09 April 2007

Empowered. Empowerment. Strength. Brought to you by a Christina Aguilera video.

I was on the treadmill today, as usual, and watching MTV or VH1 without any sound, as I do each morning. It entertains me a great deal to be watching a video for, say, Nellie Furtado while I'm listening to The Beastie Boys. Or listening to The Angel while bubblegum pop is on the TV screen. Disconcerting, and funny as hell. Oh, and the mystery of when does MTV really play music videos? Solved. At 05.30 in the morning, they're playing top 20 stuff.

Christina Aguilera's "Candyman" came on, and I watched the whole video, something I rarely do. I'm usually looking around, or if I'm running, my eyes are unfocused and I'm concentrating on my breathing, trying to keep the asthma monster at bay. But I love this video. Christina looks fabulous. The video makes me think of several things, all tied to female empowerment (I know, if you've seen it you're thinking....WHAT? With the WHAT?) and the inherent strength in femininity.

The song, if you haven't heard it, is reminiscent of that bugle boy song from the 40's, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. I love swing and jazz, and big band sounds too, so every time swing makes a resurgence, I'm happy about it. When I watch this video, I think of the women of my grandmother's generation, who went to work while 'the boys' were overseas in WWII, paving the way for the women's movement of the 60s and 70s. The art director, or costuming folks, did a good job of choosing wardrobe for her, especially when they've got her in a pair of capri-length jeans and button down shirt, with her hair wrapped in a kerchief. Somewhere in my family archives is a pic of my paternal grandmother in a very similar outfit, from about 1940.

So why does something intended to be so incredibly sexy, and overtly sexual, make me think of female empowerment? Because I think that Christina is one very smart lady. Who knows that sex sells, and she's done an amazing job making men want her and women want to be her. Even though each character she plays in the vid is being objectified through what she's got on, or how she's dancing, she's in control. She's in charge. Every single eye in the room is on her. That's power.

A while back, on another feminist's blog, I left a comment talking about 'owning the pink', much like taking back the word 'bitch', I think we ought to take ownership of the pretty pink boxes that the world would like us to fit into. There's a dress that Christina wears in the video that looks like maybe it is made out of pink cashmere, but a cashmere skirt wouldn't flare the way that one does, so I have no idea what it is made of. Anyway, she's got on this cute, very short, very pink dress, and she's rocking it like no one's business. She's also got on one sweet pair of bad-ass Mary-Janes, you know, catholic school girl shoes? These are spiky and high heeled, and I want a pair. A look around the net for them finds me stunned to discover that they're nearly $900 a pair. So much for that. I may spend silly amounts of money on shoes, but that's out of my reach for a single pair.

Sidetracked! That happens with me and shoes. Regardless, I was talking about the contrast between the shoes and the dress. The shoes are like a great "screw you" contrast to the uber-pink dress.

I know that I'm probably attributing much more thought than what actually went into a three minute music video, but I know that Christina knows she's a role model for young girls everywhere, and I think that by being strong, sexual, provocative, and even a lot flirtatious, she's showing that you can be pink & pretty and be powerful at the same time.

I remember an interview with Madonna, years and years ago, when Dick Clark asked her what her ambitions were, where she wanted to go from AT40 fame, what she wanted to do with her career. She chuckled a little bit and said, "To rule the world."

Watching this particular video makes ME feel strong, makes ME feel like I can get out there and rule the world, and that's powerful stuff. Dare I say it? Empowering.

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