By: Joe Majka
I chose this theme because it is something that is very prevalent in today’s society. This theme stuck out to me because violence against women can be easily overlooked; yet I think it definitely should not be. This theme is important or relevant because it happens to woman across the world every single day unbeknownst to many. Many things can be learned by recognizing this theme. The most important, however, is you can put a stop to it simply by recognizing the signs. I decided to just pick music videos as my texts because there is much more to analyze than, say, a single magazine advertisement or short commercial. I believe music videos show an artistic rendition or representation of what violence against females really is and how it should be dealt with.
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” music video clearly shows violence done against women. It includes prostitution, drugs, and many more. According to Keehn, “Lady Gaga is playing a sex slave, being bid on by the Russian mafia. She starts the video climbing out of a designer suitcase. This presumably represents the “trafficking” part of her enslavement.” The stereotype of women used in this music video includes scantily clad women, otherwise known as “sluts.” Gaga wants to make the statement that the women in this video who are perceived as sluts are generally more susceptible towards violence.
There are assumptions that this music video wants us to make. Lady Gaga, in this particular music video, is assumed to be a heterosexual, white, lower class woman, although in real life she is actually bisexual. This is because she is seen only showing her body off to males, specifically in the scene where she is dancing in front of men and gives a guy a semi lap dance. She is also to be assumed as lower class because she has been taken in to human trafficking. By assuming she is heterosexual, Gaga is more vulnerable towards violence from men. If she wasn’t heterosexual, they would want nothing to do with her sexually and she might have been let go.
Another aspect of this music video that should be noted is “the gaze.” One man in particular, assumed to be the “head honcho”, possesses the gaze during the scene where Gaga and her back up dancers are dancing for the men. He looks at her and sips his drink, with lust in his eyes. According to Mulvey, this would be defined as “scopophilia”, or “taking other people as objects and subjecting them to a controlling and curious gaze”, which is exactly what he is doing in the video. Also Lady Gaga mentions Rear Window and Vertigo in the lyrics, which were films that used voyeurism, even though she uses voyeurism in another video for “Paparazzi.”
This music video disrupts normative values/understanding of human trafficking. In real life, we would normally assume that the female would stay in human trafficking and not be able to escape it, as is the sad case of many females. However, in the end of the video she burns alive the head male in charge of such human trafficking and, thus, disrupts our understanding of it. It’s not every day that the female succeeds in killing their master, now is it?
Lady Gaga – Paparazzi
Yet another one of Lady Gaga’s music videos, “Paparazzi”, shows vehemence done against females. This music video includes many different shots of women hung, severely beaten, stabbed to death, or, as in Gaga’s case, thrown off a balcony. The stereotypes of women used in this music video include the modern day housewife and cleaning lady. The dead women seen in the video are dressed in what looks like housewife or cleaning lady attire. It should be assumed that their husband or significant other killed these women.
There are also assumptions that this music video wants us to make. Lady Gaga, in this particular music video, is assumed to be bisexual, as opposed to her “Bad Romance” video where she is heterosexual. This is mainly because she is seen making out with women and men, specifically in one scene where she is making out with different women on a couch. She is also assumed to be white and upper class because she lives in a mansion, has dollar bills with her face on them, and the newspapers say that she “reaches the top again.” The fact that she is bisexual and rich makes her even more powerful and independent than the man who pushed her off the balcony.
Another aspect in this music video is voyeurism. Voyeurism is known as “the sexual interest in or practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions usually considered to be of a private nature.” There are people, known as paparazzi, taking pictures of Gaga and her boyfriend making out on the balcony, which is a voyeuristic behavior. This scene pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo, which also used voyeurism.
This music video disrupts normative values/understanding of violence done against women. In real life, we would usually assume that the woman would not be able to escape violence done against them and let it happen to them again and again. However, similar to “Bad Romance”, Gaga ends up killing her boyfriend, this time poisoning him. Another disruption we experience is that she even admits to the crime, rather than deny it, and ends up in jail.
Christina Aguilera – Oh Mother
Christina Aguilera’s “Oh Mother” music video speaks of violence done against women, especially what her father did to her mother. The stereotype of women used in this video is the “wife beater”, defined as a man who beats his wife regularly. There is one woman who is seen throughout this video, assumed to be Aguilera’s mother, who is being beaten by a man, assumed to be this woman’s husband.
Another aspect of this music video that should be noted is “white trash.” White trash is defined as “a member of an inferior or underprivileged white social group.” The man and woman in this video are assumed to be white trash.
The assumptions that this music video wants us to make are that this woman is heterosexual, white, and possibly middle/lower class. It is clear she is heterosexual because she does have a husband. This music video disrupts normative values/understanding of vehemence against females. The video also shows the woman with a child, assumed to be Aguilera, which is what we would expect because the woman has a husband. However, we see the woman looking strong, confident, and smiling in the end of the video, so we are to assume she escaped this abusive husband and is now safe with her child.
Ludacris & Mary J. Blige – Runaway Love
Ludacris and Mary J. Blige’s “Runaway Love” music video speaks of vehemence done against women, telling and showing different girls who are mistreated. The stereotype of women used in this video are young girls, ranging from nine years old to eleven years old, who are naïve and don’t know any different than to run away.
