I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this for months now.
There’s a lot I miss about 2010. Lady Gaga was the pop star of our generation. Katy Perry had just released Teenage Dream, the album that would come to define her career. Kesha still had a career although in hindsight it was mired by her abuser. And Rihanna was close to dropping “We Found Love”, arguably the best song of the decade. What I remember most was for the first time in probably twenty years, gay men had pop stars who championed us and made sure our voices were heard. It was intensely gratifying to hear Gaga shout out the LGBT community in “Born This Way” or to see Katy Perry feature two men kissing in her video for “Firework”. But somewhere in the last four years, all of these women have felt huge bumps in their careers. And perhaps we’re partly to blame for it.
It’s no secret that this isn’t Katy Perry’s year: She’s released three singles for her upcoming album “Witness” and none of them have taken off. Sure, you are probably thinking, this is typical of many musicians. At some point all celebrities reach a decline in their career. However, very few celebrities face the same scrutinies women do during their decline. Very few of these men have their weight or appearance mocked. And very few have a legion of ex-fans eagerly watch online as their career tanks.
I wish we could claim Katy Perry as the first or only female musician this casualty has happened to. But just look at Christina Aguilera’s treatment during the release of her album Bionic – one gossip site published an article titled “Want to see a cunt flop on national TV?”. You could also reference the scrutiny Lady Gaga endured as she promoted her third album Artpop which she later said made her want to quit music. If we want to go all the way back to 2001, we can talk about Mariah Carey checking into a mental health facility after her album and debut film of the same name Glitter bombed. And perhaps most infamous of all is the downfall of Britney Spears, still mocked and ridiculed ten years later.
So why does this never happen to the men? Why do we – especially as gay men – take such pleasure in watching the downfall of a pop star we once loved? My theory is we project our own internalized-sexism and internalized-homophobia onto the women we used to love. That same shame we are made to feel for being effeminate or gay is perhaps what drives us to similarly shame women. It also speaks to the gross sexism we still feel towards women, if not consciously then subconsciously. These actions are a mirror, everyone. We are a mirror of the society that created us. And all of this makes me incredibly uncomfortable and angry.
Simply put, the people we should be vilifying are the men. Why does Chris Brown still have a career but instead we spend close to a year mocking Rihanna for not releasing Anti on schedule? Why did we laugh about Kesha’s weight but still turned a blind eye to the abuse from Dr. Luke until Kesha’s own voice became too loud to overlook? I don’t like that men never have to succumb to this phase of career failure. There’s never a gold standard that to be a successful male artist, at some point, he will have to go through an intense period of public shaming. Vulture doesn’t seem to be posting any articles asking what the hell Ed Sheehan’s choices are but they have no problem doing this for Katy Perry. Men can grow fat in this industry; they can get terrible tattoos; they can shave their head, and not once is their sanity questioned.
We have a problem, you guys. This is a pattern I can’t overlook anymore. While I haven’t been a huge fan of Katy Perry’s latest music, I for one, cannot read any more think pieces about the end of her career that only vaguely hide the writer’s sexism.
We have to do better, especially as gay men. I refuse to be apart of a narrative that finds pleasure in watching women fail, even if I don’t like her music as much anymore.