I’ve wanted to write a blog about feminist music videos for a while, but it wasn’t until Tove Lo’s “Glad He’s Gone” came out that I knew I had to write something, if only so more people could see this hilarious and true-to-life music video.
I’m not very music-savvy. With the exception of a few faves, I pretty much just listen to whatever’s on the radio. Unfortunately, since I’m not very discerning, it means a lot of crap crosses my path, and by that I mean sexist songs. More annoying still is when I like a song’s lyrics or beat, and then get to the music video, only to find it’s offensive. As someone who spends a lot of time critiquing media through a feminist lens, I’ve been interested in how a short video, bound (sometimes) by the theme of the song, tells its story.
So here are five music videos that came out this year that really nail feminist values, without necessarily being explicitly feminist anthems. I had to pare down my selections so this didn’t get too long (“Old Town Road” is one music video I loved that didn’t make it, since I decided to feature female creators). The categories are broad buckets that a good music video might fall into. Please add your favorite music videos in the comments, and also what categories you might add or change.
Women as fully-fleshed out characters:
“Glad He’s Gone” hilariously captures an important female friendship through a series of escalating situations, as Tove Lo stops at nothing to talk her friend through a breakup with a loser. Bonus points for the side characters of the best friend and the date Tove Lo abandons, for showing us the scope of their characters in very little screen time. Runner-up: “Baby” by Clean Bandit, featuring Luis Fonsi and my fave, Marina.
Pop stars in total control of their image:
This list wouldn’t be complete without Lizzo, who’s having a breakout year (though we Minnesotans have been appreciating her for a long time). It’s a toss-up whether “Truth Hurts” or “Juice” is the more quotable song, but I went with “Truth Hurts” for this list because I love this groom-free wedding. Runner-up: “bury a friend” by the wonderfully weird Billie Eilish.
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Exploring the female gaze:
There are no creeps in this strip club! Lauren Jaugerui’s “More Than That” turns the typical strip club music video on its head, by putting women in the audience, but also by the way the strippers are filmed. They aren’t just standing around posing while the camera focuses on their breasts. These strippers are athletic, strong, and sexy. Runner-up: Pretty much anything Taylor Swift can elicit a conversation about female gaze. I like “Blank Space“.
Women as physical beings:
We’ve all seen the music videos where the man sings and the woman…sort of shakes around in the background? Sometimes the camera doesn’t even show her head. This is pretty clearly sexist, but when the singer is female, there’s another layer to consider. They are always walking a line: is that skimpy outfit an empowering display of sexuality, or is she just being objectified? In Normani’s “Motivation”, it’s pretty clear she’s running the show. Runner-up: Beyoncé, of course.
Showcasing women’s talent:
At the end of the day, we’re watching a music video for its connection to the song, and the singer. Sometimes a simple video does the job best, like in Jhené Aiko’s “Triggered (freestyle)”, which never even shows us her face straight on. Runners-up: Couldn’t decide! There are a lot of choices, but usually you have to wait for a stripped-down version of the song.
What did you think of these selections? Let us know in the comments!