Posted by: abbey | April 6, 2016

Music Video Madness

*Warning: long blog post ahead*

I wanted to use my last blog post to explore a topic that still baffles me, makes me slightly concerned, and may be a little controversial. Our section on media and the effects it has on women, specifically with the hypersexualization that we saw in the MISSRepresentation documentary has weighed heavily on my mind ever since watching it. I went home that evening and was sitting with my boyfriend watching Youtube music videos when I realized that of the several videos we watched in a row, all of them featured a woman either in very revealing clothing serving as a “prop” for the main artist, or dressed in a bikini inside while the men were in regular clothing, and every aspect of the video contributed to the sexualization of these women. I was shocked, and so frustrated with how the media portrayed women, and began a small rant. My boyfriend then asked, “What about the women that willingly choose or even want to be featured in these videos in these outfits, dancing in a way that contributes to the hypersexualization of women?” Women we look up to as top performers and incredibly successful, people like Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Rihanna. While this question slightly stumped me, my first thought was that maybe these women “choose” to perform this way because this is what the media has deemed as expected of women in order for them to be successful, because our culture continues to buy into this. If the context were different, I don’t think they would perform the same way or and definitely not to the extent that they do now, but they do it because that’s what they have been taught from a young age to model.

Later in the evening, another music video by Rihanna came on, Pour It Up (watch at your own desire), and while I have heard that song numerous times, I never imagined the music video being like that and was shocked by what was on the screen. I shot my boyfriend a look with a clear message of, “See what I was talking about”, glad that I was able to prove my point so well. However, right after I heard another girl in the room say, “Yas, girl, work! Now there is someone who is owning her sexuality and not afraid to let everyone know!!”

“…..Girl, Are you watching the same thing as me? Are you crazy?! You support this representation of women?” I thought in my judgmental voice. But now I wonder, who was right? Are these women to be applauded for being who they are and doing what they want? Or is this a similar phenomenon as opting out, where it appears like it’s the woman’s choice, but really she does it because that seems like her only option, because if she didn’t, her videos would never get the same views.

In my opinion, I sometimes wish that some of these incredibly famous women performers would show girls that they don’t have to be wearing next to nothing to get views on Youtube, and that what is in their head is so much more important than what is on their body. Even in Beyoncé’s empowering song Who Run the World, the women in the video are still sometimes in bikini tops and dancing on the ground in a sexual way. What about filming girls in a CEO office? Running for President? If we really do run the world, shouldn’t we be shown in these powerful places doing it?

This may be a touchy post for some, but it is not meant to sound judgmental for women that do want to own their sexuality and choose to display that. I am curious about others thoughts about how far is too far in the hypersexualization of women in the media, and what is the responsibility of the women in these fields to us as viewers, or vice versa? How can they be a part of the progress and make a shift in how women are portrayed?


  1. Thanks for bringing up this topic, I find myself going back and forth on my opinion too! I think this goes along with the issue brought up in many of our readings that there there’s a lack of women in leadership because there’s a lack of good female leaders and role models. It makes complete sense that in our generation of media saturation young girls and women are looking up to pop stars instead of politicians. I think part of the problem is what many view as success. Success for women should be based on empowerment and independetly achieving goals. If you stick to that basis fulfillment can be attained in a multitude of ways. Maybe we are part of the problem by thinking the women that who find fulfillment in a physical and sexual are wrong. Maybe that conservative view is what is holding women back from progress.

  2. This is a great question. When a women dresses in a sexually explicit way, or performs in a sexually explicit way, is she empowering herself, or disempowering herself?

    Personally, as a man, I wouldn’t want any possible daughters I had to dress in that way. I’d raise them to have confidence in their ideas, over their appearance.

    However, if a woman chooses to dress a certain way, wether it be a bra or a burqa, that’s ultimately her choice, and I have to respect that.

    It’s up to the woman, I just hope that she fully owns her sexuality, and isn’t being pressured to portray herself a certain way by her team or management.

  3. I think this is an important question that many people are wondering but are too afraid to talk about so thank you for your insight! First, in regards to personal experience, I’ve had friends who basically go by the motto.”if you got it flaunt it” and aren’t afraid to hide those feminine or revealing sides to them. But on the other hand, I’m thinking too myself..”is that what you want to be known for…to be remembered for? Like you, I’m baffled. Second, I often wonder the same thing. I wish that the more popular female vocalists/performers would be better role models in regards to how they dress and present themselves. However, I also agree that it is a business and they are performing. Yet to young girls minds…they don’t understand that..they see everything at face value. Thanks for your thoughtful post and for bringing up a topic that so many people are wondering about. Definitely thought provoking!

  4. As I was reading this, I was thinking the exact same thing you did. I think this is EXACTLY like the “opting-out” we’ve discussed. For the most part, anyone who is in the media industry has to promote themselves in a way that will sell, and what sells for women (unfortunately) is their sexuality. I honestly think that in order for female celebrities, especially musicians, to “make-it” there has to be some hypersexualized component to what they do (until they become recognized and established). Once they reach a point where they are well known and liked, I think they then could start promoting less sexualized messages in their music. Until they reach that point though, they have to do what sells. Then, they have to worry about keeping their image up and blah blah blah. I think that all of media and what it promotes about women is ridiculous and what I think would make it better is having more women directors. I just did a quick search of the top 100 songs and from the first few songs by women, I looked up the directors for their music videos and they were all men. Maybe getting women in these roles would help to promote the intellectual aspects of women and not purely the physical aspects. Basically, everything about media and women needs to change if we want to see any change on society’s views of women.

