Juliana Hatfield Proclaims She Will No Longer Be "Sexy/Cute" For You
'Blame The Stylist' from the singer's new album offers a searing counterpoint to today's stylist culture.
Few things change from decade to decade, or even year to year, like a culture's definition of "style" (a large portion of our unworn closets can sadly attest to that fact). Often, what we generally accept as "in fashion" comes from whatever today's highly paid, celebrities-unto-themselves stylists are putting on the actors, models and musicians they are hired to dress. Though some celebrities form life-long friendships with their stylists, clearly this has not been the case with '90s pop/rock icon Juliana Hatfield, who is calling B.S. on the whole industry with her track "Blame the Stylist" on the new album Whatever, My Love, The Juliana Hatfield Three's first in 21 years, out next month.
Like a time-traveler from 1994, when her songs "My Sister" and "Spin the Bottle" off the album Become What You Are became the soundtrack to a Reality Bites generation and every school dance they attended, Juliana Hatfield is back on the scene to invoke fond memories of hemp chokers and Doc Martins just as songs like Taylor Swift's "Style" are in heavy rotation to reinforce somewhat antiquated notions of what women should look like.
In "Style" Swift boasts about having "that red lip classic thing that you like" and "that good girl faith and a tight little skirt." But as anyone over 25 remembers, well, red lips and tight skirts were not always what the cool girls wore (unless, of course, they were starring in Aerosmith videos.) And clearly Hatfield, now 47 years old, is feeling a bit raw about the days when she was pushed in that direction. On an album that sounds like it could have been released two years after their last — instead of two decades — the track "Blame the Stylist" stands out as an anthem for women who have too long accepted the sexualization and fetishization imposed on them by their stylists:
Blame the stylist
She's the enemy
She took control
And made me her slave
I knew the dress was wrong
But I tried to get along
She made me look like a whore
Who am I being sexy for
The question of "who are we being sexy for" is really what capital-F feminism is all about these days. In the press notes for the song, Hatfield writes:
Back in the heyday of the alt-rock explosion I was the subject of a lot of photo shoots…Some stylists would try to get me to wear stuff that was totally out of character for me – too-sexy, or too-cute, or too sexy/cute. I didn't really have the tools, then, to stand up for myself convincingly and say no every time, and I didn't have an identifiable image of my own to fall back on so I ended up in some magazines looking pretty dumb and uncomfortable. This song is an apology and an explanation.
Then, to make sure she doesn't burn any bridges as she embarks on a tour that will surely require more photo shoots, she adds:
p.s. There are some great stylists out there. I certainly did not intend, with this song, to disparage the whole lot of them.
That disclaimer is all well and good, but we're betting any woman who has ever been styled for mass publication can relate to lyrics like:
The only way out
Is to strip down
Your true identity
Gets no publicity
Whatever, My Love is coming out at a moment where it's feeling cool again to be a little gender non-normative, with shows like Transparent, Broad City and Girls challenging the public's expectations of what women are, want and want to wear. We're curious to see how Hatfield styles herself onstage as the band embarks on its national tour at the end of February. Or perhaps it doesn't matter, as long as she feels good about it. As Jill Soloway so awesomely reminded us at this year's Golden Globes, where she sported a Kenzo suit instead of the usual stylist-selected gown while accepting her award for Best Television Comedy, what matters is just being our own true selves in whatever shape, size, color or gender that manifests itself. Whether that means flannel shirts or mini-skirts is up to us.