The Objectification of Women and Misogyny in Hip Hop Music

By: Erica Schmidt

My playlist theme is how women are objectified and mistreated in hip hop music as a whole. This theme is important because it’s becoming more and more acceptable in today’s society. If people recognize how these music videos portray women and how they affect younger girls, then maybe our society will drop certain stereotypes and let women be treated like human beings. I picked all hip hop music videos because hip hop is the genre with the most black artists who objectify women in their videos. I didn’t realize just how much women are objectified in music videos until I took this class. I am able to analyze how these women present themselves and how their surroundings play into their role as an object.

Monster by Kanye West

During this music video black men are put out to be sexualized monsters who would hurt white women. This is a stereotype that shows how black men are monsters and rape women. Throughout the video we are presented with a series of lifeless, nearly naked, mutilated women’s bodies. We see women, or parts of women, all white, draped across sofas, propped up in beds, hanging from nooses, and all with perfectly applied make up and high heels. In addition to the sexualized, dismembered body parts, we’re also treated to Kanye holding up a freshly severed head. There’s also a stereotype of white women being vulnerable to men. In this video, women are clearly used as objects and it shows the hatred of women clearly throughout. There was also a moment when a black guy had a chain saw and was cutting up a women’s body. The video makes the viewer see that the white women are mutilated and dead and the black women are evil and cannibalized.

Nikki Minaj’s performance in this video was definitely one to note. The fact that there was a monstrous Nikki and a “good” Nikki is connected to the virgin/whore binary. The monstrous Nikki is considered the whore and is wearing lingerie tights with a thong so everyone can see her butt when she is dancing. The “good” Nikki is wearing a princess dress and is tied up showing that there is no way out. This goes back to when we talked about double bind and how the virgin/whore binary is an example of a lose-lose situation because being a virgin could mean that she’s a prune, so either way she loses.

Tip Drill- Nelly

This video is full of half-naked black women dancing around being touched up and down by men. The video tells young men that it is okay to judge women simply on their body and it tells young girls that men only want them for the bodies. This is a dangerous message to send to young girls, because if they see a video like this and they have low self-esteem and are not receiving attention from men, they may try and present themselves like some of the girls in the video at an attempt to grab attention from men. In class we talked about how the “ideal body” differs from race to race. Women of color usually have a bigger butt where as white woman have bigger breasts. Money is being thrown everywhere, which implies that they are prostitutes or strippers. These women are only there to please men and be under their control. Berger makes a good point in Ways of Seeing when he says, “Men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated” (Berger 49).

The camera angles that are used in the video are mainly from the bottom looking up at the girls’ butts or from the top looking down into a girl’s breasts. The scene where the men were throwing money on the girls while smacking their butts emphasizes how women are treated as objects, especially when one of the rappers swiped a credit card through the crease of a girl’s butt crack. This video contains only black girls which brings up the stereotype that black girls are the only ones who have big butts since the song implies that “It must be ya ass cause it ain’t ya face / I need a tipdrill, I need a tipdrill”. These lyrics also show how women are degraded since the men are only looking at one part of their bodies and nothing else.

Make It Nasty- Tyga

First and foremost, before the music video even starts there is a warning that says, “Due to the sexually explicit content you must be 18 years of age in order to view video”. This immediately tells the viewer that there are going to be naked women who are sexualizing themselves for men. There were women kissing each other which goes against the fact that everyone is supposed to be heterosexual. This is an example of an oppositional reading since it disrupts domestic “norms”. The pillow fighting that takes place gives off a dismissive tone because they want people to think they are just playing like at a normal slumber party. This video is strictly for the male gaze. Women are kissing each other, they’re naked, and they’re rubbing and sucking on each other’s breasts. The usage of the word “bitch” further emphasizes the hatred of women and how they are objectified. Instead of acknowledging them as real human beings, they are being degraded by being called a bitch. In the reading Gender, Race, and Media Representation the word, “ho is the most common term placed upon women in hip hop” (Brooks 301).

Headband- B.O.B.

At the beginning of this video, B.O.B. is sitting at a desk, then hangs up the phone and points at one of the two ladies that walk up and says, “That’s the one”. This shows the power that he has over the woman. That kind of scene with a man being behind a desk in charge emphasizes the power men have over women in the workforce. They’re taking real life situations and reinforcing them in the music video. The production level of the music video puts women’s legs opening into a “V” to close out a scene and open up into the next one. This allows the viewer to only focus on one part of a woman’s body, the lower half. The women in this video are all wearing the same clothing and are performing the exact same choreography meaning they are all the same and have the same role in the video, which is to express their sexuality in a way that appeals to the male gaze.

My Neck, My Back – Khia

This video is different than the rest of the videos I chose in the fact that a woman is the main artist and it is an older video. The video shows that not only do men talk about women in a sexualized way but women do too. Khia is objectifying herself to men as she is saying that all women want sex. She is sexualized not in what she wears, but in what she says. It goes against the norm that men have power over women because Khia is the one demanding the guy to lick her all over. She is trying to reclaim the power that is hers. In the video, a guy never “licked her neck, back, pussy, or crack” and the girls were almost fully clothed. This shows a big difference between music videos now and music videos back in the day. Music videos today show more nudity and objectification of women than Khia’s video did. Even though her video didn’t show much nudity, the lyrics expressed the desire that women always want sex.

The camera angles were mainly either from the bottom looking up or the top looking down. This further showed how men want to see women for their body and not who they are as a human being. There was also a scene where a white woman is grilling hamburgers. This implies that white women are not as good dancers as black woman so the production committee assigned her to be a cook. A woman making food goes along with the stereotype that all women should stay at home and be the caregiver.

Analysis

Music videos have become a central and vital part of entertainment. In the movie Dreamworlds 3, it was said that, “From the very origins, music videos like other forms of advertising have relied very heavily on stories concerning female sexuality to fulfill their function of selling CD’s and albums” (Dreamworlds 3). This is something that is seen throughout the whole world with all women of different races. Hip Hop expresses the idea that the only good thing about women is the way they look and these ideas have been shown over and over again so now the public thinks it’s “normal”. This is shown through all five of the hip hop music videos I have chosen. The objectification and misogyny brings out the true meaning behind what these artists want to accomplish.

Besides the objectification of women in these music videos I noticed that race also played a big factor. Tip Drill only had black women in it, while the others had mainly black women and a few mixed races. Some may say that there is a stereotype that black women have big butts, which further explains why they are chosen to be in these videos. Their bodies are viewed as objects with no value at all. This is shown in the reading Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema where it says, “The beauty of the women as an object and the screen space coalesce; she is no longer the bearer of guilt but a perfect product, whose body, stylized and fragmented by close-ups, is the content of the film and the direct recipient of the spectator’s look” (Mulvey 63).

Much of the music videos specifically promote negative images of black women. All women, but mostly black women in particular are seen in popular hip-hop culture as sex objects. The “Black Female heterosexuality seems to move deeper and deeper into unhealthy territory that is less about personal satisfaction and more about men’s satisfaction” (Springer 209). Almost every hip-hop video that is regularly run today shows many dancing women (usually surrounding one or two men) wearing not much more than bikinis, with the cameras focusing on their body parts. These images are shown to go along with the lyrics that commonly contain name calling to suggest that women are not worth anything more than money, if that.

Age and gender roles are seen throughout these videos also. The black men that are singing the lyrics and the women that are all around them (which is an example from Dreamworlds 3 of how most women are seen surrounded the main artist) are all young with most of them in their mid-20’s. These videos show that the only way to be pretty and grab a man’s attention is to be a young woman who can express her sexuality in a way that’s appealing to a man’s gaze. Techniques used by women in music videos are softly touching themselves and watching themselves in mirrors when males aren’t present. This strategy is telling the public that it’s okay to desire what you are looking at because she is looking at herself in the same way (Dreamworlds 3). The man’s role according to these videos is to have power over the woman. The woman’s role is to be passive and willing to do whatever the man wants, but also the woman can use her sexual power to receive acceptance into society. Many men in the hip-hop culture value certain objects and they use these objects as a way to manipulate and control women. On the other hand, women negotiate with their bodies for things that they want. In order to get the love and attention from men that they want, some women feel they must copy the images of what men want. Many women define their own worth on what they can do for and get from a man.

