Warning: This week’s entry contains a fair bit of Explicit Content in the form of sexually-objectifying music videos, often with explicit lyrics.
I have a terrible secret to admit. I am ashamed to write this, but the first step to getting over an addiction is to admit you have a problem…
I love to dance to this song:
I am so ashamed that my friend Chrissy and I decided it was necessary to make up a dance just for this song. It’s called “Angry Faces.” Basically, we hate that we like the song so much (or maybe she just hates the song), so we dance angrily.
I’ve had this conversation with so many people, guys and girls alike. There are WAY too many explicitly sexist and misogynistic songs out there that we hate to love. It seems like the easy target is Rap music. After all, if Bill O’Reilly says that rap music is hurting America’s children, it most definitely is true. There are arguably more explicitly misogynistic songs in mainstream rap music than in any other genre today, and there is legitimate criticism to be thrown at any rap artist who uses his grandstand to degrade women. I mean, Kanye West’s newest monstrosity (excuse the pun), as addressed by Mikhail Lyubansky, is one of the most explicitly misogynistic displays I have seen in a long time with its clear ties between sex, sexual degradation of women, and violence.
I was reminded of the dilemmas posed by and connections between misogyny and the (hyper)masculinity of young men (most often young men of color) in the incredible documentary “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” by Byron Hurt.
I think the easy explanation that many (most often white folks) come to, though, is that this is an issue of “black masculinity” or maybe “Latino machismo.” After all, it’s “their” music (note the other) that is degrading women and encouraging sex and violence. The fact that white kids are majority consumers of rap music simply indicates that the poor white boys are being corrupted by the angry men of color (or so might say Bill O’Reilly).
Since when did sexism and misogyny become such clear issues of race? After all, I am pretty sure that it is men of all colors who are committing sexual violence in such staggering numbers.
Don’t get me wrong . . . I think that the levels of misogyny in mainstream rap are alarming, but, as indicated in the documentary above, these issues are complex, and there are male hip hop artists out there who are making music that builds women up rather than tears women down. Take Talib Kweli’s “Black Girl Pain,” or Common’s “The Light:”
Plus, I’m not quite sure that it was hip hop artists who invented the sexist, objectifying music video. Didn’t Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again,” with Tawny Kitaen writhing around on the hood of a car in white lingerie, predate most rap music, let alone the rap videos with bouncing asses?
Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single modern genre of music that doesn’t have at least a few songs that openly objectify women in misogynistic themes. Maybe jazz or classical or bluegrass? The punk kids can listen to NoFX telling them to “Punch Her in the Cunt,” and the hardcore kids have their (very weird) video with snake-like strippers dancing around Avenged Sevenfold, covered in whipped cream:
Even the country music lovers can head on over to Trace Adkins, absolving men of any responsibility as they objectify women, arguing, “It ain’t his fault; it’s so hard not to stare!”
I could keep going with example after example. The point here is that we have a problem in music, not in a specific genre. So what are we to do?
The easy solution is to say that we are going to boycott the music. Is that the answer? It’s tough because, as I admitted at the beginning of this entry, songs like these are a guilty pleasure for most of the folks I know! Should we show our protest with a national call for more “Angry Faces” on the dance floor?
Do we write to our favorite misogynists and ask them to make music that builds women up rather than disembodies them or denigrates them?
I, personally, am at a loss. What seems to be the best answer is to vote with our pocket book, refusing to support artists that degrade women. However, as we all know, “sex sells,” even as the sex they are selling becomes more and more violent and objectifying each year as artists work to top their competition or their last hit single.
For once, I am at a loss for words, so I want to hear from you. How can we work as a community to combat misogyny in our music?