It’s easy to boil an argument down to a simplistic soundbite. Look at that title there, I’ve just made this all about Crystal Castles and Katy Perry. If I’d wanted, I could have made it specially about Crystal Castles frontwoman Alice Glass and Katy Perry, and then quoted selectively in order to make it a ‘woo, look at the women fighting’ style article. Because that’s the sort of thing the media does, and is sort of (but not exactly) the point of Glass’s recent comments.
Speaking to the NME this week, Glass claimed that “the mainstream hates women”, and then she used Perry as an example of someone who not only proves that rule, but is complicit in its perpetuation. And, Glass adds, by allowing herself to be presented as a purely sexual object, Perry’s actions and the way in which she allows herself to be marketed have deeper implications for society – notably the sexualisation of children.
Says Glass: “I think a lot of kids are more sexualised now than they were now than they were years ago and I’m not sure it’s a coincidence. Like fucking Katy Perry spraying people with her fucking dick, her fucking cum gun coming on fucking children. And little girls, like six year old girls wearing a shirt with ‘I wanna see your [pea] cock’ on it”.
She adds: “Don’t prey on vulnerable people like that. Don’t encourage little girls to get dressed up, to have cupcakes on their tits to get people to lick them off, cos that’s what you’re insinuating”.
Katy Perry hasn’t responded to any of this, so I can’t tell you what she thinks. She might argue that she doesn’t see her music as being made for children. Not young children, anyway. You might argue that songs like ‘Ur So Gay’, ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and the particularly idiotic ‘Peacock’ (the source of the aforementioned t-shirt in Glass’s comments) employ a level of humour pitched at least at teenagers.
Though you could then counter that come back with one of Perry’s earlier dalliances with controversy in this area, when she went on ‘Sesame Street’ to promote her single ‘Hot N Cold’ in attire considered by some to be a bit too low cut. After all, ‘Sesame Street’ is a show very much targeted at a very young audience.
Though Glass’s specific criticisms of Perry do rely on certain assumptions about how younger children view any of what Katy Perry (or Rihanna, or Lady Gaga, or anyone else) does, and how it affects them. Also, while a child wearing a t-shirt saying “I wanna see your [pea] cock” is certainly inappropriate, unless Katy Perry personally put it on the child and started laughing about how funny such a phrase was emblazoned across their chest, then I think there might be someone else at fault here.
The claim that pop has become too sexual is not a new one of course, and it rears its head at regular intervals and has done for years. Back in September Cyndi Lauper referred to modern pop as “rape music” in an interview with Metro, while back in 2010 Stock, Aitken & Waterman’s Mike Stock was moaning to the Daily Mail about how pop these days verges on being pornographic. This resulted in both the Guardian and Popjustice examining his back catalogue and discovering that, hey, he’d been peddling filth to children since the 80s.
In the name of science, I interviewed someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s to discover if they’d been corrupted by any of Mike Stock’s songs. “No”, I told myself. “Although some of them were a bit shit”.
We could carry on debating whether or not pop corrupts children, and then ask if hip hop turns people into misogynists, metal incites people to murder, dance makes people take drugs, folk makes people grow beards, jazz makes people wear polo necks, and so on. But then again, how about society takes some fucking responsibility for itself? Which is another question rather than a solution I know, but please don’t be offended by my not providing an absolute conclusion to all of the world’s ills.
Which brings us back round to Alice’s Glass’ original point: “The mainstream hates women”.
If the ‘mainstream’ is a representation of the ideals and ambitions of society in the majority, then it’s also the thing that holds up a mirror to the majority and says, ‘Look, here are the things that fundamentally make you you, but that you also feel uncomfortable about’. Mainstream society would probably like to think that gender equality is now something that on the whole has been achieved, but then mainstream pop culture comes over and jiggles its tits all over the place.
Katy Perry may indeed be the manifestation of all that, but she’s not the root cause. Basically what I’m saying is, people are idiots.