28 January 2013

Ghana: A Reader's Concern About Women's Roles in Music Videos


Music and dance are innately part of the African heritage and play a key part of contemporary African culture. Azonto in its different versions and shades - Kwatrikwa, Lapaz Toyota, gangman Ghanaman style, aliguntugui gui, Moko Ni... the list is endless, have become the craze of the day.

I must state upfront that I am a lover of Ghanaian music, including our hi-life, hiplife, and hiphop music. Whether I understand the lyrics, follow the storyline or not, my feet just get happy at the sound of a good rhythm. However, as the production of music videos has become a very fashionable art in our music industry lately, the content and quality of the video is of interest to many. To get straight to the point, I have worrying concerns about the increasing sexualisation of women in music videos. Musical clips often contain erotic scenes about relationships, romance, and sexual behaviour. Women, who are usually in these videos as back-up dancers are often shown as sex objects and accessories. Even the lyrics of some of such songs are very derogatory. This negative portrayal and degradation of women though worrying, seems to be waging on rather rapidly.

The increasing access to advanced technology such as social media (eg youtube) and broadcast media (increasing number of TV stations in the country) has fuelled the survival and sustained growth of this phenomenon. With mass media and social media ever present in our faces, we are increasingly exposed to views of barely dressed women in low-cut, tight tops, and bikinis or swimming costumes, tiny shorts etc making highly sexual and seductive dance moves ( the Praye's Angelina video, and Ofori-Amposah's Kala video are good examples). Another video I find very appalling and highly humiliating is Q-phaze's Akosua Why video. This video runs for 4 minutes, 30 seconds and for the entire period, the artist(s) is nowhere in sight. There are only half-dressed women, waggling their backside erotically to the camera. As for the lyrics, the least said about it the better.

Another common theme is the situation where women often outnumber men while performing provocatively for the cameras by touching themselves, the male artists or males in the video. In other cases, the male characters are portrayed as more adventurous, controlling, and aggressive while females are more affectionate, dependent, nurturing, and timid. This highly sexualised musical world has set the tone for women on the music scene, and in the country as a whole, particularly for young girls to model after the images they see: being sexual and vulnerable with the focus of catching the attention and pleasing men sexually and all other ?good? things will follow. This has also informed and shaped the expectation of younger boys too.

As sections of the public have expressed displeasure and outrage about this developing phenomenon, we are quick to place the blame on men, especially the musicians and male singers we see in the videos. It is worth noting that the few women musicians we have in this industry are getting caught up in these sex obsessed scenes. A couple of years ago, female hip-hop artists tried to meet the market expectations by showcasing a tomboy image (if you remember the days of Abrewa Nana). Their focus appeared to be more on fitting into a male dominated profession by exhibiting masculinity. It is unclear as to whether that did not work, but lately; some female musicians sexualise and exploit themselves, and their dancers as can be seen in some of Mzbel's videos. Could, our musicians and producers simply be feeding us with what we are hungry for, or are they just imposing their fantasies on us? Whatever it is, this new development has led women to become insensitive to the fact that this sexualisation and objectification is degrading instead of empowering. Even worse, young girls and boys who are exposed to such videos grow up believing that highly sexualised images are normal, a part of their daily lives and in fact a standard they should strive to live by. To demonstrate how well the country is catching on with the trends from some of the videos, pay a visit to the Accra mall and other public spaces particularly in the big cities and observe the dressing and behaviour trends especially of young people. As for beach parties, I leave that to your imagination.

Many have argued that though it is obvious that women are being exploited in these clips, they are not forced to be a part of it, in fact, that they compete to get the slot. Therefore they are a willing party. What these views fail to acknowledge is that most people want to make ends meet and if that comes with fame - what a better deal. The market is calling for a kind of imagery and any vulnerable young person out there is likely to fall for it. It is the responsibility of the adults and leaders in our society to set the right standards and direct the future leaders of our country through the right path and not lead them astray in the name of entertainment. Others are quick to call for parents to control what their children watch on TV but we have to consider two factors: the extent to which technology and internet is proliferated, such that maintaining such a control is almost an impossibility, secondly, the people who are affected are not only under-aged children who can be sent away from the TV with ease. Everyone is affected somewhat - women and men at marriageable ages are influenced; parents are spammed with these images, they are almost convinced it is normal; grandparents are virtually attacked by it, they have given up and ascribed it to changing times. So let us try quenching the fire instead of catching the smoke in the air. Whose doorsteps does this lay...?

Dinah Kpodo Adiko


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