Nothing compares to Sinéad O’Connor
O’Connor has been a dissenting voice in a country that favours consensus
Unfortunately, the Sinéad O’Connor-Miley Cyrus communication descended into a tit-for-tat argument. Photograph: PA Wire
Here she goes again. That’s generally the reaction to Sinéad O’Connor “going off on one”. Writing an open letter to the singer Miley Cyrus – whose appropriation of pornography as her pop aesthetic is neither radical nor cool – O’Connor warned the young star: “They [the music industry] will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think it’s what you wanted and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.”
O’Connor had every right to communicate with Cyrus, since the latter’s video for Wrecking Ball (in which she swings naked on a wrecking ball and licks a sledgehammer) was influenced by one of the most iconic images from O’Connor’s career, the music video for Nothing Compares 2 U. Unfortunately, their communication descended into a tit-for-tat argument. But O’Connor has once again started an interesting conversation, and in a career where she is constantly shouted down and slagged off, she continues to be brave.
Watching the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer over the weekend, which charts the actions of the Russian feminist punk band up until their arrest and trial for an impromptu performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, one is reminded of how contentious radical women’s voices and actions can be. The lyrics of the song they shouted on the altar on February 21st last year spoke out against the links between church and State and the repression Vladimir Putin presides over, “Mother of God, rid us of Putin. Liberty is dead and gone. Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains, the head of the KGB is their saint. A convoy leads protesters to prison so as not to offend his holiness. Women must give birth and love. S**t! S**t! It’s God s**t! Mother of God, become a feminist. The church praises rotten rulers, another crusade of black limousines.” Two members of Pussy Riot are still in jail, and the hunger strike of one, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, has brought attention to the dismal conditions of Russian prison colonies.
People don’t want to hear women mouthing off. That’s why opinionated women’s voices are marginalised on radio. It’s why female politicians attract more personal insults, and why ambitious women are viewed as full of themselves or bitchy or ice queens or all three. It’s also why O’Connor sparks controversy. She expresses opinions bluntly. The world wasn’t ready for Sinéad O’Connor, just like Russia wasn’t ready for Pussy Riot.