Women are objectified in music videos, especially in hip hop and rap; from sexy dressing, speaking in seductive tones to acting and dancing in a sexual manner. The perfect portrayal of women as sex objects.
Why women constantly need to be exposed or half-naked is beyond me. Is it to sell records, or to further impose the idea of a woman as being the object of a male’s pleasure?
Sometimes in music videos, the woman’s face is not shown. Instead, her body becomes a showpiece and is put on display. It depicts her as not having an identity or a sense of individualism thus, reinforcing her role as a sex symbol.
“Women’s bodies are often dismembered and treated as separate parts, perpetuating the concept that a woman’s body is not connected to her mind and emotions,” states the sociologist, Erving Goffman in his book, Gender Advertisements. For example, certain body parts like the woman’s breast, her buttocks or her legs would be emphasised. This relates to the notion of sexism with reference to canting (to lean to one side, slant) which conveys submissiveness. According to where the woman is placed, it may also convey male superiority.
Take the canting for example, a woman has to bend over to “show her ass” and in the words of rapper Lil Jon, “stop and wiggle with it”. I’ve seen Lil Jon’s “Get Low” music video. Disgusting.
I will be the first one to admit (with great shame) that when that song was first released to the public, I was captivated by it. But I was a teenager and didn’t think or care about the content of the music video. I was more interested in the beat and the catchy tune of the lyrics “to the window, to the wall!”
Watching the music video now, all I see is how men and women are portrayed as sex-starved maniacs. The shots that appear as flashes try to distract the viewer from the pornography-like images on the screen, blurring out the most visible body parts, when in fact, this concept for the music video in question, is feeding into the idea of raunchiness and clearly showing the ‘sex sells’ attitude of the media and advertisers.
But to be fair, Lil Jon is not an isolated case, there are many examples in the music industry that fit this profile. The women in these music videos are portrayed as females who would ‘bend over backwards’ literally and figuratively for their man, and also the bending of body parts conveys submissiveness and appeasement (to give the man what he wants). This links up to my earlier mention of superiority. “Three common tactics used to establish superiority is size, attention and positioning,” says Goffman. Indeed.
So in these hip hop and rap music videos, women are always seen in supporting roles beside, behind and below male counterparts. This is done in a subtle way of course, but with close scrutiny you see how these women are never portrayed as strong, independent, and career-driven instead, their focus is completely on the man – on getting his attention and keeping it - by all means necessary.
The presentation of the message has to change. Negative messages should be reinforced with positive ones. As it stands now, the portrayal of women in music videos is degrading. The perception created is that women have little integrity, low self-image, her body nothing but an object. The music video as a creative platform is abused to sexualise and objectify women.
This needs to change. It’s as simple as that.