“Jhally’s Dreamworlds II: Desire, Sex, Power in Music Video discusses the portrayal of women as sexual objects in music videos (especially videos in the ‘main stream’). Although Dreamlands is a bit dated and the music videos presented are probably outside the realm of popular culture, the overarching themes presented are still very present in modern music videos, especially rap music videos, which seem to subscribe especially closely to gender norms. And it’s not just the music industry—contemporary music, film, and magazines, things that I call “popular media” all seem to share these same images. This is significant because in this modern age we are bombarded with media, and there is a strong relationship between the messages that those media send and the way that women act and are treated in our society. Pink’s music video “Stupid Girls” helps illuminate this relationship by describing the harmful effects of the prevailing image of women in popular media.”
“Pink uses satire to critique the portrayal of women as sexual objects in popular music videos, saying, in the first verse, ‘What happened to the dream of a girl president? She’s dancing in the video next to 50 cent.'”
“This sets up a stark contrast between the image of a woman of power and the image of a woman as a sexy extra in a rap music video. We’re all familiar with the female extras in rap videos who are often present in huge numbers, with their slim figures and ample breasts, dancing provocatively and wearing next to nothing. They are there as symbols of the success and power of the male rappers. Their huge numbers help cement their place as expendable extras. They have no independence and their definition of self is dependent upon the man’s. Firestone calls this “surrogate identity”. De Beauvoir describes this same phenomenon, saying, “She is defined and differentiated with reference to man”.
“So what is significant about all of this? Representation of women in popular media plays an integral role in the behavior or women in our society. We get our image of femininity and female beauty from popular media. It gives us a goal to strive for. Of course, there is more complexity to this relationship—society must influence media in the same way that media influences society. However, what can be said for certain is that images in media and actions, behaviours, and ideals in society perpetuate each-other, increasing the influential power of social norms. Similarly, because this strong relationship between society and media exists, an effective way to create change in society is to change media.”
“Pink’s “Stupid Girls” speaks directly to these ideas. The narrative of the music video is framed around a young girl watching television, with a good angel on one shoulder and a bad angel on the other.”
“The imagery on the TV starts with a classroom where a teacher is showing students how to act “ladylike,” instructing them on how to flip their hair back and reprimanding one girl for picking at her teeth.”
“The little girl watching TV immediately imitates the girls on TV by flipping her own hair.”
“This is a clear statement about the fact that girls, especially young ones, take their definition of feminine behaviour from the images that they see on television. Music videos perpetuate the same imbalanced power structure that we see in fairy tales as in the way that these fairy tales have a large impact on peoples’ characters because they’re heard during the early, formative years of peoples’ lives. I’d argue that images of women in popular media are just as impactful, and perhaps even more so because they are so much more culturally relevant, making them more real to the people viewing them. Also, let’s not underestimate the number of young girls who watch MTV over the shoulders of their big sisters, who want desperately to be older and are searching for what it means to be a mature woman.”
“In ‘Stupid Girls,’ Pink not only illustrates the issue of objectification of women in media and its impact on women and girls around the country, but also to propose a solution. As mentioned before, the relationship between media and culture means that the two perpetuate each-other, but it also means that they have the power to change each-other. By getting this music video on MTV, Pink has taken affirmative action in questioning and changing the imagery of women as objects with which we are bombarded daily. With some luck, this change in the media that we consume may help our society form a new image of femininity that involves personal empowerment and is not dependent upon sexual appeal.”
This research will impact me on my final product as it allows me to broaden my research into pop music and doing so will also allow me to understand the ways music videos (in this example Pink) are portrayed.