RANT: Popular Culture and Female Bodies-Part 2

  1. Popular Culture and Female Bodies

It’s remarkable how silly sexism can be in contemporary society. I remember the presidential campaign of 2008 when Hilary Clinton ran against Barrack Obama and a boy said, “She won’t win.”

“Why not?” I asked him.

He said, “No offense, but a woman shouldn’t be president;  they’re too sensitive and would bomb Cuba when they forgot to take their Midol.”

            Great joke. I especially enjoyed the “No offense” just before the blunt sexism. I never considered my ability to have babies to impede my political success in the future, just as I never worried whether or not a kick in the balls would impair a male president’s judgment. Psychological evidence shows that “people view women to be more compassionate than men,” and those are the same stereotypes that got Lizzie Borden acquitted for murdering her parents.[1] I am saddened to find out “women who campaign on stereotypically “female” issues like education, and men who campaign on stereotypically “male” issues, like crime, will enjoy significant electoral advantages.”[2] “candidates are best advised to play on their own turf.”[3] What aggravates me are these ridiculous molds my gender has to fit into. Femininity has to be determined upon how stupid, delicate and emotional a woman is; She mustn’t be too smart or too stupid, but stupid is preferred over too smart because she shouldn’t be too intimidating; She’s a baby maker, and running company won’t allow her to simultaneously cook her husband’s dinner. It seems women aren’t the faces of governments and successful companies.

In chick flicks, like He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), women are seen as sad, lonely and ditzy in need of love and fulfillment. Are you wondering why these films are called “Chick Flicks?” Perhaps its some sort brainwashing mechanism to tell women what they want. It is said, “teenage femininity revolves around two key issues: how to get a boyfriend and how to look good.”[4] Are we that shallow? Why on earth should we spend our less-than-one-hundred years on Earth trying to impress the opposite sex? What about trying to impress yourself; or impressing the Gods, or creating a sense of divinity within yourself for yourself? Why is romance “the essence and a meaning of life for girls?”[5] I’ll tell you why: popular culture and culture in general, as in plays, books, movies and music. Even Shakespeare characterized his female leads as delicate, emotional and in need of love. With the exception of Viola of Twelfth Night, who was perhaps the manifestation of Shakespeare’s inner feminist? Keep in mind; he also suggested that Kate from the Taming of the Shrew could be “tamed.” It is commonly said that history is written by men then retaught by men. Now, this isn’t my attempt at playing the blame game but rather a way of recognizing the source and fixing the problem.Popular culture shouldn’t portray female characters as these lustful, lonely beings that need men to complete them.

Even more concerning is the objectification of women in the music industry and the ways in which “women are largely absent from areas such as music production and technical aspects of the industry”[6] Specific music styles and even instruments are considered masculine.[7] Mavis Brayton, the author of Frock and Rock, which is a book about the era of punk rock, indie and soul, remarks “femininity is a social construct.” Which proves true considering all of its outrageous criteria.[8]

In music videos, women are sexually objectified and treated like slaves. A musician pours alcohol on a half naked woman to emphasize his authority and her submissiveness. Juxtaposed side a catchy beat, the sexist lyrics is overlooked and hummed by teenage boys and girls worldwide. Akon shows us how to treat women in “Smack That;” and I don’t have to provide lyrics for you to understand what the song is about. Even women are allowing this misogyny and sexism to rule by objectifying their own bodies and characterizing themselves as purely sexual beings. For example, Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty” and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Then there are the female musicians who only sing about love, broken hearts and men. I have only begun to hear Taylor Swift sing about female empowerment, assertiveness and independence.

Being a woman of colour is sort of a double whammy in the mind of a bigot. I think prejudice is like Chemical X, excuse the Powerpuff Girls reference, it poses as a catalyst for new ideas; It makes you rethink modern structures and equality, but it takes its toll. How have my personal experiences with the social construct of femininity affected my life? They’ve made me become more assertive, more ambitious and much more critical of who I associate myself with. The objectification of women in popular culture is a method to control. Has it swayed me? Yes, in some ways more than others, but I’ve learned that my life isn’t about the opposite sex nor is it about romance and relationships. I’ve also learned that sex doesn’t sell, objectification does. But guess who buys it? Those who objectify.

[1] Norris, Pippa, and Politics Press. Women, Media, and Politics. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. 46. Print

[2] Ibid.

[3]Ibid.

 

[4] Milestone, Katie, and Anneke Meyer. Gender and Popular Culture. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012. 87. Print.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Milestone and Meyer, Gender and Popular Culture. 47. Print.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

 

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