Breaking Down: Tous Les Mêmes by Stromae – Secondary

For today’s blog we’re going to continue discussing Stromae’s 2013 hit song and music video, “Tous Les Mêmes”. First let’s recap the last post and how it will tie into today’s material. Stromae is of Belgian and Rwandese descent, both of these countries have French as one of their official languages, hence why his lyrics are in French. His song critiques gender stereotypes and expectations, the main topic of our discussion. Stromae utilizes his lyrics to replicate the stereotypical perspectives of a cisgender, straight male and a cisgender, straight female. His lyrics are heavily played upon throughout the entire music video through the use of “binary” colors and fashion aspects, such as splitting half his body to resemble that of a woman and the other a man. To connect to today’s topic, binary terms are also associated to power especially regarding female sexuality in post-colonial Africa.

The use of colors in the music video being associated with gender binary expectations can also be connected to power during heterosexual intercourse in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically in Rwanda. As stated in a journal piece by Ina Skafte and Margrethe Silberschmidt, “a focus structures the world in binary, dichotomous terms, where women are always seen in opposition to men. ‘Power is automatically defined in binary terms: people who have it (read: men), and people who do not (read: women)’ (Mohanty 1988, 73)” (Skafte 1). Women are stereotyped, particularly in post-colonial Africa to be submissive and are objectified as sexual beings for male gratification. It is interesting to further delve into with the lack of research and literature in African women’s and gender studies. One might infer that this is due to the historical sexualization objectification of black female bodies for male sexual gratification.

To further reference the music video, the stereotype of a submissive woman would be defined as the color pink while a dominant male would be referred to as green. However, in Rwanda it is deemed necessary for the male partner in a heterosexual practice to please the woman prior to satisfying himself, “if the woman is not sexually gratified, neither is the male partner” (Skatfe 3). The practice of female gratification prior to male has become a custom in Rwandese and other sub-Saharan African communities. Moreover, the customs associated with female gratification are taught as young as eight-years-old to girls so that in the future their sex lives are able to reach the expectations society has set for heterosexual intercourse. Sexual relations such as this have translated into women becoming social and sexual agents, able to manipulate male dominance by producing challenges in the bedroom. This leads me to believe that then Stromae’s use of colors in the video could redefine power in terms of sexuality, and his lyrics to do the same. In the outro of Stromae’s song he sings “tous les mêmes et y’en a marre”, translating to “you’re all the same and we’re sick of it”. These lyrics in the video coordinate to an overall scan of both sides of his body as well as the actress in the video who reflects the same half-cisgender male, half-cisgender woman. By doing this scan and not focusing on a particular side of the body or gender designation, Stromae is speaking on both sides of the spectrum, telling cisgender males and cisgender females to each other that they’re sick of each other. This moreover is expressive of women complying to submissive stereotypes but also challenging them by exerting their power through demands for focus on their desires and satisfaction.

The case study, “Female gratification, sexual power and safer sex: female sexuality as an empowering resource among women in Rwanda” focuses on the probability for empowerment of women in sub-Saharan Africa in their communities, post-colonialism. Their progressive customs of ensuring positive experiences with heterosexual intercourse completely counteracts the stereotypes and expectations of female sexuality only being defined as submissive, primitive and reduction to purposes of reproduction. Thanks for joining me on my journey through the deeper roots of Stromae’s “Tous Les Mêmes”. Be sure to check out the music video embedded here on my blog!
Skafte, Ina, and Margrethe Silberschmidt. “Female Gratification, Sexual Power and Safer Sex: Female Sexuality as an Empowering Resource among Women in Rwanda.” Culture, Health & Sexuality, vol. 16, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1–13., doi:10.1080/13691058.2013.815368.

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