Any time you turn on the radio in your car or go to the top music hits on YouTube this summer, chances are you'll hear some songs that can make you understandably upset. Featuring degrading words and phrases, predominantly male artists, and — if you're curious enough about a song to look up its music video — some rather compromising footage, ladies are likely to get a little angry about it. And, of course, the feminist forums are all in a rage over some of the more aggressively sexist hits.
But is it really all that bad to give these songs a listen more than just casually? Is the misogyny really as bad as many activists are saying it is? Let's look at some of this summer's most popular hits to find out.
This song is pretty musically pleasing, if you're a fan of the country genre (which, to be fair, is not a guarantee). It's cute, and the charming refrain of "You make me wanna roll my windows down and cruise" isn't a problem on its own. But when you start paying attention to what's really being said in the other lines of the song, a couple problems become evident.
The song focuses on physical and sexual aspects of women, featuring lines like "she had them long, tanned legs" and "I first saw that bikini top on her," as well as a music video full of girls in bikinis, including a strip poker scene where only one person is stripping (guess who?)
My verdict: don't love it! It might seem cute on the surface, but a deeper look tells you it's anything but, especially in its view of women. Ladies, if your hot bod in a bikini is the only reason guys are inviting you into their cars, think twice before you get in! (also, what is a rap icon like Nelly doing in a country song?).
On first listen, this song seems harmless enough: a catchy tune about dancing late nights away; and indeed, as far as really sexist songs go, this one hardly tops the list. There's nothing inherently misogynist about it; really, the only problem with this song is the way it portrays the man in the story it tells.
The chorus repeats, "She's up all night 'til the sun / I'm up all night to get some / She's up all night to have fun / I'm up all night to get lucky." Now, for me personally, I'd really rather not believe that every guy at the club or party I'm at is there just to have sex; not the most encouraging of views to take, especially if I'm not interested in that. Of course, the song implies that the woman in question has no problem with this: she's just looking for some "fun," after all.
Am I looking too hard and too deep at a light, casual song, just to find something wrong? Probably. But this song is just not my flavor of music, both in terms of the style and the words.
My verdict: love it! Yeah, I know, I pointed out some flaws. But honestly, it's a cute song, popular for good reason, and those who like the style of music are probably a lot more prone to get hooked on the song than I am. Besides, if you're going to pick one song on the radio to listen to on repeat for the rest of your summer, well hey — this one's not the worst, in terms of the message it sends.
Wait, are we playing sexism bingo? Because this one wins for sure, with several classic examples of the stuff that makes women cringe. Lyrics that focus on the sexual aspects of women, comparisons of women to animals, and that's not even touching on the goldmine of the music video: fully dressed men, scantily clad ladies, ladies in compromising positions, ladies being reduced to objects...
Of course, there are those who'll protest, "But it's catchy!" And indeed, musically speaking, it's got all those features that make a song stick in your head for days; a poppy rhythm, nice balance between instruments and vocals, and a speed that's fun and easy to dance to. But no matter how great it sounds when you're not paying attention to the content, listen a little closer — try to sing along, even — and you'll be disgusted. Even Robin Thicke knows what he's doing is objectifying women: he's been cited as saying that it's a good thing, that since he's usually very respectful of women, it's a different and fun experience to objectify them. That doesn't sound like a man who really respects women to me.
Having trouble seeing why the song is misogynistic? Check out the parody by Mod Carousel here, where all that's been done is a gender role reversal. Now try to put in words what's wrong with it, without saying, "The men are the submissive ones!"
My verdict: don't love it! Don't even listen to it more than the one time it takes to convince you it's completely terrible on so many different levels. If you just can't stop loving the beat, listen to Mod Carousel's parody instead: it delivers all the great music with none of the terrible sexism associated with the original. Or, try this one, that effectively and catchily points out all the flaws of the original.
So what's the takeaway here? Do we stop listening to the radio altogether? Do we boycott popular music until it paints a more equal picture? Well, that might be a tiny bit drastic. After all, these are only a couple of songs that are clogging the airwaves these days.
Here's an alternate suggestion: instead of listening to the toxic, misogyny-promoting songs listed above, try some much more egalitarian summer tunes, like "Just Give Me A Reason," by P!nk and FUN.'s "Nate Ruess," or "I Love It," by Icona Pop and Charli XCX.