Gentlewoman case study

Gentlewoman tells a story about a male ballet dancer taking part in a dance audition held by Jolin Tsai. This music video can be divided into two sections to make an argument that it constructs a new gender identity in two steps. Firstly, it deconstructs the most conventional patriarchal system. Secondly, it dissolves the concept of gender binary and puts forward a new idea of gender identity.

In history, what early feminists most concerned themselves with were gender order and the differences between men and women. Different schools of feminists took different approaches to challenge the conventional patriarchal system that men dominated everything including women. This music video proposes a deconstruction of the phallocentric system.

According to film theorist Laura Mulvey, the classical Hollywood phallocentric cinema mode makes women become passive ‘being looked’ objects and men who held the dominant discourse form an active ‘male gaze’ role in the cinema. The camera to attract audiences’ attention usually captured women body figures. However, in this music video, we can see that the direction of the ‘gaze’ has been reversed—the gaze is from female to male. Jolin, as the dancing judge, held the dominated power. The male dancer’s body figures like muscles and countenance have been exposed under the close-up shots and extremely close-up shots. Jolin’s corporeal and facial images, in contrast, are inscribed by backlight that makes her images become vague and mysterious. Besides, in traditional narration, women are weak and passive and waiting for men’s salvation. Men would do sadism on women to eliminate their castration fear. However, from these two scenes, we can see that Jolin entering into the male’s world in an active, controlling and dominating position.

Nevertheless, postmodern feminists criticize early feminists’ challenges on patriarchal system as what they have done just reconfirms a gender binary. In postmodern feminist views, all the dual structures including the concept of men and women, high hierarchy and low hierarchy, powerful and weak, masculine and feminine attributes are problematic. We argue that this music video, in fact, does not simply reverse the traditional male discourse and so confirm the gender binary. In contrast, it produces a new gender identity throughout dissolving the gender binary.

First, as we have mentioned, postmodern feminists stress unfixed identity. They emphasized the process, the instability and transformative acts of gender identity. This can be found in Jolin’s video through study of the dancer and singer-dancer.

The male ballet dancer wears only knickers and a suspender belt with black stocking, and dances and stretches his body softly and tenderly. This image is clearly a feminized male. By contrast, Jolin, the female singer-dancer, covers her body with metal bra and leather gloves, looks like a masculinized female. At first, they dance separately; gradually, they start to dance together and finally camera switches between them showing the likeness of their body figures and movements. The images of them even coincide in a shot.

The sequence indicates that the binary of gender is not absolute but relative. Both males and females can have the characteristics of the other sex. Also, the gender difference between males and females may be less than the gender similarity between them. The identity of female and male may coincide into one under some circumstance.

Second, there are lots of shots about mirrors. People use mirrors to observe themselves, find out what they look like and who they are. . The two actors use mirrors to inspect their looking and body figures. The song sings “for imitation and for what has lost” when Jolin looks at herself in the mirrors.

 

These elements show the instability and uncertainty during the process of seeking and developing one’s gender identity. In post-modern context, gender is no longer fixed, individuals have their freedom, and also the need, to identify their own genders. Since gender is a construct, everyone can have their own special gender. A person may form a certain idea of her gender and wants to realize it on herself, so she behaves in accordance with the idea. But she needs to observe herself, reflects on her gender identity as is shown through her body and behavior, and then make necessary adjustment to build her gender identity as what she likes. The dancer and singer in MV can be seen as seeking their gender identity through practice.

Thirdly, this music video dissolves the gender binary by conducting gender parody. Gender parody is a good manner dissolves gender binaries because it challenges the structure of a fixed and unchangeable identity. It makes the recognition of the mimicry at the base of any structure of identity, and the absence of any authentic source.

Gender parody is a way of gender performance. According to Judith butler, gender is not natural. Gender roles are constructed by society. Masculinity and feminity are not inherent. It is just culture coerces you to conduct that gender performance. Butler argued that gender is performative: we are not just acting it like in a performance but rather actively constructing it as we act it out. It is real only to the extent that it is performed. If we refuse to perform our gender script, then gender will cease to exist. There are no fixed feminine and masculine attributes that women cannot wear suits and men cannot wear underwear and high heels. Nothing is natural or inborn but you decide who you want to become and how your body performs.

