There are many songs out there that have very anti-feminist, sexist, misogynistic messages (pretty much any current rap song), but not all of them are obvious. Some songs are painted in a good light (he called that woman a sexy bitch. It was a compliment!) and some simply take a higher level of intelligence to realize the message behind the lyrics isn’t all that positive.
Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of cranking up these types of songs (and ones that are blatantly sexist). I also believe in freedom of speech and I do not feel a musician should have to censor him or herself. However, if they promote the sexist views of their songs in real life, that’s a different story. It is possible to enjoy music while being aware and critical of the messages behind it. By doing so it helps teach better behavior and shows strong conviction and hyper awareness.
Blurred Lines: Robin Thicke ft Pharrell & T.I. (R&B/Disco)
I am including this one because a lot of people get defensive and claim that critics of the song take it too seriously. Defendants of the song claim that it is simply about helping a girl come out of her shell. That she has a hidden wild side and just needs help bringing it out. Except the song goes way beyond that. First consider a quote directly from Robin Thicke in an interview with GQ, “people say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘of course it is.’ What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.” Now since he’s received backlash for this quote, he claims that he was joking. Even if he was, there are people who will take it seriously. Secondly, why would anyone joke like that? It would be like telling the public you enjoy beating women then later say, “LOL, JK.” It’s simply not cool. Okay, let’s take a look at the song itself. I think for this one, it’s best to break it down (almost) line by line.
“OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you, but you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature.”: Not only does Thicke not respect that this woman is with someone (later he sings, “that man IS not your maker,” indicating they are still together), but the lines hints that women either are to be “domesticated” or “animals.”
“Just let me liberate you.”: Because a woman needs a man to “set her free.” Basically this says she has no mind of her own, and he knows what’s right for her.
“And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl. I know you want it.”: Women are meant to be controlled, they don’t know what they want so men must tell them. It doesn’t matter what her feelings are or if she disagrees, it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t “want it,” because Robin Thicke knows she does!
“Talk about getting blasted. I hate these blurred lines./ The way you grab me. Must wanna get nasty.”: There are so many problems with these lyrics. “Blurred lines” most likely is referring to lines of consent. Let me make one thing perfectly clear, there are not “blurred lines” when it comes to consent. Assuming that because a woman is drunk (“blasted”) and flirting, she wants to have sex is extremely problematic. Unless she gives a clear, conscious, able minded, “yes,” then don’t assume. Thicke’s lyrics show is has no respect for the very solid lines of consent.
“You the hottest bitch in this place.” This isn’t a compliment, at all. Just, no.
Okay, I’m sure by now you can see why this song is problematic. I’m not even going to touch on T.I.’s verse where he basically raps about degrading and sexually objectifying women. The song is incredibly sexist, misogynistic, and paints women as thing that need to be controlled and molded the way men want them to be. Why is being a, “good” girl a bad thing? If this woman indeed has a “wild side” waiting to come out then it should come out naturally, not be forced out by some random man.
Chloe (You’re the One I Want): Emblem3 (Pop Punk/Teen Pop)
Recently the band has admitted this song is a love letter to Khloe Kardashian. The song is all about girls who always live in someone else’s shadow (in this case, Kim). The band sings about girls who are, “a Chloe.” These are girls who may not have a lot of self-esteem or who aren’t as popular as other girls. The band sings about how the Chloes are the girls they prefer, and how they are, “diamonds in the rough.” In the video the less popular girls are given “I’m a Chloe” pin and allowed access to a concert while the gossipy popular girls are left in the dust.
