07 February 2011

Can't Get Mad About What You Let Him Do

When these songs first came out, I did not pay much attention to them. I understood what they were saying, but I did not agree with them. In re-analyzing them, the gender differences are very prevalent. In each video, the role of the man is played by a woman who wants to demonstrate the characteristics of a man to a man in order to make them “learn.” However, they illustrate women, portrayed by men, as victims of the egotistic logic of men, which is wrong.

In Beyoncé’s video, the man is a police officer and the dominant figure in the relationship. He is unattached to the woman’s feelings and is stereotypically masculine. The woman is given an office job, which does not require her to be aggressive because it is not hands-on. In the beginning of the video, the woman, played by a man, prepares a full breakfast and the guy, played by Beyoncé, is unappreciative and does not acknowledge the food before leaving for work. The woman is left to dine by herself.

In Ciara’s video, the man, played by Ciara, is given the upper hand simply for being the male in the relationship. In the beginning of the video, the man, clad in baggy clothing and tattoos, is standing over a seated Reggie Bush, portraying the role of the woman. Throughout the entire video, the woman does not speak. She is there to listen to the man’s ranting, raving and dehumanizing her. By having Reggie silent and seated through the duration of the video, the power dynamic is evident. Women are only there to sit there, look pretty and be submissive to their male counterparts despite what they may be thinking.

While each artist set out to debunk the gender roles, they actually reinforce them in their videos. The hypothetical question asked in both songs is: “If I were a boy and did ‘x,’ what would you do?” In a way, they are still asking for permission to perform these masculine actions. By asking for permission to do it, they are assigning these actions to men and giving them consent to do them.

In Beyoncé’s video, the male is given a job that requires strength and aggression, which are supposedly male traits. The woman in the video does not do much, but the man goes out with his friends all of the time and rarely invites her with him. When he does, he ignores her although she gives him all of her attention. After she gets mad at him for dancing flirtatiously with a co-worker and excluding her, he still does not understand what he does wrong. Rather than talk it out, he gets defensive and call him jealous. Beyoncé’s video gives characteristics of conceit, deceit and insensitivity to men instead of seeing men as individuals.

In Ciara’s song, her lyrics reinforce these gender roles. She says that men put security codes on everything and set out to be deceitful in relationships. In the chorus, she taunts men by asking in a male teasing voice, “What, you mad? Can’t handle that.” In the video, the male’s mannerisms with the female (Reggie Bush) illustrate how men are seen as aggressive and interrogative. The female (Bush) maintains her composure as Ciara paces and taunts her. While dancing, Ciara constantly pops her pelvis in a manner that reminds the audience that he is macho and supposed to be manly. While Beyoncé’s character speaks through their actions, Ciara’s video is better understood through her lyrics. Although both videos reinforce gender roles, Ciara’s video also challenges them by instructing females, in the second verse, to “go ‘head and be” the same way men are to them.

What I took from the videos is that men are a certain way and the only way to make them learn is to act the same way in return, but I do not agree. As each woman wants to be individualized, the women need to also show some differentiation. They characterize men as deceitful, insensitive macho men, but they continue to date them. If men were really this horrible to women while in a relationship with them, why do they continue to date, have sex and marry them?

In each video, I also recognized that each artist reinforces the gender roles by their false portrayal of women. In Beyoncé’s video, the woman is submissive and does not do anything to stand up for herself. In Ciara’s video, the woman also does not speak out against the injustice. Around the 3:26 mark, the male (Ciara), dressed in a pimp outfit, dances around with his pimp cane, while the female, also played by Ciara, dressed in a white flowing dress, stands still while bent over in front of him. This, alone, summarizes the dynamics of the gender inequality. The male gets to be a pimp, but the woman still allows him to get what he wants out of her. While each video attempts to challenge gender roles, they fall short by categorizing all men as perverted womanizers and women as victims. Although women are seen as weak and passive, Beyoncé and Ciara would have achieved their goal had they showed strong women who had the courage to stand up to their men and not accept sub-par behavior.

While it's true that men "will be men," but they will only get away with what women let them.  


1 comment:

  1. The messages in these songs are true. Men can not emotionally handle a woman’s wrong-doings once he’s fallen for her. Many men do learn and get a better understanding of a situation when they get a dose of their own medicine. The videos match the songs. It wouldn’t make sense to have a hypothetical video go against the hypothetical lyrics of the song. Beyonce and Ciara would not have achieved the message of the song had they shown strong women who had the courage to stand up to their man and not accept sub-par behavior. That’s what “Irreplaceable” is for. “Irreplaceable” is not a hypothetical “if” scenario. Why would they stand up in regards to female empowerment when the song is saying men need to take a look in the mirror and think twice about the woman they love? These songs are not ladies anthems. They’re a PSA to men who don’t appreciate and respect their woman that loves and gives her all in the relationship. It’s about a man being a man and taking accountability for his actions in a relationship. These songs are no different than Joe’s “What If A woman” and Tank’s “Maybe I deserve.” People are analyzing the words, not the videos.