I, personally, am insanely sick of perfect, packaged artists. I’m sick of industry men and women telling me how to be a pretty, sellable, clean cut object that consumers will buy. I came into this crazy music industry when I was only 16, and since then, it’s been a lot of meetings with a lot of men telling me a lot of ways that I was “too much” while simultaneously being “not enough.” But that experience isn’t unique to me, or the music industry. I think it’s that way for every girl in one way or another.
It’s a tape that all women know very well. We’ve heard it over and over again throughout our lives. It is the never-ending sound of a million subtle, well-intentioned cruelties… Like, “honey, that dress just isn’t flattering to your figure.” Or, “you would look so great if you got **insert surgical shit here**.” Or, “he’s only mean because he likes you.” Or, “well, what were you wearing that made him do that?” … And we’re supposed to be fine with that. Because it’s normal. Because it is accepted. Because a bunch of men in suits somewhere in an office decided to profit from selling a lie to women. And we’ve eaten it right up.
I am writing this blog post because I should be selling a product. That product is my song, “Dirty.” I can give you the simple product pitch that “Dirty,” is a fun, sexy summer bop with no real meaning. But that’s just not true. It’s easier to explain it that way, but it’s just not the whole story.
The truth is that underneath an insanely catchy chorus and some clever production, “Dirty” is really about the heavy topic of overcoming shame.
Every girl in the world knows the shame I’m talking about. It’s the shame I felt at 13, when I was not allowed to sing at church because my body was, “a distraction to the men.” It’s about the shame of all the times I was told to, “cover up” before I even understood what sexuality was. It’s about the shame that makes my best friend apologize for looking “tired” after a full night of studying. It’s the shame that tells us we will be worthy of love as soon as we lose that extra weight, or meet that guy, or finally become perfect. It’s about the shame I felt at 14, trying out a mix of starving and purging to earn that love I could never quite attain. It’s about how I felt at 20, putting on the baggiest clothes I could find to hide my curves. It’s about the shame of sitting in a business meeting, listening to a 50-something year old men explain how I could become the “perfect product.”
The underlying message of shame is always the same: You are not enough. You are too much. You, in your truest essence, are a problem.
My upbringing was full of authority figures telling me to be less bold, less loud, less honest, less of a “distraction” (usually physically), less different, less weird. Because in the worlds eyes, a woman with a voice, a presence and an opinion is somehow worse than a culture that constantly tells us that we must shrink. Our culture has taught us that we will be loved when we are perfect. And we are taught to aim for that perfection instead of aiming for true expression and courage.
“Dirty” addresses sexual shame in particular, but sexual shame covers a myriad of other lies we are consciously and subconsciously told on a daily basis... Lies like, “You are not worthy of owning your own body. You are not worthy of enjoying your own body. You are not worthy of expressing your beauty or your sexuality outside of doing it for a man. You are not worthy of loving your cellulite and your crooked nose and your skin and whatever it is that makes you unique. You are not worthy of having weight on your body because you are not worthy of taking up space in this world.”
In our culture, the media and men in power sexualize and belittle women endlessly without repercussion to sell products; but the moment a woman owns and expresses her body as something beautiful, something she is proud of and accepts, and something she loves about herself, she is vilified.
“Dirty” is my declaration that I am worthy of being happy and proud to carry every ounce of my being. And while most people want me to feel shame for my body, my voice, my heart, my loudness, my sexuality, my opinion, and for me; I’m going to choose to love myself instead.
I was raised in the church, and as much as I am grateful for the good parts of that, I had to unlearn a lot of shame. I was taught that my sexuality didn’t belong to me. I was taught that my sexuality was something that was a problem and a disruption to be hidden away and avoided at all costs. But the good lord Jesus gave me DD’s and a 36/26/36 figure. So needless to say, hiding my body wasn’t easy for me. It became a source of such overwhelming shame and heartache in my life that I spiraled down a dark road of depression, eating disorders, cutting and battles with suicide.
So as hard as it is to talk about, I know there’s a girl just like me in the midwest somewhere being told that her voice, her presence, and her body is too much or not enough. And that is devastating to her soul. And to that girl, I hope “Dirty” would say: Your sexuality is beautiful. Your body is perfect exactly the way it is. It belongs to you and only you. And you’re worthy of loving every inch of yourself; no matter what people may say to you or about you.
“Dirty” says: We are worthy of self-love. It doesn't take much effort in listening to the lyrics to realize that I am not singing that song about being with a man. I'm singing it about being by myself. And that is considered taboo. But why? We are worthy of loving our bodies. We are worthy of healthy sexuality. We are worthy of being cherished. We are worthy of being HEARD. We are worth, “the time that it takes.” We are worthy of being a priority. We are worthy of standing out. We are worthy of being told that we are enough. We are worthy of being “selfish” sometimes. And our worthiness has nothing to do with our appearance, or our number of followers, or who we know, or who we are dating, or how expensive our stuff is, or how accepting people are of us.
And no matter what names people may call us, - weather it’s “Dirty” or something else - we are going to stand in that truth.
XOXO - Emm
You can listen to Dirty here: http://song.link/dirty
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