MTV worries me… part 3; Putting Women in Cages

What is it with women in cages? Seriously. Is this supposed to be sexy? Clearly it is, otherwise the media wouldn’t keep doing it. But why is it supposed to be sexy? What’s wrong with people!?

Okay, so I’m a bit late to hop on the Shakira ‘She Wolf’ bandwagon (some great things have already been said about the whole phenomenon here) and you must have been living under a rock to have not seen the video yet. Catch up here if your humble abode is decidedly rock-like, or watch the He Wolf/She Wolf mash up video below to see a new take on it…

I love how the above video illustrates how men can look ridiculous doing exactly the same thing women do to appear sexy (something Sociological Images examined here)… although I don’t think this guy looks ridiculous. I think he looks awesome.

Aaaanyway. So, yeah, I get it. Shakira is telling us that her sexuality is rampant, hungry and maybe a bit smelly, just like a wild animal. And yet her no-good boyfriend is not sexing her up good and proper, leading to plenty of frustration and a decidedly pent up feeling. My advice, Shakira? Rather than going all jungle gym on us, why not have a wank instead? Or dump your boyfriend.

If She Wolf had been an isolated incident, maybe I could have let this whole cage business slide (maybe, but probably not!). But around that exact same time The Sugababes Get Sexy video was also doing the rounds, flaunting not just a big ol’ cage, but slavery style shackles too! Phwoar!

Sugababes Get Sexy Cage

Sugababes Get Sexy Chains

The conspiracy theorist blogger Benjamin Singleton at Pseudoccultmedia has gone through the Get Sexy video with a fine tooth comb searching for occult symbolism used to control the masses. All very fascinating but, frankly, as a “normal” (brainwashed) person all I see is the blatant misogyny at play that means women get cooped up just so it’s easier to gawp at them. As Singleton said;

Surely any freethinking person would object to being portrayed as a sex slave in this manner…? Or perhaps ask “why have you put me in a bird cage?!”

Sugababes have used cages before in their video for Denial, but it wasn’t done in quite the same way. In Get Sexy the idea to have Amelle dance in the giant birdcage could have stemmed from the lyric ‘You can look but you can’t touch’. The action doesn’t match the ‘empowering’ sentiment of the lyric, however, as the cage actively puts her in an environment designed to allow people to become spectators at whatever is going on inside. She has given up her freedom just to please those ‘boys’ who can look but can’t touch.

Beyonce Get Me Bodied Caged Woman

Beyonce has been at it too. In her otherwise wonderful video for Get Me Bodied (based on the Rich Man’s Frug routine from Sweet Charity) this image of a silver woman in a cage keeps popping up. There seems to be absolutely no reason for this odd inclusion, although Rapunzella mused over on Feministing;

What, it’s like the vid was too high on empowerment, so the producers had to toss in some stock footage of oppressed women  in between scenes, in some sort of subconscious effort to not get people freaking out about the uppity wimmins? Otherwise, I’m seriously just left what-the-fucking.

Unless there was a silver caged woman in Sweet Charity (which I haven’t seen, but probably should) then I, too, am left what-the-fucking.

If I were to dig around, there would probably be too many examples of female musicians getting all caged up, but right off the bat I can mention Britney Spears, who performed in and around a cage for her Circus tour and, in the past, I know Grace Jones has been photographed in chains and in cages (which Amber Rose has recently re-posed. Read Black Girl Blogging’s take here).

And it’s not just something happening in the realm of music publicity. Women can be seen in cages in advertising here and here and cages also crop up a lot in fashion.

It’s also a publicity stunt that PETA have used time and time (and time and time!) again.

So what does it all mean? Well, my take on it is that, at best, it’s yet another patriarchal message to put women in their place. Women should be seen and not heard, we are told, the cage illustrating how women are there for the enjoyment of the (male) viewer. They are not to be interacted with (careful, they might bite your finger through the bars!) save for whenever you might like to take them out for some sexercise. Ahem.

At worst, it doesn’t bear thinking about… but the words slavery, sex slave, captive, torture, forced prostitution, and human trafficking come to mind. Because of those connotations, let’s hope this little cage trend is just a flash in the pan.

By: Sarah Barnes, 03.12.2009 | Comments (1)
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  • Andrea Toochin
    May 9th, 2010
    12:21 am

    This is totally true. Now here’s the latest example: Miley Cyrus with Can’t Be Tamed. These women don’t seem to care about the message they are saying and I’m guessing there are other video options. They are addicted to the money and fame so they stop caring. Shakira used to be a great artist and the more she sang in English and courted the American public, the more poppy and transparent her work became.

    They think they are liberated b/c they are saying they throw men away but really they are being dressed like whores and enslaved.

    I was going to write a post on this but you’ve done it for me.

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