Helena Victor, Seattle WA

As we all agreed, Taylor Swift presented herself as the most stereotypically feminine of the seven videos that we watched. Aside from the 50s outfits and hairstyles, Taylor displayed herself as “feminine” in more emotional ways. Whether it was the delayed eye-contact, the hunched shoulders, or the solidarity of her character, Taylor Swift presented herself as horribly insecure. To me, this is what stands out as “good/attractive/proper” femininity.

When contrasted with MIA, I see another type of femininity, a type that is new and emerging and strays far from the housewives of the 1950s. MIA’s femininity is more about defiance, which is what I see today in society not as good and proper, but as attractive. Women who behave with a little bit of what we regard as masculinity seem to illicit more attention and appeal more to the typical male. MIA seems to be playing off of society to illicit the most attracted response. She knows that defiance is considered sexy, but the “sexiness” still makes her video feminine. MIA’s presentation of herself is supposed to illicit some sexual response, which—when compared to videos like A$AP Rocky’s, we may decide to categorize as a feminine technique for attention.

A$AP Rocky’s video, on the other side of the spectrum, doesn’t appear to be visually self-promoting. But the lyrics very clearly commodify women (apparently bad bitches, drugs, alcohol, and money are the most popular rap-culture problems) and portray these men as some sort of sexual sadists, as evidenced by the lyric “bring your girls to the crib maybe we can solve it”, it being “the fucking problem”. The closely following lyric  “turn a dyke bitch out, have her fucking boys” is A$AP Rocky’s attempt to present himself as a little more manly, but contrary to MIA’s tactic of appearing attractive to her audience, there is no way this could attract the opposite sex. A$AP Rocky’s video is clearly attracting an audience of men, which is contrary to his projected image and familiar in some ways to the homoeroticism associated with fraternities.

If we take the group SHINee into consideration, we see MIA’s tactic of attraction to the opposite sex. So despite the more feminine image, the masculinity is preserved by the sex of the intended attractor. All this being said, I think it is fair to say that there are at least two different levels to what we regard as masculine and feminine, one being the submissive feminine and aggressive masculine, and the other being the aggressive feminine and the more submissive masculine. In the latter case, the intent is not to be less masculine or feminine, but to appeal to the opposite sex by being more like them.

One Direction, on the other hand, seems to take a pretty neutral position in terms of appearance and style, however they do embrace each other, which is a step closer to femininity from SHINee and a far cry from the spotlight separation that represents “masculinitiy” in A$AP Rocky’s video. One Direction’s intended audience is something that I believe could go either way in terms of masculinity or femininity; does speaking to the opposite sex make them less masculine, since we would regard A$AP Rocky as more masculine? Or does the chivalrous attitude of One Direction make them more “proper/good/attractive” and therefore more masculine?

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3 thoughts on “Helena Victor, Seattle WA

  1. I found your analysis of the Fuckin’ Problems video interesting, especially the part about how they are attracting a male audience by degrading women, which seems counter to their hypermasculine, aggressively heterosexual image. That they appear to other men as “true men” who are in a position of power over women is far more important than the actual women. By asserting their heterosexuality so relentlessly, the men in this video are actually playing into an extremely homosocial environment.

  2. I also liked your comment about the A$AP video. I think the idea that their target audience is men is very true and seems strange considering the extreme masculinity displayed. Instead of attracting a female audience (which I agree seems like a difficult thing to do when saying things like “turn a dyke bitch out”), they attract males who share in the need for masculine dominance over women.
    I also liked your separation of submissive and aggressive femininity/masculinity. I think this is important when considering that a gender can appeal to its opposite by acting more like them. I think this was evident in MIA’s masculinity (or aggressive femininity) which to a heterosexual male was very attractive yet did not destroy her feminine presence.

  3. I like your point comparing A$AP and One Direction. The technique in Fucking Problems of having each man rap alone plays in to stereotypical ideas of masculinity. By highlighting them with a spotlight, each man is shown as strong and independent, playing in to stereotypical ideas about masculinity. In terms of your question about One Direction, I don’t think their video is necessarily less masculine then A$AP because they are not trying to portray the same type of masculinity. If One Direction videos showed women as featured in the A$AP or Macklemore videos, they would be contracting the innocence that is essential to their image.

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