Category: Sexism

Everyday Sexism

One of the things that have been on my mind of late is the brilliant Everyday Sexism.

The Everyday Sexism project/website/twitter feed is one of the most interesting forms of feminist activism I have come across during the time I have identified as a feminist (almost a year). Highlighting the anecdotal experiences of women worldwide in an easily accessible way has the potential to impact the attitudes and opinions of those who read the stories and importantly raises awareness about the fact that sexism still exists. People who were not previously aware about how often women encounter sexism are able to realise the true scale of this problem by reading thousands of tweets and posts written by women.

Laura Bates, the founder of Everyday Sexism, spoke to Radio 4’s Women’s Hour in October 2012 about the interest the project has attracted. During the first 6 months of the website being live, they received over 7,000 stories from women. The sheer amount of stories shared online emphasizes the need for a change within our society. Many have been shocked by what they have read but it is still accepted to a certain degree. A lot of the sexism experienced on a daily basis is passed off as ‘banter’ and is brushed under the carpet like it shouldn’t have offended anyone anyway- like women are just being uptight. Many of the women who have tweeted @everydaysexism about sexism in the workplace, had reported what happened to them to management only to be told that they are ‘making a fuss over nothing’ or something along the lines of “oh that’s just what John is like, you just have to ignore him”. This happens too much.

The #followed hashtag set up by Everyday Sexism recently attracted an influx of posts. Women posted details about when they have been followed and for many it has happened more than once. Here are some of the posts: http://storify.com/EverydaySexism/followed

What is it about our society that makes vile comments and leering looks a common occurrence for the female population? And why is it that some men think it is okay to follow women?

I believe that every woman has a story. Unfortunately, I have a two. The one that sticks in my mind the most is when I was casually window shopping in town one day and a man who was nearby turned to me and said “I could rape you right now”. It was so unexpected, I was shocked and didn’t really know what to think but I was angry. I looked at him like ‘what the fuck!’ and then looked around thinking ‘did no one hear that!!?’ as quickly as I turned back around, he had vanished into the crowd. I felt helpless and violated; he came into my private space and made me feel really uncomfortable.

When I was recalling this memory earlier, I suddenly thought about something else that happened to me and now that I remember I can’t believe that I ever forgot because it was a really big deal to me at the time. I think I was about 13 or 14 and I used to get the bus every Friday and Saturday night. One night I was going to a party and when I got on the bus the driver made a comment about what I was wearing and said how nice I looked. I remember feeling really, really uncomfortable and every time I saw him after that he would give me this sly, creepy smile which made me feel weird. I continued to get the bus and saw him sporadically for a period of about 2 years. I hated him for a while for the way he made me feel and I spoke about him often to my boyfriend. I think his mum knew too but I didn’t tell anyone else, I just thought ‘what’s the point?’

I think the Everyday Sexism project shows people that there is a point and that it’s okay to speak out about what they have experienced and how it made them feel. There are thousands of women (millions around the world) who share the same experiences and as the project continues to grow I look forward to hearing the voices of women who have been silenced in the past, by people who have told them that “nothing happened” or “you brought it on yourself”. Through this outlet they are able to share their stories with other women around the world.

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Female Interpretations of Sexual Content in the Music Videos of Popular Female Artists

Undergraduate Dissertation Introduction

Here is my undergraduate dissertation ‘Introduction’. It is a bit dodgy in areas but I hope that this will provide an example and help those who are undertaking research in a similar area.

Introduction

The debate surrounding the effects of sexual media has recently been reinvigorated with children and women’s charities, journalists and the current British and Australian governments, having all made attempts to address and tackle the sexual behaviours and attitudes expressed by female artists in their music videos and live performances. This renewed interest has mainly emerged due to the sexually provocative nature of current female artists such as Rihanna, whose notoriously raunchy performances frequently attract the attention of media critics, and Lady Gaga who has a reputation for wearing outrageous ensembles, often leaving very little to the imagination.

With a large majority of music being centred around relationships, romance and love, sex has always been a popular accompaniment to musical performance, lyrics and most recently, music videos. Early 20th century jazz and blues was recognised as exhibiting a certain level of sexual intensity with the gyrating crotch of Elvis, Little Richard and other rock and roll stars during the 1950s and 60s causing great controversy at the time (Arnett, 2002). Elvis was actually quoted in the 1970s as saying “Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle” http://www.elvis.com. This quote emphasizes the percieved increase in the sexual nature of music from Elvis’ heyday in the 1950s through to the early 1970s.

During the 1980s and 1990s, sexual content had begun to increasingly permeate popular music (Roberts & Christenson, 1998) and can be seen and heard in the music lyrics and videos of female artists who enjoyed stardom at the time, most notabley Madonna, who in 1992 released the album Erotica along with a coffee table book entitled Sex which featured explicit photographs of the singer. Much tamer but still offering music fans scenes of a sexual nature, Britney Spears and Christina Aquilera have contributed to the array of provocative music videos with Christina’s Dirty video and Britney’s I’m a Slave for you consequently causing their own controversies. More recently during the 2000s and up to the present day, videos from artists such as the Pussycat Dolls, Shakira, Ciara, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Rihanna have all continued the trend (Jhally, 2007).

The majority of research focusing on sexual content of music videos can be divided into three categories: content analyses, effects research and audience interpretations. This dissertation falls into the third and least developed field of research by exploring female audience interpretations of sexual content in female music videos.

As a major source of information for young people and adolescents, the mass media is believed to play a crucial role in their sexual socialisation (Harris & Scott, 2002). The presence of sexual content in music video is so pervasive within popular music that it has now reached the point where it is highly predictable for sexual imagery to accompany the music videos of popular female artists, even when the lyrics do not match the imagery (Roberts & Christenson, 1998). For example, a recent music video by British pop artist Pixie Lott shows the singer in a variety of sexual poses despite the song having nothing to do with sex. This raises serious concerns regarding the effects sexual content may have on viewers, especially young people, who are a significant concern due to the amount of time they spend listening to music and watching music videos (Arnett, 2002).

Supporting the argument that sex is becoming an increasingly pervasive part of mass culture, this dissertation aims to fill a void within existing research whereby it fails to adequately address the interpretations, perceptions and attitudes of young women in relation to the sexual content of music videos.

The main aim of the research is to utilise the focus group technique in order to discover what young women think about music videos and their sexual content. Participants were selected through snowball sampling and are young women aged 18-25. Questions focus on the areas of body image, sexual objectification, self-objectification and sexualisation of young people. The aim is to discover how the participants interpret what they see, how it makes them feel about their body image, their relationships with men, sexual objectification and whether or not they think sexual music videos by female artists impact young girls in a detrimental way.