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    If I Say Ma'am Is It Still Sexist?

    Examples of seemingly chivalrous, tall, dark, and handsome cowboys (and shockingly, cowgirls) being less than respectful to women.

    Recently, good ole Kenny Chesney made a statement to Billboard magazine about country music and it's womanizing tendencies. In the statement, he acknowledges that while he may have written a song (try ten) that does just that, he feels like it's time to move past that in the country music industry, and I wholeheartedly agree. Country music is near and dear to my heart, I grew up listening to it all the time, and the Houston Rodeo is a place I will never stop loving. Unfortunately, there is a large subset of country music that serves to diminish women's roles in society, and ultimately diminish them as equally intellectual, motivated, independent folks. Just a few months ago (May 2015) Keith Hill referred to women country singers as the "tomatoes"in the country music "salad"- oh! Okay yeah, just sprinkle that sh*t in, nobody really likes tomatoes anyway right? Bye Keith, you're an a**hole. Over the course of the last 100 years, country music has seen plenty of vulgarity, plenty of drug abuse, plenty of violence, and PLENTY of typification of country girls as sexy sex machines. These are 6 (catchy) songs I think display varying levels of chauvinistic sexism.

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    It drives me a little crazy not to go in chronological order, but in light of Chesney’s recent statement I’m gonna kick things off with “Out Last Night”, his hit single from 2009 (please forgive me, fellow OCDers). In the song, Chesney explicitly states that he’d say “anything [he] thought would get the job done” (get him laid) and let’s be real, what feminist in 2015 would think that lying to ‘get some’ isn’t completely objectifying the ladies? Those two drunk karaoke girls better watch out, because Chesney is on the prowl, and he’s a senator’s son. Thanks Chesney, for comin’ out of the dark ages with such a catchy new single, glad you woke up.

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    Okay, rewind back to 1980, -and I promise I’ll follow the timeline from here on out- we’ve got “Numbers” by Bobby Bare. To sum it up, a sexy lady walks into the bar and at first he rates her a 9/10, but when he approaches her he tells her she looks like an 8, either because he was so drunk he couldn’t count, or because he didn’t want her gettin’ too cocky. When she blows him off and rates him poorly in various categories there is an interesting glimpse of objectification in the reverse (negative, girl on guy)- she steamrolls right over him which gives the song at least minimal ‘girl power’ aspects. The song as a whole is catchy and cute, and leaves female listeners feeling fine, perhaps even empowered. But this “SHEEE TOLLLLLD HIM” attitude completely ignores the issues behind viewing a person as a purely sexual object. This song is a great example of how perfectly good-intentions and a catchy tune can mask underlying cultural issues; maybe we should keep a closer eye on this genre that we know and love.

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    A couple years later, Earl Thomas Conley released the song “Heavenly Bodies”, which to me sounds more like the name of a cheap strip club than it does a bar; but whatever. The song got a cute little endorsement from Blake Shelton on twitter a couple of years ago (Jan 2013), and it sure was popular when it was released: topping US country music charts. In my opinion, if I ran into Conley at a bar and he spoke the chorus to me... I’d feel uncomfortable at best. The song has a very predatory theme to it; he’s just sitting around staring at all the ‘heavenly bodies’ in the bar trying to decide which one to (stalk and consume) ‘make [his]’. If you’ve ever been a young girl in a bar, you know men actually say things like this, and they’re usually detestable.

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    In the early 90s Vince Gill released “Liza Jane” and it reached #7 on Billboard’s US Hot Country Songs in 1991. “You’ve got that body. You`ve got that frame. So why don’t you call me, Little Liza Jane” is just about all there is to the song- and I’d hedge my bets that’s the reason she hasn’t called you, Vince.

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    “You walked in with legs up to your neck”, “When you cross the floor I scream more baby more!” C’mon, Lonestar. You share a name with cheap beer, that doesn’t mean you have to act like one. John Rich (better known as Rich from Big & Rich) was still playing bass for them and heading up vocals alongside Richie McDonald at this point, but was fired shortly after the song’s release in 1998. There are plenty of rumors and most of them claim artistic differences / Lonestar feeling like they needed a solo lead singer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was continuous Rich/Richie misnomer fiascos that shattered their fragile male egos a few too many times.

