Björk has always been an enigmatic figure who lives out her public life with as much intention and editing as her music. It’s rare when she gets candid, and there’s usually a good reason for it.
That’s especially the case with her latest statement, an open letter on Facebook to address sexism, an issue that’s been bubbling under the surface in the industry all year along. Earlier this month, Madonna became the most high-profile female singer yet to criticize mysoginy in the entertainment business with an unusually candid speech at the annual Billboard Women in Music awards.
The Icelandic star felt inspired to write on sexism in the media after she played a string of DJ sets at the Houston, Texas festival Day for Night. After her performances, Björk noticed that the reviews of her shows were mostly centered around the fact that, as DJs do, she’s mostly standing behind her gear. “Some media could not get their head around that I was not ‘performing’ and ‘hiding’ behind desks,” she writes, “and my male counterparts not. And I think this is sexism, which at the end of this tumultuous year is something I’m not going to let slide: because we all deserve maximum changes in this revolutionary energy we are currently in the midst of.”
Björk also pointed out another double standard female artists grapple with, which is that they’re expected to write solely about romance or emotions, rather than the kinds of otherworldly topics Björk has made her signature. “Women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends,” she writes. “If they change the subject matter to atoms, galaxies, activism, nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized: journalists feel there is just something missing…as if our only lingo is emo… “
That kind of thinking was what Björk was rebelling against when she made her past three albums, she write.
“I made Volta and Biophilia conscious of the fact that these were not subjects females usually write about,” she says. “I felt I had earned it. On the activist Volta I sang about pregnant suicide bombers and for the independence of Faroe Islands and Greenland. On the pedagogic Biophilia I sang about galaxies and atoms but it wasn’t until Vulnicura where I shared a heartbreak [that] I got full acceptance from the media. Men are allowed to go from subject to subject , do sci-fi, period pieces, be slapstick and humorous, be music nerds getting lost in sculpting soundscapes but not women. If we don’t cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience.”
Then, Björk penned equivalent of a mic drop, writing, “Eat your Bechdel Test heart out,” referencing the contemporary standard for gender inclusivity in films. You can read the note in full below.