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Tag: Lady Gaga

Prevent Official Release of Kanye West’s Women-Hating “Monster” video

I have been expressing concern over music and music videos that demean women for some time. Back in 2008 in a post “Claim back the music” I questioned the growing trend towards lyrical sexism and misogyny:

Song lyrics have always been filled with sexual innuendo and pushed society’s boundaries but this in-your-face mainstream misogyny is relatively new. And now – thanks to large plasma screens in shopping centres, bowling alleys and bars and night clubs – it is inescapable. It’s hate and porn, all the time.

I went so far as to call on radio stations to devote a day to music that portrays women in a positive light:

Five years ago if you had suggested we needed Earth Hour, an hour where we all turned off the lights to remind ourselves to be mindful of power consumption and our impact on the planet, you would have been thought a radical environmental extremist. Yet as things literally heated up, the lights all went out. How much hotter do things need to get on our airwaves and on our TV sets? I suspect society will also agree we have now indeed reached tipping point and will embrace a day that seeks to claim back the music.

Smart radio stations will jump on board. Overseas, special days devoted to the positive portrayal of women in music have pushed radio stations ratings through the roof…

And as companies madly chase the female dollar, surely keeping women happy and showing them, and their daughters, respect can only be a smart and strategic marketing move?

Money doesn’t just talk – it sings too.

Sadly, rather than noting change what I have noted is just how mainstream hypersexual imagery in music has now become. Case in point? At the Australian Small Business Champion Awards held in November last year, where Enlighten were Finalists for Educational Services Business of the Year, the entertainment was a Gaga tribute band. You may recall me questioning Gaga in my previous post Lady Gaga’s Toxic Mess:

(in her film clip for “Telephone”) Lady Gaga gets thrown in a sadomasochistic-porn-fantasy version of a women’s prison; there is violence, sexual intimidation, graphic tongue kissing, cigarettes, and barely any clothes. Then her lover Beyonce bails her out so they can go on a killing spree, murdering multiple people, most of them strangers, by poisoning them. They look like they’re having a great time. They drive off into the sunset. Think “Thelma and Louise” but drained of all meaning and instead filled with product placement for mobile phones, sunglasses and other branded gear you may soon be expecting teen girls to start asking for.

There my team and I sat amongst the other mostly senior businesspeople dressed in our black-tie and ball-gown best, whilst up on stage the Gaga wannabe pretended to masturbate with a microphone and rubbed her crotch up and down her dancers, who were gagged and dressed only in silver underpants. It was surreal. Sad. Embarrassing. Where to look? What to say? “Congratulations on being named Entrepreneur of The Year. And oh I say, if you look up now on the big screens you will see a charming close up of that woman’s crotch!”

A snapshot of how women are portrayed in the musical charts at the moment also proves I am right to remain concerned. Number one on the iTunes charts is the song “Dirty Talk” by Wynter Gordon. She repeatedly tells us she is no angel, wants to “fight through the night” and likes it “hard-core”:

Kitten heels, lingerie,

Pantyhose, foreplay,

Legs up, on the bar,

in the back of your car,

latex, champagne,

bubble bath, whipped cream,

cherry pop tag team,

can you make me scream

In case you’re not familiar with the terminology, “cherry pop tag team” is a reference to her wanting to have sex with many partners – one after the other. One assumes she’d prefer this to happen whilst being made to scream.

The one-time poster girl against domestic violence Rihanna, in her song subtly named “S&M” croons:

Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it

Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it

Sticks and stones may break my bones

But chains and whips excite me

I appreciate that sadomasochism does not predispose those aroused by it to participating in or enjoying violent acts outside the metaphoric bedroom – yet I can’t help but wonder if the young fans get the distinction. Surely mainstream exposure to lyrics like this, sung by artists they admire, make it more challenging for them to distinguish what is acceptable in a relationship? As I cited in my recent post Because We’re Worth More, the most recent national data shows that one in three women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15, nearly one in five women has experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 and almost every week, one woman is killed by her current or former partner.

The reality is not very sexy or song-worthy is it?

Meanwhile HipHopConnection.com has leaked a video teaser for the Kanye West hit song “Monster.” The teams at Adios Barbie and Collective Shout gave me the heads-up on this one. So alarmed were they by the scenes of eroticised violence against women that they have put together a petition to ask for it not to be released here. They explain why it is so disturbing.

images

In just 30 seconds, viewers take in image after image of eroticized violence against women:

– Dead women, clad in lingerie, hang by chains around their necks.

– West makes sexual moves toward dead or drugged women propped up in a bed.

– A naked dead or drugged woman lays sprawled on a sofa.

If that’s not enough, a behind-the-scenes clip of the video includes a semi-naked dead woman laying spread eagled on a table in front of Rick Ross as he eats a plate of raw meat. It is likely we can expect more brutal images in the full-length video.

