5 Seconds of Summer, Fifth Harmony, and Sexism in the Industry

A couple of days ago, the world was taken by surprise.

5 Seconds of Summer’s cover for Rolling Stone magazine was released onto social media platforms everywhere. It’s different from anything they’ve ever done; the guys are shown completely naked, their lyrics written all along their bodies.

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Calum Hood, Luke Hemmings, Ashton Irwin, and Michael Clifford for Rolling Stone magazine.

There have been plenty of reactions from this picture being released, but most of it has been fairly positive towards the four Australians.

The majority of the Twitter realm has been quite supportive of the picture, as they believe it shows their confidence in showing their bodies. They’ve also said that they’re not just naked for no reason, as their most important lyrics are written on them. They also believe it shows their vulnerability as humans, since they’re (almost) completely uncovered.

5 Seconds of Summer being praised for their naked photoshoot has brought up an important debate though – sexism in the industry.

For a while, Fifth Harmony has been reprimanded for their outfit choices. For example, in their music video for “BO$$“, their clothing was considered “not enough” by a lot of people. Because of their short outfits, a lot of people started to label them as “sluts” and “trash”.

Dinah, Camila, Normani, Ally, and Lauren in their outfits for “BO$$”.

The following blurb is the official definition for “slut” on Wikipedia.

“A term applied to an individual who is considered to have loose sexual morals or who is sexually promiscuous.”

“Slut” has become a term that’s used as often as “jerk” and “asshole”,  constantly thrown at women who don’t fit the definition. It’s commonly pinned to women who are confident in who they are, not depending at all on their sexual relationships. Yet the term is based around such relationships, and no definition will state that it’s simply about what someone wears. Thus, the word “slut” is misused and abused.

To some, these outfits are considered “slutty” and “distasteful”. Is that really acceptable to say, considering most men are praised for showing off their bodies?

In our society, there’s this idea that a man can show off and be considered “sexy”, while if a woman does the same, they’re “slutty” and “disgusting”.  This is a prime example of sexism. One gender is able to get away with something, but the other is punished if they do the same. How is this fair? How can four men show off their bodies entirely and be okayed, when five women only show their legs and they’re called these awful things?

Somewhere along the line, it’s become acceptable for a man to be confident, but completely wrong for a woman to be confident.

This problem goes deeper than just looks though; it even pulls into the music sometimes, and Fifth Harmony has felt the consequences.

For example, Pitbull constantly raps about women in the worst way. In his hit song “Timber“, he directly objectifies them: “I have ’em like Miley Cyrus, clothes off, twerking in their bras and thongs… Face down, booty up… She say she won’t, but I bet she will”. Even though these lyrics make women seem less than human (which is unacceptable), “Timber” was on the radio for months, and it’s still occasionally played today. With it’s catchy rhythm, people of all ages sing along every time it’s played. It’s hardly analyzed, despite what’s being said.

Fifth Harmony has never been a band to objectify anybody, yet their music is still scrutinized. “BO$$” once again is a prime example. The song is all about self-confidence, the girls singing lyrics such as “working for the money ’cause that’s what my momma taught me, so yo ass better show me some respect” and “C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T that’s me, I’m confident”.

These lyrics were analyzed. Instead of being positive comments though, a lot of people found the song to be unpleasant. Half the time the lyrics were completely ignored despite the great message sent towards girls, as people would rather focus on their “raunchy” music video (it’s really not that explicit).

Worth It” is another song that’s constantly giving Fifth Harmony a bad look. The song has two means – the obvious sexual tone, as well as the feminist tone. The feminist tone is what the music video is focused around, with words such as “women in power” and “feminism is sexy” popping up behind them as they dance.

Even though Fifth Harmony has taken the choice to focus on the feminist side of the song, most people completely ignore it. Even as the song hit triple platinum, the single still is seen as promiscuous, and the girls are seen as the same.

Even if “Worth It” was focused entirely on those sexual tones (it’s not), it’s not like it’s the only song like that out there, though it’s one of the only ones that’s constantly called out. The radio has those kind of songs on repeat.

Even One Direction has songs where they’re directly talking about sex with someone. “Rock Me“, a song they released on their second album in 2012, is entirely based around the act. Not only was this song praised, but there are still people singing along to it.

It’s just more sexism in the industry – men can sing about one thing and be commended for it, but if women go down the same path, it’s suddenly inexcusable and not appropriate for any audience. How can that be a positive thing for us as a society?

If we continue to reprimand women for things men are praised for, we’re all going to suffer. These kind of attitudes won’t only affect the female celebrities they’re aimed at, but women in general. If Fifth Harmony is considered slutty for wearing shorts, women who see such comments might think they look slutty in shorts. This wrongfully steals away their self-confidence and they may even change their style, even if they like wearing shorts. Men who see that may end up thinking that it’s okay to call a woman a slut if they’re wearing something short, which in turn will keep this unacceptable trend going.

Every single person, regardless of gender, should be treated the same way. Meaning if Luke, Calum, Ashton, and Michael are allowed to stand naked on a magazine cover that will be seen by millions, Camila, Dinah, Lauren, Normani, and Ally should be able to wear shorts in their music video (which has reached over 160,000,000 views). If One Direction is able to bluntly sing about sex without punishment, Fifth Harmony should be given that right as well.

So the next time you see women who aren’t afraid of showing some skin, the next time you hear women who aren’t afraid to step boundaries, really think about who you’re encountering. Instead of instantly labeling them as indecent and inappropriate, try seeing them as confident for embracing who they are.

Because if they’re still able to wear and sing about what they want after all this unreasonable and offensive shaming, they truly are confident, and that shouldn’t be disgraced; it should be celebrated. No matter what anyone says, confidence is a positive trait to have, and everyone deserves to feel that way about themselves.


[Tweet “I stand with @CelebMix. If 5SOS is praised for naked photos, 5H shouldn’t be disgraced for shorts.”]


Written by Jessica Brown

A college graduate who enjoys watching Supernatural, attending conventions and concerts, taking photos, and writing to the masses. Email me at jesslaurenb@yahoo.com.