 

In conclusion, throughout the process of performance, self-reflections, gender parody, and literary expressions, this music video embodies a new idea of gender identity. In postmodern society, everyone can have his or her own gender identity. Gender is an individual thing. We have the freedom to construct our own gender through personal development. We adjust our gender idenity in the process through reflection on our selves. Gender is plastic. In this video, Jolin first conceives a new idea of her own gender. Then she acts and dances in accordance with this idea to rebuild her gender identity. In this process, she observes herself, reflects and then adjust the idea to construct the gender identity that is suitable for her.

 

 

 

 

 

Working on presentation

In the last session Chelsea showed us her very good in-depth analysis of Gentlewoman. It was also be really helpful for Will and I to see how well an analysis of a music video can be done, and we are currently drawing up a similar analysis of If I Were a Boy (mainly using the methods of film analysis e.g. looking at shot scale/ camera angles, but also including our research on gender identity).

I worked on the presentation before the meeting and then during our session we decided who was going to focus upon each bit:

  • Chelsea will introduce the presentation by talking about why we’ve chosen music videos as our particular tool of communication.
  • Will will then talk about why in particular we are looking at the relationship between music videos and feminism by talking about ‘Pop Feminism’
  • I will argue that the way women are represented is important to feminism because gender is socially constructed – here I will give detail on Butler. From this I will then introduce our main question: in what ways do music videos produce and reproduce gender identities?
  • Jade will then lay out the particular methodology we’ve used approach this question and what are our methods for analysing videos (thinking about representation and audience)
  • We will then say why we’ve chosen to focus on Beyoncé and Joslin Tsai and why their particular music videos for “If I were a Boy” and “Gentlewoman”
  • We will then conduct an in-depth analysis of both videos in pairs (Chelsea and Jade will analyse Joslin whilst Will and I will analyse Beyoncé).

Since meeting I have done more research on Butler’s notion of Gender Identity and have tried to draw her most fundamental ideas together into a coherent and presentable format. I have also done so more reading about sadomasochism and spectator pleasure and need to put this into a similarly accessible form. These are the two areas I personally want to talk in the most depth about during the presentation.

I have also read “Media, Gender and Identity” by David Gauntlett and “Gender and the Media” by Rosalind Gill to get a clear idea of why the way gender is represented in media is so important. I felt this was important as we are assuming that representations are important and therefore I think we need to say why this is.

At this point I feel we have done well to get a good structure for our presentation together and that we are managing to be quite focused and analytical. My main concern is that we are maybe not demonstrating our engagement with interdisciplinary methods enough as we have found it quite hard to communicate sometimes between our different approaches and ideas, but I hope that in our session this Thursday we will have most of the presentation done and then we can run through it and see where the gaps are.

Starting to prepare our presentation

Last Thursday we met and discussed what the best structure for our presentation is and which areas need the most focus. We have decided that for tomorrow we will all bring in our analysis of the two vides with the issues that we feel they rais. In the presentation Will and I are going to present our findings on Beyoncé whilst Chelsea and Jade are going to present their findings on Jolin Tsai. We will then analyse which issues they converge on, which they don’t and what this reveals about the production and reproduction of normative gender identities.

I am particularly interested in spectator pleasure so have been looking into Laura Mulvey, Deluze and Studlar for alternative conceptions on why the music video may be enjoyable to spectators. This literature is predominantly concerned with sadomasochism, however it importantly includes information on fantasy, which i think is interesting in relation to the two videos we have chosen to focus on. I have also drawn together some reading on Hall and Dyer as they bring together thoughts on race and identity and i think this is a very important topic which we should not omit.

This week i have also started making a powerpoint to accompany our presentation and have shared it with the others on googledocs.

Annotated Bibliography

Hello, I just thought I’d follow Angel’s advice and compile an annotated bibliography, so here it is. Obviously you will have your own thoughts on the different readings so maybe you can comment other thoughts on the different readings or add your own bibliography, up to you!

Catherine A. MacKinnon, Towards a Feminist Theory of the State, “Sexuality”: interesting for exploration of the way sexuality constructs gender too (sees sexuality’s relation to gender as a division of power> make power takes the form of what men as a gender want sexually). Although she focuses on pornography I think we can equally apply some of her insights to music videos/ or at least as a contrast to Butler etc., as she seems to see ‘women’ as a category (and so is a target of Butler’s criticism of feminism?).

