From time, societies and their resulting structures have always marginalised women to the extent that, even in high arts such as literature, works regarded as canons – Ulysses, Oedipus, Hamlet – are not only aimed at male audiences but also dwell on male characters who dominantly pursue male values.
This repressive system has been put in place by patriarchal societies and it has continued, through the ages, to vent its character, through the popular arts of film, fashion, sports, music as well as music videos.
This is never more the case in the Nigerian music scene where women have been portrayed as sexually codified objects under the controlling gaze of men.
As far back as Fela’s music videos, women clad in scant dresses had been featured, lending premise to the fact that women are gaze objects from which men can derive pleasure.
Many years after, the same is still observable. In Iyanya’s music video “Flavor”, He compares a woman to an orange and, of course, oranges are to be eaten and thrown away. Even more recent is Naira Marley’s Puta, a veritable example of how the woman’s body is, so to say, dismembered, with the camera focusing on the sensitive parts, gratifying the sexual desires of men and by extension, the audience.
By that token, it is almost indubitable that artistes and their music video directors prefer to feature women with sumptuous bodies in order to reach a wider audience and gain entry into the mainstream.
In fact, I personally once overheard a director flippantly query an artiste, “you wan blow and you no wan pay for better vixens?”
To the prude, the projection of women as gaze objects in music videos may appear as an encouragement of violence against women since objects do not have feelings, it may give a negative picture of what a lady is and this syndrome may even lead women into thinking they are mere objects that should be decorated and kept.
However, women have taken it up a notch, making a molehill of a mountain and putting laws into their hands by projecting themselves in revealing dresses and striking sensual poses in their own music videos. Examples are Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade who have taken the narrative by the stride and dresses against the dictates of the conventional African culture. The society has come to accept them, their lyrics and their modes of dressing. They did not fit into the dictates of the society; rather, they gave the society what to accept.
With the revolution of women in the music industry, it seems we can limit the broadened meaning of objectification because women of the “woke” generation see body exposure as an act of expressing themselves.
Now, the axiom is, that a woman’s strength should not be in her role, whatever she chooses it to be, but in the power to choose that role.
While some may argue that female artistes sexually objectify themselves, this can be solidly argued because women now believe they can do whatever they like without having to dance to the tune of the society.
By controlling the narratives and discarding the mandates of society, women can emancipate themselves from the pavilion of objectification. After all, shame, according to the speaker Brene Brown, “derives its power from being unspeakable.”
On the other side of the coin, it has been argued that women are now commodified and no longer objectified. For Tekno, the controversial incidents surrounding him and strippers are still fresh in people’s minds.
Interestingly, many can hardly remember the title of the song he wanted to use them for. For Olamide’s Pawon, many were stuck on his Instagram page, waiting for the next “ass to jiggle.” This indubitably means more clicks, more views, and more money. Commodification!
It is, therefore, necessary to ask, “Is it still commodification if women decide the role they play and not what the society dictates?”, “Is it possible for music to sell out without women baring bodies?”
The answer is really not far-fetched. The early 2000s witnessed female musicians such as Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Evi Edna Ogholi, Salawa Abeni, and Oby Onyioha- A generation of women who sang with their bodies fully covered, lyrics addressing the ills in the society and made an evergreen impression in the minds of many.
More recently, Teni the entertainer, a famous singer who is known for her distinct mode of dressing, leaves nothing to the eye, always fully clothed and is very popular despite being told she is not girly.
What is then the difference? Is the situation dicey? Is it another evidence of women dancing to the tune of the patriarchal Orchestral? Or is it evidence of women expressing themselves the way they want? “Do women really have that free will?”
In the words of Chuck Palahniuk:
“Experts in ancient Greek culture say that people back then didn’t see their thoughts as belonging to them. When ancient Greeks had a thought, it occurred to them as a god or goddess giving an order. Apollo was telling them to be brave. Athena was telling them to fall in love. Now people hear a commercial for sour cream potato chips and rush out to buy, but now they call this free will. At least the ancient Greeks were being honest.”Source: