The usual intent of women in music videos for sexual purposes, mainly to show a man’s superiority above all women, and to objectify women for their bodies, their beauty, and their looks. Very rarely are women included in music videos for their intelligence and talent. Pendle and Boyd reference this change in appreciation for women coming about in the Gilded Age, as discussed in Steven Baur’s sheet music “‘Waltz Me Around Again Willie’: Gender Ideology and the Waltz in the Gilded Age.” The Gilded Age took place in the late 1800s, and the dances and the music styles that arose during that time began a “heated struggle over women’s bodies and female sexuality” (Baur 48).
A perfect example of women being used in music videos solely for their looks and their bodies is in ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix A Lot. The video opens up with a woman provocatively dancing, flaunting her body in front of the camera. Continuing on the theme of bodies in the video, the actual set that Sir Mix A Lot is seen standing on is made to look like backsides, surrounded by a group of women. Throughout the video, men can be seen taking pictures of the women’s bodies and commenting on their shape. This voyeurism, watching with sexual intent is common in music videos that exemplify women for their bodies, rather than who they are as a person. The women continue to dance throughout the video, the camera highlighting the curves of their bodies, displaying what men tend to look at when there are women in the music videos.
In today’s society, there are certain expectations when it comes to gender roles. Males are expected to be more intelligent, more dominant, the superior gender when it comes to the quiet, muted Females that are there as eye candy for the Males. This stereotypical representation of gender roles and behavior is shown today through music videos, with the
“males as more adventurous, agressive, and domineering, and females as more affectionate, nurturing, dependent, and fearful, because such are feminine traits in [American] society” (Seidman 215).
Because of this way that society views women as a whole, in music videos, they are reduced to playing a part lower than men, be it a low-class worker (i.e. store clerk versus CEO) or as a sex object for men all over to gawk. The music video for ‘Baby Got Back’ is no exception, with all the women in the video being portrayed as objects to look at while they swing their hips and dance to the beat of the song. Because the track depicts men as the more dominant gender, as the one who holds all the power over women, any women around them must degrade themselves in order to be accepted in the society.
Both the music videos for ‘We Are the World’ and ‘Girls Like You’ are different than most music videos with women in them because the usual intent of women in music videos is for sexual purposes, to show a man’s superiority above women and to show how women are generally considered for their looks and their beauty, instead of their talents and their intelligence. However, in both music videos, the women that are in them are portrayed as equal to the men starring alongside them. In these music videos, Diana Ross is equal to Billy Joel, and Gal Gadot is equal to Adam Levine.
(From left to right: Paul Simon, Kim Carnes, Michael Jackson, and Diana Ross, IMDb.)
In ‘Girls Like You,’ Adam Levine asked each woman to be in the music video with a personal, handwritten letter. Some of the women he called. The women that were reached out to were described to be the women that Levine and director David Dobkin were personally inspired by, and who had said yes to being in the video (EW). The goal of the video was to never flaunt these women around Levine proving his ‘manliness,’ but to highlight their personalities, and what these women stood for. Speaking on the production of all the women in the music video, and how they interacted with Levine and went beyond what the meaning of the song originally meant. The male voyeurism that is usually displayed in music videos with as many women in it as ‘Girls Like You’ is nowhere to be found. Levine isn’t sexualizing the women in his video, and he isn’t showing them off so they can be gawked at. Instead, he is using the privilege he has from being a white man and is helping speak up for the causes that the marginalized women are fighting for. For instance, Alex Morgan is a female soccer player, who has won a gold medal and a World Cup, but is fighting for equal pay in terms of male athletes versus female. If someone watching the video didn’t recognize her and looked her up, they would find that she is a part of the women’s soccer players fighting for equal pay in the sports world.
(Alex Morgan with Levine in the music video for ‘Girls Like You,’ ProSoccerUSA.)