Language Disclaimer: this article includes explicit language and images.
The “ideal” woman is a hot topic that is in constant conversation. Discussions often include what it means to truly embrace femininity and how each woman can meet the standards society has decided to set for us. While these standards have shifted with each generation, the current climate is a complicated one. While women are fighting for their equality harder than ever before, and many are choosing to embrace their sexuality more than past generations, the societal norms and pressures have not subsided. These pressures make it increasingly harder for newer generations to navigate the complexities of societal expectations.
As our society has progressed, our music has as well; more explicit language, more graphic music videos, and more of an overall sense that people are starting to do what they want. While this can be a positive thing, the “do what you want” mindset can pose to be somewhat detrimental.
Due to women being in a significant amount of music videos, oftentimes as the central visual, there is a certain responsibility that seems to be negated when creating videos. There is a fine line between placing women in empowering positions and objectifying ones. With the line nowadays being so blurred, it can be hard to determine which is which.
A good place to start is the lyrics. Lyrics are everything in music. Eliciting a love story, explaining a tragedy, or simply talking about an attractive person. The bottom line: lyrics mean everything.
Our society, explicit music lyrics are not foreign to our ears. We have become desensitized to the use of suggestive language, violent words, and downright objectifying notions because of their constant occurrence and normalization. I have fallen victim to it myself, singing the words to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” back in my early high school years, having no idea that the words promoted and suggested non-consensual actions with women.
One prudent example is the overuse of the word “bitch” when referring to women. While the word “bitch” can sometimes be used as a word of empowerment, it can also be used to demean women and lower their status. The negative use of the word has become so normalized that it appears in countless songs:
“I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip flops, I just had some bitches and I made ‘em lip lock” – Future (Thought It Was A Drug)
“They know that’s my bitch, that’s a fact and she stuck with me” – A Boogie wit da Hoodie (My Shit)
“These bitches gotta start paying me for this” – Drake (All Me)
“You need that work, I got that work, got bitches in my condo” – 2 Chainz (All Me)
“I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one” – Big Sean (All Me)
“My bitch got good pussy fly her ‘cross the country” – Da Baby (BOP)
“Bitches ain’t sh*t but h*es and tricks” – Dr. Dre (Bitches Ain’t Shit)
In addition, there are lyrics that simply are a blunt objectification of women:
“Boolin’ with a thot-thot, she gon’ give me top-top/Just one switch, I can make the ass drop” – Post Malone (Psycho)
“Pussy got that wet, wet, got that drip, drip/Got that Super Soaker, hit that, she a Fefe/Her name Keke, she eat my dick like it’s free, free” – 6ix9ine (FeFe)
“I’m not a fool/I just love that you’re dead inside/I know I should leave you and learn to mistreat you/’cause you belong to the world” – The Weekend (Belong to the World)
“I know you want it” – Robin Thicke (Blurred Lines)
The lyrics speak for themselves.
While there are many videos I could go in-depth about, there is one in particular that I think truly encapsulates the toxicity that I have been attempting to highlight.
“Ransom” by Lil Tecca.
Photos from the music video:
Throughout almost the entire music video all you see are women with little to no clothing on, shaking their asses, being touched by men, touching the artist(s), and overall being objectified. What tops it off is the fact these women have their faces blurred out or not in the video at all. There is a clear disassociation with these women and their identity to take away any sense of self they might have.
These women in the music video are being stripped of any type of power and being put in a position where their sole purpose is for the body to be on display. Having these women in a position to be “readily available” to the male artist takes away these women’s agency and puts them in a position of inferiority.
A study done by the American Psychological Association from 1995 to 2016 looked at music videos and the sexualization these videos elicit. “The study found that the accumulated exposure to the sexualizing media we see in music videos will lead women to learn that a sexy appearance is a central element of femininity which it is worth to strive for,” Karsay, one of the study’s researchers, told PsyPost.
Young minds, especially young female minds, are malleable. They absorb and mold to that which they hear, see, and experience. We all know music is a powerful medium. Music often influences much of our young adolescent life. The videos and lyrics that young minds are exposed can strongly influence how they see the world, themselves, those around them, and society.
This can be powerful and empowering when used properly. However, when videos and lyrics express things such as the objectification and sexualization of women, young women then mold their view of themselves and other women to fit what they now think to be true. This can be detrimental and is something we need to be prepared to educate ourselves and young women on.
It is impossible to erase and eradicate social norms fully. However, it is possible to educate yourself, those around you, and the generations to come. Women need to know that popular music videos that are constantly on repeat by millions of people are not what defines femininity. These videos and lyrics do not set the standard for what is appropriate or acceptable for women.
Women shouldn’t be subjected to thinking that the only way to express femininity is a single concrete idea – created by men I might add.
It is about choice. But to make choices, one needs to know the options. Therefore, it is important for women to know that there are varying ways to express themselves—various ways to be feminine, to be sexy, to be a female.
Wear what you want. Dress how you please. Do with your body what you wish. It is about doing what you desire as a woman.
Rewrite your narrative how you see fit.