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Thread: Sexualisation of women in the classical music industry

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    Default Sexualisation of women in the classical music industry

    Time and time again people have certainly opined on the presentation of female performers, wether it be Yuja Wang's dress, Lara St. John's CD covers or Anne Sofie Mutter's pose (recently those violinists were pointed out in the worst cd covers thread). Each of these cases, according to different people, have come down to a general conclusion that sexist inclinations of today have influenced their physical appearance (on varying levels). Even on this site there have been debates as to modesty on stage, the importance of appearance, wether women should conduct an orchestra and so on, which all end up boiling down to the same (if not a similar) debate.

    What say you, TC, on the topic of sexualisation of women in the classical music industry?

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    I'm only interested in the music. There was actually a debate on whether women should conduct? Maybe we should ask pope Francis?

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    Senior Member Crudblud's Avatar
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    I'd say "is anyone surprised?" I mean, consider who these CDs are made for, it's not necessarily the oft-mentioned 3% who already like the stuff, it may well be the 10% (statistic pulled from who knows where) who meet the following criteria: are conditioned to fork over wads of cash upon encountering the stimulus; are of the belief that classical music = sophisticated music for sophisticated people. Now, the stimulus may also, in the classical Pavlovian manner, elicit drooling among some less restrained types, but for the most part it is there to get subjects to part with their cash.

    I don't think it's a good thing. I think it is very much possible to engender, as in pop music, a culture of dressing less to sell more, using these marketing tactics, and many young female performers or even composers may feel it necessary to expose a bit of flesh for a bit of exposure of another kind. Maybe the marketing people will finally see sense when Gustavo Dudamel is reduced to taking his shirt off to sweeten Deutsche Grammophon's "pink dollar" revenue.

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    Senior Member starthrower's Avatar
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    ^^^
    You really are Frank Zappa, aren't you? That was brilliant!

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    Senior Member Musicforawhile's Avatar
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    I still don't really think there was anything much wrong with the Anne Sofie Mutter album. As I said before...whatever a woman wears unless they are covered completely in something shapeless people say they have been 'sexualised.' I personally think we as humans are more sensitive, sexually speaking, to the female body. So every curve is 'sexual.' Even the shoulders, the shape of their legs...And I think men and women both feel this way. Women can't help...being sexy. Why do we need to sanitise sex out of the classical music industry? It is a part of being a normal human being. Maybe Lara St. John wanted to express herself that way as its an important part of her personality...or maybe it was the producer's idea, I don't know. As long as standards don't slip with the music and the somewhat steamy covers don't become shameless like with pop music, where it's not even about musical talent anymore, then I don't mind too much. These classical musicians could say no to risque album covers but maybe they want to do it and they know their listeners are much more interested in their musical ability anyway. However...there is pressure on classical musicians to do photo shoots and posters that are visually enticing as we all know sex sells. But still if it went against their sensibilities that much they could just say no.

    I read this from an interview with cellist Natalie Clein:

    "Clein, whose sister is actress Louisa Clein, has tried to steer clear of the marketing people who want to promote her as a classical pop star; but she admits it is impossible, as a young, pretty female cellist, to avoid the alluring promotional pictures.
    She laughs: "I hope my music will last longer than any pretty pictures I might have taken. But I don't do sexy, really. Some musicians go much further than I do. I've said no to so much and in most photoshoots I wear my own clothes. It is a genuine reflection of me."

    From: http://www.thejc.com/arts/arts-inter...-natalie-clein

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    I am not against this so-called trend honestly. In fact, yes, this could be a marketing ploy but nothing wrong with celebrating beauty. For example, back in the 1960's Anna Moffo was quite extraordinary and today we have exquisite women like Joyce Didonato and Diana Damrau and Elina Garenca on covers of their albums which makes the presentation much more dynamic. This is quite evident especially in the opera world.

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    It should be a non-issue. I only hope the more photogenic don't get recorded more simply on the basis of their youth and beauty.

    As an aside, I've seen plenty of model-like men on covers too. I don't think it is gender related.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weston View Post
    It should be a non-issue. I only hope the more photogenic don't get recorded more simply on the basis of their youth and beauty.

    As an aside, I've seen plenty of model-like men on covers too. I don't think it is gender related.
    Jonas Kaufmann is a great example of a guy who gets some look props here.

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    While I don't doubt for a second that there's pressure on women to go for a certain kind of image, and that this reflects a basic sexist bias in our society, and this is a significant problem not just for classical music but for society generally, I have to admit that I sometimes find the tut-tutting about album covers and women's appearance to smack of patronising sexism too. Specifically there's the implication that, say, Yuja Wang shouldn't wear "that" dress, a denial of the possibility that a woman might try to look "sexy" because that's the way she wants to look, not because she wishes to actually advertise herself sexually.

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    I think it's a bit silly, since classical music should ideally be about the skill level and musical talent and not looks. But sex seems to find its way into almost everything these days, and classical music as well. It might be because capitalist society essentially functions like a Darwinian 'surivial of the fittest' system, and sexuality is seen as one of the key reflections of a person's 'fitness'. Personally, I get skeptical if I see a sexy woman on a classical cover, because I start wondering about other artists who may be better but can't get on those covers. Of course, highly attractive women can also be great performers, no question. But I guess women are portrayed that way to make the younger generation pay more attention to classical. Honestly, who here needs to a sexually attractive album cover to enjoy their classical CD?
    Last edited by HaydnBearstheClock; Nov-30-2014 at 19:06.

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HaydnBearstheClock View Post
    Honestly, who here needs to a sexually attractive album cover to enjoy their classical CD?
    I don't need it, but it's a nice bonus.

    Overall, I don't consider the sexy look to be a significant issue. Sex sells everywhere, and I can't think of any reason why it wouldn't also apply to classical music. But let's keep in mind that the strong majority of classical covers have nothing to do with sexual matters.

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    One needs to differentiate between beauty and sexualization, between gorgeous and trashy. There is no reason why a beautiful woman shouldn't look beautiful on her album covers, if that is how she wants to look. While it seems incomprehensible, she might also choose to look otherwise. I am more susceptible* to beauty, than I am to trashiness I think Anne-Sophie Mutter's album covers are of the former sort.

    At the public library (or on free streaming services), I might be inclined to pick an album for (the beautiful image on) its cover, but I would be just as inclined to reject an album for (the trashy image on) its cover.

    When I am purchasing, however, I am buying the music. The way I shop determines what I get: availability of required works at my price point; and chance discoveries at used record shops. These are all of Mutter's albums in my collection (the first two were lucky finds at used record stores; the last one was deliberately ordered for the compositions):

    51a7rkIAisL._SY300_.jpg51YsNtmvJUL._AA160_.jpg514pty42jmL._AA160_.jpg

    * It depends on the overall presentation.
    Last edited by brotagonist; Nov-30-2014 at 21:31. Reason: 'random discoveries' becomes 'lucky finds'

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    ^^^^ I agree, Brotagonist. It's natural to be drawn to good-looking artistes of either gender, but they should dress to be attractive rather than feel a pressure to promote themselves with raunchy attire and poses. It isn't in fact easy to say no when you want to put food on the table and fit in and have a career.
    Last edited by Ingélou; Nov-30-2014 at 22:45.
    My fiddle my joy.

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    Well, I for one need a comprehensive list of these trashy sexualized covers so I can judge for myself.

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    I prefer to see modestly dressed women. Let the inner beauty shine. Here is a nice modest CD cover:
    “The media’s the most powerful entity on Earth. They have the power to make the innocent look guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the mind of the masses.”
    --Malcolm X

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