Samples of Violence Towards Women in Popular Culture

In this first artifact, we see and advertisement for Jimmy Choo shoes. This ad depicts a white woman “lounging” rather glamorously in the trunk of what appears to be a black man’s car. Apparently the two in the picture are celebrities Quincy Jones and Molly Sims, however, if you had no knowledge of who the two were in this ad, the names would be taken away and you would only be left with representations of certain groups of people. Looking at the car, the brand modeled, and the individuals’ attired, one can assume these people are of the upper class bracket. Another interesting facet of this ad would be the races and genders of those depicted, a black man and a white woman, two groups who have been vying for power over recent American history. Here the man most clearly has the power. This ad seems to be supporting normative values, especially the stereotype where black men are meant to be feared by white women, that they are violent and mean them harm.


In this second artifact, the video Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy, we also see the propagation of violence against women but in a different way. It seems through the video we are seeing the world through the heterosexual, pornographic, male gaze. However, at the end of the video, we are left with the realization that we were looking through a woman’s eyes all along. This twist at the end of the video manages to disrupt the normative understanding of a video like this. However, the male voice narrating the video throughout with the lyrics “smack my bitch up” seem to support the normative values that we think we are seeing until the end of the video. There is also quite a bit of violence depicted towards women, throughout the video. While the ending disrupts the assumed male protagonist ideal, the female still treats many women during her journey through the night as objects; groping, feeling and scanning bodies at her leisure, which in turn is still promoting normative values of the objectification of women and violence towards them through those means. Also, considering the fact that the unveiled female protagonist at the end surprises us, we can in turn look at that as proof of how normalized violence against women from men is.

The third piece is another music video, Closer, by Nine Inch Nails. While most of the video is relatively disturbing in itself, with grotesque images of pigs’ heads and slabs of meat hanging from walls, much of the real problem comes again with the lyrics, as it did with the previous music video. Near the beginning of the song, problematic lyrics arise already. “You let me violate you…” This song is obviously in the context of sex, sung from a white male’s point of view. While this verse in the song seems consensual, violation carries the tone of whatever sexual act is being performed of being nonconsensual. The lyrics are deceptive in the way that the singer seems to be talking down to the woman during the song, seeming to make it more of a rape fantasy than something the woman clearly agrees to.  Through this, and this set of lyrics in the song, there is a power construct from the man to the woman, comparing her to an animal and displaying that sexual, and possibly violent power over her.

The next artifact is a clip from the 1996 movie Fear. In this scene, the boyfriend of the girl Reese Witherspoon plays has gathered a group of his friends to attack her house, to potentially harm both her and her family. This is a very real example of violence against women, and all too real in some cases. This does seem to me utilizing the stereotype of the stalker boyfriend, the guy too good to be true who slowly unveils his very dark side. Throughout the movie, the boyfriend is very manipulative towards Reese’s character, after every transgression he makes, he somehow finds an excuse for himself, or blames her in some way. This in itself is emotionally and mentally abusive and is an act of violence, although not directly physical. Although the boyfriend does get physically violent earlier in the movie, this scene exemplified a lot of normative values about relationships that our culture has. For one, the general possessiveness of men about their girlfriends that seems to be the general cultural norm is very clearly shown here. The boyfriend along with his friends are damaging her and her families property, and mean to do them all physical harm to either punish Reese’s character from leaving him, or to obtain her once more for his or their pleasure.

The last artifact that is presented in this playlist is a meme called Good Girl Gina. This is an example that is definitely presented from the male point of view and is a good example of violence, and even excusal of violence against women. The meme makes the assumption that the drunken sex was consensual, and that the woman was completely able to make a “good decision” based on her current state. This meme also implies that the man in the situation was not at all responsible for the results of the sexual encounter, or the woman’s regret. This meme definitely follows the normative values our society seems to have about victim-blaming and rape. Rather than a man saying no to sex, due to an intoxicated partner, the woman only has herself to blame for her guilt, and shouldn’t have put herself in that place in the first place.

As a whole, these texts create a web of different ways violence against women is portrayed and normalized through pop culture using different media. Something that really stood out to me through the artifacts I chose, were that only white women were represented. Women of color have violence acted upon them, but perhaps conditions in our culture allow over-representation of white women in this sphere as well. Perhaps whiteness being the “norm” in our culture, and this kind of violence, especially sexual being glamorized and excused, creates a climate where violence is represented mostly by those who are deemed sexually attractive within those norms by the media. Also, many of these examples exemplify the normative value that women exists to serve men as the men in their lives see fit, having little to no power over their choices and their consequences. This subjects women to violence even more so being that they are seen as not having that power over these various aspects of their lives. Many of these examples, including the movie from which the clip was taken portray the violence they describe as something sexy, something to be fantasized about and something the men in the pieces seem to want or have wanted. The men in these pieces also seem to take ownership of the woman they are interacting with or are referring to. And with something that a person views as their own and as an object, they are free to do with that object whatever they wish. This creates an attitude that women are really something less than human, comparable to animals, as they were clearly compared to in Closer. When there is an overwhelming attitude like this, the group of people described as less than human are harder to empathize with by those in power, and are furthermore subjected to the kinds of violence touched on by these examples.


Beck, Laura. Good Girl Gina.. 2012. Jezebel. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Fear. 1996. Youtube, 2011. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Closer. Writ. Nine Inch Nails. 1994. Vimeo, 2009. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Smack My Bitch Up. Writ. The Prodigy. 1997. YouTube. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Jimmy Choo. Advertisement. AdPulp. N.p., 25 Aug. 2006. Web. 8 Oct. 2013.

Lull, James. “Hegemony.” Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach, Columbia University Press, 1995. 61-65. Print.

Frye, Marilyn. Oppression. N.p.: Crossings Press., 1993. 38-52. Print.

Jhally, S. (1990, July). Image-based culture: Advertising and popular culture. The World and I, 506-519.

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

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