  5. The million dollar question! Should women be judged for their over sexuality, or should they be praised for owning and being proud of their body? In my own opinion this is a very easy question to decide the answer, and my answer may be strange for a male. I think it is horrifying seeing the way women are portrayed and the way they choose to portray themselves in these videos and on stage. I think Miley Cyrus and her running around nude doing drugs self should be thrown away in jail. People like her are not showing off how confident they are, nor are they encouraging women to be independent. They are in fact teaching women to submit to the societal norms that women cannot succeed unless they are brainwashed rebellious sex machines. I know this is dangerous for people to talk about because there may be some serious Miley fans out there, but you cannot say I’m wrong. Little girls are growing up admiring these young women. Through this admiration they will grow up rude, rebellious, over sexualized, and unhealthy. Talent and success should be based on what people can do with their heart and mind, not with how many jaws they can drop when their clothes do. That is why I love Adele so much, because she knows that to be happy you need to enjoy life and be who you want to be. You should not feel obligated to go to the gym everyday all day, or eat a salad with no dressing for every meal. Be proud of who you are and surround yourself with people who do the same and that’s all that really matters.

  6. Abbey, this is a great question and has almost presented itself to me as a paradox, because much of what we see from the media today when pertaining to women, is this mold of a hypersexualized woman. All women can think about is wanting to be more like them (ie. as skinny as them, breasts like theirs, etc.) and all the guys want to do is date them and have sex with them. I get this point and I understand the problem here, but I also feel that women do have a choice. Men can wear whatever they want, so why can’t women? I’m pretty sure a guy could wear as much as he wanted or as little as he wanted and no one would question it. For instance, one of the freshman boys that lives on my hall, walks around on a consistent basis with no shirt on and no one says anything. I digress, I think there has to be a choice involved and while some may feel that certain styles or articles of clothing lead to the oversexualization and objectification of women, you just have to deal with it. Now, my second point with this is the idea of confidence. Recently, I was at an awards ceremony and one of my friends was wearing a dress from her senior year of high school. After putting it on, she realized it really showed off her chest, something she did not feel comfortable or confident in showing off, but my other friends (who were girls) encouraged her to take off her cardigan and show off at the ceremony. I think if we are not careful, we can inadvertently shame woman and scare them away from expressing themselves. It is my belief that woman like Beyonce dress the way they do on stage to show off what they have worked hard to have. Queen B did not just wake up one morning and look that beautiful; as many of her songs point out, she had to work hard to get there. The way in which she shows off her body is the same way; it is a confidence thing. With this, I think there is obviously a balance, or a sweet spot, but I honestly think more women need to get comfortable and do more things like this. Beyonce didn’t dress like that for the men of this world, but I hope she did it in hopes of some women expressing their confidence. Now, to conclude, this is not just a body thing, I am not implying that all girls need to look like Beyonce, but girls need to go out there and be confident in whatever they are good at.

  7. As I read this I thought about various YouTube videos I have watched that have demonstrated exactly what you are talking about. One example that comes to mind was Rhianna’s music video for her song Work. The video begins with her dressed extremely provocative with her music partner Drake sitting on the couch while she dances for him. Her shirt is practically see through and her skirt is nonexistent. Drake on the other hand, is in a hoodie and jeans and sits back watching her dance. Throuhout the video the goal becomes clear that he wants to sleep with her.

    Another video starring 5th Harmony called Work From Home is about the 5 girls dancing around a construction site and trying to entice the men working to have sex with them. Throughout the duration of the video the chorus is that the men don’t have to work at their jobs because tey need to put in work with the women. It is unreal to me that a group of 5 women, who have a responsibility to the youth who watch these videos would display themselves in such a manner. Teens and children gather alot of their body image representation from the media and if these videos are what they have to learn from it is truly a sad day.

    These videos is disturbing because even though the female singer has control of the song she dresses in a way that, to me, gives her less power. Some argue that women dress this way because it gives them power, it gives them control. I just don’t understand how it does.

  8. Abbey, I have asked the question you’ve presented to myself so many times! I might be repeating some opinions stated above by bringing up Beyonce, but upon the release of her latest album, this issue took center stage in the media. When Beyonce released her visual album along with her audio album, many critics spoke out, including ones who identified as feminists, shaming Beyonce for some of her more sexually explicit music videos, such as “Partition” and “Rocket” (as you may/may not be able to tell, I’m a big Beyonce fan, haha). They insisted that because Beyonce is a mother, the fact that she was baring her body and being sexual was inappropriate. I happen to disagree with this. While some women may bare more of their skin because they feel societal pressures to do so, Beyonce herself has expressed multiple times that she specifically feels like it’s very important for women, especially women who are married, getting older and having children, to own their sexuality. No one should be allowed to tell women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies, and if you want to make a music video of you and your husband dancing intimately, she feels like that is completely fine, and I agree.

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