Objectification of Women in the Contemporary Music Art

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People experience cultural items such as films and music on a regular basis all over the world. Such arts have a subtle significance in people's lives and help affect their views on political, societal, fiscal, and cultural factors. Music is one of the most widely watched arts on a global scale; it is primed for a message that meets a large audience. Such a message has an influence on our worldview and, in the case of this presentation, our attitude toward women. Women from all walks of life have made tremendous strides in numerous ways, but their representation on-screen has remained based on patriarchal assumptions and common rhetoric that does not represent realities. That is why for nearly two decades critics have contributed significantly to the literature surrounding content analysis of the music videos acknowledging different representation of women in music videos. One such factor that has attracted many scholars is the representation of women as sexual objects mostly in the K-pop music genre. Thus, this presentation seeks to explore and explain the massive success of K-pop genre that has gained its fame mostly from the amplification of women as sexual objects.

10 out of 10 by 2 pm (all-male idol group)

10 out of 10 is a modern K-pop song that begins with Jaebeom opening a car door for a lady. He looks at her in a manner that seems to suggest that she has overpowered him with her beauty. Evidently, women are only perceived or represented as some “goddess” of beauty and sexual attraction to men. Men, in this case, are rendered helpless to such beauty. This hyper-sexuality in music presents the themes of raunchiness with the famous art which seems more appealing the consumers of the art (Frazier 2). The gender stereotypes are manifested in this erotic representation of women in music videos. Women are objectified as sensual beings that evoke emotions of sexual arousal to their male counterparts. That is why Jaebeom in the opening scene is left mouth wide open because of the sexual confusion that he experiences once he opens the door for the female character to exit the car.

According to Kim music videos provides an essential backdrop to examine how sexuality is illustrated in music videos since love and sex are the principal themes, but further have hidden messages that demonstrate the stereotypes that exist regarding gender and sexuality (64). The narrative that “sex sells” has existed consistently for a while now. It is the same narrative that the K-pop that is emerging as a favorite genre has drawn the use of women as sexual objects to attract more fans. The culture has often been attributed to pop music particularly by African-Americans who attracted publicity through the use of female actors. The K-pop has also followed the same path in representing the women in the music videos. The dress code of the female main character also implies the sexualization of women. Women are represented as sexual objects whose role is only to impress men characters in the narrative of the music.

The way the male characters looks at the breasts of the female character and the whole figure of the lady is b itself very suggestive. Men’s weakness is represented as being as a result of women’s power drawn from their sexual nature. Their power lies in the seduction approach they take to make men feel weak before them. Moreover, even the lyrics of the song are by default suggesting that women are used for sexual pleasure and satisfaction of men’s ego. In this view, K-pop like many other genres of music employs sexualization of women in their music videos to attract more viewership of their art. The impact is that the negative stereotype is created and women are represented as sexual objects only intended to impress the men.

Miniskirt by AoA (all female idol group)

For the better part of the past decade, the K-pop fantasy has been dominated by eroticism or sensual appeal. Evidently, it is possible to assume that the industry is male-dominated or male-driven, however, that is not the scenario. Miniskirt by AoA (all female idol group) is a perfect representation of the opposite. A sensual theme inspires the video, and the dress code tells it all. The video contains sexual content and behaviors conducted by the female K-pop main character and other dancers. One would easily assume that the song intends to seduce the male audience or appeal to broader male consumers who would probably be attracted the sensual nature of the song. The ladies in the song seems to take part in the ushered era of female-focused pop that lives up to the expectation of the more extensive populace. The cliché stretch back to 80s with idols like KimWan-sun and Ed Sullivan’s where female characters were permitted to perform a role, but not make one for themselves. Women seem as though they are trying to defy the common belief that they are limited to what they can do, but in the same process end up trying to impress men as a way trying to broaden their audience.

