Joan Baez Criticizes Sexualization of Female Singers

Joe Scudder
Written by Joe Scudder

The way Joan Baez criticizes women artists for using sex to promote themselves you wouldn’t guess she was on board with the sexual revolution.

Joan Baez criticizes how women singers use sex to get famous. She wants them to “just” sing.

It’s amazing and sobering to realize how far society has drifted to provoke a person who embraced the sexual revolution into sounding conservative. But Baez is being naive about technology. It’s not just about album covers; it’s about music videos and concerts. In that arena, someone who only sang, no matter how talented, is at a disadvantage in the market. Being a singer is more like being a movie star than it was when Baez became famous.

She also seems to think that musical entertainment should be a platform for politics—criticizing Taylor Swift especially. I think Swift has done better by staying out of politics.

The Daily Mail reports, “She’s the queen of the Sixties protest song, who helped make her lover Bob Dylan famous. Now, as she prepares for her farewell tour, Joan Baez has got a new bone to pick… with today’s hyper-sexual and apolitical female pop stars.

Baez has reservations about the likes of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, harrumphing over the overt sexualisation and lack of political engagement.

‘The bar is at the bottom,’ she says. ‘It’s like a stand-up comedian who has to say “d***” every other sentence to get laughs. I’m just not interested. That’s what sells the album – yourself half-nude on the cover. It would be wonderful if they just sang.

‘In some ways these are very strong women – especially Taylor. She’s an industry, and she is also nice, but she’s not political. I mean, I don’t know what she would take a stand on. I would think that if she said something about the #MeToo movement it would be very powerful for young people. But she says nothing.’

Baez describes herself as an ‘old fuddy-duddy’, but she’s far from it. She laughs readily, curses like a trooper and has no truck with pussyfooting niceties. […] Throughout the Sixties she made landmark albums and campaigned incessantly for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. We Shall Overcome, a Billboard pop hit for her in 1963, was sung at every rally and festival in the land, becoming as significant to America’s liberal youth as the #MeToo hashtag is today. In 1969 she was the second-highest-paid performer at the Woodstock festival.

Despite demanding that Taylor Swift be more “political,” Baez herself isn’t signing on to the the #MeToo campaign.

Though Baez is sympathetic to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, they don’t chime with her own experiences as a woman in the entertainment industry. ‘With a “star”, it really doesn’t matter if you’re man, woman, or in between,’ she claims. ‘I had to toughen up, in that I had to survive in the world, but not because there were men around.’ She pauses. ‘You know what? I didn’t really care. I was such an egomaniac, it never occurred to me.’

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About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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