As a fan of Kylie, Anna Fioravanti finds that writing about the star from a feminist perspective raises deep questions about the nature of feminism itself. Risking judgement, she explains here why Kylie fits comfortably with her own definition of feminism, and why the singer can indeed be a positive role model for women.
The file on my computer has been here for days now, untouched. I may justify myself by saying that I had a bad flu. True, but not totally correct. Not when it comes to writing for a writer, singing for a singer or breathing for a human being. Still, I didn’t touch the file. I was just reading it, over and over, and changing a few things every now and then. Hemingway would say, “writing is re-writing”. But, again, this is not a good enough excuse. The truth is, I found myself lost in something I felt bigger than me, than my essence. I felt myself judged (and sent to jail, I would add!) even before doing something to be punished for. And what would have been my “big fault”, then? An article, about Kylie Minogue, written from a feminist point of view. That’s it! I finally pointed out the problem: feminism!
Writing, or talking, about feminism, with feminists, is everybody’s worst nightmare – even, I guess, for feminists themselves. Why? Because one can easily sound too “stereotype-like” and because, no matter how original one can be in his or her use of words, the risk is to make readers bored after the second line! And nobody wants to write about ideas that they can agree or disagree with, criticize and change by themselves. People just want to write, and to imagine somebody reading.
I am, at present, reading a book about “E-WRITING” (very well written – by a woman, of course!) and she claims that people may lose their reputation simply by producing something bad. I agree. But I feel I let myself go too much on my own judgements of myself. So, at the end, I decided that I had to write something. That I had to finish what I started, no matter how many criticisms I may receive or how many people I may have disappointed.
Thoughts of a writer who, at times, wish she could write for her eyes only for the rest of her life. Because people are cruel, or have been made so. Because to judge, at times, is easier than to think and feel.
However, just to get back to my article now, the beginning was like this: What makes a female singer turn into a pop princess? When thinking about Kylie Minogue, the first idea in mind is probably a “la la la” tune heard billions of times. Then, a big smile and a “girl next door” face. The music scene is, and always has, been crowded by “normal girls”; in some cases not even very talented. Beautiful (or made so), they have became “pop princesses” by showing off their bodies, singing an easy-to-listen pop song and selling a chartable number of albums or singles. Then they simply disappeared, just like a lost dream.
So what parameters should we use to judge if a woman in show business can have the approval of feminists? Is Kylie a “good” or a “bad” woman and example?
Well, let’s just start by saying that her career has been different from most of her colleagues. In fact, Kylie started at an early age, as an actress. At 20 years old, the famous trio of music producers and songwriters Stock, Aitken and Waterman discovered her talent as a singer. In just a few months they wrote enough songs to fill an album, added a duet-ballad with her former boyfriend and “Neighbours” co-star Jason Donovan and the young girl was at the top of the charts. Unfortunately for the trio, Kylie didn’t want it that way! So, after two albums dressed like a doll and controlled in all her moves and words, Minogue decided to make the third one closer to her personality and taste.
Choices: Kylie “divorced” from the trio and tried to go on her own way, fighting with the feeling of uncertainty that had now stepped over the “tried and successful” formula they offered. Since then, fans say, every “three” albums Kylie takes decisions which are more and more radical and which, she claims, give her the chance to express her real self.
Since then, Kylie’s image and music changed from several points of view. Sexuality is one of them. In fact, sex sells. And Minogue, being quite conscious of this and of the power of her sex appeal, modified her looks by using more make up than before, by wearing clothes that fitted her body better, etc. Also, many years later, she created her own lingerie, “loveKylie” which is, simply, a very sexy type of underwear women love to wear because it makes them feel attractive. But Kylie’s image is never of an ‘object’. Nor, of an easy girl. Never offensive.
Music is another. Her songs talk about feelings from different perspectives. Sex without love, love at a early stage, efforts to get over a bad relationship, things that matter in a relationship, for a woman. Those are just a few of the ideas that Kylie, who has learned to write songs, puts in them. Real life happenings. Every girl can find herself into them.
I think people love Kylie because she always tried to be genuine with her fans and faithful to herself. And even though this should be done by everybody, we all know it hardly happens. For example, Britney Spears professed her virginity since the beginning of her career but, even after an ex-partner had revealed “hot particulars”, she kept saying she was virgin.
Attitude towards choices is another. Kylie’s need and search for independence, both from stereotypes and the choices of others, made her accept (and more importantly, never regret) her choices and mistakes as “lessons learned”. For example, signing with Deconstruction (which brought poorer sales than expected).
