Kanye West’s Monster Misogyny

January 31, 2011

I really wish I hadn’t seen Kanye West’s leaked music video for his hit song Monster. I was horrified, furious, livid, angry, and sad; I actually didn’t even get through the whole video the first time I saw it.  The sexualized, eroticized, fetishized violence against women and sexist and racist stereotypes is nothing other then blatant misogyny and anyone who thinks otherwise clearly doesn’t understand what misogyny means.

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Transcript “Kanye West’s Monster Misogyny”

Song: “Are you willing to sacrifice your life?”

When Kanye West’s music video for his hit song Monster was recently leaked on the Internet it generated an enormous amount of controversy because of the depictions of women in it. The video is reprehensible, I really don’t suggest going and watching it if you can avoid it because I really wish that I hadn’t seen it.

To give you a sense of it, this video is built on this whole “Sexy Dead Woman” trope, which seems to be popping up a lot lately. Throughout the video we are presented with a series of lifeless, nearly naked, mutilated women’s bodies. We see women, or parts of women, all white, draped across sofas, propped up in beds, hanging from nooses, and all with perfectly applied make up and high heels. In addition to the sexualized, dismembered body parts, we’re also treated to Kanye holding up a freshly severed head.

In another scene Kanye is pictured lying in his bed, rearranging the lifeless bodies of two lingerie clad corpses. The Black women in the video aren’t dead like the White women are, rather they’re evil, cannibalizing, Kanye attacking, man-eating, demons. So let’s recap, White women: eroticized, mutilated and dead. Black women: animalistic, savage demons.

Monster is a single from his number one hit album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.

So whose to blame? Kanye clearly, but also Roc-A-Fella Records, Universal Music Group, the entire music industry, and how the market functions in general. Record labels have a goal of trying to get their artists to stick out of the crowd in an oversaturated media landscape.  For decades they have been making sexualized, shocking, violent media products. More and more we see the industry cynically relying on sensationalism and glamorization of violence against women in order to boost sales.

I’m not gonna get into a shot by shot analysis of the video and the imagery used, in fact I’m not even gonna show it. This shouldn’t have to be said and sadly it does need to be said. This is misogyny. And that should make us all rightfully angry.

And perhaps this would be a good time to define misogyny because there seems to be some confusion about the word in relation to Kanye’s video. First, when we talk about women, we mean full and complete human beings and all that that entails. Misogyny as defined by the Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology “is a cultural attitude of hatred for females simply because they are female. It is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.”

Again, misogyny can take many forms both subtle and obvious. This video is an example of misogyny at its most obvious which Kanye excuses by saying it was a way to generate “controversy and sales”. Like Samhita in her Feministing article, “If he really wanted to take the scene by storm, he should treat women like human beings, that’ll shock ‘em”.

Monster not only reduces women to sexual objects and perpetuates racist stereotypes but it actually fetishizes the aspects of women that don’t even require us to be physically alive. I think that bares repeating, this video fetishizes the aspects of women that don’t even require us to be physically alive.

Song: “…got the lowest self esteem, the prettiest people do the ugliest things for the road to riches and diamond rings.” 

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17 Responses to “Kanye West’s Monster Misogyny”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Reel Grrls, jamiic, QueerCarrie, uwmediacenter, Feminist Frequency and others. Feminist Frequency said: I have a new video up about @kanyewest's leaked music video for Monster, check it out "Kanye West's Monster Misogyny" http://bit.ly/golJOR [...]

  2. [...] Feminist Frequency, in her even-handed, intelligent video, concludes with: “This video fetishizes the aspects of [...]

  3. You know what I also really like about this blog- that you actually do not show the video that you talk about. I think there is a whole ‘series’ of wrong representations of women by the ‘feminist debate’, that entails all the images that we actually dont wanna see, just as an explanation of the images they are talking about. But then we still get to see the images we rather not see. So i am really up for not showing these images- we can all imagine what they look like, unfortunately. Go Anita!

    Anthony Thamas Reply:

    I honestly think the world needs to get a brain and stop using women as sex objects and making men look like they “Own the world” because it is just so wrong in so many ways.

