By Sut Jhally
Review by Jarad Johnson
The film Dreamworld focuses on the role of women as accessories to male singers and illustrates the way in which women are used as interchangeable sexual objects and accessories to an infantilized dreamscape designed and curated for men. Undeniably, women in these videos are showcased as accessories to men, status symbols, like ornaments on a tree.
Dreamworld displays scenes and images from several music videos that closely resemble pornography; and while the convergence of sex and music is nothing new, the sexual reductivism and the degradation of the women showcased in these music videos highlights the broader way that women are perceived and valued in society.
Indeed, and we must consider what the dominate culture is telling us about sex through these videos displayed in Dreamworld. What messages are being sent to both men and women who watch them? For men, they are being told that women are there for them, objects to be used interchangeably.
Maturity is also a factor here. These music videos are fundamentally childish and infantilized. We expect maturity from women, but when men are still behaving and thinking like little boys, no one seems to see that as a problem. Society allows and encourages men to act and think like children, and one only has to look at the Kavanaugh Hearings to see that point illustrated. Brett Kavanaugh was allowed to throw a temper tantrum (again, infantilization) before Congress and no one batted an eye. Had Dr. Ford done that she would have been immediately discredited. Women, then, are being told that their entire existence is to be dedicated to men and their pleasure. It is the extreme version of the ideologies expressed throughout our phallocentric culture.
The goal should not be to eliminate sex or sexual expression in culture or music; rather, we must combat this sexual oppression against women, this binary categorization that is unhealthy for all involved. Rubin states very aptly that, “Sexual liberation continues to be a feminist goal.” Liberation from this binary and harmful reductivism must be our goal, rather than advocating sex out of existence and out of public. We must just challenge these assumptions, we must, “transform them, and to do so, we need a revised and reconstructed theory.” In this instance, building upon the old model won’t work; instead, we need a way of thinking about gender and relationships, one based on respect and equality, not domination and subjugation. It should stand, “in sharp contrast to the paradigms of female dependence on males that have been predominant in Western religions and culture.”
These images are also a means of keeping women and men from deviating from their perspective gender roles. The ways in which women and men act in the videos are exaggerated and often caricaturized versions of how people act in real life. But still, for many people, these images become role models of how men and women behave. This quote sums it up nicely: “The grudging admiration felt for the tomboy, and the queasiness felt around a sissy boy point to the same thing: the contempt in which women- or those who play a female role- are held.”
Anything considered to feminine is automatically categorized at a status of less than, proving once again what a masculine-centered culture we live in. Given that, we see how these videos tell those who watch them what behavior they should model to be a full member of that society. Of course, what I’m really talking about is an imbalance of power. But not just from one source, as power is, “exercised from innumerable points.” Power is expressed in every rape and every violation of women’s fundamental human rights.
Overall, the documentary highlights some serious problems in our society; women in music videos as sex objects, the male gaze, what men and women are taught, gender roles, power imbalances, what porn teaches men, male infantilization, etc. These are serious issues that we are grappling with right now, and it is unclear how they will be resolved. One thing is clear though: these attitudes and ways of thinking cannot continue and have gone on for too long already.
Christ, Carol. “Why Women Need the Goddess: Phenomenological, Psychological, and Political Reflections.” Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity, edited by Susan Archer Mann and Ashley Susan Patterson. Oxford, 2016, pp. 113-115.
Foucault, Michel. “Method.” Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity, edited by Susan Archer Mann and Ashley Susan Patterson. Oxford, 2016, pp. 309-311.
Hartsock, Nancy. “Foucault on Power: A Theory for Women?” Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity, edited by Susan Archer Mann and Ashley Susan Patterson. Oxford, 2016, pp. 210-212.
Morgan, Robin. “Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape.” Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity, edited by Susan Archer Mann and Ashley Susan Patterson. Oxford, 2016, pp. 109-111.
Radicalesbians. “The Woman Identified Woman.” Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity
to Postmodernity, edited by Susan Archer Mann and Ashley Susan Patterson. Oxford, 2016, pp. 103-106.
Rubin, Gayle. “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.” Reading Feminist Theory: From Modernity to Postmodernity, edited by Susan Archer Mann and Ashley Susan Patterson. Oxford, 2016, pp. 125- 133.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!