In the video, the sexual innuendos that highlight the females’ short skirts, black stockings, and high heels represent these idols as sexual objects. Paradoxically, the women are entirely responsible for this representation of women as sexual objects. Perhaps they are driven by the glorified cultures that are increasingly becoming popular not only in Asia but also attracting fans worldwide thanks largely to the internet and the social media. This has resulted in aggressive promotion and investment in the industry by ambitious companies (Kim 106). The female K-pop bands show immense effort in their work as they try to penetrate other markets mainly the US that has not been responsive to Korean culture or other Asian cultures. That is why they sexuality has become the favorite imagination in the domestic and foreign markets. Thus, the Korean women idols whose appearance have contributed to the American stereotypes of Asian women as exotic sexual objects (Kim 107). “Miniskirt” mainly magnifies this perception through the use of the sexual image of women when largely attempt to appeal to men through seduction.

The analysis of the “Miniskirt” music video shows that K-pop music serves to satisfy the male viewers. The visual design in the K-pop music shows semiotic choices that are made purely to impress the broader majority populace of the male audience. This could be attributed to the fact that the female pop idols seek to break through the other markets just like other male artists. The female artists are thereby forced to live to the expectations of men through employing the tactics that the male artists use including objectifying fellow women as sexual beings. As a result, K-pop as a genre of music is viewed as the driver of sexualization of women in the modern popular cultures.

Overdose by Exo (all-male idol group)

Unlike many other K-pop music videos that employ female characters to attract a wide audience through sexual appeal, “Overdose” by Exo applies a different approach. The video only uses male idols in the presentation of its image. It is unclear why the producer opted to use male talents only considering that the market dictates that “sex sells.” The group deviates from this stereotype of female objectification to focus on the charismatic nature of male idol group.

The Korean society is highly divided regarding gender, and it is largely guided by the Confucian patriarchal gender roles. This means that much of the Korea’s development is influenced and ran by men whereas women have been subjugated to the condition of “passive tools or men’s subordinates” (Leung 218). The K-pop culture is no different in this sense and women are expected to “satisfy” men’s sexual ego. That is why sensual appeal dominates the industry through the use of female idols. Thus, “Overdose” by Exo seems to contradict this notion by purely using only male performers. The idols demonstrate that the male charisma can be used to sell the K-pop music as opposed to popular belief that only sex sells.

Hu writes that the K-pop genre serves as saccharine testimony in the way Korean women are objectified and legally enslaved by the multibillion-dollar industry that makes an outrageous profit from exploitation of women (NPR.Org, 2016, ). The western influence has impacted the perception of the K-pop with sex being the biggest sale of the industry (Laurie 214). The K-pop Empire has grown significantly with bubblegum imagery and often incredible sexism. In fact, the sexist content has become the focal point of the sales achieved in the industry. That is why the use of all-male idol seems to challenge the existing perception of the industry. The lyrics may suggest love and sex in the song, but the mere absence of females corrects the objectification of women as sex objects.

One thing that defines the women in the K-pop industry is their ability to “fit in” which creates too much pressure for women. The industry is particularly harsh on women artists who are forced to go an extra mile to satisfy the audience. Women are even forced to undergo plastic surgery to look “sexier” which in itself is meant to please men. That is why a group of only male idol shows a different point of view, in that men, are not pushed beyond the limits to get to the selling position. Evidently, women are forced by circumstances to identify with the popular culture for them to make it in the industry. Consequently, the industry projects women as objects of sexual pleasure for men.

The male idol in K-pop is not entirely exempted from the original narrative as witnessed in some instances where they have been forced to perform plastic surgery to enhance their looks. In the case where women characters are absent the male idols are expected to take up the role to impress the audience. Despite the lack of female objectification as sexual objects, the male idols try to create the image in the minds of the audience through the lyrics they perform. Thus, a constructive criticism invokes the question of absenteeism of visual imagery, but then it is created in mind through the imagination of the music. In this view, women being represented as sexual objects occurs in different levels in the K-pop music genre and particularly in the music videos.

