The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
From Olivia Rodrigo to Billie Eilish, when do women under the public eye go from a child to falling into the inevitable trap of the male gaze?
“Oh, fun! Olivia Rodrigo’s nineteen today,” my friend said while scrolling through her Instagram feed.
My eyes widened as I almost spit out my coffee. “Nineteen?” I asked in disbelief. “Only?”
The more I thought of it, it kind of made sense. She was recently on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, and I knew she was 17 then. It was logical to think she was a little younger than me.
That being said, I couldn’t help but think about why her Instagram and her outfits were like… that.
Then I thought about Billie Eilish and the controversy surrounding her body. Throughout most of her career, she wore baggy clothes to hide her body from opinions and objectification from the male crowd.
Until recently, when she turned 18.
It’s an ongoing pattern. Recently Millie Bobby Brown turned 18 too, and her Instagram has changed in a similar way that Rodrigo’s and Eilish’s has. Is this the only way to stay relevant as a young and upcoming female celebrity? To show your body the minute it’s deemed legal and societally okay?
The more I sit with this feeling, the more disgust I feel. Feeding into the male gaze ultimately earns the most success and money, and, as a celebrity, that’s what you want. The disrespect and objectification of women are so subtle that some of these girls may be too young to even understand.
I remember when Billie Eilish released her video on YouTube, "Not My Responsibility." She talked about how the way men perceive her is not her responsibility, and the sad truth that as a female pop artist it somehow is. I firmly believe that this is a small yet significant way men have power over women. It’s a way they are conditioned to look at women, and the scariest part is that it’s seen as okay.
Not to mention the entire controversy of showing your body is considered a form of woman empowerment. It's often seen as women supporting women and a type of feminism, where it’s viewed as women finally taking control of their own bodies. While that’s certainly one way to see the whole situation, is it really so empowering when it’s something seemingly necessary to maintain one's fame?
Many younger girls look to people like Rodrigo, Eilish and Brown as inspiration for their fashion, makeup and overall presentation of themselves. The three are all Gen-Z cultural icons, so what message are they trying to send out? Is this the new expectation? Do girls have to show off their bodies for praise, attention and success from the public? And when they do, what is the border of being slut-shamed at the same time?
The music industry’s power over a woman is sickening. When encouraging a young female star to show off her body at ripely 18, it’s turning her body and herself into a commodity for profit. We’ve gotten to the point where this is seen as an average thing, and where we don’t even blink twice.