The music industry sexualises women artists as a way to silence them, Sinéad O'Connor says on the latest episode of the Irish Times Women's Podcast. In the specially extended episode, the Dubliner talks about her searing new memoir, Rememberings. (You can read an exclusive extract here.)
The singer speaks about the "fear" of music executives around 1992, a time when rap was an explosive force in music in the United States and O'Connor was shunned by many in that country for tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live.
“I’m in the same category as the rappers for a different reason. They’re telling a hard truth, but I am also exhibiting being oneself, and they don’t want girls to be themselves. Nobody wants female anger. You know, nobody wants females running the world.”
O’Connor, who also goes by the name Shuhada Sadaqat since converting to Islam, discusses how women are treated in the music industry. “The industry is frightened of music,” she says. “That’s why they have been engaged in the business, for the last 15 years, of silencing and grooming potential songwriters, by having the artists sexualise themselves.”
“The industry has managed to completely pervert the idea of female liberation … They’re giving little girls the idea that all they are worth is how they look.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, she also speaks about abuse in her childhood, escaping Ireland, a terrifying visit to Prince's house and how tearing up the pope photograph "rerailed" as opposed to "derailed" her careers.
The Nothing Compares 2 U singer also explores a reference in the book to her mother, who died in a car crash when the singer was just 18. “I couldn’t admit I was angry with my mother,” O’Connor writes. “So I took it out on the world and burned nearly every bridge I ever crossed.”
She looks back on the two years she spent in An Grianán, a Dublin residential school for girls with behavioural problems. She was sent there as a teenager after being caught shoplifting a pair of gold shoes for a friend to wear at a Pretenders concert.
She describes haunting images of the older women she saw there, residents of the former Magdalene Laundry, who lived in an "unofficial hospice" on the top floor of the home. She also remembers a young woman in the cubicle next to hers who had a baby while in the home – but had the child taken from her.
She recalls too the kindness of a nun in the home "who really loved me". That nun bought the singer her first guitar and Bob Dylan sheet music, in the hope that music would stop teenage O'Connor thieving.
“She somehow deduced that I should be doing music … that the only way we’re going to stop this f**ker ending up in Mountjoy is to get her a guitar and some music, and it worked.”