The other day, reclining blissfully at the basin while the hair stylist washed and conditioned and massaged my newly coloured head of hair, I started watching music videos. This is not what I would be doing by choice, of course, but that is what was playing on the oversized flat screen dangling on the wall ahead of me.
And I found it depressing.
Image after image of bikini clad women, gyrating their hips desperately and thrusting their gravity defying boobs in every direction, while snappily dressed (and fully clothed) men wandered around the scene, in control, in charge and quite often being sexually propositioned by mostly naked young women. After watching three Pitbull videos in a row I was quite ready to tear his penis off and stuff it down his throat.
But this is not what I found depressing. Pretty revolting, definitely disgusting and absolutely an overt sexualisation of woman. Very definitely a problem. But what was really depressing was the next set of videos – female singers all. Just as scantily dressed, just as pornographic … and not a man in sight.
What is it that makes talented, beautiful women feel that the only way they have value or presence or the opportunity for success is to get “sexy” and show as much skin as possible? Why does Beyonce need lots of exposed leg, high heels, and sexually provocative moves, to tell the world he should have put a ring on it? It is so cheap. And so demeaning. But worse than that, it perpetuates so many misguided stereotypes about what makes a woman worthwhile, about where a woman should place her own sense of value, and about the value women have in society.
I can hear the chorus of “they aren’t being forced into it”. Except, perhaps they are and they just don’t know it. Because it is the easy way to get noticed. It is the easy way to get talked about. It is the easy way to become successful in those public, celebrity driven arenas. You think Miley would have got as much coverage if she came in on her wrecking ball in her pj’s? And the reason it is easy, is because that is still how our society sees the role of a women. As a sexual object, first and foremost. Whether you force her to cover up or reward her for getting naked. Those actions come from the same place – the objectification of women as sexual objects. And, perhaps without even realising it, these women see themselves in the same way.
It is just entertainment, you might argue. But it is not. With a 24 hour presence everywhere, it is the wallpaper our children grow up against. It is the culture that they are immersed in, from birth. It becomes the backdrop to how they see themselves.
The reason I get depressed is because I have a nine year old intelligent and curious and generous and kind hearted, wonderful little girl who will have to navigate the torrid waters of adolescence while being surrounded by wall to wall communication of what society really thinks about women. This covert, unacknowledged visual depiction of what it means to be a successful and powerful woman in today’s society will have more power than my voice. And that is depressing in itself. But what is more depressing is that this myth is perpetuated by women who have so much else to offer.