Punk-ette, feminist and naked

Mr Keng brought home some remastered CDs by British punk/post-punk group Siouxise and the Banshees. Listening to it over dinner I was struck by the fact that it sounded interesting and had some depth. During our conversation Mr. Keng remarked that Siouxsie, born Susan Ballion, was another singer with a casual attitude to (semi) nudity. Coming off the back of previous posts regarding Madonna and (earlier today) John Lennon, Mr. Keng suggested that perhaps the act of going naked, pushing boundaries, was wrapped up in an artist’s personality that saw them take chances with their music and end up being interesting and challenging. (He’s said he shall put flesh on the bones of this argument by bedtime 🙂 )

Not knowing much about Siouxsie, I did a little googling and found that, yes indeed, she has been fairly relaxed about semi nudity throughout her career, baring her breasts in an ever so slightly provocative way without it being ‘a thing’ in the way that Madonna, for example, makes it appear all so calculated and ‘career enhancing’.

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The message I take away from these photographs is that there was just a little feminist boundary pushing; a clearly punk stance to shock (although the photographs are very tame by our current celebrity measurement of skin (over) exposure).

A little further reading showed that some women active in the early punk years (1976-1980) all had an equally casual and confident approach to their own nudity, not as a career move, but as a feminist ‘I’m equal to you’ perspective -which, indeed, the punk era was to women, a time when they did play an equal, rather than inferior/manipulated/sex object role in the music business.

Toyah, another pop/punk singer is another who has casually gone topless in the early part of her career without it being much of a ‘look at me’ statement as much as it was ‘nipples? Deal with it’ quiet feminism.



Mr. Keng glanced at the laptop and said ‘oh, add Cosey Fanni Tutti, The Slits and Gaye Advert to that list’. I’d never heard of any of them. But, yes indeed, Gaye Advert from punk rockers The Adverts had been a nude model for men’s adult magazine Fiesta prior to embarking on a musical career.




The Slits, a punk/reggae band from London, and another band with clear feminist leanings, released an album called ‘Cut’, the cover of which featured the trio, topless, smothered in mud.



And Cosey Fanni Tutti, guitarist with experimental art-rockers and performance-artists Throbbing Gristle (& later Chris & Cosey) also undertook performance art pieces in which her nudity was part of the subversion of ‘men’s erotica’ at the time (she, too appeared nude in men’s magazines as part of the wider performance; read an interview about the thought processes here and a different interview about the same performance art here).



In one of the interviews she says ‘I became freer, nude‘, a feeling with which many of us will readily identify.



I’m struck by the fact that, in each case, the women’s attitude to nudity runs in parallel to how interesting they are as performers. I won’t pretend to be an expert in any of their recorded careers, other than what I’ve heard on youtube this evening, but they all do appear to have a common link between their art and body confidence.

I mentioned this to Mr. Keng regarding contemporary pop stars. Did Madonna, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus cut it on the ‘interesting stakes’.

‘Madonna’s nudity has been a marketing ploy to cover up the fact that she’s not very good at anything, either as a singer, an actress or a writer. Without her cynically thought out strategies she’d have faded from musical view by now, in my opinion. Miley I know nothing about other than she twerks, so I’ll have to reserve judgement. Lady Gaga is batshit crazy, but it seems less cynical than Madonna’s use of nudity, more someone just following instinct. And in that, we have to wait and see what she does with her music.’

I then turned my thoughts to the way in which nudity, as art, is depicted within Second Life, particularly from a blogging perspective. Does the use of nudity within SL add some depth to those who utilise it? I think the answer to that, too, is a solid ‘yes’, and a post coming up later this week, with Croatian artist Djevica shows that, yes indeed, there are those within SL who utilise nudity as a method of creating greater depth to their SL persona and as an expression of their creative side within the game. Check back later this week for that blog posting.



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