Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tyler the Creator's IFHY and Its Disturbing Definition of a Relationship

Link to lyric video:
Link to lyrics:

Music is a major part of our media. It portrays love, pain, and every conceivable emotion or experience while also highlighting and romanticizing these things. Love songs are incredibly popular and the rap genre has been one music style that has dipped its toe into the water to illustrate love and romance. Tyler the Creator is a rapper that has chosen to define love in several of his songs, but one song in particular makes one question the healthiness of this "love" he illustrates. What song could I be speaking of? IFHY (short for "I F*CKING HATE YOU") comes to mind.

The overall message of IFHY is in your face, but is still somehow overlooked by the rhythm and beat of the music. Simply, Tyler the Creator is describing a relationship a man has with his girlfriend that flip flops from being loving to being hateful. The first section of the song is focused on the speaker's point of view regarding his attraction to his girlfriend. While most of it remains mostly smitten and creepily jealous, the rest of the song dives into a disturbing range of possessive and violent behavior. Much of the song repeats the mantra, "I fucking hate you/But I love you" and employs a mix of inconsolable rage and obsessive adoration that doesn't seem very loving. At no point is this dynamic truly questioned, only that the relationship itself is frustrating due to both the speaker's and girlfriend's actions.

To make the message worse, the song glorifies the dynamic and the violence attributed to it. The speaker is incredibly possessive of his girlfriend and repeatedly threatens her if she leaves him, stating at one point,

"Actually, if you even consider leaving
I'll lose a couple screws in due time, I'll stop breathing
And you'll see the meaning of stalking
When I pop out the dark to find you
And that new dude that you're seeing with an attitude
Then proceed to fuck up your evening
Make sure you never meet again like goddamn vegans."

While making these threats, the speaker puts his girlfriend up on a pedestal by stating continuously, "You're good at being perfect" but also employing the word "bitch" to degrade her at several intervals. The speaker doesn't seem to realize his unhealthy behavior regarding his girlfriend as when he states how troubled their relationship is, he states, "We're good at being troubled", rather than finding fault with solely himself. In fact, when regarding his actions towards her, he defines his actions as being "passive-aggressive" though he threatens to kill any potential paramours she may have or his desire to kill her and himself.

Why does this song matter when regarding the definition of a healthy relationship? First of all, a healthy relationship is one that is built on trust, compassion, and a shared desire to work on the relationship. In IFHY, the relationship is nothing more than a possessive man's wish to threaten, stalk, and potentially harm or kill the woman he's seeing. Nonetheless, look up the lyrics video online and you'll find plenty of comments by people seemingly defining the song as a love song and one that might even fit their own personal relationship dynamic. Tyler the Creator's song creates a definition of love that accepts violence and possessive behavior while also permitting a sexist outlook. Rap itself has been controversial in its treatment of women, but IFHY's song could take one step further and convince its listeners that this type of relationship is perfectly fine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sexism in the Dermablend Professional Ad Campaign

There's a dark backdrop, a question presented, "how do you judge a book?", and a serious man in a plain, gray t-shirt sitting down in front of the camera. He's got a few piercing and a stoic expression, but he looks like any guy you might see down the street. This first impression the viewer makes is quickly destroyed as, before the viewer's eyes, it's shown that the man is covered head to toe in Dermablend concealer. He has dark, intense tattoos that, just a moment ago, were impossible to see. We see a final clip of the guy before cutting to the products and the phrase, "Go Beyond the Cover". Well, this is a different makeup ad, but one that unfortunately still indulges in sexism.

I would first like to point out that this makeup, of course, is not your typical drug store product. The Dermablend Professional is for mostly covering up tattoos or other parts of the body that typical concealer would fail at hiding. Rick Genest, the tattooed man, is a model and friend of Lady Gaga and, as the ad demonstrates, his mere disappearance of his tattoos are an endorsement within itself. Along with this, it's important to note that this product is being sold for a more specific demographic rather than a Covergirl ad. While makeup is a product to remedy insecurities, the Dermablend Professional concealers are meant to target people who would otherwise feel alienated or judged for either their tattoos or appearance.

My response to the ad is a mix of impressed surprise at the concealer's ability and curiosity as to how a woman would've been portrayed in the same ad. Imagine if they chose someone who was covered in tattoos and looked straight at the camera with the same unforgiving look. The only ads that feature women in this campaign are "Camo Confessions", which are brief videos that are shot and produced to create an intimate and vulnerable confession with several pretty ladies. They have insecurities over their appearances, but overcome it with the Dermablend products. Rick Genest also does a Camo Confession, as well, but it's focused on more of a story of how the tattoos have allowed him to express who he is in the world. The differences in just the gender of the person seems to wildly change what the ad campaign is about.

For the ladies, it appears that -since they are seemingly tarnished beauties- women are not allowed to see their differences as ways to express their individuality as Rick Genest can. While he has tattoos, there are no women that have tattoos. The stigma of being a woman sporting a tattoo typically unleashes a wave of suspicion of promiscuity, irresponsibility, and the idea that a woman is no longer "lady-like". While Rick Genest has obviously felt judgement for his appearance, it's an odd contradictory for not featuring a woman with a similar appearance and similar message of judging a book by it's cover. Though it's nice to see an ad that wants to empower both the men and women, it's disappointing to not see equal representation of the demographic that would use the products.

Women are judged immediately with superficial expectations. They are expected to have the big lashes, clear skin, and white teeth that demonstrate biological perfection. When a woman contradicts that idea and, like Rick Genest, is unapologetic for their unorthodox appearance, they are shut down and trivialized. It's not to say the videos about the woman with the severe acne aren't important to note, but the ladies with tattoos and piercings are no longer given a moment to shine like their male counterpart. He's able to be applauded for his endorsement of the ad, but it would be unlikely that the same response would be given for a woman. God forbid, she provided no justification for her appearance choices at Rick Genest does.

Rick Genest Ad:
Rick Genest Camo Confession:
Cheri's Camo Confession: