My first years are doing a module, Communicating Sex and Gender, in which they look at the way gender and sexuality are portrayed in different aspects of the media and culture, from sports journalism to genre films, from online environments to ‘real world’ environments. Today we were looking at pop music and one of the things I got them to do was discuss magazine covers and compare how men and women were portrayed on them, and what that said about who the audience might be.
Q Magazine was very interesting indeed. Of the recent covers shown, female musicians such as Lily Allen, Britney Spears, Cheryl Cole, Kylie Minogue and Lady GaGa have all been depicted dressed provocatively (or topless) whilst male musicians such as Noel Gallagher, Brendan Flowers, Kasabian and Paul Weller are much more revered and allowed to keep their clothes on. There’s been some discussion of Lady GaGa’s cover, where she’s topless, but with a dildo down her trousers. The interview in the mag itself is quite interesting in terms of the contradictory messages about gender that GaGa, the magazine and the interviewer display.
The back catalogue of Q covers tells a sorry story. Male rock stars punching, posing with guitars or, erm, just being Michael Jackson mostly adorn the cover. When a woman does appear she’s provocatively dressed, and often pop, rather than rock/indie/dance. Considering the amount of strong female pop stars that have dominated the charts recently, where are the likes of La Roux and Florence? (Or, for that matter, black artists – male or female?) Bjork and Duffy get to look vaguely normal on their covers in 2007/8, but only when stood next to male rockstars. In the parade of covers from 2006 to celebrate 20 years of the magazine, the majority are ugly male rockers, with only Kate Bush, Madonna and Dido looking relatively normal (and none are exactly ugly), and Beyonce and Britney looking rather provocative. You have to go back to 2002 to find a ‘normal’ issue of Q with women on the cover who aren’t purely being pushed for their sexuality, and even then it’s debatable.
I wouldn’t mind so much if Q was open about being a mag for white boys who like indierock and perving over women – whatever you might think of Nuts and Zoo, at leas they’re honest about their intentions – but Q is supposed to be the serious music mag, for music lovers of both genders, yet as a woman and a music fan who likes many of the acts featured within the mag, it’s old boys’ club schtick, which to be fair, has always been there, is getting worse as the years go on (and don’t get me started on Top of The Pops magazine).