Now, I may go on mentioning facts and stories about Kylie. It would be fun, maybe interesting. But I guess it’s time for me to step over and give some “feminist” explanations.
Q. Why do I like Kylie?
A. Why not?
Q. Why writing about Kylie from a feminist point of view, then? Why not saying, simply: “I like her?”
A. I believe a feminist’s choice is based on feminist ideas; nothing to do with an artist’s music. It’s more like dress. It must fits you well and make you feel comfortable. I like Kylie because I think she fits me well.
What is feminism, then? What can I say for or against Kylie from that point of view? Well, let’s start with a fact: newspapers present a demeaning image of women. They are painted, more or less, as sluts. Think about… ok I will not name names this time! Interestingly, Kylie is not presented this way. You can always find her pictures, sexy, with boyfriends, no make-up, etc., but the comments are always quite nice, even when men-centred.
The truth is, men love Kylie and show her respect. Why? And why do women love Kylie? I like Kylie because she is an example of a self-made woman. She started her music career as a doll and ended up as, simply, a woman. She decides for herself. As women do (or should do, at least!). She thinks with her own mind. As women do. She lives her life and pays consequences of her mistakes, as everybody else. As women do. She tries to improve. As women do. She puts herself in what she does, with passion and pride. As women do. She likes to look nice and sexy. As women do.
Question: did I describe, until now, a mere personal idea of Kylie or did I use objective facts? Your choice. My effort.
Feminism, to me, is the idea that I am an human being as important as anybody else, no matter their sex, color, or age. Feminism, to me, is the feeling that everybody is equal, women included. Feminism, to me, is the idea that, if necessary, I need to prove I am worth it – not to fight against anybody, men included, but simply to have the chance to show what I can do and what I am. And, I agree with Catherine Redfern when she claims “Feminism Benefits Men Too” (see ‘Feminists are Sexist’). Probably, my definition is similar to the one given by Naomi Wolf, (Fire With Fire) (quoted in “I’m Not a Feminist, But…”).
So, if you put all these things together, and try to imagine all the things left unsaid, you will realise that to me it is important that women have “positive” examples to rely on. And, by using “positive” I mean concrete and based on facts. I just mean women who came out of the crowd and did something good in relation to their talent and chances.
However, if you prefer, we could “read” Kylie from a “what does she do against feminism” point of view. Would that be easier? Would that be better?
Let’s try! Kylie is the one who talks about love and the dream of a boyfriend to stay forever: Is this against feminist ideas? Well, considering this quotation from Victoria Beckham(!), I guess it is:
Q. Would you say you are a feminist?
A. No I wouldn’t. We all admire strong, independent women, but I’m a romantic. I like a man who opens doors for me, takes me out to dinner, buys me flowers. I like men to treat women like women, and I think many other women do too.
(Interview with Victoria Beckham, Cosmopolitan March 2002)
Still, I would be more than happy to find such a man. And I wouldn’t feel insulted in my “feminist pride”, at all!
Kylie spends time with her fans, as she recently did in Spain, while filming her new video “Slow”. Is taking care of fans against the idea that women should look strong and powerful? Sort of “I don’t sign autographs because I may break one of my nails”. Sorry if, to me, a woman is somebody whose heart is more important than anything else (nails included!). And I like that because I think this is one of our main strengths!
Kylie is now 35 years old, has been in show business for more than 25 now and has always divided her private and her professional life. Is a woman who works to be respected somehow lesser if her uniform is not a suit? Or, if she changes boyfriends, because she cannot find “Mr Right”? Sometimes, I feel even “feminists” have male-centric ideas. Maybe it is because, most of the time, women are judged more and in a worst way by other women than by men.
I know I will not change anybody’s opinion about Kylie. That was not what I wanted to do. I wanted, simply, to tell a story. And I wanted to find something to think about. I just wanted to talk about feminism without fighting for my rights or dignity as a woman, because I see no reasons, for others, to question about this.
However, just a few more things about Kylie before closing the file again.
The new single “Slow” will be realised on November 3; the new album, “Body Language”, on November 17.
Just a curiosity… people love Kylie so much that she has been “covered” many times. Some examples:
Ai Ga Tomaranai-Turn It Into Love (Japanese Female Duo)
B*dazzled – Step Back In Time
Ben Lee – Confide In Me
Beverley Knight – Can’t get you out of my head live
Cissy – I Should Be So Lucky
Flaming Lips – Can’t get you out of my head (from the “flight test” ep)
Johnny & Denise – Especially For You
Kia – What Do I Have To Do/Better The Devil You Know
Panikbrothers – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head V Blue Monday
Sophie Lawrence – Secrets
Steps – Better The Devil You Know