Little Mix should be enjoying their Glory Days, but sometimes the Internet just gets weird.
The girl group was treated to Twitter’s most irrational brand of take-down after their return to the U.K.’s X Factor on Sunday night, with critics deciding in the moment that the four twentysomethings onstage were dressed too provocatively all of a sudden.
“The nerves never go when you enter that studio, you literally get that dreaded feeling, like you’re a contestant again,” Jesy Nelson, whose career took off alongside Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall on that very stage when they won X Factor in 2011 as an ad hoc group, said rather sweetly about their hotly anticipated performance of their new single, “Shout Out to My Ex.”
The ladies, the first-ever group to win on the show, at least were treated to a warm reception in person and many rave reviews on Twitter (the phrase “second coming of Christ” was invoked), but certain reactions to their costumes (yes, costumes, people—stylists are involved) were the height of hypocrisy, let alone entirely unfair.
Little Mix have forgotten the bottom halves of their outfits surely? And their new song sounds just like Ugly Heart By GRL. #LittleMix
— Ste (@cursley_ste) October 16, 2016
#LittleMix thank god Jessie had a full wax could almost see her lunch in those hooker outfits the girls almost had on #XFactor
— Seren Craven (@seren666c) October 16, 2016
Xfactor… Why do Little Mix have to give in/conform and go for the prostitute look?!! So NOT empowering!!!!
— zoeintheusa2@hotmail (@zoeintheusa2) October 16, 2016
In the name of feminism, it’s not particularly helpful to degrade another woman as going for “the prostitute look,” is it? Shouldn’t owning one’s sexuality be up to, well… one’s own?
First of all, the almighty Queen Adele aside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a female pop star who didn’t start taking more risks with her fashion once she came of age, be it legally or just emotionally—you’ve heard of Miley Cyrus before, right?
And the same goes for Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift , Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Demi Lovatoand Selena Gomez, not to mention about a thousand others, including the members of Fifth Harmony, another X Factor (U.S.) creation who’ve seen their level of success rise along with their ages.
Syco / Thames / Dymond; Getty Images
What was so different about the outfits Little Mix—all of whom are either 23 or 25, BTW—wore on stage?
You could make the faint argument that X Factor is a “family show,” on in prime-time in the U.K., but these are the exact same sorts of outfits that you can expect the group to wear at their concerts, which young girls will attend with mom and/or dad in tow—and Little Mix will look exactly like any of the aforementioned artists in concert, all of whom are favorites among the tween set.
If such expressions of sexuality make some fans (or parents of fans) uncomfortable, then so be it, but likening Perrie, Jesy, Leigh-Anne and Jade to “strippers” or “prostitutes” is disgraceful.
Syco / Thames / Dymond
Aside from the everybody’s-doing-it argument, these four young artists may just simply be proud of their success, proud of their bodies, proud of all the hard work, patience and perseverance that got them this far (sure, they won a contest, but of all the contests, how many winners do you still remember, let alone listen to?) and damn proud of who they are as women and role models.
As Demi would say, what’s wrong with being confident?
Moreover, they’re kicking off the tease for their upcoming album with the saucy single “Shout Out to My Ex”—and revenge hotness is usually part of the deal. (Especially if that ex broke up via text message.)
Unwittingly or not, the armchair critics were twisting the commentary that had come earlier in the weekend from Melanie “Mel C” Chisholm, who told the U.K.’s Sunday People that she had “loved” Little Mix from X Factor, “but they are getting more provocative.”
“To me, they were kind of the closest thing to the Spice Girls we’ve seen,” the erstwhile Sporty Spice continued, per ET Canada. “They are all gorgeous and great singers. But they weren’t sexy and it’s got more and more that way. I love them—but I just say, ‘Stay you.'”
Her 7-year-old daughter is a fan, Mel C said, “but I’ve started to be more sparing in what I show her. I don’t let her watch videos by artists that aren’t appropriate for her. That makes me a bit sad. All young women want to look sexy and hot so I understand it’s hard. But I think it’s such a shame.”
That’s a parent’s opinion, valid enough.
With the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” turning 20 this year, it’s certainly another day and age, but Mel C acknowledged that she was no stranger to pressure—and criticism—back in the day.
“We live in a narcissistic age—it’s 100 per cent worse than when I was in the Spice Girls,” she says. “It was a more innocent time, although we were criticized for wearing crop tops.”
But the track-pant-and-trainers-wearing Sporty Spice was never called a “prostitute” on Twitter. There are a few things that are 100 percent worse for girl groups today.
Happily-sadly, as always, the unwarranted criticism brought out the rational side of others, who defended Little Mix in all their sexy glory.
@LittleMix the outfits are not the spotlight……they are…..they give us fans the best show in history for us so be nice and don’t hate.
— @Lisa Bowrage (@LisaBowrage) October 17, 2016
Those melons complaining about the girls outfits that it’s too revealing etc
DON’T ACT LIKE YOU HAVE NOT SEEN WORSE muppet
— PRE ORDER GLORY DAYS (@LittleMixMind) October 17, 2016
why are little mix being slated for their outfits? for wearing leotards? like when will body shaming stop? it’s 2016? #ShoutoutToMyEx
— jãck (@kysagb) October 17, 2016
i can’t believe people are genuinely offended by little mix wearing leotards which are normal performing outfits im-
— laura (@tmhdoncaster) October 16, 2016
Jason Derulo basically does whole concerts topless and no one cares but if Little Mix DARE to wear thigh high boots they’re strippers? BYE.
— Em. (@EmilyBashforth) October 17, 2016
Their outfits were 😍 and they went all out for that choreography! They were laughing from excitement and nerves! They SLAYEDDDDDD
— LM♡Updates (@LittleMixCrews) October 16, 2016
So sad to see how much stick @LittleMix are getting for their outfits last night. Would you say the same if 1D took their tops off? Um, no.
— Bradley C. (@mrbradleycoker) October 17, 2016
Yes, men performing shirtless isn’t the same as women performing topless, as per the rules of society set in stone back when rules actually needed to be set in stone. But still, men “stripping down” causes mass excitement, while women doing the same leads to a big discussion about why they made that choice and whether they are sending the wrong message.
The shaming of women for whatever’s irking the Twitterverse that day is nothing new, whether it’s showing too much skin, being too big, being too small, over-dressing, under-dressing, hitting a bum note, sounding too much like someone else, sounding not enough like everybody else, etc.
And last night, Little Mix’s number was up. But their fans, and anyone who’s ever seen TV or concerts or videos before, know that they didn’t do anything untoward and they’re grown women who are free to dress as they please.
That concept is nothing new. Nor is the fact that it’s always been up to the audience to decide whether to partake or not. If you’re so offended, press “power” and simmer down.