Diane Railton and Paul Watson, Music Video and the Politics of Representation: useful for thinking about the form of music videos and how the practices and conventions of representation in music videos both constrain and make possible ways about thinking about ourselves as individuals in contemporary society. Take a feminist + postmodernist (postfeminism) approach (concerned with the production and reproduction of normative gendered identities and how these are too complex to be reduced to a binary of either/or). Also good for looking at what approach they take to their source set – don’t claim to be exhaustive, but take a few videos and conduct precise analysis rather than making generalized claims.

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: argues that ‘feminism’ is mistaken in trying to assert that women are a group with common characteristics and interests; she felt that this reinforced existing gender binary between men and women, rather than opening up possibilities of choosing own individual identity. Argued that gender should be seen as fluid, shifting and changing in different contexts and times. Consequently she says that there is no gender identity behind the expression of gender but rather that gender is a performance. We all put on a gender performance, but we need to question what form this performance will take. By choosing to be different about it we might work to change gender norms and the binary understanding of masculinity and femininity. Because the media, and in our case music videos, are one of the key means by which images of gender are disseminated, it is also a potential site for alternative images to be disseminated, to challenge the binary representation of gender and enact a different performance.

Laura Mulvey, Narrative Cinema and Visual Pleasure: good for thinking about spectator theory (so how the audience of music videos interpret/ are influenced by such representations). Argues that women are typically represented as passive object of the controlling male gaze, which allows the male spectator to identify with the male character and the camera. So women represented as objects of male pleasure. But I think we can be critical of Mulvey for potentially reinforcing the gender binary through her construction of the ‘male gaze’; can argue it is not necessarily this simple/ should not be this reductive (e.g. see Studlar, Gaylyn. 1984. “Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema”. Quarterly Review of Film Studies, 9 (4): 267-282 for an alternative approach) and we can also explore how the music videos we are analysing confirm or challenge this.

Robin Roberts, Sex as a Weapon: identifies music video’s position in the contemporary debate between whether the representation of women in popular culture does merely confirm the gender binary or whether it can align itself with postfeminism. I like her argument as she proposes that the music video’s form and function are not inherently oppressive to women and that they can be appropriated for explicitly female concerns (this is an argument I’ve seen used against claims that pornography is inherently misogynistic).

Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex: women are taught what they’re supposed to be in life, what kind of roles they can or cannot perform in virtue of being the ‘second sex’ (aligns with distinction between sex and gender). Women are oppressed this is based on what it means to exist as a woman. Women have been defined as the Other in relation to the Self (men). Women believe they ought to play the feminine role. Existentialist approach > argues that there is no universal characteristic, which defines women; identity is socially constructed. In order to achieve liberation woman must see herself like man, as subject and not object. So predominantly focusing on her arguments re. social construction of gender.

Sheila Whiteley, Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity and Subjectivity: conduct a good in-depth analysis of Madonna, which I think will usefully inform our in-depth analysis of Beyoncé and.

 

 

 

Focusing our thoughts and moving forward

Unfortunately I cannot make it to the session today as am feeling ill, but I am hoping to Skype the group if possible. But before meeting I thought it would be good if I posted some thoughts to help structure the session so that we can start working on the actual structure/ content of our presentation.

So the key question: To what extent do music videos reconfirm the gender binary?

More specifically: we are asking whether the representation of women in popular culture, specifically music videos, is invariably and monolithically sexist, and so entrenches the gender binary, or whether music videos are a postmodern art form, which are able to express feminist concerns and so challenge the gender binary.

Generally: we are exploring the social construction of gender and have chosen music videos as a site of this construction.

In order to develop our question and to start coming up with a structure we need to:

1) Start pulling together our readings on the debate surrounding gender as a social construct (maybe to constitute section 1 of the presentation); explaining what we think it means and how it has reflected notions of the gender binary.
• Maybe at this point we should establish that we are approaching this debate through a particular lens? I think a postmodern lens is the most useful as it allows us to stress paradox, contradiction and self-reflection, which is essential to the way that we see gender as being constructed and communicated ( as opposed to it being a monolithic and fixed thing).

2) Explain why we have chosen music videos in particular (our source set- potentially section 2 of presentation).
• I think that music videos are a particular site of the social construction of gender as they are widely watched and accessed and so constitute a specific way of communicating gender in popular culture. They are arguably themselves a postmodern art form, which relates to our conception of gender as constructed (so need to draw this out).
• In particular, we have chosen feminist music videos as they are self-reflexive and aware of the conventions they are exploiting.
• Clarify what we see as being the main issue then when looking at music videos as a site of gender construction? Whether they are merely confirming the gender stereotypes or if in fact they are allowing them to be challenged? What message are they communicating to their audience?

