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Assumptions About Gender Issues

I wonder watching Leslie Gore’s video of her popular song, It’s My Party, in 1966 if her song, video, clothes and dance were considered bold or rebellious. Was her video challenging assumptions about society and gender at that time? I was led to believe that the 60’s was a time of great rebellion. Yet, looking at Gore’s short bee-hive type hair do with her very conservative, boxy dress and coat set (I assume in honor of Jackie O) I have a hard time imagining it. Yet her video was making some definite statements as to how the world viewed women of this time. As the video begins the camera frames Gore with her backup female dancers dancing in the background on a stage (waving scarves). These young women were allowed to shed their homemaker role that is often thought of in the 50’s and step out a bit, however, not too far. The back-up dancers behind Gore as well as Gore appear to be backlit, creating an almost halo effect; making them stand out in contrast to dancers on a dance floor in front of Gore. The dance moves are simple, non athletic, giving the impression that women are much too delicate to attempt anything that would require much more exertion. The dancers on the floor appear to be young couples enjoying the upbeat tempo of the music. Camera shots are limited to mid shot, med close and close up. We are never allowed to see a whole body shot of Gore and her movement is limited to a few hand gestures, clapping and at one time it appears that she might move her hips to the beat of the music. The camera quickly moves to a med close shot. The video gives the impression that women are for a nice background affect; nice to look at but not good for much more than that. This video is a striking contrast the music video Lil’ Kim: How Many Licks.

Lil’ Kim’s video uses montage editing to demonstrate a stark contrast of the factory scene to the very sexually explicit scenes to follow. Kim’s video appears to mock advertisements of the day. The word’s that flash across the screen are words that emulate warnings, promotions and literary elements that are often found in advertisements. She appears to be mocking how women have been portrayed in the media while at the same time using erotic scenes to illustrate issues of “power? over men. She’s tired of playing the victim, damsel in need of a man to identify her and is taking control. On one hand, I respect and welcome the artist’s right to challenge assumptions about gender and society, but I have to question whether Lil’ Kim is really challenging anything. Is her video acceptance similar to what plantation owners did for their “white? slaves? Plantation owners were fearful that their slaves (black and white) outnumbered them and could gain control over them, therefore, they convinced the poor, often illiterate, “white? people that they were more like the plantation owners and gave the impression that they could with enough hard work elevate to their status. This divided the slaves and promoted infighting among a common group of people, leaving the few plantation owners in control of the situation. I can’t help but to wonder in Lil’ Kim’s video, and similar female artists of the time, if their sexually explicit videos that appear to be challenging societies view on women, if in reality, are just being manipulated by a higher power. Is Lil’ Kim really challenging assumptions about society and gender or is she merely a puppet to keep women in their role as sexual objects?