Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Artist views: Portrayal of women in U.S. society through music, modeling, film

*This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on 20 December 2011. It was reported by Vanessa White.


SAN BERNARDINO, California—Before Ms. Kyra Mangual models outfits for a crowd, she tries them on for comfort.
Both physical comfort and psychological comfort.
If she is comfortable, the show will go according to plan and she will do what she can to stun the audience, her body the canvas, her clothing the painting.
However, if her outfit brings her physical or psychological discomfort and she refuses to hit the runway in it, there is a possibility she will not be able to be in the show and she could miss out on further opportunities for work.
It is therefore encouraged that she wear the outfit and those outfits tend to reflect “sexiness,” and “ultra-femininity.”
“The main goal is to sell clothing,” Ms. Mangual told the Viễn Đông. “Sex sells.”
In a country that prides itself on democracy and freedom, drawing people from countries that lack such ideals, it is essential to look into particular aspects of popular culture and the way people vote for specific products by spending money.
Particularly, how women-a marginalized group-spend money and are thusly included in the vote.
Ms. Mangual said that women want to wear sexy clothing or be viewed as sexy, partly because advertisements portray women in such a way.
If more women go out and buy the clothing a particular model has worn at a show or in a photo, the model is doing her job.
Currently, clothing that reveals more of the female body-whether the skin itself or the shape-is what is popular; however if the trends were to change because models wore “less sexy” types of clothing, popular culture and women with tastes for mainstream fashion would probably change their flavors accordingly, Ms. Mangual said.
Musical misogyny
Though hip hop styles have changed since its reported early 1980s beginning, the art form has historically come under attack for various reasons, misogyny being one of them.
Hip hop critics have negatively noted certain rappers uses of words that are considered degrading to women, as well as images of half-naked women in certain rappers music videos and photo shoots.
There are female rappers who even portray themelves as sexual objects, such critics feel.
However Harlem, New York based hip hop artist Mr. Darrell “Dmac” Davis told the Viễn Đông that females are not portrayed to be as sexual as they once were.
“Many artists now are focused on lyrics about life without misogynistic messages,” he said. “For the select few that do continue to marginalize women, this message is subconsciously internalized.”
He continued, saying that the internalized messages can affect the way women are treated and can place pressure on them to adhere to trends that further degrade them.
Dmac added that he has degraded women in his music, as his artistic expression brings out multiple facets of his personality, from aggression, anger, hope, and his experiences with women.
“In a sense, it can relate to double consciousness,” he said, referring to a term coined by the late sociologist Mr. W.E. B. Du Bois, who explained the dual lives of African Americans living in the United States, seeing themselves from two different and warring perspectives.
One perspective is the original slave master’s, seeing oneself as superior to African American slaves who are viewed as nothing more than workhorses and moneymakers. Such a view includes African American women as well.
The other perspective is from the slave’s view, needing to be free and treated as equal yet feeling degradation from the master and inferiority that comes with forced indebtedness.
Such a combination can create a conflict within. To Dmac, as well as some other male rappers, this double consciousness means indecisiveness surrounding his feelings about women and his relationship to them.
Dmac’s music is his recognition of such double consciousnes and his struggle to remain aware of it.
Women in film
Writer Ms. Maria Wagner wrote in an essay titled Women in Film: That Object Named “Desire” or In Search of True Liberation for Women, that women’s inclusion in film is often viewed as a form of liberation but is instead a form of enslavement.
“Without women there would be no cinema,” she wrote. “From the very beginnings of cinema a woman has been made the centerpiece of attraction, an object of desire.”
She adds that concerns of genuine womanhood have not been addressed in film; hence women either buy into their enslavement or “vaguely sense” it.
“This systemic cultivation of women as objects of desire has been akin to the gradual process of drug addiction,” she continues. “First, the effects were rather mild and pleasantly stimulating-and thus considered not only harmless by both men and women, but even liberating.”
“However, as time went on and doses increased, a feverish state of dependency set in.”

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