In two recently released music videos — Colbie Caillat‘s “Try” and John Legend‘s “You & I” — women of diverse ages,races and sizes earnestly lip-synch to lyrics about the effort women expend on their appearance or evoke vulnerability as they dress, apply makeup or otherwise evaluate their reflections. Whether these videos are more theatrical than transformative is up for debate, but there’s no doubt they acknowledge the cultural expectations that torture millions of women daily: You are not beautiful enough. Try harder.
When Caillat permits that young women “don’t have to try so hard” and Legend affirms “You don’t have to try…all of the stars, they don’t shine brighter than you,” many women feel supported and understood. Consider that 65 percent of women and girls report disordered eating behaviors, 78 percent of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds say they fear getting fat. Since women are routinely hypersexualized and held to unattainable beauty standards, any representation — whether it’s a music video or soap commercial — suggesting women can relax such ideals (and that those ideals in fact are unjust) are embraced.
Music videos typically convey a different message and reflect an industry that regularly objectifies female performers. One study analyzed Rolling Stonecovers, concluding that women are nearly five times more likely than men to be sexualized. Female musicians of every genre have complained about unfair treatment. Solange Knowles tweeted, “I find it very disappointing when I am presented as the ‘face’ of my music, or a ‘vocal muse’ when I write or co-write every f—ing song.” Canadian singer Grimes wrote on her Tumblr, “I don’t want to be infantilized because I refuse to be sexualized.”
Are ‘Body Positive’ Music Videos All That Positive? – Billboard.