I have a poem to share with you. A really nice and innovative and truthful poem I came across a few days ago on my daily rounds through awesome feminist sites.
This poem is by Hollie McNish (check her out here, or on the twittersphere! she’s awesome), and it struck me for several reasons. One, the fact that you have to play a music video, put it on mute, and listen to her beautiful voice comment on it in poetry form. Two, the fact that the song is Blow My Whistle, by Flo Rida. I really did not like that song since the first moment I heard it, for various reasons, some of which were not quite clear to me until I heard Hollie’s poem and kept saying to myself, “that’s it! that’s it! that’s the thinggggg!!” and got super excited about it. Listen-to-it-on-repeat and compulsively-share-it-on-every-social-media kind of excited about it.
Without further a-do, the link to the poem.
I think this poem makes a lot of important points in a beautiful, funny, witty, honest way. Whenever I criticize – and I do it quite often – music videos nowadays, I come off as a prude. It is not that I think no one should show any skin ever and sex should not be talked about or referred to in music or music videos. If you’ve read anything I’ve written in this blog you’ll know that talking sex and body parts and sexuality is anything but a problem, at least in my opinion. I take issue with music videos and “Blow My Whistle”-type of songs in the same way I take issue with mainstream porn: it is whose bodies are shown and in what way, what is the gaze and the fantasies being attended to, what gaze and experiences and fantasies are being ignored or altered.
I am also sharing with you my other compulsive-share victim of the month: Marina and the Diamonds’ “How to be a Heart Breaker”.
Why? Because it is a very similar format as most music vids these days, but it is instead attending a straight female fantasy (not the only possible one, for sure) in a lot of ways: the lyrics, the images, the music. I love this song and video for many reasons, none of them being the half naked men. I love how interesting it is to switch the roles for once. The men are the objects to be looked at, who play no other role in the video or the fantasy but to stand there looking irrealistically pretty and fit, not even doing anything (much like Flo-Rida’s swimsuit models), while Marina sings about having good fun but ultimately nothing else (very much like blowing Flo-Rida’s whistle), because that is all them pretty men are good for. Much like Flo-Rida’s gals, the guys seem perfectly cool with being half-naked in a shower full of other half-naked men. As Hollie Nash says, “how many straight friends do you know..?” And there is no mainstream porn video in which many men attend to one woman’s every desire without having anything in return, but there is a hell of a lot of the opposite, everywhere. I wonder, why is that?
Now, I don’t think women using men is the solution to men using women, or that equal objectifying is the way to gender equality. But I do find role-switching interesting, because it makes us stop and analyze and realize how unequal mainstream imagery usually is. It makes us deconstruct and de-normalize sexism in pop culture.
Why does it strike us as odd when Marina surrounds herself with gorgeous men and talks of using them? Why do we pretty much ignore the video for Blow My Whistle? My guess is because one is normalized, encouraged by society, fed to us since we are fairly young – and getting younger. The other is met with slut-shaming remarks, with a concerned look on people’s faces, with social control both formal and informal. And that is translated into pop culture.
Why do we seldom explore straight women fantasies – every one of them, not just the dreams of male attention, beauty, marriage and “your one true soulmate”? Gay and lesbian fantasies? Variety in sizes – of EVERYTHING? Transgender experiences? Let me see some interracial goodness somewhere on TV; some polyamory, my goodness!
Or at the very very least, a straight male fantasy that includes the women and not just features them, that reflects some humanity in the male sex machine and some humanity too in the female sex object.