The victims in this video are clearly women. Only women. And the men, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z, are far from bothered by the female corpses. They seem to enjoy being surrounded by lifeless female bodies, apparent victims of a serial killing.

The official release date of the full-length video has not yet been announced. Let’s make it clear to Universal Music Group, the controlling company of West’s record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, and MTV that the music industry’s portrayals of women’s pain, suffering, abuse, objectification, and victimization as valid forms of entertainment are not acceptable.

We call on Universal Music Group and MTV to combat violence against women by refusing to support, promote, and/or give airtime to West’s “Monster” video.

I urge all my readers to sign this petition too. It will take less than a minute.

Enough is enough. Agree?

Lady Gaga’s Toxic Mess

Lots of girls love Lady Gaga. Her music’s catchy, for one thing. Then there’s all the fashion and theatrics. And the controversy. Her videos have always been ultra-sexy with an undertone of menace, but her latest clip, Telephone, has gone way beyond acceptable for kids. Even for me as an adult, watching the full uncensored version, which is easily accessed by anyone on YouTube, was stomach churning.

For those who haven’t seen it and don’t want to give Lady Gaga any more oxygen by watching it, the idea is: Lady Gaga gets thrown in a sadomasochistic-porn-fantasy version of a women’s prison; there is violence, sexual intimidation, graphic tongue kissing, cigarettes, and barely any clothes. Then her lover Beyonce bails her out so they can go on a killing spree, murdering multiple people, most of them strangers, by poisoning them. They look like they’re having a great time. They drive off into the sunset. Think “Thelma and Louise” but drained of all meaning and instead filled with product placement for mobile phones, sunglasses and other branded gear you may soon be expecting teen girls to start asking for.

What a toxic mess of hypersexuality, consumerism and violence.

Some see Lady Gaga as a talented artist whose work is ironic and leans toward the Quentin Tarantino side of things. But as Jim Schumacher and Debbie Bookchin write in their excellent Huffington Post blog:

What if glitzy Lady Gaga is exactly what she appears to be: The latest manifestation of a culture industry that pushes the boundaries of civility and sexuality to the extreme in order to make a buck? And worse, pushes it on our kids long before they want or need to be presented with some middle-aged ad executive’s personal sadomasochistic sexual fantasies?

Who decreed that the highest bidder (read: the product sponsors who pay for such videos and media moguls who stand to profit) should be allowed to impose violent sexual conditioning on our kids?

Why isn’t anyone debating whether the hyper-sexualization of teenage girls and hyper-materialism that claims to be critiquing fame and consumerism, even while shoving it down our throats, is doing us any good as a society?

I am proud to step forward and do just that. I don’t think this is doing us any good as a society, and I think it’s bad for girls to see this stuff at the time when they are busy forming their own identity and ideas about relationships and sexuality. I hope that you, too, will join me by discussing the images in Lady Gaga’s videos with your daughters and students. We can’t censor what kids watch, but we can help them deconstruct it and consider it from all angles.

The other thing we can do is let marketers know that it’s unacceptable for them to push their products on girls by using hypersexual, violent, adult imagery. Virgin Mobile is the most notable product placement. If you agree with me after watching the Lady Gaga video and would like to let Virgin know how you feel, their email address is team@virginmobile.com.au, and their postal address is Locked Bag 17, ROYAL EXCHANGE NSW 1225.

Those who argue that this is a big fuss over nothing and girls aren’t influenced by hypersexual videos clearly haven’t seen this video of an 8-year-old girl on Brazil’s version of “Australia’s Got Talent”. She sings and dances just like Lady Gaga, complete with sexy moves she can’t (or shouldn’t) possibly understand the meaning of at her age:

 

butterfly-effectLady Gaga is not the only culprit, of course. When I wrote about this in my book, The Butterfly Effect, I noted the misogynistic and violent lyrics of rapper Eminem, and the hypersexual videos of The Pussycat Dolls and The Veronicas. But don’t get me wrong, there are also amazing female singers and girl bands that are all about power and strength. As well as helping our girls make sense of the too-adult, too-sexy images of many music videos, we can offer up examples of women who are producing music and videos that send a much more empowering message. So I want to end on a positive note by sharing with you the wonderful female artist India Arie. Girls at Enlighten Education’s workshops light up when we play her songs, which are not just great music but also the perfect antidote to the messages of so many other video clips. The girls (and I!) love her song Video (“I’m not the average girl from your video; My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes”) and the simply sublime Beautiful Flower, whose lyrics always bring a tear to my eye and make me think of all those beautiful girls Enlighten Education has worked with (“You’re beautiful like a flower, more valuable than a diamond”):

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