Table of Contents
Processes of human communication encompass various forms: from nonverbal elements and face-to-face situations to the mass media including broadcast and digital media. Music videos are one of the outlets through which the communication technologies are spread in the society. The messages that the audience often receives through entertainment are not less socially significant than the academic disciplines dealing with them. In this paper, Jennifer Lopez’s “Ain't Your Mama!” music video released on May 6, 2016 will be analyzed. The main aims of the essay are to explore the issue of gender through imagery and language, to uncover the video’s values, and identify its non-verbal behaviors.
Part 1: Music Video
The global entertainer Jennifer Lopez renowned for her impressive personality and work ethic accepted even a bigger challenge when in September 2015 she joined the United Nations Foundation as the first global advocate for women. Her new music video “Ain’t Your Mama,” which belongs to the genre of pop music, was created under the influence of her new social responsibility in the UN Foundation, and is thus aimed at empowerment of women fighting for their rights and needs. Though it is not her first video that shows problems of sexism and gender inequality, this time she is more convincing than ever before. One should pay attention to the famous phrase of Hillary Clinton’s speech on the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995, which can be heard at the beginning of the song. It underlines the entire message of this music video: “Women's rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights, once and for all” (Clinton).
The video clip portrays the story of women’s fight for independence during the 20th century. Lopez appears in several women’s roles, which are stereotypical for different historical periods of the United States. There are a few recurring scenes, and all main characters are very vivid and persuasive. Lopez plays many roles, but the central message conveyed is that the fight for women’s rights is not over and the modern society should stop discrimination against females at work and at home. Thus, women should unite and stand for their dignity.
The music video begins with a rain scene. The newscaster is arguing with her partner on the phone about responsibilities, “I’m tired; I’ve been working all day! No, I can’t...you should” (Lopez). Disappointed and frustrated, she leaves the phone booth and does not notice the downpour. The woman is very concerned as her head is full of different thoughts. She does not even care about her appearance on the camera and refuses from the service of her hairdresser. Throwing away a prepared speech, she begins to speak honestly, trying to draw attention to a painful topic, “Look; I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad: taken for granted, ignored, overlooked, underappreciated. We have a big problem, ladies...” (Lopez). The audience receives an important message through this scene: women should not tolerate men’s irresponsibility and indifference.
As the words are spoken, the video then focuses on a housewife of the mid-1950s, serving a dinner for her husband, cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. She listens to the words of the news reporter Jennifer and realizes that this is time to “get mad, get up out of the chair, open the door and yell: “I ain’t your mama!” (Lopez). This scream is a reference to a famous line from a satirical comedy-drama film Network (1976): “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore” (Network). Consequently, the housewife dumps food over the head of her husband, who “got too comfortable” (Lopez).
The next moment one can see a redheaded typewriter woman of 1960s, suffering from sexism in the workplace. This scene refers to a Mad Man television series, which raises the issue of women’s lib. Noticing her boss’ indecent behavior and lustful glance, she threw alcohol into his face. After that, she starts to dance, singing “I ain’t your mama,” which demonstrates her disobedience and call for fighting against male’s sexual harassment.
Meanwhile, there appears the other scene: a factory, where Lopez plays the role of an underpaid worker on the assembly line. The prototype of this character is Rosie the Riveter, an American symbol of feminism and women's economic power. She is doing hard work along with other women and at the same time she is humiliated by her hotheaded manager. As she starts singing, “You still tryna ride this train? Cause some things have gotta change,” she begins a rebellion against female exploitation in the workplace and the dominance of men in management roles (Lopez).
Throughout the music video, all scenes interchange. Flashing to the 1980s, Lopez plays the role of a businesswoman dressed in a purple suit and having a hairstyle appropriate to that time. Her character refers to Working Girl (1988). One of her male colleagues shut out her in a boardroom meeting. The businesswoman “gets mad” one more time, solves a Rubix cube, and turns her office upside down, showing that she will not accept workplace gender inequality but will stand for equal participation of women in the workforce.
The music video climaxes with the all-women dance/march on a city street. Lopez wears a white jumpsuit and with a group of backup dancers repeats the theme for the last time, “I ain’t gon’ be cooking all day, I ain’t your mama. I ain't gon’ do your laundry, I ain't your mama” (Lopez) She wants women to unite for the sake of their safety, empowerment, and dignity.
This music video relates to all countries and cultures in the world. One may say that the song's lyrics are more personal than political, but the message is clear and nonetheless considerable. Obviously, the feminist movement is far from over and gender equality is still one of the global goals in the 21st century.
Part 2: Reference
The music video “Ain’t Your Mama” seems to claim all of its aspects to reality. Most scenes depict real life and gender issues in the society (exploitation at home, humiliation at the workplace, men’s abuse). Furthermore, it shows the history of women’s rights in the USA and its progress over decades. Jennifer Lopez always tries to raise social issues in her songs, and this one is not an exception. She continues to do it in this female power anthem and this time the topic is still relevant because of the possible election of the first female president in the US history. Lopez creates an image of an independent, self-confident woman, who will never tolerate domestic and sexual violence, sexism or abasement. Obviously, the feminist movement is far from its winning end though it continues more than a hundred years now. The final scene, the group dance, shows women working together, helping and supporting each other, which is also one of the significant elements of real life. The music video ascribes major feminist values, such as gender equality always and everywhere, respect to all women and their personal time and opportunities. It proclaims the struggle against male dominance in family, economy, and politics as women should enter all-male occupations. “Ain’t Your Mama” music video contains a few types of communication. First, it is verbal: the message of Clinton at the beginning of the song and Lopez’s message during the entire track. Second, non-verbal: provocative behavior of characters, who do not want to obey and start a rebellion. Nevertheless, it would be possible to add a couple of things to the video story. For instance, I would depict women from another cultures and countries as well in order to show the feminist movement worldwide. Besides, the lyrics could be more relevant to the video.
Part 3: Silence
“Ain’t Your Mama” music video is really topical. However, there are some elements that are not included and whose absence is conspicuous. For example, almost all scenes depict life in a light-hearted and funny way, but there should be some prolongation that shows real brutal domestic and sexual violence, which is something that occurs in real life. Besides, it was necessary to touch such issues as slavery of prostitution, sexual assault (rape), which occur every day all over the world and are crimes not only against women but also against all humanity. These topics were not included possibly because of censorship or the audience’s expectations were different. People often prefer to watch something cheerful and fancywithout considering serious problems.
Nonetheless, the video is truthful and provides credible details. It is one of the examples how understanding the perception of non-verbal behavior can change the way people behave. Eventually, sometimes it is not necessary to tear between what is said and what is showed. Therefore, it is better to become more attentive, observe characters on the screen, and infer the meaning from the messages. Emotional connection and empathy grow immediately as well as comparison with personal life experience.
In conclusion, the importance of non-verbal communication has a global meaning. It is crucial in daily communication and mass media. Facial expressions, postures, eye contact, gestures – all these non-verbal signals help to understand the situation and share cues between people. Due to attractive body language, people become more trustful and interested in response. In the music video “Ain’t Your Mama,” Jennifer Lopez uses many non-verbal signs, such as repetition, substitution, complementing, trying to influence the audience, and convincing to put the needs and rights of girls and women on the first place.