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'Sweet Nothing': Women in Music Videos

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At many gyms, large TV screens show a non-stop series of music videos, presumably to get people pumped up and ready to work out. But these videos are interesting for another reason: the messages they offer about society.

During an hour at my local gym recently, I watched the videos and I wrote down the names of the groups and their songs, and I also wrote down what happened in the videos. It may come as no surprise - although it's nonetheless depressing - that women are very clearly the objects in these videos. And the keywords to describe their outfits are "skimpy" and "sexy".

The first video was DEVolution's Good Love. Here, a young woman in short-shorts and a midriff-baring tank top dances for a young man, who watches her over a Skype-type programme. He seems to adjust himself or play with himself at one point. While the viewer might watch him watching her a little bit, she is still the obvious object.

Next, Tulisa and a group of female friends prance around in bikinis, licking their lipsticked lips and bouncing their breasts, in Live It Up. Apparently, living it up means serving as the object of a (usually) male gaze.

I'd never heard of Iggy Azalea, but the song Beat Down by Steve Aoki and Angger Dimas, featuring Azalea, didn't encourage me to look for more work by her. Again, here we have a woman in a revealing outfit, singing, swinging her hair, heavily made-up. The one thing that distinguished Azalea, besides her pseudo-rap voice, was her nipple tassels, which seemed to swing in time with her hair.

The musician behind the next video was Laidback Luke, so I thought perhaps here we'd see a man at the centre for once. Unfortunately, half a minute into Speak Up, Wynter Gordon pops up in a net top over her bra and tight trousers, and she promptly begins to straddle and dance around and thrust at a man (perhaps Laidback Luke himself, although how laidback you'd feel with a woman rubbing her crotch against yours is a relevant question).

D'Banj's Oliver Twist and Miike Snow's Rabbit are two videos that both focus on their male protagonists, but, gosh, what a shock, those male protagonists are surrounded by women. These women are wearing little and they gyrate and frolic with dull expressions on their faces, seemingly satisfied to be nothing more than a side character who is there to please men. In Snow's video in particular, the woman clench and release their butts, shaking and jiggling as though they have nothing else on their minds. But then why should women ever have anything on their minds, right?

Ah, now here comes Jennifer Lopez, so I thought perhaps at last we'll see a strong woman. But no, she's with Pitbull, and they're doing Dance Again. Well, dancing again seems to mean that Pitbull wears a dinner jacket and bowtie and Lopez is in fishnets and a bodysuit or underwear set, while people fondle her body. Who's dancing? No one, really. Whatever it is that they're doing here, at least Pitbull can do it fully dressed. Women aren't interesting to watch unless they're nearly naked.

Ben Westbeech's Something for the Weekend is one of the most irritating of the videos, in my opinion. Not only does it objectify women, but it also plays with typical porn-style lesbian fantasies. Because, of course, lesbians are only sexual if there are men watching, and the whole purpose of their sexuality is to tantalise males. The man in the video is teased by two women who pretend to enjoy one another, just to excite him. How considerate of them.

One of the last videos I saw was with Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine. Excellent, I thought. Her videos are generally about her amazing voice. Yes, Florence Welch appears to have a love for fashion, but she doesn't seem to wear tiny outfits just to please men. So I had high hopes here. Alas, things have changed in this video, Calvin Harris's Sweet Nothing. Florence starts out in a sexy but non-revealing outfit, although the focus of the camera seems to be on her breasts in their tight shirt. Suddenly Florence begins to undress, and she ends up singing in her bra and underpants. So much for her videos being about her voice.

In short, this random selection of videos suggests that basically, pert breasts, flat and lightly damp stomachs (ideally with a piercing), tightly encased bottoms, and heavily made-up faces are all we're looking for from women. Women are meant to excite men by dancing around, for, and even on them, scantily dressed. This is the message the videos alone send; I haven't even mentioned the lyrics here.

When I got home, I went onto YouTube to see if other videos for these artists were similar in tone/style, or if the skimpy outfits were meant to encourage people at the gym to work out harder and get in shape. Regrettably, no, most of these singers/groups have a similar style throughout their oeuvre.

Sweet Nothing is a good depiction of these videos. They show how old-fashioned our view of women still is today. Women are always the object. Isn't it time we let women, too, "live it up" and appear as fully fledged people?