Let me present you with a preview of what's to come:
The accused? Katy Perry and her latest video 'California Gurls' (yup, Gurls with a 'u'). The issue? Consumption of the female body and the infantalization of women (both represented brilliantly in the above photo).
There’s ALOT of things going on in this video, none of which promote any sort of positive aspect of what it means to be a California girl...or a woman from anywhere! The imagery is tasteless, the dance moves are cheesy, and of course, I can’t help but ponder the notion that ‘sun kissed skin so hot we’ll melt your popsicle’ is meant to conjure up some serious phallic images. Popsicles...sure.
During the first few seconds I was only annoyed that she seemed to be seriously ripping off the giant room in Wonka Land. You know the one, the only place in the world where they mix their chocolate by river :) ...But then things took a turn for the worse: she’s wearing sweets (sweets that we are meant to want to eat, but by virtue of the fact that she's wearing them, we would be eating her). And then we see her licking some of the bon bons....uh oh, this can only lead to one thing...the ultimate consumption- the sexual objectification (this is what I mean by consumption) of the female body! Enter the annoying, stick-in-your-head-for-three-days-at-a-time chorus and we are literally forced to consume Perry, naked on top of a cotton candy cloud. Awesome.
Consumption of the female body...in other words, viewing/objectifying/gazing at the female body as something to be consumed, both literally and figuratively. And if you think about it, when all's said and done, this certainly supports the notion that women and their bodies are simply meant to be consumed...by men, and in this case, the male spectator. But more on that later...
It's not just me, right? She is acting like a 5-year-old throughout, no? She completely infantalizes herself throughout the entire jont in candy land! Listen lady, you’re not a child. You’re 26, and you’re marrying someone who’s 10 years older than you. By embracing all this cutesy cupcake business and for the love of God, sporting a sexed up version of a girl guide uniform, I cannot help but seriously wonder what the fuck is up with this girl.
This is a classic example of how women can so easily (and unwittingly) promote certain values regarding femininity and as a result, become a part of their own suppression. The infantalization of the female subject, whereby Perry’s act of licking ice cream, embracing child-like/coyly innocent poses, age inappropriate costumes and so on, only helps support the understanding that many hold - women are inferior. Why? By association of course. A child cannot take care of themselves, right? So the representation of women as children helps to maintain certain male-defined meanings of what it means to be a woman- that they are fragile, inferior, need to be taken care of, and so on.
And if you actually pay attention to red carpet fashion/love the weekly gossip mags, you’ll know that Perry actually dresses like this outside of her music videos. Not only has it always been a part of her image as an artist but she’s a full blown Hello Kitty-wearing, lollipop sucking, streetwalker. Don’t believe me? Have a gander…
School girl? Blowing bubbles? Yes, infantalization.
Cool panda dress!
And the classic Perry....coyly posing, holding a lollipop, plopped in front of a kiddie pool....oh boy!
The one word that repeatedly plays over in my mind is tacky. Tacky, tasteless and of course, way too juvenile. I don’t know how music execs can take her seriously when she dresses like a rebellious pre-teen. UGH...
You know, I eventually forgave Miss Perry for kissing a girl, liking it, and hoping her boyfriend wouldn’t mind...that song was the perfect example of hetero-lesbianism, in other words, lesbianism for purpose of heterosexual men (not for the women‘s own pleasure). This time, however, I don’t know if I can forgive her for.
In both cases, she may not have produced the male-privileged meanings attached to the consumption of the female body or the infantalization of women but by participating in it she is doing nothing to eradicate such concepts- only confirming them and their existence in our culture. I, along with others, would surely argue that this makes her an accomplice in her own oppression (not that she thinks she’s oppressed, but by this I mean the general subordination of women as a whole). By promoting an image such as this, she supports claims of female inferiority.
This begs the question...
What kind of space does this song and video offer young women in terms of what it means to be a woman? A very narrow one I tell ya. The role of the female spectator is seriously restricted here- we become forced to adopt the male gaze and effectively consume her as a sexual object and therefore accept her portrayal of a sexualized and infantalized version of what it means to be a woman. Why is this, you ask? Well, have you ever pranced your way through Candyland with Snoop-a-Loop?? Didn’t think so. We simply cannot relate therefore view her from the only perspective made possible. The male gaze.
Biggest annoyance of them all? I think Russell Brand is genius.
But their pending nuptials make me like him less.
Bottom line is this….
It would be really great if there was a mainstream female artist that portrayed herself as an image of a woman for a woman; but Perry continually proves to be the exact opposite....she’s an image of a woman for a man.