The first girl, Lisa, is nine years old and is sexually mistreated and abused by the different men her mom brings home. Her mom is an alcoholic who is on drugs and is also abused by these men. The second girl, Nichole, is ten years old and is abused by her alcoholic father. Also, her friend Stacy gets shot and is killed. The third girl, Erica, is eleven years old and is having sex with a boy who is sixteen. He doesn’t use protection, gets her pregnant, and she runs away from her mother who is also being abused.
Another aspect of this music video that is strong is race and class. All of these girls are of lower class, even the white girls would be considered “white trash” rather than have what McIntosh calls “white privilege.” The white girls have more privileges than the black girl, but they do not have the privilege of not getting beaten. Both the white girls and the black girl are treated the same. They are abused and mistreated with no remorse. According to Marx, these girls and their mothers would fall under the category known as “The Poor”, or “limited educational and career opportunities keep this group struggling to support their families to avoid homelessness.” Erica, as an eleven year old, exemplifies the “virgin/whore complex”, as explained by Springer and Valenti. She’s too young to be a “Jezebel”, yet she’s old enough to be labeled as a whore, even though she probably was a virgin not too long ago.
The assumptions that this music video wants us to make are that these girls are heterosexual, lower class, and of different races. The first two girls are white and probably of the lower class. The third girl is black and is lower class because her mother doesn’t have enough money to support the child and neither does she. This music video supports normative values/understanding of violence against women. The video shows common things that happen to young girls and women every day.
Madonna – Oh Father
Madonna’s “Oh Father” music video speaks and shows of violence done against her by her own father. The stereotype of women used in this video is a typical abusive father who beats his own daughter. Madonna is seen throughout the video being beaten by her alcoholic father as a little child, and even as a young adult woman. This music video again shows “white trash.” It is common to assume those who are white trash also beat their children, even though this is not always the case. According to McIntosh, Madonna has “white privilege.” This is ironic because even though she does have privileges, her father is still hurting her.
The only assumption that this music video wants us to make is that Madonna is a white, lower/middle class girl. We cannot assume she is heterosexual or of a certain class because there is no significant other involved. The music video supports normative values/understanding of vehemence done against women. Madonna continues to be beaten by her father even as an adult woman, which is typical of what happens in real life.
Texts As a Whole
There is a narrative that these texts create. The narrative is that women are mistreated by men despite race, class, or time period. According to Marx, there are class hierarchies in America, starting with “The Extremely Wealthy” or the “aristocracy”, defined as “owners of corporations; money is no problem” at the top and “The Homeless” or the “underclass”, defined as those that “have few material possessions and little hope of improvement” at the bottom. Yet despite these huge class differences, we still see a rich woman, like in “Paparazzi”, and poor girls, like in “Runaway Love”, being abused.
According to McIntosh, there is something called “white privilege” which “refers to the set of societal privileges that white people are argued to benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, or economic spaces.” We see this in all the music videos, yet white people still do not have the privilege of not being harmed. Black people and white people have the same privilege when it comes to abuse – that is, they don’t have a privilege at all and they are simply mistreated with reckless abandon.
Even across different time periods, as early as “Oh Father” in 1989 and as late as “Bad Romance” in 2009, there is still much abuse. One would think that as time progressed, you would see violence against women in music videos less and less, but actually you are seeing it about the same amount, possibly even more and more. This is probably because there is still domestic violence happening all around the world today.
In fact, “every 9 seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern. Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.”
All of these texts make sense together because they all deal with some sort of violence done against women. In “Bad Romance” women are sold into human trafficking, in “Paparazzi” women are killed and abused by different methods of violence, in “Oh Mother” a woman is abused by her husband, in “Runaway Love” different girls are harmed by their fathers or boyfriends, and finally in “Oh Father” a woman is abused by her own father. Throughout all these music videos it is clear that abuse is prevalent across all types of families and situations.
Bad Romance. Dir. Francis Lawrence. Perf. Lady Gaga. YouTube. Interscope Records, 23 Nov. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrO4YZeyl0I>.
“Domestic Violence Statistics.” Domestic Violence Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2013. <http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/>.
Keehn, Anne. “Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ Video About… Sex Slavery? : Free the Slaves BLOG.” Free the Slaves BLOG RSS. N.p., 13 Sept. 2010. Web. 05 Oct. 2013. <http://ftsblog.net/2010/09/13/lady-gagas-bad-romance-video-about-sex-slavery/>.
McIntosh, Peggy. “White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Peace and Freedom (July/August 1989), 9-10; repr. in Independent School, 49 (1990), 31–35.
Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. Ed. Amelia Jones. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2010. 57-65.
Oh Father. Dir. David Fincher. Perf. Madonna. YouTube. WMG, 26 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvVvN0QvzTk>.
Oh Mother. Perf. Christina Aguilera. YouTube. RCA/Jive Label Group, 3 Oct. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_BZQ77akOg>.
Paparazzi. Dir. Alexander Skarsgard. Perf. Lady Gaga. YouTube. Interscope Records, 29 May 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2smz_1L2_0>.
Runaway Love. Dir. Jessy Terrero. Perf. Ludacris and Mary J. Blige. YouTube. DTP Records, 29 Nov. 2006. Web. 2 Oct. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISvMS6s41vY>.
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.
Valenti, Jessica. “The Cult of Virginity.” In Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Susan Shaw and Janet Lee, eds. 2011. 5th Edition. Boston: McGraw Hill. 181-185. Print.
“Voyeurism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 05 Oct. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyeurism>.
“White Trash.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/white trash>.