|Selected Topics in Gender Studies
-analyzing gender images in popular media
I. Introduction…………………………………………………………....... p. 3
II. Culture: creator of our values & attitudes.....................................
III. Missy Elliott: Work it........................................................................
IV. Analyze and Conclusions............................................................... p. 11
V. Literature.......................................................................................... p. 12
The aim of this paper is to identify in which way music videos through a cultural socializing process influence today’s sexroles and gender stereotypes. The music video Work it! By Missy Elliott will be analyzed in order to see which messages are sent out and how Missy Elliott, being a woman, uses the video to send out a certain picture of herself.
This approach first arrived in the 1920-1930s known as the “mass society theory”, or the “hypodermic approach”, since it argues that the media is a powerful source that can exploit and manipulate individuals, through injecting ideas into the minds of a target population. Also recent marketers and social scientists suggest that media and advertising do more than just create product awareness and preferences. They suggest that the impact on the audience’s values, attitudes and beliefs is extensive and that stereotypical images can contribute to social problems, like for example a sexistic view on women or unrealistic thin body ideals which can cause excessive dieting and lower self-esteem.
Reference groups are important when explaining the socializing process that all people go through. There are three types of reference groups to which people may belong. Aspirational reference groups are groups that people admire and wish to be part of, but of which they are currently not a member. Associative reference groups are groups to which we do belong, while disassociative reference groups are groups that we do not want to be associated with and with whose attitudes, values and behaviours we do not agree. Sozialisation is a life long process and the impact of different reference groups changes over time. At an early age parents are important influencers, while friends become more important at an older age.
Models, artists and actors are common role models and for a lot of people they form an aspirational reference group, i.e. a group that people admire and wish to be like, but of which they are currently not a member of. The attractiveness of such a group affects what people are willing to do in order to become part of the group. This can be illustrated by people behaving like their idols and taking on their values and attitudes. There are two different types of influence identified by researchers: normative and informational. Normative influence is defined as “social pressure designed to encourage conformity to the expectations of others” , while informational influence is influence through provided information. Normative influence can affect a person to conform to a certain behaviour in order to fit in. This wish to conform is usually stronger when it involves achieving or communicating status.
IV. Missy Elliott: Work it
Chronological description of the video
The environment throughout the video is cold, grey and masculine, except for the beauty salon scene. At the underground it is also interesting to notice that it looks like a tunnel and at the end of the tunnel there is light.
At the beginning of the video there is a scene where Missy Elliott is being a DJ with loads of bees around her. I interpretate this as Missy Elliott being the bee-queen and all the male bees are working around her. She is taking on a stereotypical male role by being the strong central figure who is in control. It becomes very obvious through the fact that female DJ:s are very rare in the hiphop-culture.
A few scenes later, Missy Elliott is dancing at the playground together with four guys. Here we can see that Missy Elliott is dancing and making pretty much the same moves as the guys. It is obvious that she is part of the group and not very different to the guys. She is also wearing the same kind of clothes and does not show much bare flesh. It is important to notice that Missy Elliott through the whole video does not show much flesh and wears a boyish style of clothes. This becomes especially obvious when she is surrounded by other females, that look more feminine and shows more bare skin.
The scene where several phones are handed over to Missy Elliott. Here Missy Elliott takes control by asking for the guys´ numbers instead of giving out her own. She is thereby avoiding a more passive role when she has to wait for the guys to call her. Traditionally the guys are supposed to call the girls, but Missy Elliott breaks this traditional behaviour by taking initiatives and also by measuring guys physical appearances.
A bit later, Missy Elliott is dancing on what can be seen as a chessboard. The ground consists of black and white squares, which looks just like a chessboard. Our society can be seen as a game with fixed roles and one can only, or is only expected to, act according to ones specific role in society. By dancing on the chessboard, you could say that the dancers and Missy Elliott are dancing upon the societal structure and thereby disrespecting it.
At the beauty salon, the set is very light and feminine. The women there are all very similar and stereotypical, while Missy Elliott acts like a contrast trought the way she moves and how she is dressed. Again she wears, compared to the girls, a more boyish style of clothes and does not show much bare flesh.
Missy Elliott is a contrast to the environment also at the restaurant scene. She is wearing a sporty style of clothes, but does here appear a bit more feminine than in the rest of the video. Through her gestures and from the lyrics one can understand that she does not want to be just a beautiful woman, like Halle Berry, who is just sitting there smiling. She is saying that she will never change who she is and the guy could never find anyone better.
When Missy Elliott is dancing together with four other women, they are all dressed in a sporty way, but Missy Elliott is showing a lot less bare skin. She is again looking contrastingly more boyish than the rest of the women. Through the lyrics she questions wheather the men are men enough to handle her. She is giving an independent impression and she is in control. She seems to be saying that a strong woman needs a strong man.
There is a scene with several guys standing in a row. Here Missy Elliott turns the traditional situation around through objectifying men. The set looks like a situation at a police office where a witness is to identify a suspect.
A few scenes later, Missy Elliott is at a club and there are pole-dancing girls working. Missy Elliott encourages the girls to be proud of themselves and not to be ashamed, but to make sure that they are in control of the situation and that they take advantage of the situation in order to get the money, instead of being exploitated and used by men.
The scene with Prince. Missy Elliott is laying on a sofa and a man, looking very similar to Prince, is acting as if he finds her really hot and he wants to touch her. Missy Elliott announces that she would never change her name, not even for a prince. She is proud of being who she is. There are two interpretations possible here. The first is that she is simply making fun of the artist Prince through pointing at the fact that he has changed his name many times. The second way of seeing it is that if she would get married she would never change her name, not even if the man was a prince with a noble name.
Through the scene with the black servant hitting the white man Missy Elliott is encouraging us not to accept inequalities and classdifferences. One should not accept to be treated differently and one should fight against the patriarchy.
Later there is the scene where Missy Elliott is at a classroom, looking like a little girl and wearing a big red “dumbhat”. Here I interpretate it as if Missy Elliott is telling girls not to play dumb. She wants to fight the female stereotype of being pretty and dumb.
At the end of the video, Missy Elliott is dancing with a group of young girls and I believe that the conclusion of the video should be that the next generation of women will be more independent and speak their minds. Also the tunnelview at the underground, where there is light at the end of the tunnel, can be interpretated as if today the situation for women looks dull and women are still often exploitated, but there is hope and the light symbolizes a brighter future for women.
It is obvious that Missy Elliott on the one hand wants to communicate a portrait of herself like someone who is part of the group and on the same level as the guys she is dancing with. This can be seen through the fact that when they dance together they make pretty much the same moves and Missy Elliott is wearing similar clothes in the same boyish style. But on the other hand Missy Elliott also contrastingly portraits herself as stronger and as unreachable for other men in the video, for example at the scene with the Prince look-alike. Maybe this contrast is due to the possible difficulty for women to be at the same level as men. Often women have to show themselves as a lot better and stronger, than any ordinary man has to, in order to be accepted.
It is interesting to note that Missy Elliott encourages a fight not only against gender inequalities, but against all types of discrimmination in society. Being both a woman and black, she probably has experienced different types of discrimmination or at least seen it happen to other people. She is probably aware of the influence of music videos on young adults and therefor wants to deliver this important message through her video.
Through analyzing Missy Elliott’s music video I come to the conclusion that she presents a picture of women as strong and independent and I do not believe that this particular music video has any negative effects on young adults or that it creates or solidifies negative gender roles. On the contrary, I believe it can have a positive effect on young girls that might want to be as cool as their idol; that is to step forward, speak their minds and not letting guys control them.