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    The worst kind of gender stratification is girl on girl, women have come so far since the origin of country music and the fact that today there are still evidences of women themselves belittling their humanity independent from that of a male is so much sadder; they have nothing to gain. “God Made Girls” by Raelynn was released this year (2015), and it generalizes the female gender into hand-holding, skirt-dawning, pretty faces. Grady Smith of the guardian writes “RaeLynn suggests that females’ very existence was divinely intended as nothing more than a way of pleasing men’s frivolous romantic fantasies.” It’s demeaning, dehumanizing, and it came from a WOMAN. The whole situation is ridiculous to me; she’s got a whole music career out of a lie- she’s an independent career woman, presumably single, so clearly there is more to her life than hand-holding, right? She encourages the pseudo-masculine idea that women solely exist for the nurturing and enabling of guys. I try very hard to root for any female in the music industry, but I just can’t do it for Raelynn.

    Anna Rodgers, a masters student at SoCo released an Analysis of Country Music where she discusses the following themes in country music: men should try to engage with women sexually at all costs, depicting women in traditional gender roles, describing relationships with women in unrealistic ways, and attributing a woman's worth strictly on the basis of her physical appearance. I feel I've successfully touched on each of these claims, all of which express a deeply imbedded sexism. She writes that this sexism is unexpected, but I disagree.

    In 2004 a Gallup survey indicated that nearly 60% of country music listeners identify and vote conservatively- a political party considerably more affiliated with things like gender inequality and sexism. Why is it so shocking that the same people who passed bills in September 2015 stripping federal funds to organizations that provide screenings for breast or cervical cancers, pap smears, STD testing, rape kits, birth control -basic women's rights- would also be listening to music that is dehumanizing and offensive to them? The same people whose leaders claim that the "female body has ways of shutting down" pregnancies as a result of rape (Todd Akin, Republican Congressman in 2012)? It shouldn't be surprising in the slightest; it is naive to think there aren't just as many issues of misogyny and sexism in country music as any other genre. You can't invalidate the intent behind a song just because these cute cowboys say it classier than the rappers do.

    These are just a few recent examples of sexist lines in songs you've probably heard 1000 times without criticizing them:

    "Hey Mister! Yeah, I kissed her. Son, you ought to see her sister! You've got to give a little something to a cool dark cat, Finding him a woman who could shake like that" Toby Keith, "She's a Hottie" 2008

    "Feeling lucky, got hooked up with some Kentucky clear / So slide that little sugar shaker over here" Florida Georgia Line, "Get Your Shine On" 2012

    "I want a cool chick that'll cook for me / But'll dance on the bar in her tan bare feet / And do what I want when I want and she'll do it with me" Keith Urban, "Little Bit of Everything" 2013

    "You got that suntan, skirt and boots / waiting on you to look my way and scoot / your little hot self over here / girl hand me another beer, yeah!" Luke Bryan, "That's My Kinda Night" 2013

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    Amanda Marcotte from RH Reality Check states in an article that she doesn’t think conservative America is ever “going to be able to put a lid on the overflow of misogyny”, but I hope that will not be the case. In the lyrics of Easton Corbin’s hit single “A Little More Country Than That” (released mere months after Chesney’s “Out Last Night”) the country cowboy image I first loved and lusted for is clearly and beautifully laid out. It’s a love song with the best of intentions: honesty, loyalty, and love. THIS is the country that should be appreciated, not nonsense about great curves in a pair of cut-off jeans. This is the attitude the genre should give a girl in a country song.

    I hope that one day soon conservatives, and in turn conservative themes in country music and the people who enjoy it, will come to the same realization as Mr. Chesney; women are people too. We are not on this earth solely for your enjoyment, we do not only view ourselves through the male perspective, and we deserve so much more than to be objectified and treated as such.

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    “'Cause I got a name, and to you it ain't pretty little thing, hottie or baby“ -Maddie & Tae