Pop-Culture | Posted by Cherokee S on 01/11/2011

Music Video Girls: Exploitive or an Industry of Independence

what happened to the dreams of a girl president? / Shes dancing in the video next to 50 cent

"what happened to the dreams of a girl president? / She's dancing in the video next to 50 cent"

UK TV Channel BBC3 once in a while produces something worth taking a look at, and the minute I saw an advert for their latest one-off documentary endeavour – “Music, Money and Hip-Hop Honeys” – exploring the job that is ‘The Music Video Girl’ – I was intrigued.

Music videos are a subject that I often bring attention to. It is impossible to turn on the latest music channel without being bombarded with a series of greased up women jiggling their bits around in front of the camera. Of course, we can’t forget the men parading around them with the,‘Yes, these are my bitches,’ attitude. Unfortunately, apart from pop starlets like Katy Perry – that’s a post worth of discussion right there –  this is mostly a ‘Hip-Hop’ mentality, and Hip-Hop is obviously going to have a series of hurdles to overcome the subjection of women in its mainstream videos.

The programme itself never really reached a conclusion, which wasn’t a particular surprise; an hour’s worth of footage wasn’t enough time to dive into the subject. There was some insight into the music video world, where men are undoubtedly reigning supreme over women. We got a look at the hopeful dreamers who long to be a successful music video girl. One had been sexually harassed, but still wanted to continue her dream of stardom and when the presenter jetted off to America, she got to meet the likes of LoLa – the star of 50 Cent, Kanye West, Lloyd Banks’ music videos – who reportedly was paid $12,000 for two days work. She went on to stick up for the music video girls, giving some fairly valid points of how some girls take the job to get by in life – even when a lot of these girls don’t get paid – and also, happily admitting that it was her way of forging her own music career in the process.

This isn’t a review of the programme itself, but a question of: When does something become exploitive? And who is to judge how a woman makes her money? As long as she is happy doing what she’s doing is it really any of our business? But then is this view of women really benefiting society and having some kind of lasting effect on how we view the female gender – where men always come out on top? There always seems to be this close divide where no one can win, when both sides have valid points.

Just because a woman is walking around in a bikini in some music video, doesn’t mean that she is being exploited or that she isn’t independent in her own right. If she is aware of how she is going to be treated then she is aware of the consequences. But then that still doesn’t give  someone the right to subjectively use her as if she wasn’t a human being or less than an equal.

One member of the UK garage band, So Solid Crew, admitted that in this world, “sex and violence sell.” So instead of trying to break that barrier down, introduce new ways of filming a music video without a barely clad girl shaking the only thing that is apparently worth anything, her body, it is now just excepted. We all have to get over it, and deal. Chuck in a bunch of oily girls gyrating next to the said male artist and you’ve got yourself a hit. That’s the 21st century music industry, right there.

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  • Alex Catgirl @ at 9:42 pm, January 11th, 2011

    I tell people all the time that if I wasn’t born into money, I would be jiggling my bits at some full nude strip clubs. Depending on where you are, those girls get P-A-I-D.

    I’m serious, I just got my undergraduate degree in biology, with honours, from an “elite” institution, and while I didn’t acquire any student debt, I’d be in a very hard position if I did because all that degree qualifies me for is a j-o-b as a lowly lab technician making less than what my yearly tuition ran, with no hope of advancement unless I went on to graduate/medical school(which is why I’m going on to graduate and then medical school, but that is a privilege. I am able to do so because I was born into the right family.

    Both liberal and conservative ideologues bash women who make their living based on their looks, that’s grade A sour grapes.

    Like a whole lot of people say, sex sells, if you have sex appeal, “exploit” the hell out of it because them their valllueess the ideologues are peddling? They do NOT pay the bills.

    Life isn’t all about money, but then again it sure isn’t free.

  • Kelpie @ at 10:55 pm, January 11th, 2011

    I don’t know how these male artists treat these women behind the scenes, but in the videos themselves it’s kind of disgusting. They’re a status symbol, and it makes it hard for me to feel like it’s a good thing, even if it pays well and opens up windows.

    However, sometimes you do what it takes, and if dancing in music videos pays the bills or opens opportunities, I think that these women should be able to do so if they’d like to.

    It’s not the women who dance in these videos who have the problem, it’s the artists who hire them. It’s the artist’s attitude that should change, and honestly, it’s not going to for a long while.

