The MTV VMAs Proved We Still Need Feminism
The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards is the event that everyone is still talking about — at least until the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards hits the scene Monday night. Sunday has been rightfully referred to as "ladies night" due to the sheer amount of female performers, female award winners, and feminist-friendly moments that happened during the VMAs this year. Take Lorde, for example. Sunday night, Lorde won the Best Rock Video award at the VMAs and became the first woman ever to win that award, beating out the likes of Linkin Park and Arctic Monkeys. As wonderful as that is, and how great a victory it is for women, it kind of downplays the fact that in the 31 years that the VMAs has been a thing, this is the first time a woman is winning in that category. And it's not because women haven't been making good rock videos.
Media coverage of the 2014 VMAs is touting it as a night of female empowerment, as a full-blown ladies night, as a feminist bonanza. It literally feels like everyone is standing on a respective mountain top screaming, "LADIES DID STUFF!" into microphones. Of course, it's not jarring that ladies are doing stuff. Ladies do stuff all the time. It's jarring that ladies are getting this many awards for doing stuff, and that ladies are doing stuff on stage all together like that. Nine award categories going to women and eight of the performers being women apparently means that women have staged a takeover of the VMAs. When's the last time you can remember reading about an awards show being a "boys' night" due to how many men took home awards?
Don't get me wrong. I consider the 2014 VMAs to be a great feminist moment. As a woman, I felt empowered seeing so many talented women take center stage (or share a stage with equally talented men) and take home awards they definitely deserved. However, the VMAs is the exception to many awards shows, not the rule, and the fact that we can still be worked into such a flurry over seeing examples of female empowerment on TV is why the feminist movement still has such a long way to go.
Yes, it's great that the opening act was a three-woman performance from Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, and Ariana Grande featuring an empowering song that's like a modern version of "Lady Marmalade." Yes, it's great that Beyoncé reminded everyone that being a feminist isn't a bad thing. Yes, it's great how many instances we saw of women supporting each other, loving each other, and dominating the ceremony with each other Sunday night. But the fact that all of this is unusual enough to make headlines is the one tragedy to come out of the 2014 VMAs.
To be honest, we have a long, long way to go before women sweeping the categories at an awards show is just as commonplace as the numerous, numerous, endless times men have swept them. When it's something that happens enough that it's unremarkable, that news coverage has to focus on more specific events than just "ladies did stuff and got awards for doing stuff," that's when there's a slight chance that we might not need feminism as much as we do right now. However, since that day still seems pretty far away, it's clear now more than ever that the movement is far from over.
I'm proud of all of the women who took an award home from the 2014 VMAs, and proud of MTV for selecting so many wonderful female performers for its lineup, but I'd love to see this attitude spread to other awards shows. (I'm looking at you, Emmys.) I'd like to see this attitude spread to all other forms of media, really, so I don't have to celebrate every individual time a woman succeeds in a male-dominated field. For Lorde to be the first woman since the ceremony was founded to win the Best Rock Video award in 2014 is something that is a source of both pride and shame. Come on, world. We should do better than this.
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