Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard Rita Ora’s new single ‘Girls’. Since its release, the song has received backlash from the LGBTQ+ community.
With all the leading ladies of pop coming together, ‘Girls’ could have been a potential bop if it wasn’t for the tone-deaf lyrics. Female queer artists Hayley Kiyoko, Kehlani and Katie Gavin from MUNA raised concerns that the song did more harm than good to the community and only added to the problem of male fetishization (the songwriting team has 6 men in addition to Rita Ora) of women loving women. They emphasized that women didn’t have to be under the influence of ‘red wine’ or ‘kush’, as suggested in the song, to kiss women.
Rita Ora has since apologized and addressed that the song was written based on her own personal romantic experiences with men and women and hurting the community was not her intention.
While I find it unfair to police sexuality and experiences, Rita Ora’s statement contradicts her quote from an interview with People, “It was really inspired by one of my favorite songs: ‘I Kissed A Girl’ by Katy Perry.”
Despite being a banger, Katy Perry’s song contained glaringly problematic lyrics: “I kissed a girl just to try it/ I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.”
What does Harry Styles have anything to do with this situation? An article by The Independent criticized Styles for getting away with ‘gay-baiting’ while Rita Ora was forced to come out. I completely agree with the author’s stance on Rita’s coming out: no one should ever have to justify or explain their sexuality. From my knowledge, Rita has always presented herself as sexually fluid but justifying her orientation in an official statement was unfair to her.
Between Rita and Harry, it is important to acknowledge Harry’s white male privilege. However, as a fan, I consider it my responsibility to refute their opinion on Harry Styles queer-baiting.
The article claims that Harry never received the same flake for his song ‘Medicine‘, an unreleased song which has lyrics alluding to relationships with both males and females. In an interview with the Sun in 2016, Harry said that he has never felt the need to label his sexuality. So it is safe to assume that being sexually ambiguous affords Harry the liberty to write songs that are sexually ambiguous. The lyrics of ‘Medicine’ do not suggest any experimentation or inebriation (except when Harry is metaphorically drunk off the person he is with).
Harry never labelled the song a ‘bisexual anthem‘. It was, in fact, his mostly queer female fanbase that resonated with the lyrics and termed it their own bisexual/queer anthem. Harry’s sexuality was, however, relentlessly talked about and labelled by media outlets who used fans as the scapegoat to justify their assumptions about his ‘definitive bisexuality’.
Harry has always been vocally supportive of the LGBTQ+ community.
At a One Direction concert in Kansas City in 2013, the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrated against the band outside the venue. Later that night, Harry tweeted this:
Despite the company outside, I believe in equal rights for everyone. I think God loves all. Thanks for coming to the show though.
— Harry Styles. (@Harry_Styles) July 20, 2013
During another one of One Direction’s show in St. Louis, Harry donned Michael Sam’s NFL jersey. Michael Sam is the first openly gay player in the NFL.
Harry has been an active supporter of the London Gay and Lesbian Switchboard and fans have continually raised money for the charity every year in honour of Harry’s birthday.
Since going solo, Harry has assured that his shows are a safe space for his fans. A place where they can be whoever they want to be. He has picked Pride flags from the crowd and held them close while performing and waved them while running across the stage.
Recently, Harry waved the Pride Flag at his concert in Singapore despite being advised by security not to. Laws in Singapore are strictly anti-LGBT and do not provide any formal recognition to same-sex relationships. If Harry was merely queer-baiting, he wouldn’t have risked being possibly banned from a country.
During Harry’s concert tonight, security told Harry that he couldn’t wave the pride flag. They also tried to confiscate the pride flags from the fans. The reason behind it is that Singapore is still not open to LGBT+ therefore it wasn’t allowed to be brought into the venue. pic.twitter.com/rNONQRuAPL
— Harry Styles Tour. (@HarryLiveOnTour) May 3, 2018
As one of the many fans Harry has helped come to terms with their identity, people misunderstanding his support for queer-baiting not only undermines his constant support but also makes me doubt the validity of who I am. The mixed responses of outrage and support over Rita Ora’s ‘Girls’ are wholly justified. However, any attempt to mesh it with the completely unrelated topic of Harry’s sexuality and support only serves the purpose of click-baiting.
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