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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Violent music videos are no feminist win

A man sees his girlfriend texting. He doesn’t know who she’s talking to, but there’s a chance that person might also have an XY chromosome.

Understandably, he responds by pushing her, throwing a flowerpot at her head and lighting her things on fire. As if that wasn’t enough, he proceeds to run around her house waving a knife, stabs a cake and attacks her car with a golf club. Soon after, the man is shown kneeling over the girl’s unconscious body, hitting her motionless face.

Sounds horrific, right?

Replace “he” with “she,” and you have Taylor Swift’s hit “Blank Space” music video, which has accumulated nearly 1.2 billion views on YouTube.

The video’s description clarifies that “No animals, trees, automobiles or actors were harmed in the making of this video.” Note that “actors” is included last behind both trees and automobiles. But perhaps the biggest harm this video causes has nothing to do with property damage.

There is a trend emerging in which female artists in music videos act violently, usually toward male lovers, under the guise of empowerment. These women’s “artistic” choices are a complete step in the wrong direction.

Lorde and Rihanna have followed the same path. In Disclosure’s new video, “Magnets” featuring Lorde (with 12.1 million views since Sept. 29), the young artist ties a man with whom she has had an affair to a chair, pushes the chair into a pool and then lights the pool on fire as he drowns. Top comments for the video at one point included viewers exclaiming “the ending, well that was metal af” and “Good LORDE she is gorgeous.”

Rihanna, in her notorious video “Bitch Better Have My Money”—with over 51 million YouTube views—drugs and tortures a man’s wife, then ties up and (presumably) dismembers the man. At the end, she is seen bathing nude in a case full of money, completely covered in blood. The video has an “explicit” warning and is not available to users under 18 years old.

If roles were reversed and men were depicted doing these exact actions to women, there would be public outcry. The videos would not be bold, empowering or even likely in accordance with YouTube’s policy against violence, which states “It’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or disrespectful.”

If male artists’ music videos included the same shocking offenses against women, they would be seen for exactly what they are: acts of domestic violence.

Critics point out that these videos are feminist successes—that they counter the tired narrative of the heartbroken woman as a weepy damsel. Swift, Lorde and Rihanna, rather than being hurt by their lovers, decide to hurt them instead.

There are two main problems with the view of violent videos as feminist successes. First, glorification of these acts trivializes domestic abuse against men, which is a very real issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “1 in 7 men age 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in [his] lifetime.”

For an issue that is already widely ignored, the last thing we should do is venerate artists who further downplay or even encourage domestic violence against men.

Second, to interpret these violent videos as feminist is to equate violence to power. To reverse scenarios in which women are more often the victims than men still maintains power in the hands of the abuser. A true feminist win wouldn’t pare protagonists with the negative traits—aggression and violence— stereotypically associated with masculinity.

Boys really don’t “only want love if it’s torture,” as Taylor Swift sang in “Blank Space.” A true feminist win will come when we see our favorite female artists as heroes or antiheroes who attain power without brutalizing other people.

Follow Hailey Dickson on Twitter.

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