Feminism in the Music Industry
Updated: Nov 22, 2018
Within the past year artists have populated the charts with songs that revolve around the theme of feminism. Whether its the lyrics of a song or specific symbolism embedded into music videos, 2018 has immensely demonstrated that feminism is a prevailing theme in the music industry. However under what light is feminism being portrayed? and how is this being received by the masses?
In the following article I explore this further.
Little Mix - Woman Like Me
Being a girl band, it is no surprise that Little Mix create music which empowers females. Yet they have often been criticised over their 'skimpy outfits' as critics claim it is contradicting of their attempt to promote the equality of women. The group has responded to the criticism by voicing what they believe it means to be a feminist.
Jade - ‘being a feminist doesn’t mean that you have to wear a polo-neck jumper and a pair of trousers. Anyone can be a feminist. Feminism is just believing in equality.’
Their latest collaboration with Nicki Minaj "Woman Like Me", indeed aims to empower women with it's visuals showing a celebratory tribute to women. The music video captured a lot of energy with dancing routines and constant scene changes, yet it comes across as more than just another pop song. With its strong appeal to women of all ages and backgrounds, the video gives confidence to women all over the world. On the level of conceptualisation and symbolism, the video indicates through various scenes that the view of an 'ideal woman' is transforming and moving away from conventional social norms. This is displayed through different scenes capturing either a conservative (displayed through a Victorian Era set up) or liberal (Urban scene) portrayal of women.
Nicki Minaj's presence further implements this message as Lil Mix members go from balancing books, eating with their mouths closed and ironing clothing; to throwing items and trashing the dinner table. This overall signifies the message that women do not have to fit the stereotypical norms society has put on females. Instead they can break the rules imposed upon them and move towards complete and utter liberation!
Zara Larrson - Ruin My Life
Being only 20 years old, Zara Larsson has achieved paramount success so far in her career as a singer/ song writer. Her latest release "Ruin my Life" has however received a mixture of reviews via social media with many labelling her as a 'bad Feminist'. Her single centres on the difficulties and struggles bought upon someone experiencing a toxic relationship. The inability to break free and release oneself from such a predicament is captured through the lyrics resorting to "I want you to ruin my life". Although the lyrics may be daunting, the video on the contrary displays Zara dancing and in multiple glamorous outfit changes. Perhaps the symbolism behind the video represents that despite her situation she continues to be full of life and still remains confident in herself, even if she isn't in the best relationship. Zara has since responded to critics that she feels it is important to be able to express herself as an artist.
Zara - “I get the idea of wanting to only do really powerful, uplifting songs towards women, but I'm a human being and I can get my heart broken,” she says. “I should be able to express my feelings by being me, and hopefully other girls can relate, without that making me a bad feminist."
I guess her being labeled as a 'bad feminist' is based on the premise that she is presenting herself as weak and inviting of distress from a relationship that serves her no good and in other words 'ruins her life'. This indeed promotes and on some levels celebrates maintaining a destructive lifestyle. However it is important to not forget that we are all human beings and all have the ability to be vulnerable whilst in love, especially when this occurs at a young age.
Ariana Grande - God is a Woman
Ariana Grande, the record breaking female artist of our time, captured momentous attention on her single 'God Is A Woman' earlier this year.
The song has been referred to as a 'Feminist Anthem' due to it's celebration of female sexuality and portrayal of females in an omnipotent manner.
The music video and lyrics combined aim to portray sexual liberation through a spiritual experience with a lover. In other words, the theme of religion is modernised to fit feminism, as it celebrates female sexuality through constant religious references and practises such as confessing at church and being blessed. Madonna's voice is also heard reciting the biblical verse Exekiel 25:17, but instead of referring to 'brothers' she refers to 'sisters'. Here the song indicates empowers women through the framework of religion by reforming it all together and promoting feminism!
"And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger
Those who attempt to poison and destroy my sisters
And you will know my name is the Lord,
when I lay my vengeance upon you."
However the symbolism doesn't stop there!
Ariana is presented being of gigantic size and male figures being miniature in comparison as they attempt to throw explicit words at her (ho*, slu*, b*tch, fake etc.). However she remains unbothered and continues to sit on what seems to look like a throne, indicating that women are much more powerful than the slurs men tend to often throw at them due to their sexual liberation.
Rotating galaxies, sacred symbolism, earthy imagery and a re-creation of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” featuring women instead of men, are all also included in the music video - enabling the visuals to be both artistically pleasing and symbolic of female power. The message of the song all in all denounces patriarchy values and promotes as well as celebrates female empowerment and sexuality.
Kanye West ft. Lil Pump - I love it
With currently having over 300 million views on YouTube, West and Pump won a lot of popularity with their latest release for its catchy beat and easy to remember lyrics.
Nevertheless the music video and lyrics combined promote a strong message regarding women and sexuality. The music video features Kanye West and Lil Pump being of miniature size in comparison to a female figure (comedian Adele Givens) in order to signify the power and significance of the female in comparison to the male. Ariana Grande's 'God Is A Woman' also contains a similar type of symbolism, with Ariana being portrayed as a giant in comparison to miniature male figures throwing explicit words at her.
The two males continually follow the female despite the female figure attempts to scold and discourage them to, she nevertheless continues to walk forward and pays little or no attention to Pump and Kanye following her from behind. This can be interpreted as the constant thirst and drive of the male to pursue the female despite her not being interested. The lyrics chanting "Your such a *ucking *oe, I love it", perhaps connotes both frustration and infatuation with the woman's sexuality.
Yet the woman ignoring the two males behind her embodies the little significance they have over her and that she is in control of her sexuality despite what they project upon her. In terms of feminism this video also celebrates female sexuality and empowers women, however it is in no doubt done so in a very controversial way. With the opening lyrics immediately referring to women as 'ho*s', it takes a little more evaluation of the music video to acknowledge the message West and Pump are getting across. This being that regardless of how a woman chooses to express her sexual liberation, the male is helplessly obsessed and 'loves it'. What may seem like a degradation of women due to the use of explicit words, this is contradicted as the male (symbolised by West and Pump), continually follow the female and are very insignificant in comparison, perhaps indicating that they are degrading themselves for being so thirsty.
This is further implemented with Comedian Adele Givens quoting in the song...
'Cause you know in the old days they couldn't say the shit they wanted to say They had to fake orgasms and shit We can tell *iggas today, "Hey, I wanna cu*, motha*ucka"
Overall signifying the shift towards female sexual liberation and celebrating as well as accepting the power females have with their sexuality.