"Another large factor is that this representation of fems in masc music videos brings in clicks and therefore money. Since a lot of people don’t seem to question these visuals, there cannot be space to make a widespread change. I think by having conversations within our spaces we can begin a collective change."
Gender Spotlights - a series in which we shine the spotlight on a different industry every other month, interviewing one person at a time about the importance of gender in that industry.
Today we are all about the production of music videos. There are limited other areas of pop culture that are so talked about with regard to gender equality. Conversations about the representation of women continuously pop up with every other music video that pushes the boundaries - and tricks even those who are otherwise not involved with feminism at all into overheated discussions. To look at this topic, we invited Rayne to share their observations and experiences with us.
Rayne, it’s lovely to have you taking part in our Gender Spotlights. Our connection was established by one of our team members, Fran, with whom you worked on your latest project which we will dive more deeply into later. Before we look at your work and professional perspectives, could you tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes you, you?
My internal world has always been a mystery, through creative expression I've tried to pinpoint some of the things that make me, “me”. I believe I’m curious and passionate, which allows me to channel my own hypersensitivity into sonic and visual experiences (painting and music).
Thank you. You told me that you just started a course this past September at BIMM to further deepen your knowledge about song-writing, production and performances. That sounded quite interesting to me, especially because you have already been in Berlin for almost ten years. Could you tell me more about these ten years and how it led you to your current position as an artist?
Ten years ago I’m sure I didn’t think I’d be performing shows as ‘RAYNE’, writing songs for an LP, and learning how to produce music. I think at that time I had actually stopped making music because I had other priorities.
My love for music came through being in music courses throughout my academic career and during the choir in middle school. One day I started writing poetry which developed into songs, from there everything else kind of came into place year after year. I find a big part of that I owe to taking the first step and not going in circles about fears or potential failures. I faced opportunities to challenge myself in order to develop (including finally deciding to study music) and I still do my best to do that today. I joined a Collective with some friends where we offer free workshops for the youth / young adults of berlin. Topics in the past have included music video workshops, songwriting, performance, and production. Being able to create a space for others to feel comfortable exploring these themes inspires me. What a community can create is truly mesmerizing.
I fully agree with that, I think there are numerous examples even just in Berlin. Community has also played a big role for gender marginalized communities and feminist movements generally. Moving into your industry, when I think of music videos and gender, the first thing that comes to my mind is the sexualisation of women in hip hop videos, just as you also pointed out in our first conversation. Since I grew up to MTV, awareness levels about gender equality have risen - but it doesn’t show in most videos. The opposite seems to be the case: the depiction of women seems to get more extreme, more sexualised. Why is the hip hop and rap scene so resistant to change?
I find there is some change happening within the scene. Fems take their representation into their own hands, and though many may critique this to still be sexual I believe the intention behind it holds more value, e.g self-empowerment, appreciation of the fem sensuality.
Another large factor is that this representation of fems in masc music videos brings in clicks and therefore money. Since a lot of people don’t seem to question these visuals, there cannot be space to make a widespread change. I think by having conversations within our spaces we can begin a collective change.
What kind of collective change do you envision?
I find the influence of fem creatives taking space in the Industry as one of the important changes. With their influence I do believe some of the stereotypical sexualizing taking place will be questioned and hopefully changed.
Let’s talk about your own work and how you make a difference yourself: In our initial conversation you told me, you are “inspired by emotions, their fluidity and the way they fluctuate” which I found very beautiful. Which emotions inspired you in your latest project ZOOT?
Working as a sex worker you begin to understand what type of view is really put on the community. The glances, the ways people speak about you, oversexualize you, victimize you. I had a lot of emotions concerning these topics which sparked my first interest in creating a video like ‘ZOOT’.
While working with Blade and Lara Lemac on the concept for this video, the theme of community became extremely present. Finding a way to connect with others through this video was important to all of us.
Could you share some background about your latest music video, please. The whole way you and the entire crew went about this project was unconventional. You said that this project wasn’t about you. What or who was it really about?
With the song I wanted to reflect on my experiences as a sex worker. Thinking about this time, I had to remember the important humans in my surroundings that were supporting me and giving me a safe space. Alongside them was Blade, as well as Eliza who is seen in the Music Video. During the production process of the song ‘ZOOT’, I wrote Blade asking if they had time to help me with this project. My intention was to show the experience of a sex worker in an honest way. With this thought in mind, it became clear to me that this project was bigger than myself. I believe it’s a necessary narrative that isn’t shown enough in popular media so I’m very grateful to each human on set that helped bring the project to life.
ZOOT is a community project that challenges the two - often binary - narratives of sex workers between glamorization or stigmatization. Why did you find this important and how can a music video help to deconstruct these narratives?
As I mentioned prior, the ways Sexworkers are treated and glanced upon in our communities can be very aggressive and destructive. I find we need to create space and understanding rather than judge based on stereotypes or prejudice.
By producing the video for ‘ZOOT’ we hope to challenge the narrative through an honest viewpoint on the life of a sexworker and give others the opportunity to think past the assumptions.
It’s one thing to address the complexity of a gendered topic in one’s story-telling. It’s a whole different story to address gender, among other identity aspects, on set and in the process of producing. You said that your team made it possible to build a culture of trust and to build empathy. Could you derive some very basic principles that others should take seriously if they want to build a safe(r) space on set?
I believe this boils down to holding space for others and being able to find compromise and communicate just how we do in our personal relationships. Luckily I was working with a few friends on set which allowed for this energy to be present to begin with.
We were aware while planning that the topic of this video was one that needed care and attention, therefore we set out to find a primarily Queer/ Fem/ BIPOC crew in order for the cast to feel comfortable on set. Oftentimes diversity is only found within the cast and hardly within the crew, which I find does change the dynamic of the energy depending on the given situation.
Giving the crew and cast the opportunity to communicate their needs or concerns at any point while shooting created a more comfortable work atmosphere between us all. I find this kind of cooperation benefits the process of any project.
Moving back to the larger industry. After your latest experience: What are some key take-aways that you’d wish you could share with the rest of your industry to strive towards more gender inclusion?
I hope we would just start questioning the representation & narratives that often come up in popular media. By reflecting we are already taking the first steps towards change.
Thank you for the lovely conversation, Rayne. And thank you for being part of our Gender Spotlight series.