3) Explain why we have specifically chosen to compare Beyoncé, “If I Were a Boy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWpsOqh8q0M and Jolin Tsai, “Gentlewoman”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyQ0av97wZY
• Popularity of artist > audience (mass appeal; popular culture and therefore widely communicated – maybe this is where we need to bring in more about audience and why appeal to a large audience is so importance if we are thinking about construction of gender identity). Beyoncé is one of the best selling music artists in history. She has sold an estimated 100 million records as a solo artist; she has won 22 Grammy Awards and is the most nominated woman in the awards history. She is also the most awarded artist at the MTV music awards with 24 wins. She has been named the Top Female Artist of the 2000s. In 2014 she became the highest paid black musician in history and was among Time’s 100 most influential people in the world second year running. In 2017 ranked by Forbes as the most powerful female in entertainment. In 2013 in an interview with Vogue she stated that she considered herself to be a modern day feminist > public identification as a feminist. Jolin Tsai Known for reinventing both her music and image, she is cited as a huge role of popularizing dance-pop as mainstream music in Greater China. Referred to as the “Queen of C-pop”, “Asia’s Dancing Queen”, and “Asian Madonna”, she has achieved popularity in Chinese-speaking world by releasing a series of commercially and critically successful albums and has a dedicated fanbase worldwide. So she is a massive figure in C-Pop (Chinese Popular Music). Having sold more than 25 million records in Asia, Tsai is recognized as one of the best-selling artists in Asia.[11] Her work has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including four Golden Melody Awards, an MTV Asia Award, and an MTV Video Music Award. Forbes reported that she is one of the highest-paid Chinese celebrities, with the estimated net worth of NT$2 billion in 2014. She is also a gay icon.
• Intention of video > Jolin Tsai has said that the album from which gentlewoman comes from ‘Play’ () is conceptualised around feminism; If I were a Boy, comes from ‘I am…Sasha Fierce’, which explores Beyoncé’s many sides; Beyoncé as self-proclaimed feminist (e.g. Vogue interview 2013 and more recent songs)
• Context: both released through major labels> If I Were a Boy was released through Columbia Records and Music World Entertainment (both subsidiaries of Sony), whilst Gentlewoman was released through Warner Music Taiwan [so both released through major labels].
• Genre: both artists pop/ C-Pop and dance
• Culture: representatives of Western and Asian popular cultures

4) We then need to conduct an in-depth comparison between the two videos (maybe split into pairs) and then discuss how we are going to present our analysis (maybe be taking shots from the videos etc.)

Week 5 review

In this week’s session we decided on two potential music videos, one from Taiwan and one from America. We felt that these would be a good basis to conduct a comparison of the way music videos re-inforce/ deconstruct the gender binary.

We discussed why we had chosen the videos we had chosen and what criteria we need to demonstrate we used in our selection process. We acknowledged that we need to draw out points of comparison and use those as a criteria so that we can demonstrate that we chose both videos according to the same criteria. Moreover, within our criteria, we need to be very clear about how we define our key terms, such as popular culture, feminism and so on.

From here, we decided that we need to draw up a bibliography to help aid our analysis of the videos. At this stage we decided upon:
The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvouir
Gender Trouble, Butler
Music Video and the Politics of Representation, Diane Railton and Paul Watson. Women and Popular Music : Sexuality, Identity and Subjectivity, Sheila Whiteley
Sexing the Groove, Sheila Whiteley.

Over reading week we are going to start reading the secondary literature so that when we meet again after reading week we are able to approach the videos from a critical and analytical perspective and start thinking about the structure of our presentation.

Potential sources (music videos)

Potential sources for exploring how the gender binary is challenged/ confirmed through music videos:

Beyoncé:
Run the World (Girls): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBmMU_iwe6U
Why Don’t You Love Me [good comparison with J’Lo video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QczgvUDskk0

J’Lo:
I Ain’t Your Mama: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pgmx7z49OEk

Rhianna:
Bitch Better Have My Money [highly controversial video] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3eAMGXFw1o&has_verified=1

Red Velvet:
레드벨벳 ‘피카부 (Peek-A-Boo): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uJf2IT2Zh8

레드벨벳 (Bad Boy): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_CFBjAyPWE

Today we need to decide on a select few (I think 3/4 to analyse).

I think we also need to think about layers of representation and identity and whether asking if binary is challenged/ confirmed is too reductive in the first place.

