Sexualization of Women in the Media by Amanda Kaebel

Women are extremely sexualized throughout the media.  I used to think that women were really only sexualized through music videos, but after only a few weeks taking this class, I have realized that there is so much more.  I now am able to think intersectionally and do not only see white women being sexualized, but also class, age, and also seeing the absence of women of color, which is why I chose to use a variety of media tactics. I am now able to think intersectionally when I come across media that sexualizes women.

Rolling Stone Magazine Covers

Rolling Stone Covers

Rolling Stone Covers

Each woman in the three covers of Rolling Stone is being extremely sexualized.  In the first picture, there are two women from the show “Gossip Girls”, and both girls are licking an ice cream cone. I searched a plot overview on the show, and found that the show in fact had nothing to do with food, but the women showing their sexuality licking the ice cream are what attract the viewers.  The second and third pictures are of two women posed half naked.  According to the Dreamworlds 3 video, this reflects the pornographic imagination of thinking of women being defined only by their sexuality. Finally, I noticed that there were no women of color in any of the cover photos.  I then decided to do a search on Rolling Stone covers, and failed to find any women of color in others either.

Axe Body Spray Ad

Axe Body Spray Ad

Axe Body Spray Ad

This ad shows a woman with her skirt flying up.  When searching Axe Body Spray, I noticed that there were also no women of color.  The only women that I saw were skinny white women.  I thought back to Peggy McIntosh’s article that a daily effect of white privilege is that one can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of white race widely represented (McIntosh 71).  The slogan “less work more play” is implying that men only have to perform little work to get what they want out of a woman. The ad is sending out a message that if men buy and use the body spray, then it will blow a woman away and he can get any woman that he wants.

2Chainz- Birthday Song

The video shows women dancing around men.  The theme of the song is wanting a “big booty hoe.”  This sends out a message for women that they should have a certain body that all men will want.  This also falls within the lines of bell hooks’ idea that “these stereotypes simultaneously reflect and distort both the ways in which black women view themselves (individually and collectively) and the ways in which they are viewed by others.”  This video also shows a good representation of class in the beginning of the video when a mom is sitting at the table trying to control her child.  This portrays the idea of the “jezebel” and of the video vixen of females willing to play this role to succeed in hip hop (Springer 209).  Finally, I noticed that the women’s faces were vaguely shown in the video which shows how women have little voice in society.

Britney Spears- I’m a Slave 4 U

This video shows a good representation of hyper sexualization.  Britney Spears is dancing erotic and is trying to pull away from her image of the “good girl.”  Her lyrics of “I’m a slave for you” show the idea of male masculinity and control.  This video shows the idea brought up in Dreamworlds 3 of males having control over women’s bodies, and the idea that women look up to men.  In her lyrics, Britney states that she wants to do what the male wants her to do.  This goes along well with the idea of the role of whiteness at production level.  White men are the ones who are in control of the current media empires and are the producers of female sexuality in music videos.

Trace Adkins- Honky Tonk Badonkadonk

For my final video, I chose to go out of the boundary of rap and hip hop videos.  Just like rap and hip hop videos, this country music video also sexualizes women.  Just like my first video of “Birthday Song,” this video also talks about the bottom half of women.  The women are also dancing erotic.  People tend to think that country music plays on the safe side and does not tend to sexual women, but in fact, some do.  This brings up the idea that women dancing are inviting the viewers to gaze at them by showing their bodies and live for male attention as discussed in Dreamworlds 3.  Finally, I saw only one woman of color, which was a Latina woman.  There were no black women in the video, almost all white women.

Together, all five artifacts demonstrate the sexuality of women in the media.  In all five of the artifacts, the women were shown merely on their appearance rather than what the article or video was about.  The women were all either half naked or were dancing erotic, and males were the intended audience for every piece that I chose.   Every woman was either dancing or posing for the camera and shows the heterosexual male fantasy discussed in Dreamworlds 3.  These women were all glamorized and normalized.

The videos make assumptions on race and sexuality that women need to have this particular body which will attract all of the men.  A question to ask is who comes up with this certain image?  Who decides what is “hot” and what is not?  It is so difficult for women to find their own identity with all of the pressure in society.  In some societies, appearances of women need to be thin, while in others, women should be “thick”.  I have noticed that in many rap and hip hop cultures, men portray this image that women need to have a thicker bottom half, but still a small midsection, whereas in other cultures, women need to be so thin to where their ribs are showing.  This brings much confusion to women either women deal with much pressure to be stick thin, while others are under pressure to be “thick.”  Society shows that women need to be either skinny or thick; there is no in between.

In the rap video that I chose, there were no white women in the video.  There were only women of color in the video, whereas in the country video, there were only white women.  There is no blend of races in these videos, which I tend to see in many videos that I watch.  Country videos stick to white women, whereas rap and hip hop videos stick to women of color.

There is evidence of heteronormativity because the video presumes evidence that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation.  The women are not touching each other in the video, while there are no masculine looking women either in the video.  All of the women have on makeup, their hair done, and are all wearing clothes that show their skin.  There is no sign that there are any asexual or transsexual women in the video.

Women tend to put themselves in social categories.  We rely on stereotypes to define who we are, which turns into identities.  “When it comes to interpreting the meaning of categories, gender, race, class, and sexuality, we tend to rely quite heavily on stereotypes” (Wray pg. 8). When we put ourselves into a category, we tend to think that this is who we are and it is set in stone, and that there is no room for change.

It will continue to be an uphill battle for women and their sexuality.  Women, especially black women, have been silenced on sexuality and will continue to if society and the media do not change the way that women are sexualized.  “Change means growth, and growth can be painful” (Lorde).  If there were to be the slightest bit of reduction in female sexuality and masculinity control, there could be change and women could finally stick up for their sexuality.

Works Cited

Adkins, Trace. “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” YouTube. 25 February 2009. Web. 7 October 2013.

“AXE Body Spray, Deodorant, Hair, and Shower Gel Products.” The Axe Effect. Web. 7 October 2013.

Chainz, 2. “Birthday Song.” YouTube. 30 August 2012. Web. 7 October 2013.

Hatton, Eric, and Trautner, Mary Nell. “Gender, Sexualization, and Rolling Stone.” Sociological Images. 11 December 2011. Web. 7 October 2013.

hooks, bell. “Is Paris Burning?” Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston, MA: South End, 1992. 145-56. Print.

Jhally, Sut, Andrew Killoy, and Joe Bartone. Dreamworlds 3: Desire, Sex & Power in Music Video. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 2007.

Lorde, Audre. “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference.” Sister Outsider. April 1980. Print.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Peace and Freedom (July/August 1989), 9-10; repr. in Independent School, 49 (1990), 31–35.

Spears, Britney. “I’m a Slave 4 U.” YouTube. 29 October 2009. Web. 7 October 2013.

Springer, Kimberly. “Queering Black Female Sexuality.” Sex, Power, and Intimacy. 2008. Print.

Wray, Matt.  White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness. 2006.  Duham: Duke University Press.

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