A single camcorder is set up by a young African American woman, her face is blurred and somewhat out of focus. She stares into the lens, and most importantly at her intended audience. Her stare is distant but seems ironically aware that she is being watched by more than who this "Home Movie" was intended for. She rises up and reveals a bare midriff and a pair of skin tight jeans. She turns and the camera, which was out of focus for her face; clears up to give a crystal clear view of her very voluptuous gluteus. As she takes a position further away from the camera, her features become even less apparent due to the fact that her head is covered with a beanie and her hair is down. It's almost as if her identity is inconsequential. The young woman gyrates and vibrates to rap artist Drake's song "Practice". There is a door to her left, a bed that is unmade and a mirror propped up against the wall that is facing the direction of the camera. She proceeds to go into a "Practice" routine, as she shakes and gyrates in a highly sexually manner. Her movements are purposely sexual and tantalizing as she touches herself sensually to the rhythm of the track. She occasionally looks back into the lens but is mostly concerned with the mirror. There is something within this rather inconspicuous moment that should be explored. Why is she more concerned with her image rather than the act of "Practice" she is engaged in?
As she is looking at her reflection in the mirror; there is a reflection of the camera recording her. What the audience is viewing is a reflection which serves as a measure to prevent culpability by the viewer. The mirror also serves as a way to almost give her body a three dimensional quality as her gluteus, which is the focus of this video; can be seen even as she faces forward. The video lasts for nearly three minutes until about the 3:26 mark when the door opens and Drake walks through. Drake and the young woman share an embrace and fall unto the bed ending the video at 3:58 seconds. The audience is left to speculate as to whether or not her attempt at "Practice" leads to a sexually encounter. The song, which is a sample of rapper Juvenile's controversial record "Back That Ass Up"; is meant to have a lighter tone than it's predecessor. The former record was an obvious track aimed at objectification and sexist, perhaps racist; stereotypes of urban dwelling women.
The "Practice" video is yet another example of the problematic "practice" of the objectification of women in the modern social sphere of American culture. Despite the obvious negatives associated with sexually objectification, the entertainment industry continues to promote and profit off of it's usage. The old adage is that "sex" sells and so do "drugs and violence". There is almost a subconscious craving by American audiences for concepts and ideas rooted in the oppositions to moral proclivity. I could argue that sexual objectification of women is just a product of the craving to have that which is denied in the space of reality. It's as if men were conditioned to fantasize about women but rarely does the fantasy crossover into reality because of the limitations imposed by moral, ethically and in extreme cases legally.
Barbara L. Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts Objectification Theory essay proposed that, "...when objectified, women are treated as bodies-and in particular, as bodies that exist for the use and pleasure of others". Women as socially sexualized constructs have become much like the proliferation of drugs and violence in media, they are often viewed as "pleasure" on some psycho-social level. Frederickson and Roberts also write, "Bodies exist within social and cultural contexts, and hence are also constructed through sociocultural practices and discourses". Objectification is a construct, one that has been built up over centuries of sexist and male dominated societal norms. The "Practice" video is no more than a product of the lingering effects of years of social conditioning.
I would challenge that the new "Objectification" had evolved into a more dangerous problem. The way in which we continue to except and expect sexually objectification is mind boggling. However I contend that in a social media driven society, objectification is not only the norm but it is sought after and in some cases praised. Gary R. Brooks in his essay, The Centerfold Syndrome
, addresses this danger when he writes, "Men and women have accepted this bizarre state of affairs, strangely enough, as both unavoidable and relatively harmless." To take this observation further, in a culture driven by the desire to see and be seen; objectification has become a necessary evil in pop culture. In a social media driven generation that thrives on connection through voyeurism, visual stimulus is a cornerstone. We have become a generation obsessed with what can be seen and how quickly we can distribute that moment to others. The internet by it's nature is concerned with "view" as users look at content being processed at the speed of a click.
Sex and sexual desire is now directly connected with what can be seen, as millions of social networkers post and view pictures on social networking sites. There are also thousands of sexually explicit sites that offer instantaneous gratification for sight driven users. What the "Practice" video is symbolic of is the shift in thinking by the social networking generation, specifically females; that being Objectified is a matter of control. What I mean by that is, the young women in the video is aware of her body and what sexual tension created by her movements. She implicitly knows that her act is centered in objectification but yet, like many women posting risqu? pictures and videos on the net; has agreed to the rules of what many scholars call the "gaze". Frederickson and Roberts write, "...because a sexually objectifying gaze is not under women's control, few women can completely avoid potentially objectifying contexts". Was there a point in modern society when women began to not only agree with their position as "objects" but re-appropriated for empowerment? It's not a matter of re-appropriation at this point, but a lack of understanding. In the pursuit of being seen, in a generation that values being seen above all other modes; our generation is willing to forego years of sociopolitical progress for seconds of fame. You Tube is full of examples of people using and abusing stereotypes and negative connotations to exploit themselves for views. Drake should be taken to task for his willingness to promote the objectification of an African American female. However, the woman that was willing to "Practice" for the video is also culpable for her role in the video. The irony of the "Practice" video is that many view it as a norm(read the comments left behind by viewers), further making a case that objectification is yet another tool to gain exposure and is not only approved of but expected. Can we "Practice" being more conscious of what we are allowing to become standards in the new social networking generation? Or will we continue to dismiss history in order to create an instant future?