Loreen explores the misconceptions and double standards that come with being a female artist unafraid to be themselves
Freedom means no constraints and no judgement. Most people will agree that freedom and free will is a good thing, yet somehow in 2021 it is still provocative when a woman uses freedom to express her sexuality.
As a female artist I have faced this issue over and over again. The idea that a woman who is actively communicating sexuality within her platform, is only doing so mainly because 'sex sells.' She is objectified by men, and her sexuality is a sign of submission rather than a tool of empowerment.
These thinly-veiled rules are immensely frustrating. I have been reprimanded by both men and women for the way I’ve chosen to present myself as an artist. Time after time, I have refused to accept that I did not have the same right to exhibit or express myself through my body, as my male counterparts. That has pushed me to use my platform to address these issues.
Photo: Charli Ljung
There is one performance I created that specifically explored the theme of equality between the sexes. I invited Kazaaky, a male Russian dance group that had made headlines for upsetting conservatives in their home country. With their Madonna’s Vogue-inspired dance performances in minimal clothing and stilettos heels, they exposed wide-spread bigotry and started important discussions in their home country.
Before going live on Scandinavia's biggest annual TV event, Melodifestivalen, to celebrate the release of my single ‘Paperlight,’ I made the conscious decision that the visual experience as well as the political statement would be stronger if I, too, was bare chested. Following arduous discussions with broadcast executives, my position was respected. Moments later, Kazaaky and I shared the stage as equals.
Looking back there are women that have paved the way to where we are today. Female artists who dared question the stereotypes, structures and unspoken rules. Women like Grace Jones, who in her creative process chose to be candid and outspoken. Her work with Jean-Paul Goude demonstrates a woman markedly expressing herself and her sexuality with no restraints. Today, Rapper Cardi B is taking it to the next level with songs like ‘WAP,’ where she details her carnal preferences with a dominance and a language typically associated with male rappers.
Photo: Charli Ljung
These artists have had to endure reproach from both men and women. They have had to constantly be ready to explain and defend themselves and deal with criticisms such as being labelled ‘shocking,’ ‘vulgar’ or ‘irresponsible.’ One US politician expressed his concern over the release of ‘WAP’ by publicly stating that Cardi B must have lacked god and a father figure in her life. The stakes are high — and ultimately it is more than just the careers of a handful of female artists that are affected. What’s at stake is the destigmatisation of showing of the female body and general equality of the sexes.
Luckily, as a result of fearless women like Jones and Cardi B, female artists as well as women in general are less and less a product of a dusty blueprint that dictates what we should look and feel like. Old formats are constantly being questioned and restructured. This is an ongoing evolution that cannot be stopped. Balance will be restored, regardless of conservative views. I believe this is the law of nature. Young girls should understand their value in order to recognize their rights and the freedom they possess.
The most important question for us as women today should be directed inwards. We should ask ourselves why we want to express what we want to express. If every choice, be it to perform bare chested or simply to wear a particular outfit in your daily life, is made according to who you truly are and what makes you deeply happy, beyond what is expected from you, then you are in a power position. That is freedom.