The video to Sigma’s latest long ft. Ella Henderson, Glitterball (see below), consists of a group of people going swimming in the sea. This isn’t your usual Brighton family holiday, no, it’s a group of conventionally good-looking and toned young people larking about. The women wear bikinis, squeeze each other’s bums, hug frequently, and show a lot of cleavage, whilst the guys, well the guys tend to be wearing quite a lot of clothes with perhaps the odd flash of six-pack in the background. So why, given that there are a plethora of semi-naked bodies and a roughly even gender split in the video, couldn’t they have objectified the men as much as the women?
We’ve been conditioned to view women’s bodies in a certain way on-screen whilst men’s bodies are often treated very differently. Blurred Lines, the infamous Robin Thicke song, epitomised this attitude with a terribly misogynistic and sexist video (and that’s saying nothing about the lyrics). However, it’s interesting to watch a parody version of the video (see below) in which the female models are replaced by men in g-strings and tiny underwear. It seems there’s something a little ridiculous about men having little stop signs stuck to their bottoms and dancing so provocatively, whilst it was presented as almost ‘normal’ for women to be treated and viewed in this way in the original video. At least that’s what I think we’re being made to believe – that treating women like this is OK and when it’s guys it’s just quite silly and comic.
The feminist film critique Laura Mulvey calls this phenomenon the male gaze – the way in which visual arts are structured around a masculine viewer. A guy (usually white, cisgendered and heterosexual) isn’t going to want to see a video of a man rubbing sun tan lotion into his six-pack or bending over to pick up his beach towel, no, he wants women to do that, or at least that is what the relentlessly objectifying world of music videos and advertising tells us. Equality is a long way off and sexism towards women is just part of the culture.
So there’s a long way to go until men and women are equally objectified in music videos (come on guys, time we stripped off and started massaging ourselves provocatively) and even further still until people aren’t objectified at all (because people are people, not just bodies). Until then here’s Marina and The Diamonds evening the scales a little…