Vibrato by Stellar (all female idol group)

“Vibrato” is an all-female idol group that essentially reflects on women subjugation to sexual objects. The dance is choreographed in a sexual appeal pattern that creates a perception of sexualization of women. The dressing code of the women in the song can be termed as “sexy” in that is seems to appeal to men sexually. At the 23rd second at the frame where the ladies are dancing in a suggestive manner extending to caress their breasts depicts that the women are being used to extend the sexual image. At the end of the frame, Stella blows a kiss to what can be argued as the audience which further supports the notion of sexualization of women in the K-pop music industry. In fact, throughout the music, there is the element slight personal caressing that the women engage in as they continue with the dance as noted around 42nd second.

The lyrics of the song are also love themed which primarily supports the dance and the dressing. To a large extent, the lyrics are sensual that tend to portray women as beings that are created to satisfy the natural sexual desires of men. The unclear thing is why even the female idol opts to use the kind of lyrics that is witnessed in the kind of the K-pop song that gets to the market as noted in this song. Perhaps, it is the case of trying to “fit in” or a case of succumbing to the pressure of competition from the male colleagues. “Vibrato” is not just a depiction of the industry has pushed the women to conform to sexualization, but shows a clear-cut point between what sells and what the society demands from the women. The case is not a misplaced priority but a culture of conformity to the demands of the industry that is purely patriarchal.

One aspect that comes out clear when observing the all-male and all-female idol groups is the fact that women have much freedom and too many expectations. The ladies are expected to go an extra mile to prove their abilities as artists who are not the same case as men. On the issue of expression of sensuality between the male and female idol groups, it is evident that the female group is much sexually hyper-tensed both in the lyrics and in the visual appearance. The dance presented by women is explicitly suggestive implying that women are more likely to go more in-depth to please men. On the contrary, the case of all men groups is entirely different as men are only suggestive in their lyrics to a large extent seem to imply their love for women is coined to sexual desires. These K-pop music videos imply that women have been subjugated and reduced to some erotic objects to satisfy the desire of men (Oh 64).

Conclusively, the sexualization of women is something that has spread across the divide as presented and spearheaded by the K-pop music genre. Women are reduced to some objects of sexual satisfaction to men in all aspects. From the music lyrics to visual appeal, the sexuality of erotic nature of women seems to drive the themes of the songs across the board. Women are also in the same mix as they produce content that tends to support the perception of the mostly patriarchal society. In fact, the sexualization of women appearing in male idol group music videos is different from the sexualization of women appearing in the only female idol group music videos. The female groups appear to have more sexually oriented content as compared to that of men. This creates the perception that women themselves are willing to objectify as a sex object to please men.

Works Cited

2PM. “10 out of 10.” J., Y., Park. 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEmRoYV8vMs

AOA. “Miniskirt.” Brave Brothers. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0WC8yYHxoI

EXO-K. “Overdose” Lee, Soo-man. 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI0DGvqKZTI

Frazier, Elijah. Girls, Girls, Girls: Analyzing Race and Sexuality Portrayal in Music Videos. June 5, 2013, http://comm.stanford.edu/mm/2013/01/Elijah-Frazier-MA-Thesis.pdf

Hu, Elise. "For Women In Korean Pop, 'Making It' Can Mean A Makeover." NPR.Org, 2016, https://www.npr.org/2016/07/31/487926532/for-women-in-korean-pop-making-it-can-mean-a-makeover.

Kim, Daisy. Reappropriating Desires in Neoliberal Societies through KPop. University of California, Los Angeles, 2012.

Kim, Youna. The Korean Wave. Hoboken, Taylor and Francis, 2013.

Laurie, Timothy. "15 Toward a Gendered Aesthetics of K-Pop." Global Glam and Popular Music: Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s 11 (2016): 214.

Leung, Sarah. "Catching the K-Pop wave: globality in the production, distribution, and consumption of South Korean popular music." (2012).

Oh, Chuyun. "Queering spectatorship in K-pop: The androgynous male dancing body and western female fandom." The Journal of Fandom Studies 3.1 (2015): 59-78.

Stellar. “Vibrato.” Hwang, Hyun. 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrKdTIxcDlQ

October 19, 2022
Category:

Sociology

Subcategory:

News media Communication

Subject area:

Media Impact of Media Message

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10

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2523

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