In general, when one thinks of the most misogynistic songs on the airwaves today, the mind naturally gravitates towards rap music.
Artists in hip-hop and rap use derogatory wording and raunchy music videos to assert their masculinity and dominance over women, as well as establish themselves as the alpha male amongst all the others.
Though much of rap music revolves around this sexist mentality, hip-hop isn’t the only genre responsible for portraying blatant gender inequality.
The worst offenders of musical misogyny are often also the most catchy and popular songs. They sell the most copies and therefore reward the artists which put sexist messages out to women all over the world.
Record companies and artists are well aware that sex sells, and they’ve capitalized on its draw. It’s apparent in all genres, from country to rock to pop music.
Unfortunately, this consistency in music doesn’t seem to bother most people enough to take a stand against misogynistic content in what they’re listening to. It’s much easier to concentrate on the beat rather than the lyrics, and party without wondering what your “let it be” attitude will lead to when the younger generation follows suit.
If a line isn’t drawn somewhere, the artists of the future, taking example from the success of their predecessors, will become worse and worse.
This problem has undoubtedly become more prevalent in the last few decades, and the increasing popularity of hip-hop and rap has contributed significantly to the increase in acceptance of misogynistic songs.
However, the concern is not new by any means. Think back to the early rock-and-roll bands, to the men who shaped modern rock and planted the seed of objectifying lyrics that are so widespread today.
Elvis Presley released a song in 1955 entitled “Baby Let’s Play House,” containing the lyrics “I’d rather see you dead, little girl / Than be with another man.” John Lennon re-used those poignant words ten years later, in his song with the Beatles entitled “Run for Your Life.”
Along that same time period, we had Jimi Hendrix belting out the powerful lyrics of “Hey Joe,” a song centred on domestic abuse. He sang “I’m going down to shoot my ole lady / I caught her messing ‘round with another man.”
Of course music is just a small part of the problem modern society faces of degradation of women and glamorization of violence. It is also prevalent in television, film, video games and the internet, but music is the oldest offender.
In retaliation to the generally male-centric music scene, strong-willed women realized that the pen is mightier than the sword. These women produced songs that not only denounced misogyny, but got their point across without harsh words, intonations of violence or verbally bashing men as the male lyricists had resorted to in their music.
In the 60’s, Etta James released a heart-felt record “I’d Rather Go Blind” the lyrics of which go as follows: “I would rather go blind, boy / Than to see you walk away from me.”
An interesting contrast from Elvis’s choice of words, don’t you think? She doesn’t say a word about a desire to go and shoot her ex-lover for his choice to leave her; rather she wishes pain on herself.
Now, in the modern age, there are female singers with a bit more gumption. Pink’s power-ballad from last decade “U and Ur Hand,” for instance, or Beyoncé, who has likewise put out a plethora of girl-power melodies inspiring young girls to be more assertive and have higher self-esteem.
This issue is multi-faceted, but there are many artists producing music that respects women, doesn’t use us as tools to sell records, and conveys a message that women should be treated as equals.
Perhaps it’s time we re-evaluate what we’re supporting in music and media, so generations of the future have a more respectful example to follow.
Photo: Fora do Eixo/flickr