  • Katherine C. @ at 11:27 pm, January 11th, 2011

    Yes, well, if the woman is doing it because she’s choosing it of her own free will, I guess one could say that it’s fine, but the real problem is not that these women are being “exploited-” it’s the fact that popular culture shapes everyday street culture, and it teaches people that women are to be treated like the booty-shakers on music videos: as a piece of ass. Why do you think men are so willing to drive by and tell me to “shake those titties?” Most people can’t or just don’t seperate what they see on TV and how they act in real life- because they see TV as en extension of real life.

    BTW, the end of this article really struck me, just because it was so well-put: there’s a real problem with our culture when a successful music video is successful because it has “a bunch of oily girls gyrating.” What happened to artistic integrity? Because, like it or not, this crap is art. Bad art, but it fits the definition all the same. And popular art defines a culture.

  • Natalia @ at 1:22 am, January 12th, 2011

    I guess I don’t have a problem when a girl says that she posed naked for playboy for money. But it bothers me when they say “that was my dream for my career!”. I either don’t believe it or find it extremely pathetic.

  • RozzyL @ at 2:33 pm, January 12th, 2011

    @Alex Catgirl
    On the programme, one of the most interesting points was that the women/girls often do NOT get paid. Sometimes they are simply desperate to break into music videos; sometimes they are cruelly tricked and deceived into believing they will be paid and then dropped without a penny.

    I saw the programme too, and thought it was fairly balanced, and the presenter tried quite hard not to be biased or allow her prejudices to come through.

    Overall, I came away feeling depressed. Whether a woman participates in these videos because she feels empowered, or for respect, money, or sex, they are not a great view of our society. It’s saddening that this is what people enjoy watching.

  • Quinc @ at 7:29 pm, January 12th, 2011

    It’s hard to argue someone is being exploited when they’re being paid so much, and I think you should avoid the viewpoint that being paid to be sexy/sexual is inherently exploitive or degrading towards women.

    However these videos have some very bad messages, namely that sexy women are status symbols, as the OP mentions. I’m reminded of a op where an absurdly rich guy saves money on a TV service, and they demonstrate his wealth two ways:
    1. Everything is plated in gold
    2. There are about a dozen bored looking voluptuous women in skin tight dresses lounging around and serving him drinks.
    So a rich guy might surround himself with ‘teh sexy ladies’ the same way he surrounds himself with other expensive goods…sigh. This is undoubtedly connected to the stereotype of women being attracted to money.

  • A Guy @ at 9:26 am, January 13th, 2011

    If the hypergamy/alpha male theory is correct, then giving them indepencence and exploiting them are the same thing. Give them the choice, and many women will choose to seek the approval of the high-status men in these videos.

    Kelpie said:
    “However, sometimes you do what it takes, and if dancing in music videos pays the bills or opens opportunities, I think that these women should be able to do so if they’d like to.
    It’s not the women who dance in these videos who have the problem, it’s the artists who hire them. It’s the artist’s attitude that should change, and honestly, it’s not going to for a long while.”

    It sounds to me like you’re saying that these women can’t be trusted to think for themselves and that the male artists need to think for them.

  • Woman of GOD! @ at 4:19 pm, January 19th, 2011

    Well I think they need to put God 1st in their lives!! Cause he has a purpose and plan for all of us!

    Jeremiah 29:11-14

    11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.

    I really don’t think that was his plan for them. But i’m not talking down on them. They’re just foolish and need Jesus! :) He will guide them and show them their purpose in life! I used to be foolish like them but never again! Money isn’t everything seek GOD first!! Like Matthew 6:31-33 say…

    31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

    Amen! Those are the words of God! Y’all have a Blessed Day! :)

  • AHodges @ at 11:14 pm, February 6th, 2011

    This is nothing new! Women have been dancing in music videos from the start. I’ll never forget Tawney Kitaen writhing on the hood of David Coverdale’s sportscar in an old Whitesnake video. She looked amazing. But I digress.

    Sex, drugs, and rock and roll has turned into sex, bling, and hip hop, but it boils down to the same thing.

    The women who make a living dancing in videos (or dancing in a strip club) are adults who can decide for themselves what they want to do for money. And as long as women aren’t being forced into it and are being fairly compensated, it’s not really anyone else’s business.

    As for the “message” it sends, that’s subjective. I’d rather see half-naked dancers on my television than all the violent craziness that slides by on primetime tv without raising an eyebrow.

  • jalynn @ at 9:51 am, May 15th, 2013

    yes, i do think music vedios is harmful to women exspelally fo arfican americans.

  • Kia @ at 1:19 pm, November 10th, 2013

    Yoooo!!!!! This is funny how you don’t really see these white girls twerking and doing exotic dance moves in music videos but of course you see these African American girls doing what te white ones can’t of wont do .They need Jesus for real . But hey I don’t blame them they need to make money somehow Right .

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