MUSIC, as captured by, Sirman Sachdeva of The Coate News, is one of most influential tools in the world. It can impact people’s minds, much as it inspires hope, peacefulness, energy, and happiness. Sadly, in today’s Nigerian society, that power has been abused. We have become desensitized to the objectifying nature that today’s top hits entail, as women are too often painted as sex objects — in lyrics, and, especially, in music videos. In the same vein, not too long ago, I stumbled on and read the article titled ‘The Venus Hip Hop’ and the ‘Pink Ghetto’ by Imani Perry. In her article, Perry addresses the ways women are showcased in hip hop music videos. For instance, women are either scantily dressed while silently strutting and dancing around the fully-clothed male artiste or they’re mostly seen swaying around seductively in provocative clothes. Although I’ve read other tales about male hip hop artistes objectifying women in their music videos, but it never truly bothered me until recently as I consciously overtime relegated watching a lot of hip hop music videos to the background.
However, I’ve been following the recent Tekno saga in Lagos, after a video of him and semi-nude women dancing within a glass-enclosed truck on the streets went viral on social media; an event that deeply portrays how accurate Perry’s renditions are. And It appears the “Agege” crooner is essentially only one of too many of Nigerian artistes pushing the boundaries of acceptable norms with regard to race, gender and sexuality in popular culture. From videos like “Wanted” by Tiwa Savage, to others like “Can’t Believe That” by Wizkid, Kranium and TY Dollar Sign, and “Coolest Kid in Africa” by Davido and Nasty C, and many others, it goes without saying that moral panic is the metrics by which one can measure the mainstream arrival of a new music video in Nigeria.
To be sure, the objectification of women is not just a term used by feminist activists, but rather a very tangible reality that is reflected in pop culture, and the ongoing Tekno saga is a classic exemplar of how dire it has become. It’s 2019 and it’s difficult to think of many situations in which misogyny this blatant would not be tolerated in our society. Yet, it must be remembered that pop music is a multi-million business in which men hold over 60 percent of the jobs, as well as the vast majority of positions of power. On the other side are the females who are often treated as no more than pretty cash cows, whose bodies exist solely to be exploited for maximum commercial benefits. In this case, women and girls are presented as sexual objects to satisfy the lust of the patriarchal and phallocentric society, via the description of their physical appearance with no regard to or mention of intelligence or dignity. Put differently, women are seen as promotional vehicles, whose sexuality is used to draw attention, much as to sell the music videos to effectuate it’s mission of reaching top charts.
The point often overlooked by this new generation of artistes is that music is a part of culture and has tremendous impact on society, especially for most younger audiences who are at their impressionable best at such point and are easily adaptive to similar mindsets. Besides, the objectification of women gives aspiring male hip hop artistes the wrong idea that the only way to succeed in the industry is by featuring naked girls in their videos. Moreover, these depictions can also send wrong instructions to young females that they need to be sexy and sometimes nude to get the attention of the men. By all means, early music videos were simply a way of promoting a band or an artiste; today’s music videos, however, are being embraced as a distinct art form such that the level of sexism and abundance of sexual objectification that they reinforce is appalling and worrisome.
While it is pertinent for male hip hop artistes and video producers to shy away from objectifying female bodies in their music videos for commercial success, and instead focus on adding value and worth to women via lyrics and videos, it’s about time the NBC introduced a lasting resolution aimed at changing what’s allowed to be played on our media to reduce the amount of profane and inappropriate music aired especially when children and teens are likely to be active consumers. Furthermore, the desire to change the negative portrayals of women in Nigerian music videos can be achieved effectively through a revolutionary change in the discourse and societal culture that devalue and denigrate women. And while this is set in motion, members of the society however have to take a stand and question the propriety of such videos being widely distributed; the negative presumptions these women denigrating videos plant in the minds of young boys and the disquieting effect they have on women in the society must count for something to make us all come to a dim view of them. And though this is not to make us feel bad about ourselves for watching these videos or listening to such music, yet we need to be more aware of the lyrics we are quick to memorize and internalize by consciously asking the following questions: What good would this particular music or video inspire in its consumers? Does it advance respect for girls and women in our communities and country at large or does it further reiterate the view of girls and women as objects of pleasure and abuse? Plato once said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Certainly, the ongoing blatant disregard for womanhood in today’s music and accompanying videos is not the moral law we should be promoting!
- Yakubu is of the Department of Mass Communication, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Nigeria.