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The rise of young, hypersexual femmes has feminism’s symbolically burnt panties in a new twist. Tense relations between conformity and empowerment are played out on a world stage where ubiquitous nudity is accompanied by the self-deluding assertion that choices can be made in a vacuum, isolated from the dictatorial sway of culture. Taylor Momsen, front girl of New York alternative rock quartet The Pretty Reckless, is one such ‘fuck-you-and-come-hither’ fem-bots. “It’s no more sexual than Led Zeppelin,” the peroxide-haired and panda-eyed former actress asserts. “I mean, it’s just rock ‘n’ roll. I could see Robert Plant’s dick through his pants, you know?”
Taylor is in New York, busy with the last-minute panic preparations her entourage are undertaking prior to flying to Madrid for a tour supporting Fall Out Boy (are they still a thing?). Unapologetic and blasé, we canvass the consistency through which chicks are keen to get it all out, no matter their flavour of noise, as banal as a condition of parole.
“Music is very sexual, and I think that’s a part of it. Sexuality is a part of humanity and you can’t be honest without talking about everything that means to be human. Sexuality is a big part of that, for a man or a woman.”
A vanilla musical arena without the pervasive slicker of visceral, carnal impulse is hard to envision. The niggling thing is the double standard embodied by this slice of the human pie, particularly when it comes to females. Sexuality is a prism through which women have been subjugated and it’s the unrelenting barometer through which the collective female value is (still) calculated. Just hate the game, right? What’s curious is the player’s lack of awareness of their participation. Take the corridors of young Taylor Momsen fans. Mostly female, they take to Twitter to declare their adoration. Their cultural grasp likely falls short of conceptualising the inherent marriage between music and sexuality.
“Well, they all seem to get it. They all seem to like it. When we go to a show they know all the words to every song, so that’s my job, right. I write songs that connect to people. They’re not all about the image; they’re there for the music. The image is what goes along with the music, but the music comes first. Call it what you want, I don’t really care. I just write songs on my guitar you know, I’m just a chick.”
Therein sticks a contemporary thorn in feminism’s hourglass side. The “image”, in Taylor’s case—gratuitous nudity with a side of elementary gothic dress-up—feels too prescriptive. It’s not likely that an impressionable 14 year old fan girl “gets” that this should be dismissed and the music embraced. Beth Ditto still felt the need to strip off. Angela Gossow and Marta Peterson are pin-ups. For all the display of freedom, even the word ‘feminism’ remains dirtied and dredged by the movement’s extreme factions, like men-hating misandry. Taylor is keen to detach herself. She hesitates loudly.
“I just write songs on my guitar, you know, I’m just a chick.”
“Oh, I … wouldn’t call myself a ‘feminist’. I wouldn’t put a label on myself like that. I think it’s all one thing. There are men and there are women, and I don’t like to segregate anything. We’re all human, and we should all be treated equal, and we should treat each other equal. But I mean equality doesn’t exist at all. The idea does. Money makes it impossible for people to be equal. Money was the worst invention ever.”
Taylor began modeling and acting aged two, which culminated in a contract with slick and we-have-nice-things drama series Gossip Girl, aged 13. Reared in a paradigm that allots value based on the daily, interrogative grind of physical aesthetics, naturally she sees only defiance in her current position. This softcore presentation of rebellion is now as regular as menstruation. Every “I don’t really care” that rolls off the omnipresent tongue of Miley Cyrus could be out of Taylor’s. For fuck’s sake girls, the pat-line of nonchalance doesn’t dissemble cultural laws.
“I didn’t have any control in the beginning because I was two years old. Kids have no control, you have to go to school, you know. I had to go to school. You can act in a commercial at age two and three but you can’t put out a record. I recorded my first song with James Horner at age five. Anyone who knew me knew where I was going to end up. So as soon as I was able to take control, I took it. I quit acting and I started the band, and I fight really hard for it.”
We discuss how that control has recently been harnessed on her band’s latest disc Going to Hell. It’s an elementary subversion of American discourse to target religion. The album cover captures the intersection of defiance and conformity. A naked Taylor adorns a crucifix insidiously creeping down her back into her ass. It could be directions to hell, or an accidental allusion to the proliferation of anal sex within contemporary pornography. Taylor Momsen probably doesn’t actually care, or even know. //