The Knife - "A Tooth For An Eye" Video

The Knife’s first video from their forthcoming Shaking The Habitual took heteronormative attitudes and attire and turned them inside out. As of today, that sort of radical stance on gender-based thought is a recurring theme in the Knife’s Shaking videos: “A Tooth For An Eye,” directed by Roxy Farhat and Kakan Hermansson, focuses on a bunch of macho/lithe dudes in a dance class, being schooled by a lip-syncing, cornrowed girl. She’s their referee, their beacon, their Karin. By the Knife’s statement, “’A Tooth For An Eye’ deconstructs images of maleness, power and leadership.” Today’s Deconstructing:

The Knife’s full statement:

’A Tooth For An Eye’ deconstructs images of maleness, power and leadership. Who are the people we trust as our leaders and why? What do we have to learn from those we consider inferior? In a sport setting where one would traditionally consider a group of men as powerful and in charge, an unexpected leader emerges. A child enters and allows the men to let go of their hierarchies, machismo and fear of intimacy, as they follow her into a dance. Their lack of expertise and vulnerability shines through as they perform the choreography. Amateurs and skilled dancers alike express joy and a sense of freedom; There is no prestige in their performance. The child is powerful, tough and sweet all at once, roaring “I’m telling you stories, trust me”. There is no shame in her girliness, rather she possesses knowledge that the men lost a long time ago.

Shaking The Habitual is out 4/9 via Mute.

Comments (26)
  1. no one likes the knife more than me.

    NO ONE.

  2. Happy Women’s Day, e’rybody.

    Although, for the Knife, I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t push the envelope a bit further with the whole gender role breakdown thing. Dudes who look like they would be comfortable performing that dance anyway? I don’t know — Maybe if they were dressed with minotaur heads and had huge prosthetic dongs hanging off of them, it would have looked a bit more radical.

    • It seems there is a day for everything.

      When is straight, white male day? Huh?

      • Being a straight white male is the worst thing you can be in 2013, because all the straight white males before us did a lot of damage to our image over the past few decades and now, you’re assumed to be an “average” talent and can’t even get a job because you’re neither female, gay or something other than Caucasian.

        Sad reality, but in the industry I work in especially, women, gay men and racially diverse people move up the ladder much more quickly. I’m not even sure why I’m still sticking with it. The chicks and gay males who were interns four or five years my junior at the companies I worked for in the past are all managers now, while myself and my fellow “average” white straight male colleagues are only marginally in better positions or flat out unemployed (I do know some females who were let go as well, but it didn’t take them as long to find jobs — better ones at that — than males at the same or increased level of experience.) This isn’t even a debatable argument — It’s a fact. When the economy tanked, white collar white males in the mid-20s to mid-30s demographic were the ones to be hit the hardest and still haven’t fully recovered.

        So, I guess “Happy Women’s Day” (but don’t act like being a women especially if you work in certain creative industries doesn’t have some very important benefits out there in real world, ladies.)

        • I should clarify that the “being a straight white male…” thing most certainly applies to an American mindset. Women’s Day I assume stands for a more globally profound meaning, in that there are countries where women have less rights and resources than goats, and that just isn’t cool.

        • Wow. There are so many microaggressions in this I lost count. Saying that a straight white male is “average” is just a hair away from saying they are normal, which implies that anyone not in that category is abnormal. I don’t know where you live where white men have it so bad but if you ever wake up and can honestly say that you would rather live your life as anything other than a straight white man I really hope you get your wish.

          • Well, you got all that wrong. Why would anyone want to be “normal,” especially when seeking out a career? Isn’t the point to stand out and differentiate yourself amongst the rest of the pack, thus making you more sought after in the eyes of prospective employers? By saying “average” in relation to being white and male, I mean to say that you might as well be invisible because you apparently don’t offer anything unique or special that someone should consider a catch based on your race and sex. Yet, it shouldn’t matter what skin color or sex you are — Neither of them define what you are capable of doing with your talents. Yet, it somehow does in the eyes of HR departments.

            So to answer your curiosity, the answer is yes. Yes, I’d kill to wake up and be a female right now with the skills, talents and interests I have right now as a male. My professional life would be a million times more successful right now, and I’m pretty sure getting a date wouldn’t be as difficult either.

          • I realize that complaining about the world is kind of your thing, but when you start bitching about how hard it is to be a straight white man it pushes my buttons. Do you have any idea how many non-straight white male humans there are in this country that would love to not stand out in any way? Not to be looked at or judged by their skin color, culture, anatomy, or any other non-straight white male traits? I appreciate your recognition of the history of oppression in our country, but trying to imply that white male oppression in our society is a thing of the past is unacceptable to me.

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          • You’re both ignoring the other person’s points.