At first glance this song may not seem like it’s problematic. After all, it’s celebrating the underdog and letting girls with low self-esteem know they are loved. However (as described before) the video does this by making the popular girls the bad guys. Shaming one type of girl in order to celebrate another is not the way to go. Sure, no one like a gossip, but who says “Chloe” is perfect? Second, and perhaps the thing that irks me most is the line, “Chloe, I know your sister turns everyone on, but you’re the one I want.” I don’t know about you, but if someone said to me, “your sister turns everyone on,” I’d be a bit weirded out. Second, what a back handed compliment! Why does that even need to be mentioned? “Hey girl, just in case you haven’t been reminded recently, your sister is the popular one that everyone wants. It’s okay though, because I want you!”
If you can’t compliment someone without comparing them to someone else then perhaps you need to work on your interpersonal skills.
“Chloe” knows her sister is popular and it probably doesn’t help her self-esteem. So why does she need to be reminded of it? Doing so only supports “girl hate,” females tearing other females apart because they are popular or successful, instead of celebrating and learning from them.
Cleaning This Gun: Rodney Atkins (Country)
Dad is a teenager who is lectured by his girlfriend’s father; dad grows up and has a daughter of his own, dad gives same lecture to daughter’s boyfriend. This is the basic premise of the 2007 Country song. Atkins sings, “come on in boy sit on down, and tell me ‘bout yourself. So you like my daughter, do you know? Yeah we think she’s something else./ Now y’all run along and have some fun. I’ll see you when you get back. Bet I’ll be up all night, still cleaning this gun.”
Look, there is nothing wrong with parents being protective of their kids, but the whole “daddy must threaten the potential boyfriend to protect his little girl,” is insulting in a number of ways. First, it indicates that the father does not trust his daughter’s judgment. Second, it is completely unfair to judge a person simply because they are a teenage boy. Most of the time they are judged simply by the way they dress, look, or act (um, like a teenage boy?). Third, it perpetuates the train of thought that girls and women need to be coddled and protected, that they can’t fend for themselves. As I said, there is nothing wrong with a parent being protective of their child, but consider this. How many stories do you hear of fathers threatening their son’s girlfriends? Usually in those situations it’s all high fives and, “way to go son(s)!” If a father does disapprove of his son’s love interest it’s usually said privately.
Society has an obsession with virginity. Purity enthusiasts act as if a woman’s entire moral compass lies within her vagina (because remember only cis women are real women!). Take it away and she is “defiled” or “used.” The song does not specifically mention sex, but there is the underlying message that women and sexuality just do not mix. A young woman who explores her sexuality (as many do in high school) is labeled “dirty” and “a slut.” So of course big, bad, over protective Daddy must always be there to make sure his little girl stays pure.
Again, do you think the situation would be the same if it was a son and a girlfriend instead of a daughter and a boyfriend? Of course not, because men are not shamed for being sexual the way women are.
Now let’s talk about the second part of the lyrics I quoted, “I’ll see you when I get back. But I’ll be up all night, still cleaning this gun.” Really? You think threatening a teenager with a gun is a good move? What is his crime? Liking your daughter? Look, I’m pretty pro second amendment, but the use of a gun should be a last resort. I am not being sarcastic when I say that guns are serious business, because they are. Threatening a teenager (who has done nothing wrong) simply because he likes your daughter, in my opinion, is crossing the line. Later in the song Atkins explains that, “It’s all for show, ain’t nobody gonna get hurt/It’s just a Daddy thing, and hey, believe me; man, it works.” First of all, threatening violence as a joke is not funny at all. Second, using the excuse “it’s a Daddy thing,” feeds the line of thinking that women must be coddled, protected, and can’t take care of themselves. Perhaps a better idea is to talk to and get to know a young woman’s date, but no let’s just skip straight to be intimidating.
Like I said before, it’s possible to enjoy music and still be critical of it. I’ve been told to “lighten up” and to “not take thing so seriously,” whenever I analyze a song or movie or any other piece of media. But, these things do not exist in a vacuum, and contrary to what many people believe words do have power. So, next time you hear a certain song on the radio, go ahead and turn it up, but don’t be afraid to also really listen to the message the lyrics are sending. Then decide if its real world applications would be helpful or harmful to society.