Barely clothed women in music videos is not something new to the industry. Whether it’s a female or male artist, sex sells. But when women being sex objects becomes the centerpiece of music culture, as opposed to the music, is there a problem with the artists who encourage the movement, or the people who mindlessly follow it?
This past week I attended the Boston Calling Music Festival, in downtown Boston, MA, which featured headlining artists Vampire Weekend and Passion Pit. But where I found discomfort was not in the headliners but in the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) artist Major Lazer. Major Lazer is signed on to the record label Mad Decent, started by the American DJ Diplo. Diplo’s beats can be said to have changed a generation, but the performance was more about the antics than the music. One could barely hear the music as Major Lazer played. Every time the crowd started grooving with the music they would start a new mix or pause to ask the audience to twerk or take off their shirts. Their acts to liven up the performance included rolling inside a clear hamster like plastic ball, shooting streamers out of a gun, and having two girls mindlessly twerk and then give an audience member a lap dance. I felt ashamed of the EDM culture that I very much connect myself to–I also felt like I had just been to an adult version of a bar mitzvah.
When I looked around me to get confirmation from the audience, besides my two friends, I found none. My instagram, vine and twitter, were filled with comments like Major Lazer was epic. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying the catastrophe that was happening on stage; I began to wonder is it me? The next day I tried to look for reviews of the performances and all I could find was that the music attracted a younger crowd and that people seemed to be having a blast.
To me, these performances were not that different than Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, where she was stripping down, twerking and not really singing. The only difference is Miley was “slut shamed” and it appears that not much is happening to Diplo. I don’t approve of either performance as an accurate depiction of what music can be, but the double standard of Miley’s performance compared to that of Major Lazers, is disappointing.
So how to change the culture? Recently three law students from Aukland University in New Zealand, Adelaide Dunn, Olivia Lubbock, and Zoe Elwood, released their own parody of “Blurred Lines” called “Defined Lines.” In it they portray they do not want to be treated like sexual props. Zoe Elwood described in a Wall Street Journal interview that she originally liked Robin Thicke’s song because of it’s catchy beats but when she looked up the lyrics and watched the video she felt it was offensive and sexist. All three girls said that they made the parody in hopes of it becoming a platform to stop mainstream misogyny of women. They took action even though they knew the odds were not in their favor. In fact, when they first put the video on youtube, youtube took it down for it’s content. Youtube later apologized to the three women and put the video back online, but in the process proved the double standard exists.
We can all make the music industry a more comforting place for women by following the steps these three ladies took to make their parody: acknowledging that the music industry is not as comforting to women as men, listening and watching videos before spreading the message, and calling out artists who are not encouraging a healthy music culture. These actions will not immediately change the industry but if more of us speak out we have the opportunity to get the music back. And for goodness sake don’t ever let a guy wearing a neon Me Gusta Whores hat get away without telling him his hat is offensive.