Over eight million views, and counting, the video “Be a Lady, They Said” created by Girls. Girls. Girls. Magazine has gone viral, and rightfully so. Cynthia Nixon’s two and a half minute monologue, words written by Camille Rainville, is paired with powerful imagery, just watch for yourselves. But what is the real message?
In essence, the monologue describes the catch-22 conundrums facing women today. “Look hot. Don’t be so provocative. / Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. / Be sexual. Be innocent.” While simultaneously describing the limitations the female faces just for existing. “Don’t be assertive. / Don’t be so emotional. / You don’t want children? You will some day.” And it concludes with, my personal favorite, advice many women received from their mothers, myself included. “Don’t walk alone. / Tell someone where you’re going. / Buy a rape whistle. Hold your keys like a weapon.” It resonates because these phrases have been engrained into the female psyche. We are told to be everything at once while also made to feel completely vulnerable. Brava, Rainville, brava.
Nixon’s compelling performance seems in line with her credentials. She’s an award-winning actor, best recognized for her role in Sex and the City, who could recite anything into the camera and deliver it seamlessly. As a known women’s rights activist this particular role suits her very well, and likely the reason why the video has gotten so much exposure. Now, mute the video. Do the visuals empower women or do they break us down, as the narration suggests?
According the GGGM instagram the magazine aims to “bring back the woman”, but part of their message is lost through the images they’ve chosen to convey using Rainville’s words. When I watch the video I see fashionable women continuing to be sexualized– walking with a see through shirt, sucking on a popsicle, choking themselves, showing the vagina, licking porcelain and payphone’s, and being overdone with makeup. It’s only when I realized that much of what’s seen in the video are actual shoots done to promote the magazine itself that I began to question the underlying message. While I applaud anyone, male or female, who chooses to own their sexuality, I’m confused. Does the video aim to challenge women being portrayed as sex objects or does it play into it?
Undoubtedly, “Be a Lady, They Said” has stirred up some real sh*t worth talking about and I’m curious to see where GGGM goes with this conversation and how they’ll use their editorial platform to get there. But women are in an era of empowerment unlike ever before, a time where it’s imperative to pave the road for future females. As the dialogue changes based on the individual we must continue to ask ourselves, and society, what is the real message?