Chrissie Hynde, the lead singer of rock band, The Pretenders, is no stranger to controversy. As an animal rights and environmental activist, she isn’t unfamiliar with sharing what’s on her mind and ruffling some feathers. As recently as August however, Hynde has been the topic of discussion among many feminist bloggers, and the attention isn’t exactly flattering. While promoting her book “Reckless: My Life as a Pretender,” which released early this month, Chrissie made some vague remarks during a U.K interview that sounded an awful lot like slut shaming and victim blaming, claiming that rape victims needed to “take responsibility,” and that by “acting provocative and putting it out there,” rape victims were essentially asking for it. What’s more is that when she was called out by her fans for the outdated (and incredibly misogynistic) view on rape culture, she didn’t only refuse to apologize, but basically spat back “deal with it.”
On September 8th during an interview with BBC radio, Hynde touched on the subject again by rightfully stating that rape culture is all around us now, but she couldn’t just stop there. She continued by lashing out against young female pop stars, claiming that when they call themselves feminists, they’re only speaking on the behalf of prostitutes (what?), and they are feeding into pornography culture by selling music with bumping, grinding, and wearing their underwear in music videos.
Now, before I say anything unsavory, I just want to acknowledge that Chrissie Hynde is a front runner for women in punk and alternative music. However, there are plenty of women (and men) parallel to her that have been supportive of women’s rights and feminism (Blondie, Iggy Pop, and Siouxsie Sioux for starters), and continue to voice their stances today. So really, generational differences or age aren’t an appropriate excuse for Hynde to openly slut shame musicians she might not necessarily agree with.
I’m not necessarily a fan of modern day pop music either, and often find myself left confused by the fashion choices some of these young ladies might strut at award shows, but one of the core fundamentals of feminism is advocating for EVERY woman’s right to wear whatever they want, however they want.
Now, I can’t really find any evidence that Hynde ever really associated herself with feminism specifically, but she’s definitely been handed an honorary Girl Power crown because of the totally bad ass role she has played in lady punk history. It isn’t really my intention to dismantle her from that, because “you go girl.” However, if she’s going to take the stage and actively discuss rape culture and modern day feminists, she’s asking for feedback.
Feminism isn’t a generational privilege; it’s a right for all.
Telling a whole new generation of feminists that they aren’t allowed to capitalize on sex, money, and rock and roll that is generationally appropriate for the modern day is deeply misogynistic, because men have been doing it for years. They still do it, and it isn’t nearly as scrutinized and criticized as it is when a female singer does it. It’s called show business. You might not agree with it, I might not agree with it, but you certainly don’t have a leg to stand on as a feminist if you don’t accept it.
There is certainly a double edged sword that comes with the big ole’ “F” word when it comes to celebrities these days. On one hand, when household names come out of the woodwork calling themselves feminists, it has helped demystify the word for all (because all it takes is a giant banner proclaiming the word behind Beyonce on live television, and not the past 115 years of activism since the word has been in use). This is generally a good thing, because it has helped knock down some of the stereotypes that only a certain type of woman can be a feminist (who knew). On the other hand however, almost every time I’ve proclaimed that I’m a feminist to co-workers and acquaintances rather than talking about domestic violence, women’s health, and the wage gap, I’m immediately asked for my “feminist view” on whatever Miley Cyrus wore at whichever award show that I probably didn’t watch, or if as a feminist, do I “really think Caitlyn Jenner is a lady?” Seriously?
The moral of the story here is that there is no good or bad feminist. Naturally, it’s totally awesome if a feminist (celebrity or not) contributes in some way to the cause—whether it be blogging, buying from companies that value their female employees with equal pay, or simply holding the less informed people in their lives accountable for their (intentional or otherwise) sexist comments. You go, girl (or dude… or however you identify)! But if all you do is identify yourself as a feminist and support equality, news flash: you’re still a feminist. Let’s not complicate this, and let’s not assume every rich feminist has to spend their fortune on women’s rights in order to earn their badge. There is no badge.
Leaving this on a serious note: Chrissie Hynde is clearly struggling with a lot of internalized misogyny, and that sucks. For a woman that has dealt with sexual assault to victim blame others when they go through the same thing means that she also blames herself. Can you imagine how shitty that feels? It isn’t my intention to slam her; the girl needs some help. But consider this a PSA: age doesn’t make you a feminist; music preference doesn’t make you a feminist. Whether you rock out next to Johnny Rotten with a guitar and some gnarly grunge bangs, or your grinding up against a back up dancer shaking your rump, being a feminist makes you a feminist.