Feminism Today How Women Are Hyper Sexualized and Why Research Paper

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Sexual Objectification of Women in Music

When compared to the female singers of the early 20th century, the women in music today represented a much more blatant example of sexual objectification. This is not to suggest that three-quarters of a century ago women were not also objectified; it is simply to acknowledge that the objectification has been amplified to such a degree that women in music are eroticized in their music videos (in virtually all cultures, East and West, as the music videos in K-Pop, J-Pop and Western Pop all indicate) and in their performances on stage. Women performers from CL to Miley Cyrus to Beyonce all contribute to this sexual objectification by essentially flaunting their sexuality and utilizing it in a post-feminist manner of being the sexual aggressor rather than the sexually passive receiver of the "male gaze," as Mulvey called it in her deconstruction of the sexual objectification of women in cinema. However, as other researchers have noted, in adopting a post-feminist manner of sexual exuberance and assertiveness, women singers have not escaped the sexual objectification constraints of the past and both reinforce that objectification even as they attempt to redefine their sexuality through a more assertive, flaunting style of female sexuality. This paper will address the issue of the sexual objectification of women in music by describing how this phenomenon is exhibited in the modern music industry today.

Award-winning journalist Ginny Dougary has commented on this very specific theme in her op-ed piece for the London Times from 2007: she noted the underlying issue is the "pornogrification of mainstream culture" which is supported by the fact that "serious" women, such as Nicole Kidman or Maggie Gyllenhaal, who have screen presence often denude themselves for their roles -- an act which supports the idea that women are mere objects, according to Dougary. The popularity of female music videos on streaming sites like YouTube certainly reinforces the notion that women in music are utilizing their sex symbol status and power to build blockbuster-like followings on social media that translates into sources of revenue for the corporations that sign the women to extensive contracts. They promote their tours and the women come onto the stage in little more than bathing suits, some flaunting their bodies in all manner of sexually-explicit representations that audiences are sometimes astonished at the level of vulgarity to which these female performers degrade themselves (the performance of Miley Cyrus with the male singer of "Blurred Lines" Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2013 was perfect example of the female singer's dual-role as sexual aggressor and sexual object: Thicke was dressed in tuxedo, while Cyrus came out in nude underwear and sneakers and "twerked" on Thicke as he gratuitously ogled her body).

Ironically, what happened after the Thicke/Cyrus performance only served to complicate the issue: Cyrus was hailed for her depiction of rebellion -- the idea that "sexual liberation" can make one great (Jones 2). Thicke on the other hand saw his marriage to Paula Patton fall apart and he was viewed scornfully as a "womanizer" (Holson). The irony is that without Thicke on stage, taking part in his "womanizing" with Cyrus at the MTV VMA, there would have been no "male gaze" under which Cyrus could show off her body. The women singers in music today are thus situated in a bind: they want to break free from the concept that they are just sex symbols -- yet at the same time they want to capitalize on the sexual power they hold over the male gaze and reverse their role in that discourse from being objects to being the objectifiers. The problem, as Michael Unger points out, is that it does not work.

According to Judith Bulter, such representations as that of Cyrus or any of the other popular (and sexy) female singers today perpetuate the depiction of women from a "phallic-centric" point-of-view (Butler 30). And even if they are more sexualy assertive depictions (such as CL's performance in her music video "Hello Bitches") that place the women's desire to dominate at the front and center of the erotic message the fact remains that the male-gaze is still the ultimate arbiter. Thus, Rosalind Gill maintains that what defines the post-feminist model is the shift from objectification to subjectification (i.e., the woman is no longer the object of the male gaze, rather the male is the subject of the female's desire to dominate sexually) (Gill 147) -- yet the depiction of eroticism that women in music today offer to their audience is one that overtly and explicitly reconfirms them as objects of the male-gaze even as the women display a dominant tone of sexuality. As Michael Unger for instance notes, "the K-pop girl group music video is a paradox of (re)presentation" -- the performers are celebrated and empowered, as Unger states, but at the same time they are "objectified and reduced to a commodity of idealized beauty" (Unger 25).

The problem with this is that it presents a source of conflict for the way in which women identify themselves. Old school feminists like Dougary prefer to think of women as something more than a sex object: the view the whole point of feminism as a mode for escaping that typology. Yet, today, they observe that the young are more and more fascinated and emboldened by the explicitly sexual and eroticized women in music (whether they are the Pussycat Dolls or solo artists like Rihanna, Britney or Miley). These same young view being a sex object or sex symbol as a means of gaining power and authority. It is a much more sensual basis for power than the early feminists ever imagined. Their basis for power and authority was intellectual, based on rights and the ability to do jobs just as well as men could. Today's young generation persists with a post-feminist concept that exults their sexuality even as it reduces them to mere objects, just like in the past.

One could argue that women simply do not know what they want in this era of digitization, photo-shopping, hyper-sexuality, and gratuity. They want to mimic the raunchy behavior of women in music but they also want to assert their dignity as women. It is as though terms like raunchy have no meaning, or are dismissed as relics of an old world, patriarchal terminology. Men may still be viewed as raunchy, as the falling star of Robin Thicke has shown -- but for women, raunchiness equates to autonomy, strength and assertiveness. CL in her "Hello Bitches" video is surrounded by a posse of scantily-clad female back-up singers, who resemble a dominatrix-style of femininity. They sneer and snarl at the camera as they dance and show off their bodies, suggesting that they want to be stared at by men and objectified by them -- but they are also not going to put up with any of the demands of men.

It is a problematic discourse for some -- but it may also represent a rebalancing of the power dichotomy -- a shift from patriarchal sexuality to matriarchal sexuality; the woman, not caring whether she is objectified or not (in fact, she embraces her objectification as a means of ensnaring the man through his male gaze), turns the tables on the viewer and asserts that she is in control. Thus, sexuality becomes a means of control for the post-feminist. It is an act of dominance on the part of the woman in music. By embracing a spirit of objectification, she throws a lasso around the hearts and minds of men. Indeed, this idea was explored by German filmmaker Fritz Lang in the 1920s during Berlin's race towards decadence under the Weimer Republic. Lang's film Metropolis depicted a world gone mad with desire. A false Maria resembled the poster girl of burlesque at the time (Anita Berber) by dancing lasciviously on stage for the all-male audience. In the film, the men immediately lose their minds and become enslaved by the false Maria: she uses them to do her bidding and they, thus seduced, set about destroying the city in which they live. Lang depicted the false Maria as a femme-fatale, whose unification of sex, music and dance was enough to bring about a downfall in social relations. But Lang also viewed the true Maria, the girl of humility, faith and constancy, as the ideal female (a vision clearly modeled on the Madonna, Mother of God). Lang's film ultimately represented a culture-clash in Weimar Germany -- a clash between the culture of the "new Frau" (new woman) and the culture of the old world. That same clash is apparent in today's global representation of women in music, as the old day pioneers of feminism struggle to make sense of the new generation's adoption of the burlesque techniques of the "new Frau" -- there is the sense that this will all end badly.

In conclusion, the objectification of women continues in music today (in both performances on stage and in music…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. NY:

Routledge, 1990. Print.

Dougary, Ginny. "Yes, We are Borrowed." The Times, 2007. Web. 13 Apr 2016.

Gill, Rosalind. "Postfeminist media culture: Elements of a sensibility," European

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