There’s no sex in your violence. —”Everything Zen” by Bush
Or is there? —M.A. Chiappetta’s question after watching a couple of YouTube videos
Do you think of violence too? Maybe not. But two top music videos on YouTube—Taylor Swift’s “Blank Spaces” and Maroon 5’s “Animals”—might change your mind about that.
Both songs are catchy. The lyrics are challenging—both are about messy relationships. The video images are disturbing, to say the least. Violence appears in both of them. We linked to the videos yesterday, if you want to watch them. But I can sum them up for you quickly:
Taylor Swift’s video is about a beautiful woman who invites a man into her home, her life, and her heart, only to catch him texting another woman. When she confronts him, he throws up his hands and walks away from her as though she is being unreasonable for being angry. She then goes… to use the technical term… apeshit.
She trashes his car, his portrait painting, his clothes… But in the end, he drives off safely and is replaced by another pretty face. Sure, this woman is a little crazy. But don’t guys like that? Don’t men have a thing for the crazy woman? She’s sexy, she’s hot, you want to have sex with her, but you don’t take her seriously. Right? Sucks to be her.
The Maroon 5 video is about a creepy stalker who obsessively and invasively places himself in a woman’s life without her permission. He photographs her against her will. He follows her day and night. He violates her privacy. He fantasizes about sleeping with her.
Oh, and of course, he also fantasizes about killing her and cutting her up like the haunches of beef he cuts up in his butcher shop. There’s a happy story for you. The video ends with him in the street outside her house, not having done anything. Yet. But is she going to remain safe after the screen goes blank? The statistics say otherwise.
In a world filled with rape, domestic violence, genital mutilation, and other forms of violence against women so common, why does our society insist on sexualizing that violence and turning violent sexual imagery into a fetish? Isn’t it bad enough that you can’t turn on TV without expecting to see this stuff on adult programs like Criminal Minds, Law & Order: SVU, etc.? Do we have to institutionalize this violence against women and market it to our children on YouTube as well, so that it will never go away? Never get better?
When are people in these celebrity industries going to stand up en masse and object to this violent treatment of women? How can we expect things to change, for women to be treated well, if the stereotypes keep getting perpetuated?
Think about this… BOTH VIDEOS tap into stereotypes of women. Taylor’s challenges it. Adam’s basically reinforces it. And that’s not okay.
“Blank Spaces” is about a woman who is drawn to players, a situation that always lead to drama. Her ex-lovers complain about her and say it’s all her fault. But let’s be honest: it takes two to tango. And it takes two to ruin a relationship.
People judge Taylor Swift to be the cause of the problem…because she’s female. She wouldn’t be judged as harshly if she were a man. (If you don’t believe that, revisit Christian Bale’s bad boy behavior, or Russell Crowe tossing phones around hotel rooms. Does anyone talk about them the way they badmouth Taylor Swift?)
The video for “Blank Spaces” reflects this, just magnified.
Maroon 5’s “Animals” though… That’s a song about a relationship that works only on the sexual level. Both the man and the woman are trying to find new relationships, get away from each other…but their lust brings them back together. It’s only during sex that they connect. They’re like animals, being driven back to mating, but unable to live with one another.
The video goes in a different direction, examining what it means to look at a woman and reduce her to meat in your mind, to think that you’re entitled to have sex in your head with her, over and over, just because she has caught your eye. Talk about disturbing. No one wants to be the object of the stalker’s obsession.
Unlike the guy in the Taylor Swift video, Adam Levine’s persona is never invited freely into his obsession’s life. And unlike Taylor’s persona, who becomes violent out of anger and hurt, but who never kills and doesn’t seem to particularly enjoy the violence, the Adam Levine persona is all about violence and sex combined as one thing for him. Blood gushing while they’re naked and having sex (in his fantasies)? Ugh.
What’s even more disturbing is that when fellow Purple Inker, Meg Perdue, showed these video to some men in her life, they found the Taylor Swift one much creepier than the Maroon 5 video. But why? Taylor goes crazy, but there’s no blood. Most men never have to face that level of histrionics in a breakup. Adam, on the other hand, contemplates horrific violence of the kind that women face daily…violence that often ends in death. Why is that less creepy? Because the guy isn’t the victim in that one?
This is what it means to institutionalize sexual violence against women. It means that when men see two videos…one with melodrama and one with a promise of slaughter…they prefer the slaughter because at least there’s some naked chick visible and if anyone gets hurt, it’ll be her because, I guess, she’s pretty and dresses somewhat sexily, so she must deserve it. I’m guessing that the guys would say the man in Taylor’s video didn’t deserve it. From a woman’s point of view, though, he did.
And in the end, only one of these video characters would have ended up dead if the situations happened in real life. The woman.
And that’s a problem.
(For a look at some of the stats on violence against women, check out the UN Women organization’s Facts and Figures page.)