Dublin band Talulah Does the Hula has four female members and one male. The women, like many (but not all) of us females, are into fashion and make-up, and dress up when they go onstage. Their retro style often means vintage dresses, stockings, tights, high heels. Nothing outlandish, always beautifully styled and often envied by those who appreciate that sort of look.
But some reviewers seem to wonder if TDTH should dress up on stage. ‘Do their outfits distract from the music?‘ seems to be their question.
The fact is that TDTH‘s on-stage outfits have no relation to their ability to play music – and if they choose to, they should be able to go onstage wearing dresses and heels without having a reviewer assume they care more about the denier of their tights than the guitar pedal they’re about to step on.
Entertainment.ie has some very thorough and well-written reviews of the weekend’s Hard Working Class Heroes Festival online – and I’d encourage you all to read them – but their review of TDTH’s show really rankles with me. The band themselves are put out by it, and it’s no surprise.
It’s simply not on to say this:
The first noticeable thing about Talulah Does The Hula was, well, their legs. Fronted by four talented stunners, two of which used to front The Chalets, each Talulah had donned their own version of the mini for the occasion. At an event where probably 90% of performers, and about 70% of the clientele were male, it’s a little disheartening to think that female bands are still so image-based. All ranting tangents aside, the shame is more that Talulah’s image is their focus rather than their music.
The problem with this review – and, please, I’m not suggesting the reviewer is some sort of sexist/misogynist, club-toting neanderthal – is that the reviewer clearly feels that female musicians shouldn’t be judged on their appearance. Excellent! But they open the review by mentioning their long legs and calling them stunners. Mixed messages, much?
It’s sad, but inevitable, that female musicians continue to be judged on their looks/visual appeal/image while male musicians can show up onstage half-pissed and wearing a pair of their grandad’s y-fronts and be hailed as genius.
And this, I think, is how the reviewer feels too. It’s as though their heart is in the right place, but they’re not quite sure how to phrase what they feel about this subject. And unfortunately this leads them to fall straight into the trap of judging the band on their looks.
Maybe the reviewer feels that female musicians ‘leave the side down’ when they dress up. But all performers deserve the right to dress as they please.
I appreciate that it is easy to be confused about this, and it does bring up some thorny issues. But I find it disappointing that there continues to be a double-standard for male and female musicians. Talulah Does The Hula ‘dress up’ because they want to – because they are putting on a performance and they want to look a certain way. They’re not dressed offensively, or even provocatively.
If you’re not a fan of their sound, then that’s cool. If you didn’t enjoy their set, fair enough. But don’t blame it on their choice of attire.
If a guy can wear a suit on stage and not be accused of caring too much about his image to the detriment of his music, then a woman should be afforded the same respect.