "It's time to open day 9 on your advent calendar to see what's behind the flap. Just look for an upside down no.6 and open that".

Sales for Middleton's party-planning guide have been catastrophically lower than expected, with just 2,000 sold in the first week of its release.

The result is that retailers, including Amazon and WHSmith, are now selling the £25 Bible of the Bleedin' Obvious for as little as £6.25.

Which – Bonus Pippa Tip! – if you add on a couple of pounds for post and packing, makes it the perfect £10 Secret Santa gift for that person at work you've never liked very much.

You're welcome.

Twitter: @alicevjo

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