Week 3 and 4

In the previous session in week 3 Angel-Luke discussed some of our ideas with us. He encouraged us to think in a more interdisciplinary way, rather than merely approaching our chosen topic of gender and identity from our separate major disciplines. He also encouraged us to think about establishing a source set to focus on. After some discussion we decided that we wanted to look at how gender was performed and whether the gender binary was reinforced or challenged by certain forms of communication. We therefore decided that taking music videos as our source set would provide us with a good focus.
Subsequently, before the session last week, I read the relevant chapters in “Railton, Diane, and Paul Watson. Music Video and the Politics of Representation”. This provided me with some interesting thoughts on how best to approach our topic. It did not claim to be exhaustive in its analysis of music videos, but rather focused on specific videos in order to illuminate key areas of concern. I thought that this would be a good approach for us to emulate as aiming to do an exhaustive approach that makes generalized claims would be far beyond our scope.
In our session we decided that taking a feminist approach to our topic of music videos and how they represent gender identity would provide us with the most fruitful analysis. Therefore, when deciding upon our criteria for which sources to choose, we decided that the music videos must exhibit a feminist intention. Initially we felt that this intention should be explicit, like in J-Lo’s ‘Ain’t Your Mama’ video or Beyoncé’s, ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’, however after thinking about music videos from Asian cultures, in particular Korea, we realized that often these videos have more implicit feminist intentions and consequently we decided that this is sufficient. We decided to focus on popular music videos as this means that they are widely circulated to a mass audience and so have the most impact in communicating gender identity. We also felt that it would be good to think about autership, namely whether or not the women partaking in the videos directed them themselves. Therefore, we decided that our criteria for choosing which music videos to focus on should be:
1) Feminist intention- female artist
2) Genre: popular music (pop)
3) From the 21st century

The list we drew up so far reflected Anglo-American and Asian cultures:
• Little Mix, Power (pop feminism)
• Lip & Hip, HyunaA (K-Pop)
• Why Don’t you Love Me, Béyonce
• J.lo’s ‘aint your mama’ vid
• Peek-A-Boo, Red Velvet
• Stupid Girls, Pink
• Bad Boy, Red Velvet

In the forthcoming session we hope to decide on a select number of videos, which raise a range of issues covered by the feminist debate surrounding gender, and which will allow us to convincingly illuminate these issues.

Meeting week 2

We met and discussed ideas surrounding identity and music. We decided that maybe this was too vague still. Will then suggested that he found the relationship between gender and identity really interesting and something he’d like to explore further. Consequently we decided that in the following week each of us would approach the topic of gender and identity from our own perspective/ major discipline and then feedback on what we’ve found at the next session.

ESSAY ABSTRACT

This essay studies a documentary, as a communication medium, to see how it functions in doing culture communication. I use a specific Chinese documentary called A Bite of China I as the case of my study and conduct a typical film study methodology, i.e., cinematic Audio-visual analysis to answer my research question. There are two main tasks in the case study: to understand how documentary do cultural communication and to discover the specific culture communication contents in the documentary’s representation of food.

This essay have conducted the analyses of color, lighting, camera shots, cutting, commentary, synchronous sounds, and background music to see how a documentary succeeds in carrying out cultural communication. At the same time, throughout the detailed language analysis, I also point out the exact communication contents that the production team wishes to spread out to the audience including the introduction of Chinese cooking, geographical, historical, regional and philosophical culture.

As this requires me to do an interdisciplinary comparison study, I employ a literary theory to make a reflection on the documentary and I examine the same research question from a perspective of narrative strategy study.

One important methodology of narrative strategy is the use of defamiliarization theory. Russian theorist Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky argues that while writing something, the author might easily fall into a dull writing format or routine. They may lose some creativity in some parts of their literary work and their readers may feel bored about it. Therefore, it is important to do some defamiliarization, which means to introduce new materials or old materials but in novel ways to the readers, so that the readers could keep their enthusiasm on the work.[1] This documentary, in this regard, also uses this method on its narration to do cultural communication.

Film study examines the visual and audial languages of the work to answer my research question. I find that film studies focus on sensory experiences and stress direct aesthetic stimulus. However, literary studies focus on the materials to the audience carried by the medium and how they are arranged in the medium. Literary study methods pay special attention to the selection and arrangement of those culturally relevant materials–what foods, in which order, and how do they together contribute to the subject of the episode.