Women are also called names like “bitch” and “slut” in these videos. This reconfirms that men have the power over women and it reveals misogyny. This name calling disrespects, dehumanizes, and dishonors women. If a man labels a woman with any of these names, he may feel acceptable in committing physical violence against her.

Hip-hop culture frequently shows misogynistic mistreatment of women. It has taken a toll on younger girls who watch these women in music videos because to fit into society you have dress a certain way, sexualize yourself in a certain way, and look a certain way. Statistics in the movie Dreamworlds 3 show that 65% of American girls and women have an eating disorder and 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number increases to 78% by age 17 (Dreamworlds 3). All five of these videos are examples of how far our society has come with objectifying women and just how much women are mistreated.

Bibliography

B.O.B. ” B.o.B – HeadBand ft. 2 Chainz [Official Video].” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 1 July 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Berger, John. “Ways of Seeing.” Excerpted from chapter 3 of Ways of Seeing. London. BBC/Penguin Books. 1972. 45-54, 62-64.

Brooks, Dwight E., and Lisa P. Hebert. “Gender, Race, and Media Representation.” The SAGE Handbook of Gender and Communication. Ed. Bonnie J. Dow and Julia T. Wood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2006. 297-317. Print.

Dreamworlds 3. Dir. Sut Jhally.MEF & Films. 1991. Online.

Hamidovic, Emir.” Nelly ft St. Lunatics – Tip Drill.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 11 June 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen (1975). Reprinted in Visual and Other Pleasures. Bloomington, Indiana University Press. 14-26.

Springer, Kimberly. “Queering Black Female Sexuality.” Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World Without Rape. By Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008. 77-92. Print.

TygaLastKings. ” Tyga – Make it Nasty.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10 Dec. 2011. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Xavitone W. ” Khia – My Neck, My Back (HQ _ Dirty).” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

Zamson, Zem.” Kanye West – Monster ft. Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z & Bon Iver .” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 8 Sept. 2012. Web. 7 Oct. 2013.

3 comments

  1. I definitely agree with the article as a whole and the objectification of women in popular culture is a very devastating epidemic. I found this article in an attempt to find good sources for a synthesis essay and I was ecstatic when I came across this article. However, it is has many grammatical mistakes and is very much centered on blaming blacks for these issues. I would like to point out that white artists objectify women in media as well as blacks. Have you heard of Eminem or Machine Gun Kelly? By stating “… hip hop is the genre with the most black artists who objectify women…” you imply that black artists are the only ones that are guilty of this. Race is not an issue and at this point neither is gender (many female artists objectify themselves and other women). Frankly, this entire article is extremely racist and offensive. I need you to understand the irrelevance race holds in the objectification of women. It is patriarchal, rape culture that must be fixed and what was implied by the title of your article. Adding race to the equation is extremely racist and problematic in solving anything. I’m honestly appalled that you really think that the objectification of women is due to solely black culture. I understand that many of the women in “Monster” were white and that is a red flag for me, but I feel as if you could make the racism in some of the material in a less racist way. You cannot, CANNOT, solve racism with more racism. It discredits the entire article.

    1. I didn’t read the article, so I can’t really speak to its contents, but by listing MGK and Eminem, you are still listing people who are emulating black culture. Not to say objectification doesn’t happen in mainstream culture, but is it not possible that it is a larger problem in the black community?

  2. Excuse me if you’re going to write a blog post the least you can do is spell check its NICKI MINAJ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Dwell on These Things

Designing Plan C

FlowTV

a critical forum on television and media culture

Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

In Media Res

Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

WGSS 2230:

Gender, Race, & Sexuality in Pop Culture. Feminist cultural critiques happen here.

%d bloggers like this: