Dominant vs. Oppositional [Music Videos]

In the book, Practices of Looking: an Introduction to Visual Culture, Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright write “Through looking we negotiate social relationships and meanings. Looking is a practice much like speaking, writing, or signing. Looking involves learning to interpret and, like other practices, looking involves relationships of power.” The relationships of power could be the division of power between male and female in music videos. Today, many of the music videos portray women as the passive subjects while men as the active subjects; thus, empowering males over females. Such state was reached since many of the music videos are captured through the heterosexual male perspective, resulting in the male gaze. On the other hand, there are music videos that follows the oppositional gaze by redefining the role of male and female subjects in the video to oppose the dominant gaze. In the music video “Run The World (Girls)” by Beyonce, the dominant gaze is used; while in the music video “Take A Bow” by Rihanna, the oppositional gaze is used.

“Run The World (Girls)” by Beyonce is song that calls for women empowerment through it’s lyrics; however, if one were to critically analyze the music video, they would realize how the video emphasizes the heterosexual male perception of the female body. Thus, influencing the viewers to accept the scopophilic male gaze. The introduction of the video shows a strong contrast between the women and men; through their positions and outfits. The women, who are mostly women of color, are dressed in corsets, garters and stockings; while Beyonce is seen wearing exotic outfits where gold headdress and dark eye make-up are highly stressed in the look, as she stands in the center in a sexual, unnatural position. Contrary, the men in the video are fully clothed, at times wearing riot police uniforms, and standing in a very serious, manly postures. The music video is filled with various scenes where the women are dancing sexually by sliding their legs open, tossing their hair and undulating their hips towards the audience. In one scene, Beyonce says “you’ll do anything for me” as she and the women are dancing while the men are standing and watching these women display their sexuality. Thus, Beyonce is implying that in order for women to run the world, they need to depend on their body as a way to provide the men with sexual promises in order for the men to do “anything” for the women. Furthermore, the way the camera is shooting the music video adds to the males gaze. Many times, the camera practices between the legs shot on Beyonce, such a shot is highly sexualized as it dehumanizes Beyonce through the use of fragmentation. In addition, the camera is always shooting from the men’s perspective, meaning that the position of the camera is placed on the men’s side in the video; thus, causing the audience to view the dancers from the men’s perspective who are watching them. Consequently, this places the women in the video, including beyonce, in a submissive position. As a result, the music video is disempowering women by sending out the message that women who desire to run the world must be confident about displaying their bodies as it is the only way to reach power.

Bell hooks introduced the idea of “oppositional gaze” for black women where she encouraged them to actively critique their stereotypical representation in the film industry. Today, black women are represented in music videos as sexual objects from a heterosexual male perspective; creating the dominant gaze. However, Rihanna’s music video “Take A Bow”, challenges that dominant gaze by placing Rihanna in the assertive position, while the male subject in the submissive position; thus, changing the dominant roles of male and female in music videos. The camera focuses on Rihanna’s face throughout the music video; thus, dismissing the sexually dominant shots that focuses on the female body parts rather than the face. In addition, there are many shots where the male subject is being shot from above; thus, emphasizing Rihanna’s (who is a female) superiority in the video. In other times, the camera shoots the male subject from Rihanna’s perspective, further placing the subject into a submissive position. In addition, Rihanna is the one who starts the violence in the video by burning the male subject belongings, while the male subject struggles to set off the fire. Such a scene is definitely opposes the dominant idea where men are the ones who are violent, while women are the passive objects. Thus, such a video confirms the oppositional gaze idea of Bell Hooks by having the video shot from a female perspective; which dismisses the stereotypical roles of black women in music video. Consequently, this video empowers black women as they portray them in a nonsexual nor dehumanizing perspective.

In conclusion, the constructive observer is the one who determines whether the gaze that will be portrayed in music videos falls under the dominant gaze or the oppositional gaze.

[Ahh..I miss my Popular Culture Class!]


A Different Kind of View on Female Drivers in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Women Fighting for their Right to Drive

Saudi Women Fighting for their Right to Drive

Being the feminist that I am, I completely support women in Saudi Arabia who wish to drive vehicles. However, today I was exposed to a different view that made me feel sympathetic  towards individuals who are against women driving in Saudi Arabia. Before you make any judgments, understand that I still stand firm regarding my support for female drivers. However, I felt the need to share someone’s opinion, and to reflect back on it.

I met an individual today who spent most of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, where he spoke highly of the family oriented environment that he experienced growing up. While I enjoyed listening to that aspect of the conversation, I could not help but cut-in and ask about his opinion regarding Saudi women driving, and that was his exact response:

“Men in Saudi Arabia are sexually oppressed as a result of the country’s laws regarding the seperation of men and women. Thus, by allowing women to drive, you are literally giving the sexually oppressed men the opportunity to sexually harrass the female drivers”

Can I just say “Bravo” to his conclusion? It is actually right on! As someone who lived a portion of her childhood in Egypt, I can completely agree that the minute men will get the chance to interact with women, they will abuse it! Eighty percent (if not more) have reported being verbally or physically harrassed in Egypt as of 2011, despite that the laws in Egypt are more lenient regarding the relationship between men and women. Yet, it is a known fact that the majority of Egyptian men are sexually oppressed for various reasons, which include (but are not limited to) the difficulty in getting married.

However, back to this individual’s conclusion, Saudi women WILL get harassed while they are driving, and they WILL face difficulty getting accepted by the society, and there WILL be cases of violence against female drivers… but, until when?

Rememeber way back in the 1960s when schools were segregated in the United States? Now, think deeper and you will remember that little girl, Ruby Bridges, who was the first child to attend an all white school in the south. How did that go for her? She was violently harrassed and threatened, until president Eisenhower had to send U.S. Marshals to oversee Ruby’s saftey. It was not easy for Ruby, but because of her bravery and strength, we see kids today from different backgrounds and ethnicities learning together inside one classroom.

It will not be easy in the beginning for female drivers to change the society’s views and stop men from abusing them as they drive; however, it is possible. There is light at the end of the tunnel so hold on there.


Bullying At its Record High

Rebecca Sedwick

Rebecca Sedwick

As a kid, I was bullied; however, my bulling was never as horrifying as the kind of bullying kids face these days. The worst statement that I would get was “You’re a loser!” and while such statement did hurt me as a child, it never drove me to have suicidal thoughts. However, when I read about stories of young children, suiciding, because of the amount of bullying they receive from their peers, I become extremely horrified and worried about my little sister. For whatever reason kids bully, it will not be completely stopped; but the level of bullying can be decreased. How can a child or teenager, encourage someone  to commit suicide because they are “overweight” or “ugly”… kind of hard to imagine that kids can be that cruel, but it is the reality today.

Opening the news this morning, I read about a young middle schooler, Rebecca Sedwick, who was bullied to death by her peers. Her mother, and school administrators, tried to help Rebecca, but to no vail. Her mother even got Rebecca pulled out of her school; but that did not stop Rebecca’s peers from bulling her. Instead of face-to-face bullying, her peers used social media and cell-phones in order to destroy Rebecca’s esteem. Rebecca’s last text message was sent to a 12 year old online friend “I am going to jump, I can’t take it anymore”. The last time Rebecca’s mother saw her was the night before she jumped off a tower.

It is not the first time I read stories about children who suicide as a result of being terrorized by their peers. However, the horror I feel each time I read about these stories never decreases. It drives me to think of how my little sister will deal with such situation, god-forbidden, if she faces it. Thus, I try to encourage her not to care about what others think, and to love herself despite how others feel towards her; but is that enough? Rebecca’s mother, and many parents with bullied children, try their best to improve their children’s self-esteem. However, that was not enough to help Rebecca love and value herself; so what is the solution?

While schools today try to raise awareness about the consequences of bullying, it has little impact on the bullies themselves. A kid who constantly bullies others does not simply “stop” after hearing an adult lecture them about the wrongness of bullying. But, that child was not born as a bully; such behavior is developed from the kind of environment at home.

While those that bullied Rebecca are now going to face jail sentences (very thankful for that), these kids are also victims. The environment at home shapes a child’s personality. Children often learn by watching their parents’ behavior: if  parents are violent with each other or towards their children, whether in words or physical action, the child will take that behavior to school. Thus, parents need to be educated about the cause of the issue and how to prevent their children from developing such behavior.

First, parents need to develop a safe and loving environment for their children. If children are raised in such environment, their is no way that these children will become bullies at school. Second, they need to constantly speak with their child about bullying and how such behavior can devastate someone else’s life. Lastly, it is important for parents to monitor their child and be aware of their child’s behavior at school and online.

Rebecca’s bullies and their parents are at fault, and the bullies definitely deserve to be jailed (even if they are only 12-14 year olds); but I hope that parents can learn a lesson from this devastating event.