            Shuffles: While Michael is obviously oblivious to macro-level disadvantages for being a non-white, non-male individual, he’s speaking on a micro-level. In certain industries, such as fashion or certain areas of the art world, it actually can be advantageous to be part of a minority group as those industries tend to rebel against the homogenous “average” white masses. If he’s working in one of those fields then he might feel a certain sense of resentment from co-workers because he represents what they’re trying to distinguish/distance themselves from. It doesn’t justify his blanket generalizations, but it accounts for his hostility.

            Michael: While your specific job seems to cast you down, it’s an extremely rare occurrence. “Average” white males were hit hardest by the recession because they worked in and dominated industries hit hardest by the recession, i.e. banking, financial services, retail, etc. They still haven’t recovered because many of these fields either didn’t recover to the extent of where they originally were or they learned to get by with less. By and large men still dominate most career fields. I’m currently pursuing work in PR. Women outnumber men in the number of total practitioners in the field by a fairly decent margin, but men still earn disproportionately higher salaries for the work they do. It’s sounds like the career you’re pursuing is niche, which is probably why you’re experiencing resentment. It doesn’t justify your treatment (if that’s actually what’s happening), but it also explains the reactions of your co-workers.

          • Also, Michael, I forgot a point I wanted to mention: certain careers attract certain personality types, account for gender and racial differences, and various other sociological explanations. It’s why the military is something like 80% straight white, conservative men. It’s also why creative industries see a drop in that same group. Your industry might attract a disproportionately lower number of straight white men. This could explain why you’re “the minority” wherever you work. It’s not because of systemic discrimination but because of much higher interest in the field on the part of people who don’t match your genetic and psychological make up.

        • Ha. Have you ever considered that they actually may be doing a better job than the white males are because we constantly have to fight to prove ourselves in the white male world?

          • What world is this that the big bad white male is holding women down in? I probably can’t relate to it. I am fairly certain in my initial post, I specified my point of view to be an industry-specific trend (“certain creative industries” are my exact words.) In my past jobs, I can remember being only one of two males in a department of 10 (and the other male was actually a gay black male) and in another, there was ~one male in the department for every four females. Currently, there are more women in my department than men as well.

            I do not know this world where the white male world is calling the shots, because in my world and industry, women are the ones who have greater success. I have never found myself envious of their abilities. If anything, I go home at the end of the wondering why it is I work so hard, show up to work on time and am punctual when some new chick who got into the company as a favor to the boss gets fast tracked to a promotion when she doesn’t even do her work and calls out at least once a week.

        • I’m sorry if that’s your experience, but as a woman in the creative industry I can assure you that sexism is still alive and well. Ask my male co-workers who started after me, make more money, and have less work to do.

          • I really don’t feel like talking about this anymore because I can’t relate to everyone’s experiences whatsoever.

            I’ve read all of your responses, though.

          • Came here to read more about this interesting video, but after reading the comments I wanted to extend my sympathies to you michael. I too am a white male, about to get my MD and do not know this world of women oppression. Born in 83, I have felt this disadvantage dating clear back to grade school. The women/my friends are all hard working women that have gotten this far, but the favoritism, the double standards, and allowances are everyday and brutally obvious. They have far more freedoms in what they can say and do. I truly love women and would never bring something like this up to them…they bring it up because they know it and use it. Its about survival really so who could blame them. Many of the older established male docs are responsible sorry to say as they are still making residency selections and giving grades which become largely subjective at year 3. I could go on to give many examples but for brevity I will close.
            I often feel frustrated as this message of oppression accosts me in every facet of life. Whether I am watching tv with my family or reading the news it is there.
            Anyway thank you michael for taking the time and energy to explain and post your experiences.

      • That would be pretty much every other day. Check yo’ privilege

  3. Happy International Womyn’s Day everyone!!

  4. Just getting more excited about the album

  5. Great video, but I don’t see how it “deconstructs images of maleness, power and leadership.” I see a seemingly tough girl and a group of athletic men dancing in ways that could be perceived as feminine.

    This is not a complaint but a curiosity about whether the video actually exemplifies the intentions of the band.

    I think Grimes’ “Oblivion” did a better job of confronting those ideas.

  6. Karin’s explanation for this video wasn’t actually spoken by the video, so she had to say it. I don’t know why The Knife needed to go back to this theme when they perfected in one of my all-time favouirte videos “Pass This On.” When the men slowly break their boundaries of machismo, one has a better sense as to why they do it: the cross-dressing dancer, with her strange allure of almost female sensuality, allows them to do so in a way that isn’t immediately threatening. The humour that occurs in “Pass this On” is also more organic as the construction of gender is sympathetically revealed as absurd. The cuts and the flow of the video also fit the song better.

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