Are Women Sexualised in Music Videos? Is it Empowering or Objectification?
The sexualisation of women in music videos is a two-tailed argument that can be fought with ferocity on either end of its spectrum. In our modern society, the music industry thrives and feeds off of the sale of the female body. This is both lyrically but especially visually through the medium of music videos. ‘Sex Sells’ is a phrase that I had never been so familiar with until now, as I have deeply researched the diverse range of views that our global population hold on this issue. However, to what extent can the display of these girls’ bodies be deemed as empowering and feminist in nature? When does it become exploitation or border on pornography?
One argument on this issue is that our freedom of expression in society means we should be able to sing and showcase the elements of ourselves that define who we are through our artistry, including our sexuality. ‘Music videos both accompany and push the message of a song, so if that is about sex, the artist is just visually communicating what they are saying through the video, it has a purpose.’- a young, male musician’s thoughts on music video content. To an extent, I agree with this. I think that we are fortunate to have the ability to speak about our views on sex as both males and females, without its historic stigma of shame and humiliation, which is why if an artist sings about sex, it could be reasonable for that to therefore also become the subject of the video, as long as it holds integrity and is not just for commercial motivation.
This view is supported by the works and videos of Female Rapper, Young MA. Although her music videos like ‘PettyWap’ are very explicit and bare similarities to a variety of other sexually orientated Pop Videos, upon further research it has become evident that the message she tries to portray is that Gay women, such as herself, are allowed to have sexual desire and express it just as male rappers do. In an interview she talks about using her videos end the stereotype that ‘a certain breed of toxically masculine men hold, that being called queer and a women is the absolute lowest cut down’. In her own words, Young MA claims that her videos aim to ‘cut the insult off of the knees’. However, does her supposed egalitarian and feminist explanation for the sexual nature of her music videos mean that their content does not have a harmful impact on female self-image anyway? I think that it is still damaging to the way women are represented as a gender, despite its empowering intention. Although women have the power to sexualise others, including men, it does not make it okay. From researching into this view, I understand now that there is an incessant power struggle between our genders, when in reality, no one male or female should ever be sexualised, especially not in such a vastly extensive and influential media such as music videos.
A report by the American Psychological Association, published in 2007, defines ‘sexualisation’ as ‘occurring when a person’s value only comes from their sexual appeal or behaviour, being made into a “thing” for another’s sexual use’. The growing prominence of this word in the music industry is disgusting. It is a causational factor of the decline in integrity of both music and dance as art forms, which come into combination when considering the visual allure of videos. As a Dance Teacher and Performer, Beth Eckhoff shared with me her views in a questionnaire on the portrayal of women and dance in music videos. It was really interesting to find that she believes it is common for dance to be sexualised, especially for females in pop videos, where women are expected to fill unrealistic societal expectations. From Mrs. Eckhoff’s views, I have developed a more advanced understanding in the dangers that mainstream music videos pose on young, aspirational dancers. She highlighted the importance in particular of being ‘body aware’ and ‘realising that dance is more than body image’. ‘Dance should come from the heart as, if it doesn’t, you may be forced into the “commercial world” where dance is a show of body image and ticks.’ This advice that is given for young dancers going into the industry is an example of how the sexualisation of women in music videos is creating a toxic environment for girls pursuing a career in dance. The money making motivation behind the objectification of women in the music industry is a treacherous, psychological debate that many female dancers will now have to face, just one example of the many ways that girls are exploited in sexual music videos. This viewpoint has taught me that it is not just the women watching these videos that will be affected by the sexualisation of females in videos, but also those who are trying to achieve a profession in the same domain.
Another area of my research into the sexualisation of women in music videos shows that this is a debate that has negative implications for parenting in our modern society. Dr Justin Coulson, Parenting Researcher and Parent of six, wrote an article in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ in September 2014, detailing the damaging and derogatory nature of popular music videos and its harmful effect on the development of growing girls. He states ‘My daughters and your daughters are taught to conform to this narrow sexualised, unhealthy norm”. /≥