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Musogyny: Should We Rate Sexism in Music Videos?

Everyone knows it’s a man’s world out there (thanks James Brown) but there is none more so than the big bad world of music. From Miley’s twerking to Sinead’s open letter shaming, these last few months have seen an upward trajectory in the debate around gender issues within music.

Rest assured that we here at PlanetNotion will be keeping a keen eye on all things sexism and there may even be some naming and shaming along the way.

Sweden, the great musical country that gave us Abba and The Cardigans, recently announced they are to take a serious stand against sexism in visual media by implementing the Bechdel test to all movie releases at four major cinemas and a national TV network.

The Bechdel test, a kind of litmus against which female depiction is measured, was created by feminist cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 who posed three questions to determine if a film included fair female representation; are there two or more named female characters? Do they talk to each other during the film? And do they discuss something other than a man?

Over-simplified and plagued with problems maybe, but the three questions are successful in identifying the disparity between male and female roles within film with much loved movies such as Star Wars, Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Fifth Element and even loveable Wall-E failing to make the cut.

The announcement, which was met with mild enthusiasm by feminists and film buffs throughout the world, is now evolving with lobby groups such as Rewind&Reframe calling for similar guidance principles such as age restrictions being applied to music videos to safeguard what we are all watching on the internet.

As society is becoming all too clued up on the over sexualisation of women, lack of open feminist role models, exploitation of naïve pop stars and the affect these sexist projections have on young women growing up bombarded continually with the male gaze, it is worth considering a rating for sexism, just like there exists for other issues such as violence.

The practicality of applying any such rating is still to be mapped out as critics argue how to set out a universal marking criteria against which to measure.

Sometimes it’s simply easier to judge things on their own merits though and with that in mind, here’s a rundown of what music videos would pass or fail the Musogyny litmus test:

Tirzah and Micachu – ‘I’m Not Dancing’

The subtle and skeletal dance track of the summer, these two minutes of lo-fi electro bopping is a great example of how music videos don’t need to be dressy or have lead singers dolled up.

Vocalist and producer Tirzah dances around and tumbles with her musical partner Micachu in her ultimate fighter t-shirt, both equally relaxed, represented and happy – the way Musogyny likes it.

Verdict: Pass

Lily Allen – ‘Hard Out Here’

Musogyny has already passed judgement on this one. If it were a lyrical test, Allen would have an almighty pass but the use of young scantily clad backing dancers writhing suggestively behind a fully clothed Allen, however ironic, left us with a bad taste in our mouth.

Verdict: Fail

Janelle Monae ft. Erykah Badu – ‘Q.U.E.E.N’

A classy reclamation of female identity in music, Janelle Monae manages to practice what her lyrics preach in this theatrically retro video. Monae is fast proving there is more to her feminism than her slick tuxedo and androgynous styling. Extra points given for the ‘preach’ segment at the end.

Verdict: Pass

Is Tropical – ‘Dancing Anymore’

As controversial as their last video for ‘The Greeks’ in which young children waged violent CGI Armageddon upon each other, this Megaforce-directed short borders on the point of pornographic.

It’s an insight into the mind of a sexually charged adolescent boy and the women’s computerised bodies are the product of pure fantasy. However ironic, creative, comically black and thought provoking, the boy is still sexist in his representation of women as busty, blonde and up for the dirty. That arguably says a lot about the teenage boy though.

Verdict: Fail

Solange – ‘Lovers in the Parking Lot’

A disco video of the highest order; Solange and her magnificent barnet show us how to do a choreographed number without making the whole thing overtly sexual. It’s not for the gratification of anyone but her and her wonderful discopants.

Verdict: Pass

Willy Moon – ‘Yeah Yeah’

Winner of the UK Music Video Award this year, Willy Moon has a complete lack of distinction between his army of male and female dancers. Regardless of sex, the head-to-toe black outfits, the heeled boots and the dance moves are uniform making this one equal in our eyes.

Verdict: Pass

Foals – ‘Late Night’

Although a fantastic indie track, the only time we see female characters within this song is when they are either being fucked and grappled, or giving birth. Those are definitely the only two functions for a woman, right?

Verdict: Fail

Robin Thicke – ‘Blurred Lines’

Do you even need to ask? Shame on you too Pharrell who seems to have snaked his way out of criticism in the same way Thicke did.

Verdict: Fail

- Sarah Joy

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