  4. This is a really great video. Thanks for making it and sharing. Have you considered doing anything on Lady Gaga. She is putting forth images of Women’s death and absolute objectification (Telephone), celebrating violent hypermasculinity wherein which she is raped (Alejandro), and celebrating capitalistic violence (although she claims she is doing this as a trickster — but the claim is false and no-one takes her this way)(Born this way). Because she calls herself a feminist and an advocate for the LGBT movement, she is getting away with it. Perhaps she is one way in which these images are becoming more acceptable in popular culture.

  5. [...] dead women are presented. Anita Sarkeesian, a pop culture media critic who creates video blogs for Feminist Frequency describes it quite well: “Throughout the video we are presented with a series of lifeless, [...]

  6. Most of the time i like and agree with your videos, and this one was no exception. But i chuckled when in the beginning, as an example of the sexy-dead-woman trope i saw a picture of “Who killed Amanda Palmer” which has not much to do with what you are referring to. It almost seemed to me as a misinformation, so i thought i’d point it out to you..

  7. [...] sexual violence in Antichrist and, most recently, the sexualized corpses of women in Kanye West’s Monster video. It barely grazes the surface. I mean, it barely grazes the fucking surface of what a viewer [...]

  8. This video will spread the message to women who have the cultural sense that it is okay to be treated like that, that it is just the way life is. That is wrong. I find it ridiculous how the media thinks its going outside the box with their ideas because yes half of it will affect women in a negative way but another half, who we are part of will also wake us up more and we will be much more aware of what we need to do.

  9. [...] response to a backlash that resulted when an unfinished cut of the music video was leaked, Kanye West has released the [...]

  10. The kanye song/segment that you chose at the end was a nice touch.

  11. the music industry has been doing this for so long now, glamorizing violence towards women and the degrading of women in both music and videos. Kanye’s monster not only glamorizes violence but tries to make it it ok with a brief statement at the beginning of the music video saying it is not meant to insult anyone and it is not misogynistic.

  12. I think Kanye’s video is ridiculous. It is just glorifies violence and hatred towards women. I feel like a lot of music videos do. This is sending out a bad message to everyone. It is basically showing that this is acceptable behavior. Unfortunately this kind of stuff sells so music companies are not going to stop putting this kind of stuff out there. I don’t understand how anyone could find this video appealing. But for Kanye and the music companies it’s all about money.

  13. I really like her videos, and how she explains what the problem is. It’s so weird how she said Kanye made white girls dismembered and the black girls as demons. Now that is weird because white women are more centralized because of their so called beauty. It’s so scary on what will be the limit to all these videos that are put out there for the people to watch, and those who don’t realize it. As seen in society the music companies don’t really care what people think as long as the people like it and that they get their money. As long as people keeping buy music like that, it will never end.

  14. I haven’t even seen this video and I hate it. I had never given a second thought to how women were being portrayed in videos before. Now, I see how women are degraded in so many ways. Just in this video, women are killed and maimed, and even the race of the woman comes to play. White women are left dead but black women are turned into vicious vampires seeking to kill and what not. I had an overwhelming curiosity to see this video so i tried to look it up, it seems that this video cause so much controversy that it was avidly taken down. Even TMV stopped airing this “disturbing” video. This is some what comforting, at least society as a whole has a problem with women being torn apart and mass murdered. A win is a win.

  15. This video is truly horrible. I can remember the first (and only) time I watched it so clearly. I was with my young nephews who loved the song and wanted to see the leaked video on the internet. Within the first 45 seconds or so I shut it off, because the images were so terrible. I understand that the music industry is constantly going for shock value, but this is just ridiculous. There are other ways to shock people besides using naked, made-up, dead women. Not only is the video sexist but it is racist. These are the images that younger generations like my nephews are growing up with; what kind of human beings and ideas can we expect modern children to grow into if this is what they are seeing constantly? And this video makes the over-sexualized dead females seem so normal. We as a society need to recognize and reject images like this in order to learn how to respect all women.

  16. This clip was very informative. This is so true with music videos today, all they seem to promote is sex. Even if the song itself has nothing to do with sex, somehow sex gets thrown into the music videos. There is also racism, sexism, genderism,ageism,etc. that get promoted into today’s pop culture. This clip sure brings awareness!!